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.
When north winds gently blow across your face in late summer, it must be the gift of the Start of Autumn. Start of Autumn is the thirteenth among the 24 solar terms. It is called “Liqiu” in Chinese. “Li” means the start of something while “Qiu” refers to the autumn.
Start of Autumn
Start of Autumn marks the end of summer as well as the begin of autumn. It lasts for 15 days and was divided into three pentads in ancient times. The first pentad is when the cool north wind starts to blow in China, repelling the hot south wind. Then the hot weather during the day and the cool wind during the night lead to a sharp temperature difference. Here comes the second pentad when the water vapor condenses into copious dew on plants due to the large temperature difference between day and night. The weather continues to cool off until it is the ideal temperature for cicada. That marks the third pentad when you can hear their ceaseless chirps, bidding farewell to summer.
Though the weather gradually cools down after Start of Autumn, you have to beware of a special weather phenomenon. Sometimes there are short periods of hot weather. The temperature rises again while there isn’t enough rain to cool, resulting in dry and muggy weather conditions. With the fickle temperature, some people easily get sick. So in China this period of unseasonably hot weather is given the name “Autumn Tiger”, which indicates its power.
When Start of Autumn arrived, there are many customs like eating autumn peaches, holding a trade fair for the harvest and picking beans and melons. People will eat more food during this time to put on weight since the hot summer always gives people an appetite. As the weather gets cooler, it is highly recommended to do some sports during Start of Autumn. Go on a hike with your friends or just jog around your neighborhood. The refreshing wind will definitely make your day.