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24 Solar terms – Introduction

China is a country of diversified culture. One of the interesting cultural quirks here is that China has its own seasons called the 24 solar terms. Akin to the farmers’ calendars that some countries have, these terms indicate the seasons, phenology, and the changes in weather. The solar terms were initially determined by the rotating direction of the Big Dipper’s handle. The handle rotates around the east, south, west, and north for an entire cycle, which is then called a “year”. Each rotation period starts in the Beginning of Spring and finishes at Major Cold.

One solar term lasts 15 or sometimes 16 days and is named after biological or botanical occurrences. Each solar term in turn is divided in 3 pentads (which typically lasts 5 days, on very rare occasions one might lasts 6 days). Now, you may know that each year has 72 pentads in total, and depending on these pentads, the ancient Chinese arrange their farming activities and life. To memorize each pentad, people named them according to their characteristic, so that each name explains the signature changes of the weather, and how it influences people and animal’s life.

The current “24 Solar Terms” are divided up by the “Fixed Qi Method”, that is, the solar terms are determined according to the position of the sun on the returning ecliptic. “Twenty-four solar terms” are the product of ancient farming civilization and count as one of China’s intangible cultural heritages. To introduce you to this specific essence of culture, we will start this series of articles introducing all of the 24 solar terms to you:

  1. Beginning of Spring
  2. Rain Water
  3. Awakening of Insects
  4. Spring Equinox
  5. Pure Brightness
  6. Grain Rain
  7. Beginning of Summer
  8. Grain Buds
  9. Grain in Ear
  10. Summer Solstice
  11. Lesser Heat
  12. Greater Heat
  13. Beginning of Autumn
  14. End of Heat
  15. White Dew
  16. Autumn Equinox
  17. Cold Dew
  18. Frost’s Descent
  19. Beginning of Winter
  20. Lesser Snow
  21. Greater Snow
  22. Winter Solstice
  23. Minor Cold
  24. Major Cold

Hope our articles will give you more insights of Chinese culture. Enjoy reading!

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