Editor's note: The 24 Solar terms are an ancient Chinese calendar used to guide farming. They are the crystallization of the accumulated experience and wisdom of the working people of the Chinese nation. Since ancient China was an agricultural society, people required a strict understanding of the sun’s movement, and farming was conducted entirely according to the sun as well. Therefore, the “24 solar terms”, which reflects the sun’s movement cycle, were added to the calendar as the standard for determining leap months. The 24 solar terms are: Start of Spring, Rain, Awakening of Insects, Spring Equinox, Qingming festival, Grain Rain, Start of Summer, Grain buds, Grain in Ear, Summer Solstice, Minor Heat, Major Heat, Start of Autumn, End of Heat, White Dew, Autumn Equinox, Cold Dew, Frost’s Descent, Start of Winter, Minor Snow, Major Snow, Winter Solstice, Minor Cold and Major Cold. On November 30, 2016, China’s “24 Solar terms” were officially inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity. We have introduced this 24 Solar terms column to bring you a taste of the beauty of traditional Chinese culture.
As many regions across the world witness their temperature sharply rising to 40℃, people welcome the twelfth solar term of the year. The period of the hottest days of the year is known as Major Heat.
This solar term is pronounced as Dashu in Chinese. The character Da in Chinese means a “high level” or “extremity”, and the other character, Shu, means “hot”. When this solar term arrives, the intensity of sunshine reaches its peak. Since ancient times Chinese people have been used this solar term to mark the hottest days of the year.
Aside from the hot weather, this occasion also features frequent thundershowers followed by high level of humidity. Thus, this solar term to some extent might be considered unpleasant by many people. While it is an occasion of suffering for people, it is a great time for agriculture. The crops enter one of their fastest periods of growth, as the sunshine and moisture both perfectly satisfy their needs.
Each region has its own customs to welcome different solar terms. It is worthy of mention that many of them are connected with Chinese traditional health regimen. These utilize a variety of traditional techniques in order to suit the climate of each solar term.
For the solar term Major Heat, one of the popular customs is “basking ginger”. As Major Heat approaches, people will slice ginger or juice it, and then stir them the pieces together with brown sugar. After that, people put the mixture in a container covered with gauze and bask the container in the sun. After full fusion and basking, people drink the mixture which is effective for curing colds and coughing caused by too much contact with the dry air produced by air-conditioners.
Additionally, in some regions there are other customs such as drinking herbal tea, burning incense, and so on. The focus of health care during this time is heat prevention and dispelling dampness.