24 Chinese Solar Terms – Beginning of Summer

24 Chinese Solar Terms – Beginning of Summer

For people who already live in Shenyang, you might know the saying that there are only two seasons in a year – winter and summer. Even though for most of us the official summer will start on June 1st, but according to the Chinese lunar calendar, it has already begun.

Beginning of Summer (立夏 or lìxià in pinyin) is the 7th term out of the 24 Chinese solar terms. This year, it starts on May 5th and will end on May 19th which signifies the advent of summer. When the seasons change, the weather becomes obviously warmer and the rainfall and thunder increase. According to the standards of climatology, summer begins when the daily temperatures is set at 22℃ or above. But when the southern part of China enters summer, spring just begins in the north of China.

flowers in summer

This solar term – like all the others – is divided into 3 pentads:

一候蝼蝈鸣 (Yī hóu lóu guō míng in pinyin);

二候蚯蚓出 (Èr hóu qiūyǐn chū in pinyin);

三候王瓜生 (Sān hóu wángguā shēng in pinyin).

The first pentad can be translated as “the mole crickets cry”. This is the time when the mole crickets (and probably all sorts of other insects) start to show their trace. The second pentad, called “the earthworms emerge from their holes”, which is the description of the worms leaving the earth because of the high precipitation. The third pentad can roughly be translated as “wang gua (a kind of gourd fruit that usually used for traditional Chinese medicine) grows”. This plant needs rain followed by a lot of sunshine, which means it gets a real boost from the weather during this time.

wang gua fruit grows

This solar term, Beginning of Summer, is a very important time for the harvest of summer crops, as well as the time when the tea plants grow the fastest and the planters have to be quick so that the tea leaves do not become old. For this reason, ancient Chinese emperors in different dynasties paid a lot of attention to this solar term. In the Zhou Dynasty, for example, the emperor, together with his officials, would organize rituals to encourage people to do the farm work. All the decorations and clothes were red, in order to show respect to the God of Summer and ask him for a good harvest.

tea harvesting in China

Summer eggs are the classic symbol of this time of the year. In ancient China, people believed that eating eggs on the day of this solar term was a way to pray for good health, because their round shape symbolizes a happy life. People put eggs into water with tea leaves, to cook the original “tea egg”, a traditional snack in China. Nowadays, the families cook eggs with powdered tea leaves and other spices, cook them slowly until they have a light brownish color.

Egg as a symbol of the beginning of summer solar term

The old Chinese saying goes – “hanging an egg on children’s chest can prevent them from getting summer diseases”, and for the Beginning of Summer, parents prepare boiled eggs, put them in a knitted bag and hang them on the children’s chests. Later at school, children gather together and play egg competition by colliding each other’s eggs in pairs. The one, whose egg is not broken at the end of the game is declared the winner, called “蛋王” which can be translated to ”king of eggs”.

knitted egg bag for kids to hang on their chests
egg competition in Chinese school

There are also some other interesting traditions on the day of this solar term. For example, in the south of China, many people make “colorful rice”. It is made from many different kinds of beans (red beans, soy beans, black beans, green beans and mung beans) mixed together with white japonica rice. After eating the “lixia rice”, people also had the custom of weighing themselves. It is said those who were weighed would stay healthy in the hot summer.

Colorful rice - traditional Chinese dish made from different kinds of beans and white rice

According to traditional Chinese medicine, Beginning of Summer is a very important time to take care of your heart’s health. When the temperature grows hotter, this tends to have an averse effect to the human health. Vegetables, such as cucumber, tomato, watercress, celery and fruits including watermelon, pear and strawberry are highly recommended in this period.

green vegetables and fruit

Get ready for the summer heat and stay healthy! Follow us to get to know more about China and Chinese culture!

Source of images : internet

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