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The 24 Solar Terms and Traditional Chinese Medicare

Differing from the year's time classification in western world, China since ancient time shaped a unique and pragmatic system to sign different phases of the whole year. Chinese people normally call it Jie Qi(节气 ), which consists of 24 parts respectively and conventionally named as below. Based on the long-term experience collections and the seasonal changes in agriculture, Chinese people in every possible way outlined this distinctive weather and climatic system for facilitating living and agricultural production over the thousands of years. Hence, roughly defining it as the experience-based science mixed with the achievements of Chinese elites in geography and astronomy is reliable in a great degree. In history, the 24 solar terms used to be the vitally important guide of ancient people' daily life, agricultural production and annual schedule, because it always tells people when it is and what should be done. Ancient China is an agriculture-centered empire, and the finalization and target of solar terms are naturally apt to benefiting agricultural production. In folk society, the peasants and farmers are all the experts of studying and practicing the 24 solar terms, because they are the people witnessing the connotation and significance of the 24 solar terms in life and farming. Even in each family in rural areas, householders always hanging a Chinese traditional calendar(皇历) on the wall, on which the specific daily suggestions and guides in the way of the 24 solar terms would be served pragmatically. So, as a part of Chinese traditional culture, the 24 solar system is a living show that is still playing an important role in Chinese people's life.

What the 24 Solar Terms Include

the 24 solar termsThe 24 solar terms classify the whole year into 24 phases in order in accordance to the earth's climatic change caused by the change of the sun's site change. Each phase lasts approximately half month, and 24 phases are included in 12 months. The phase in the early month is called Jie Qi and in middle month Zhong Qi. Qi(气), totally different from the academic term in Chinese philosophy, exclusively means weather or climate.

The solar terms include 24 phases hereinafter: 立春 Spring begins. 雨水 The rains. 惊蛰 Insects awaken. 春分 Vernal Equinox. 清明 Clear and bright. 谷雨 Grain rain. 立夏 Summer begins. 小满 Grain buds. 芒种 Grain in ear. 夏至 Summer solstice. 小暑 Slight heat. 大暑 Great heat. 立秋 Autumn begins. 处暑 Stopping the heat. 白露 White dews. 秋分 Autumn Equinox. 寒露 Cold dews. 霜降 Hoar-frost falls. 立冬 Winter begins. 小雪 Light snow. 大雪 Heavy snow. 冬至 Winter Solstice. 小寒 Slight cold. 大寒 Great cold.

In traditional China, the four seasons are divided by 8 solar terms, which respectively are Spring begins, Vernal equinox, Summer begins, Summer soltice, Autumn begins, Autumn equinox, Winter begins and Winter solstice. Vernal equinox and Autumn equinox are the turning points of the seasons and four begins obviously mean the beginning of seasons.Slight heat, Great heat, Stopping the heat, Slight cold and Great cold represent the periods of the hottest and the coldest in the year. White dews, Autumn Equinox, Cold dews and Hoar-frost falls generally reflect the process and degree of falling temperature. The rains, Grain rain, Light snow and Heavy snow reflect the degree of rainfall and snowfall. Insects awaken, Clear and bright, Grain buds and Grain in ear show the changing and growing condition of seasons and crops.
Additionally, there is a locally famous song has been spreaded for many centuries. And Chinese people named it The Song of 24 Solar Terms. What it includes exactly will be shown as below:
Chinese                           Pinyin

春雨驚春清穀天                     chūn yǔ jīng chūn qīng gǔ tiān,
夏滿芒夏暑相連                     xià mǎn máng xià shǔ xiāng lián,
秋處露秋寒霜降                     qiū chù lù qiū hán shuāng jiàng,
冬雪雪冬小大寒                     dōng xuě xuě dōng xiǎo dà hán.
每月兩節不變更                     měi yuè liǎng jié bù biàn gēng,
最多相差一兩天                     zùi duō xiāng chā yī liǎng tiān
上半年來六、廿一                    shàng bàn nián lái liù, niàn yī
下半年是八、廿三                    xià bàn nián shì bā, niàn sān

The Exact Interpretations of the 24 Solar Terms

Spring begins(Li Chun, 立春) is the first solar term in the whole year. Li means beginning, and Spring begins opens a spring world and shows the world comes to itself after a whole winter's rest and preservation. according to Chinese traditional medicine, the health care in spring should focuses on following the nature and protecting the Yangqi(阳气) in body, besides spring has the nature of wood, and it is most closely connected with liver, so in spring taking care of the liver is the most important in terms of Chinese traditional medicine theory.

►The rains(Yu Shui,雨水) is the period of rainfall in the whole year. In Chinese traditional medicine theory, the period of the rains plays the important role in caring spleen and stomach. The harmony of spleen and stomach can improve and regulate the physical metabolism. In Chinese traditional medicine, the root of human health is Yuan Qi(元气, Original Qi), and the root of Yuan Qi in human body is spleen and stomach. The poor spleen and stomach are the predominant causes of different diseases. So in the aspect of eating, people had better not eat too much oily and fat food but the red Chinese date, lotus, leek, spinach, orange, honey and sugarcane.

►Insects Awaken(Jing Zhe,惊蛰) is the period that the various dormient insects are awaken in earth by the warming weather and spring thundering. During this solar term, people with different corporeities had better take care of themselves in the aspects of spirit, environment and dining.

►Vernal Equinox(Chun Fen, 春分) means that The Yin and Yang occupy half the day respectively, and the whole day is evenly comprised of daytime and nighttime, and the temperature is even between warmth and coldness. Vernal Equinox goes halves with daytime and nighttime as well as coldness and warmth, so people should take notice of the Yin-Yang balance in the body in the aspect of health care. Today's most threatening cancers and disease of heart-blood vessel in the world is closely connected with the internal material exchange imbalance. So the experts of Chinese traditional medicine emphasize the method that regulating Yin-Yang, the body deficiency should be added with relevant supply and the extras should be let out. 

►Clear and bright(Qing Ming, 清明) means the clearness of heaven and earth. The period of Clear and bright including an important traditional festival Tomb-Sweeping Day. It is also the peak time of high blood pressure. the exterior bad stimulation and long-time mental intension, anxiety and affliction may worsen the symptom of hypertension. In the mean time, it is the best time to select the soft and mild shadowboxing as the way of daily physical exercise.

►Grain rain(Gu Yu, 谷雨) is a turning point and since then the temperature ascends again. From then on, the rainfall increases, and the sufficient rainfall can well irrgate the newly-plant seedings. During this time, the weather is mainly sunny and warm; nut the temperature of the dawn and dark may be unstable, so people had better keep the comfort of body to avoid the unwanted sufferings.

►Summer begins(Li Xia,立夏) means the spring goes away and summer comes. Traditionally, people take the Summer begins as temperature rising. The weather is featured with the hottness and thunder storm. The crop rapidly grows up in this solar term. After the Summer begins, the weather becomes hotter and hotter, and the forest becomes thick. But this period is good for the heart because the heart shows its most vivid power and functionality in this term. Therefore, during this time, it is better to keep pleasure and ease both in mental and physical. Grief and rapture are harmful to health care.

Grain buds(Xiao Man, 小满) is the period that summer crops like barley and wintry wheat nearly but not absolutely mature, hence it is called Xiao Man. During this period, people had better follow the health-care value of precaution of illness. The dining should be mainly inclined to the vegetables.

►Grain in ear(Mang Zhong, 芒种) belongs to a hot and moist period, especially in the midstream and downstream region of Yangtze River. During this period, people easily get exhausted and weak. So people should focus on the spiritual care and keep easy and happy. In dining, people had better eat the food benefiting the body for facing the heat.

Summer solstice(Xia Zhi,夏至) used to be the oldest festival in ancient China. In health care, this period is the peak time of Yang Qi in accordance with Chinese traditional medicine theory. The health care had better focus on sleeping later and getting up earlier due to the superiority of Yang Qi in summer, so it is very important to arrange well the lunch break, and taking a warm shower everyday is also recommended. The daily exercise should not be too extreme or acute lest the overabundance of sweat. In dining, eating more sour food is good for the superficiality and eating some salty food is good for heart, but people had better not eat too much fat food.

Slight heat(Xiao Shu,小暑) is the high time of rainfall and also the time that the fire-worms are flying outdoors. Due to the heat, people may feel uneasy and exhausted so the traditional medicine experts may suggest that it is the time for caring the heart, over joy and grief are both harmful to heart. In dining, people had better pay more attention to the abstinence and take notice of individual's sanitation. Five tastes (Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Hot and Salty) should be balanced in normal life, and never over drink too much alcohol and surfeit.

Great heat(Da Shu,大暑) is the hottest period all the year. The climatic feature is heat, torridity and raininess. So the heat and moisture both undermine the health. Therefore, people had better properly arrange the work and take notice of work and rest. People also should pay more attention to lowering the indoor temperature and having sufficient sleeping. In dining, people had better have some herbal porridge to preserve the body and avoid the disease and consenescence. Per day, drinking a cup of fresh and cool boiled water is recommended. 

the begins of autumn Autumn begins(Li Qiu, 立秋) is the time that the cool wind comes and the heat leaves, and also means the coming of autumn. It is the transfer period from the hot to the cool. It is the time that Yang Qi is more and more inferior and Yin Qi gets more and more superiority, so in Chinese traditional medicine theory, it is the transition of Yin and Yang in metabolism of human body. The harvest of crop is also during this period. Traditionally, Chinese peopel have the sense of sorrow in autumn. In autumn, it is the time to take care of the lung, the poor qi of lung may descend its acceptance of the bad stimulation, so it is easy for people to be grieved. In autumn, it is also the golden time to take diversity of physical exercises to keep the function of lung.

Stopping the heat(Chu Shu,处暑) means the heat is past. This is a transition time from hotness to coolness. So the weather is not so stable, some days may be quite hot, some may be lower than expectations. In folk China, people usually describe it into a fall tiger is crueler than tiger. During this time, the sufficient rest and high-quality sleeping is more considerably important. Experts of Chinese traditional medicine emphasize the importance of sleeping at night and noon. In dining, it is better to have some purely-warm food.

►White dews(Bai Lu,白露) is a typical phase of autumn, from this day on,the dews appear and become more and more outdoors. White dews is the real beginning of the cool autumn. During this time, people should pay more attentions to some chronics like nasal cavity disease, asthma and bronchia disease. In dining, the food should be easily digestive and rich in vitamin. What is more, the dryness is the typical climatic feature of autumn, and it is called Autumn Dryness in folk society, so it is time to eat more food rich in vitamin, and also suitable for taking some traditional medicines good for getting rid of sputum.

Autumn Equinox(Qiu Fen, 秋分). Just like Spring Equinox, Autumn Equinox is also means that the sunshine nearly directly shines the equator. And the whole day is equally comprised of half daytime and half nighttime. As the phase that the nighttime and daytime go halves, people had better take care of the balance of Yin and Yang in human body. In dining, people should focus on the adding the deficiency and cutting the extras to show the balance of interiority of human body, and it also shows the principle of warming the cold and cooling the warm.

Cold dews(Han Lu, 寒露) means the cold air will be frozen into dews. In Chinese traditional medicine, experts focus on the health care of caring Yang in spring and summer as well as caring Yin in autumn and winter in four seasons. Anciently, the autumn used to be called Golden Autumn, and in the five internal organs of human body, the lung air corresponds to the air of golden autumn. If the care is insufficient and improper, people may have a series of seasonal symptoms like skin desiccation, nose and pharynx dryness, so it is the time to eat more food like dairy products, honey, sticky rice and sesame. And more meat should be included as well for strengthening the body.

►Hoar-frost falls(Shuang Jiang, 霜降) means the weather becomes cold and frost appears. This phase is in the dominancy of Earth, one of Five Elements, and in traditional medicine, the food should be simple and less fat, but people had better pay more attention to add more vigor to care about the stomach. Chestnut is good for stomach, kidney and spleen, so it is the ideal seasonal food in winter. Additionally the vegetables like spinach and Chinese watermelon covered by frost is also quite delicious. The grape in winter is very sweet as well. All of them are all the good selections for eating. Ancient people in winter used to eat the mutton and rabbit meat, and it is mostly reasonable. 

winter begins►Winter begins(Li Dong,立冬) means the coming of winter. Due to the vastness of Chinese territory, except the south coastal area without the effect of winter and Qinghai-Tibet Altiplano without the effect of summer, the other areas do not enter winter by the arrival of winter begins. The northeast region enters winter as early as September. In the late period of October, Beijing has been influenced vividly by winter. While in the region of Yangtze River, the influence of winter becomes stronger and stronger around the phase called Light Snow. In ancient times, Winter begins was an important festival. On this day, the emperor followed by a group of officials would come to the suburb of capital to hold a large sacrifice to the heaven. Nowadays, people still make some specials such as eating Jiao Zi, winter swimming, eating the mutton and beef as well as eating carrots.

Light snow(Xiao Xue,小雪),During this phase, the southern China gradually enters winter, and the winter landscape has been vivid. In dining, people had better take some food good for kidney like mutton, beef, bone soup, stewed meat with chestnut, and chicken. The fruits include cashew and chestnut etc are also good for health. Additionally, eating more stewed food and black food like Jew's-ear, black gingili and black beans. After the light show, the temperature rapidly falls, and the weather is inclined to the dryness, and it is the better time to make some preserved or salted food. In China, people easily find the preserved hams in each family. In southern China, local people also have the custom of eating Ci Ba. During this phase, the weather is cold and gloomy, which surely negatively influences the mood of people. So it is a dangerous time for those people who suffer melancholia. It is more important to keep a good mood during this time.

Heavy snow(Da Xue, 大雪) means the times of snowfalls increase, and the quantity of snow becomes large. In ancient China, this phase can be divided into three sections, that is, gulls and cuckoo stop singing, the tiger begins searching for partner and Chinese small iris(荔) comes out. In Chinese traditional medicine, the great cold is the perfect time to care about the health. Additionally, during this period, the rainfall is less than anytime else, and the weather is quite dry. So it is better time to eat more fruits and vegetables like oranges, apples and winter Chinese dates.

Winter Solstice(Dong Zhi, 冬至) has the shortest daytime and longest nighttime in north hemisphere all the year around. On this day, in many regions of northern China, people have the custom of eating Jiaozi, and southern China, people eat Tangyuan. Winter solstice is a good time for health care, in accordance to the saying of Chinese traditional medicine that the Qi appears from Winter Solstice. From this daxueday on, the life declines from vigor. So eating some selected food can keep the vigor of life, which also is good for longevity. The dining during this phase should be various, but the too fat and salty food should not be eaten too much. 

Slight cold(Xiao Han,小寒). In China, Slight cold means the coldest time comes. According to the climatic data of China, the slight cold is the phase with the lowest temperature. In folk society, people also say the all-year coldness appears in San Jiu(三九), which roughly lasts from January 9 to January 17. In Chinese traditional medicine theory, the coldest time is also the highest time of Yin Qi. In dining, people had better eating more warm and hot food to prevent the coldness. So, it is the best time to enjoy the hotpot and chaffy dish.

Great cold(Da Han,大寒) is the last solar term and it means the most extreme cold time appears in the whole year. Due to the transition of Great cold and spring begins, in dining, people also follow this change. People had better not eat too much but select some easily-digesting food to suit the beginning of spring. In Foshan, Guangdong province, the local has the custom of braising the sticky rice, which has the vivid role in preventing coldness. In Anqing, Anhui province, the local has the custom of frying Chunjuan. All in all, the end of 24 solar terms also means a new beginning next year.



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