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24 Chinese Solar terms – Greater Heat

The summer days seem to fly by much faster than the winter days and it is already time for the next Solar term – Da Shu (大暑, dàshǔ in pinyin). This is the time when most parts of China receive the most sunshine as well as their heaviest rainfall and most thunderstorms. Da Shu has always been considered the hottest period of the year. It is the 12th out of the 24 Solar terms and in 2022 it arrives on July 23rd.

As we already know, each of the terms can be divided into 3 smaller periods, or pentads. The first, 腐草为萤(fŭ cǎo wéi yíng) gets its meaning from ancient times, when people thought that the rotten grass transformed into fire flies which can be found around the fields at this time of the year. The second pentad, 土润溽暑 (tŭ rùn rù shŭ) can be interpreted as the period when the earth stays wet all the time under the ardent heat. And the third pentad 大雨行时 (dà yŭ xíng shí) brings the greatest number of thunderstorms of the year.

The combination of high temperatures and frequent rainfalls makes Great Heat the best harvesting and planting season of the year. However, farmers should still watch out for floods and droughts, especially in the south of China, and make sure to harvest and plant on time to avoid any loss caused by natural disasters.

Harvesting season during 24 Chinese Solar terms - Greater heat

One of the most famous traditions of Da Shu is sending the Major Heat Ship. This custom came from ancient times, but is still honored by many Chinese today, especially in Zhejiang province.  For this ceremony, farmers and fishermen prepare colorful boats and fill them with various animals as offerings to the Gods of the harvest and health. Then, 50 men march through the streets full of praying people, carrying the boat above the crowd’s heads. The procession is accompanied by drumrolls and fireworks. And then, the boat is launched on a river shore or to sea.

Great Heat marks the height of cricket season in most of China, when the fields are swarmed by those insects. During this period of the year, cricket fights are extremely popular. This tradition has ancient roots and some Chinese consider it a real sport. To organize the fight, it is necessary to match up two crickets according to size, weight and even color. Both combatants are placed in the box-arena to prevent an escape. The fight lasts only a few seconds and the cricket who starts to run away from the battlefield first loses the fight. Cricket fights might sound like a kid’s game, but a lot of people spend a lot of time and money searching, raising and training the best cricket fighters.

During one of 24 Chinese Solar terms - Greater Heat, it's the season of crickets in the fields

And – as for every Solar term article – here come the food customs of Great Heat. One of the most famous traditions in China is to eat the mutton soup on the first day of Major Heat. It is believed to help flush toxins from the human body by sweating them out.

Also during this hot time, it is very popular to eat a sweet desert called grass jelly. Traditionally, this delicacy is made from a plant whose stems and leaves can be made into herb jelly after being dried in the sun. This dessert has an ability to quell the summer heat. There is a famous saying in Guangdong province which can be translated to: ”Eating herb jelly in Major Heat will make you stay young like the immortals.”

Another way to celebrate Major Heat in China – eat lychee fruit. Lychees contain a lot of vitamins and according to Chinese medicine, they help your body recover better during the hottest days. Also, Great Heat is the best time for pineapples, as they taste the sweetest during this season!

Eating Lychees is a must during one of 24 Chinese Solar terms - Greater Heat

Avoid overly spicy foods and foods which are overly heating. This is the time of the year to eat in-season vegetables, especially those that cool down the heat and nourish fluids such as cucumber, raw tomatoes, and bitter gurd. That last one is an acquired taste, but if you are brave enough, find some culinarily inclined Chinese friend to fry some up for you with scrambled eggs.

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