Xiǎo Shǔ: Minor Heat

 In The Seasons

小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ: Minor Heat

小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ, translated as Minor (Lesser) Heat, is the 11th solar term of the Ancient Chinese Solar Calendar and the 5th term of the summer season. This year it starts on July 7th and continues through July 22nd. Minor Heat begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 105° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 120°.

“A sudden breeze of warm air as the Minor Heat arrives.” – Chinese Proverb

Let’s look at the meaning of 小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ:

小 Xiao: minor, lesser, slight
暑Shu: heat

“A gentle breeze brings forth lotus fragrance
 Dew drops fall from bamboo leaves.”

小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ gradually escorts in the hottest days of the year. Outside the temperatures and humidity continue to rise in parts of China, however, the hottest days of summer are yet to arrive.

“Xiǎo Shǔ (Minor Heat) is followed by Dà Shǔ (Major Heat), steaming you first and boiling you afterward” – Chinese proverb

小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ, represents the warmest and dampest period of the year which many call 三伏San Fu. Fu in Chinese means lying down, suggesting that it is best to lie down during the heat of the day.

“All at once
Wafts of heated wind blow
The foot prints of Xiǎo Shǔ
They follow
Rustling bamboos
Forecast the rain
Gloomy mountains
Anticipate the thunderbolt.”
-folklore from the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907)

Each of the 24 solar terms is further divided into 3 pentads. The 小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ pentads are:

1st pentad – 温风至 melting temperatures are approaching
2nd pentad – 蟋蟀居宇 crickets abandon the fields for greener, cooler yards
3rd pentad – 鹰始鸷 eagles train their young to hunt (soaring high in the sky keeps you cool)

 Fireflies During 小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ


小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ, or Minor Heat solar term announces the arrival of fireflies. The Chinese people are fond of this little creature and have expressed so in their poetry.

Driven rains cannot douse your light
Winds will only fan it brighter
Suppose you’d set off to fly away, very far
Surely beside the moon you’d be a star
-by poet 李白 Li Bai (701-762) of the Tang Dynasty

It is a popular activity to take children outside in the evening and allow them to play with the fireflies.

Fireflies are like lanterns flying to west and the east. They can escort children home by lightening the darkness.

Lovers often turn to a popular folk song Chóng ér fēi, or Fireflies to express how they feel.

The dark sky hangs low 
Studded by bright countless stars
The fireflies fly here and there
Who are you longing for
Stars in the sky begin to cry
Roses on the ground begin to wither
The cold wind blows here and there
Nothing matters as long as you are by my side
Fireflies fly while flowers sleep
So beautiful to be a pair
I fear not the darkness, but only a broken heart
Doesn’t matter if I’m tired
Ignoring everything around

Interesting Fact: Jasmine Flowers!


In ancient times Chinese women would pick fresh jasmine flowers and rub the petals on their bodies to manage unpleasant scents produced during the heat of the summer season.

茉莉花 Mo Li Hua, or Jasmine Flower from the Qing Dynasty (1636–1912), is a Chinese song popular both in the East and the West. In 2013 Celine Dion performed this song in Mandarin as part of the Chinese New Year Gala show welcoming in the Lunar New Year. This song even became associated with the Jasmine Revolution in China.

Flower of jasmine, so fair
Flower of jasmine, so fair
Budding and blooming here and there
Pure and fragrant all do declare
Let me pick you with tender care
Sweetness for all to share
Jasmine fair, oh Jasmine fair

Summer According to The Ancients

The Ancient Chinese Summer corresponds with the Fire element in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is a time when the Yang energy peaks in the body and on the planet. Temperatures will continue to rise while humidity levels climb causing discomfort. There are several traditional practices available for adjusting to both the external and internal environments.

xīnjìng zìrán liáng
“peace of mind will keep your body cool.” – Chinese Proverb

“If you practice patience, you gain peace of mind.” – Chinese Proverb

“In summer a calm heart keeps you cool.” –Chinese Proverb

Daoyin exercises as well as Harmonizing Your Training are great breathing methods that require a minimal amount of movement to achieve maximum results. They can help to adjust the body’s temperature to the outside environment.

Traditional foods recommended for consumption during the 小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ, or Minor Heat solar term are mangos, pears, lotus root, cucumbers and melons. It is customary to eat “small melons” (i.e. cantaloupe) during Minor Heat and “large melons” (i.e. watermelon) during Major Heat.

And last but not least, for our Yin Body Types there is a traditional dish in most Chinese households, starting with the imperial courts of the ancient times: mung bean soup. The recipe is simple, it is quick to prepare, the flavor is sweet, and its main characteristic is cooling to the body. Check out this episode of Jammin’ with Jiao Shi where he talks about his first ever experience of trying the mung bean soup during his visit to China.

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