It is time for another Chinese solar term again, starting December 7th. After the last one, Lesser Snow, it is now time for 大雪 or dà xuě in pinyin (which means Greater Snow). It is the 21st of 24 terms of the Chinese calendar. 大雪 is the time when the temperature in the northern part of China drops below -10°C (in Southern China the weather is also turning much colder but still not like in the North) and in the Yellow River Basin, it is about at freezing point. Dà xuě takes its name from the heavy snow that usually drops on Northern China for the first time in the year during this period.
There is a Chinese proverb: “A timely snow promises a good harvest”. That is why the Chinese people are generally happy to have a lot of snow.
Like every Chinese solar term, Major Snow has three pentads. The first one is鶡旦不鳴, which can be translated as ‘The jie-bird ceases to crow’. The jie is a bird very similar to the pheasant, which is believed to be aggressive and combatant. As winter progresses, even this active bird slows down and ceases to crow. The second pentad, 虎始交, means ‘Tigers begin to mate’. Since the only tigers to be found in Northern China, where the 24 solar terms originated, are snow tigers, their mating season is tied to a radical drop in temperatures. So, when it gets cold enough, these tigers will start to mate. 荔挺生 or 荔挺出 is the third pentad. It can be translated as ’Li Ting emerges’ or ’Li Ting is born’. Li Ting is the name of a sort of bluegrass growing in Northern China, which needs very cold temperatures in order to start budding and sprouting. So, it typically does start showing itself around the third pentad of Major Snow.
From a medical point of view, Major Snow is the perfect time to take care of your health (of course you should do it all year round but as it is getting colder and colder, preventing the flu gets more and more important). It is recommended to combine a complex of things that keep you in good form and keep up your mood: healthy food, physical activities, taking vitamins and so on.
Like for all other solar terms, 大雪also has its special food traditions. In the North, eating lamb is the main food tradition for Chinese people during Major Snow. Lamb is supposed to be very healthy for your body because it promotes blood circulation and provides protection against the cold. The most famous dishes are different kinds of lamb soups.
Also, Major Snow is the time when people prefer to take nourishing food, i.e. food that is rich in vitamins, protein, and easy to digest, like citrus fruit.
And of course, we cannot forget about radishes. Because people harvest them in late autumn time, during Major Snow, the radish is a season vegetable. Radishes are very good for your health and help your stomach to work properly (which is good, because in winter time, people usually eat hard food, such as meat, which influences our stomach’s work). In North China, noodles with radish are a very popular meal. There are many recipes for this dish, depending on people’s taste.
It will be very cold during the next days, so take care of yourselves. Don’t forget about dressing weather-appropriately and, maybe, try some old Chinese advice to protect your body as per the suggestions above.