Although modern China uses the Gregorian calendar for day to day use, China also has a traditional calendar that has existed for over 5,000 years. The traditional calendar is still used throughout Asia to determine the dates of holidays and choose lucky days for special events like weddings.
The 24 Solar Terms
Thousands of years ago, Chinese people began to observe the movement of the moon and sun. They divided the year into 24 solar terms based on the position of the sun throughout the seasons. In Chinese, these solar terms are called the 二十四节气, the “Twenty-Four Phases of Qi” (where Qi, is the breath or vital energy that runs through all life).
Here are the solar terms for the spring:
The 24 solar terms have meaningful names that describe aspects of human life, like changes in temperature, precipitation, animal life, and agricultural production.
Start of Spring (lì chūn 立春)
In most of China, it is still cold at the time of year. But, the cold Yin energy of winter is slowly starting to give way to the warm Yang energy of summer.
Spring Rain (yǔ shuǐ 雨水)
From this time of year on, there will be more rain than snow. The snow that is left on the ground will melt.
Insects Awaken (jīng zhé 惊蛰)
Around this time, there is a fast rise in temperature, and possible spring thunderstorms. Hibernating insects wake up. There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “At Insects Awaken the temperature will be warm and the old horned toad will sing folk songs.” (“惊蛰过，暖和和，蛤蟆老角唱山歌.”)
Vernal Equinox (chūn fēn 春分)
This day marks the middle of Spring where the day and night are equal length. Different parts of China have different sayings about what activities to do at this time of year. In Hubei Province (where Wudang Mountain is) people say, “The Spring Equinox will bring rain and everyone will be busy, first plant melons and beans, and then transplant seedlings.” (“春分有雨家家忙，先种瓜豆后插秧.”)
Clear and Bright (qīng míng 清明)
The weather is clear and bright (when it’s not raining). Buds can be found on the trees. Farmers are busy with spring planting. You can start to enjoy the fresh air and warmer weather. There is a major festival on this day where all throughout Asia, people visit the family members’ graves to pay their respects.
Grain Rains (gǔ yǔ 谷雨)
The earth has absorbed a lot of rain. The moist soil nourishes the grain the farmers have planted, and the early crops begin to show their shoots.
In ancient China, people used their knowledge of the 24 Solar Phases to anticipate changes in the natural world, predict the weather, and plan when to plant and harvest their crops. I hope this knowledge about the 24 solar phases can help you live closer to nature too.