The first spring month – March – has just started (we are very happy about the coming spring with its warm weather) and it means that a new Solar term – 惊蛰 (Jīngzhé in pinyin), or Awakening of Insects Solar term in English – is commencing.
This year 2022, it starts on the 5th of March, this Saturday. The first character in this term means shock and the second one means insects, and, according to folklore, this is the time when the spring thunder wakes up insects. But an even more relevant aspect of this Solar term in ancient times was that it was the “key” time for spring agricultural activities in the North of China.
As we already know, each solar term has 3 pentads, so let us have a look at the Jīngzhé ones. The first pentad is 桃始华 (Táo shǐ huá in pinyin), which means ‘The peaches begin to blossom’; the second pentad is 仓庚鸣 (Cāng gēng míng in pinyin), which translates to ‘Orioles sing clearly’. Orioles are a kind of brightly plumaged songbird that lives in a nest that looks like a deep woven cup suspended like a hammock from a branch; and the last pentad is 鹰化为鸠 (pīnyīn: Yīng huà wéi jiū), with the meaning ‘Eagles are transformed into doves’. This pentad is based on the fact that the ancients were fooled by birds’ different breeding habits. The eagles hid themselves from view when breeding, while the doves all came out with their offspring, so in ancient China, people took this to mean that the eagles transformed into doves.
During the Awakening of Insects Solar term, thunderstorms are not unusual in China. “If the first spring thunder crashes before the Jīngzhé solar term, there will be abnormal weather that year”, – according to one old Chinese saying. Modern metrological scientists can explain why there is an accumulation of storms: the earth becomes humid and the hot air near the surface rises; meanwhile, the hot humid air from the north is strong and creates frequent winds. This forms the perfect basis for thunderstorms.
There is another saying – “once Awakening of Insects Solar term comes, spring plowing never rests”, which explains the importance of this period for local agriculture – the biggest number of the Chinese ancient population was farmers.
This solar term is a good time not only for farming but also for fishing. As all the animals wake up, so do the fish. They swim from the deep waters closer to the surface searching for food – which makes them easier to catch.
According to Chinese folklore, white tigers are the animals who bring quarrels and arguments, and the person bitten by this animal will have very bad luck (we wonder if it is even possible to survive after an encounter with such tigers). Thus, people offer sacrifices during Jīngzhé to protect themselves. There is a custom to draw a white tiger on a paper and then smudge its mouth with pig’s blood and pork, which means you are feeding it. Sated, it will not bite people and thus they will avoid bad luck and conflicts.
The other custom for the Jīngzhé solar term is to “beat the villains”. This custom is most celebrated in Guangdong and Hong Kong, in the last one you will even find a bridge which is popular for this ritual. For it, people cut paper into human shapes (which represent all the “villains” in their life) and sometimes assign a special “witch” (or do it on their own) who hits the cuts with shoes or other tools to expel all bad luck.
Of course, there is no solar term which does not dictate what to eat, as you might have seen in our previous articles (i.e. Rain Water). The “must-eat” during the Awakening of Insects is pears (no complicated or obscure dishes this time). As the weather is getting warmer, the air is drying up – so your mouth is parched and your tongue is dry (which may cause colds and coughs). Pears are sweet, juicy and refreshing, they moisten the lungs to stop coughs in their tracks – that is why it is highly recommended to eat pears during Jīngzhé.
Journeys & Jaunts kindly advises you not to exchange all your clothes for lighter ones just yet and take care of yourselves – as the temperature in Shenyang is not going to be stable during this time, it is very easy to catch a cold. Let’s stay strong and healthy and wait for the first crash of the spring thunder. We will see you then!
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Ps: The pictures are sourced from the internet. If you detect any violations of copyrights, please contact us. The cover picture is sourced from freepick.
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