The Autumnal Equinox (Qiu Fen, 秋分), the sixteenth solar term falls in the middle of Autumn and divides this season into two equal parts. This year, Qiu Fen begins on September 23rd. It is on the Autumn Equinox day that the Yin and Yang are in a balance of power. Thus, the day and night are of equal length, and so is the cold and hot weather. The Autumnal Equinox is the time when the biggest part of China enters the cool autumn season. The temperature drops and when the cold air meets with wet air, the rains start. It is also the last days of harvest on the biggest territory of China when the last work is done on the fields and the last crops reach warehouses.
Here are the three pantads of Autumnal Equinox:
雷始收声 (léi shĭ shōu shēng in pinyin). In ancient times, people thought that thunder happens because of the strong yang energy. After Autumnal Equinox, yin energy will grow much stronger so there won’t be any thunder.
蛰虫坯户 (zhé chóng pī hù in pinyin). The bugs that have been living on the ground after Spring Equinox will start to move back underground.
水始涸 (shuĭ shĭ hé in pinyin). There is less moisture in the air than in summer. Things start to dry and people will feel the air get drier and drier.
Qiu Fen term is also the time for the crabs’ harvest season. Usually, in the beginning of this solar term, the crab festival is celebrated on Yangchenghu Lake in Jiangsu province – the major crab raising area of China. On the day of the festival, the official sale of the crabs on the markets starts, so you won’t find a better time to try fresh crab meat in China!
There is a tradition of eating Qiucai on the Autumn Equinox day. On that day people in the villages go to collect this vegetable in nature. “Qiucai is verdant in the field, thin, and about 20cm in length. Qiucai is taken back and made into soup with fish, named “Qiutang” (autumn soup). There is a verse about the soup: “Drink the soup to clear the liver and intestines, thus the whole family will be safe and healthy”.
You should also pay attention to all the yummy autumn fruits and vegetables, such as olives, pears, papaya, chestnuts, beans, and other plants, which according to Chinese medicine, have a lot of vitamins needed to prepare your immune system for winter. So, go get some vitamin stock before the cold comes.
Another popular tradition all over China on the first days of the Autumnal Equinox is a game called the “standing egg”. Some people say that there is no special connection to the day when this game should be played, but for whatever reason, during the period of Autumnal Equinox a lot of people take eggs and start this little competition. Some ‘professionals’ say that there are some tricks to win: you better take an egg which is 5-6 days old and find the point with the best balance. Then you should keep an egg in one position for a while to let the yolk sink down. Feel free to use those tips and try it by yourself during the upcoming Autumnal Equinox.
Mid-Autumn Festival (also called the Moon Festival) is usually celebrated in or around Autumn Equinox. This year, it actually falls 2 days earlier than the beginning of this solar term. To learn more about this important Chinese festival, check out this article.
One of the special traditions among farmers on this day is to prepare Tangyuan (the glutinous rice balls), put them on the sticks and place those ‘desserts’ in the fields, where the harvest is not finished yet. They do it in order to ‘glue the bird’s beaks together’, so they wouldn’t be able to destroy the crops.