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China's 24 Solar Terms


CULTURE0.jpgChina's "24 solar terms" is a knowledge system and social practice formed through observation of the sun's annual motion and cognition of the whole year's changes of season,climate and phenology.On November 28,2016,it was added onto the world\s intangible cultural heritage list by UNESCO.

The names of the 24 solar terms are: Start of Spring, Rain Water, Awakening of Insects, Vernal Equinox, Clear and Bright, Grain Rain, Start of Summer, Grain Full, Grain in Ear, Summer Solstice, Minor Heat, Major Heat, Start of Autumn, Limit of Heat, White Dew, Autumn Equinox, Cold Dew, Frost Descent, Start of Winter, Minor Snow, Major Snow, Winter Solstice, Minor Cold and Major Cold.

From the names for the 24 solar terms, we can see that their division follows the changing seasons and climates. Among them, Start of Spring, Start of Summer, Start of Autumn, Start of Winter, Vernal Equinox, Autumn Equinox, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice are used to indicate seasons by dividing the year into four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. The Vernal Equinox, Autumn Equinox, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice fall under the discipline of astronomy and are used to indicate the turning points of the changes in the luminosity of the sun. Start of Spring, Start of Summer, Start of Autumn and Start of Winter show the starts of the four seasons. China has a large territory with clear monsoon and continental climates. The climates in different regions in China vary greatly -- thus, the changes of the four seasons vary greatly.


Start of Spring (Chinese: 立春) is the first solar term of the year. Start of Spring lifts the curtain of spring. After that everything turns green and full of vigor; people clearly see that the daytime is becoming longer and the weather is becoming warmer.

Rain Water (Chinese: 雨水) signals the increase in rainfall and rise in temperature. With its arrival, lively spring-like scenery starts blossoming: the river water defreezes, wild geese move from south to north, and trees and grass turn green again.

Awakening of Insects (Chinese: 惊蛰) signals a rise in temperature and increased rainfall. As the third solar term in the lunar year, its name alludes to the fact that animals sleeping in winter are awakened by spring thunder and that the earth begins to come back to life. It is the key time for spring agricultural activities.

The Spring Equinox (Chinese: 春分),as the fourth term of the year, signals the equal length of the day and night time. On the day of the Spring Equinox, sun is directly above the equator. After the equinox, the sun moves northwards, resulting in gradually longer day time in the Northern Hemisphere and longer night in the Southern Hemisphere.

Clear and Bright (Chinese: 清明), the 5th solar term, is the only one whose first day is also a traditional Chinese festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day. The words “clear” and “bright” describe the weather during this period. Temperatures begin to rise and rainfall increases, making it a crucial time for plowing and sowing in the spring.

Grain Rain (Chinese: 谷雨) originates from the old saying, "Rain brings up the growth of hundreds of grains," which shows that this period of rainfall is extremely important for the growth of crops. The Grain Rain signals the end of cold weather and a rapid rise in temperature.

Start of Summer (Chinese: 立夏), the 7th term of the year, signals the transition of seasons. On this day, the sun's rays reach an angle of 45 degrees to the earth The temperature will rise quickly during this period, yet in Northern China weather remains mild, not tropical.

Grain Buds, (Chinese: 小满), the 8th solar term of a year, means that the seeds from the grain are becoming full but are not ripe.

Grain in Ear, (Chinese: 芒种) is the 9th solar term. The arrival of Grain in Ear signifies the ripening of crops such as barley and wheat. It is also a busy period for farmers.The solar terms were created thousands of years ago to guide agricultural production. The culture remains useful today to guide people's lives through special foods, cultural ceremonies and healthy living tips that correspond with each term.

Summer Solstice, (Chinese: 夏至) is the 10th solar term of the year. At this time, much of the northern hemisphere receives the most hours of daylight, but it does not bring the hottest temperatures which will come only 20 to 30 days later.

Minor Heat, (Chinese: 小暑), the 11th solar term of the year, signifies the hottest period is coming but the extreme hot point has yet to arrive.

Major Heat, (Chinese: 大暑) is the 12th solar term of the year. During Major Heat, most parts of China enter the hottest season of the year.

Start of Autumn, (Chinese: 立秋), the 13th solar term of the year, reflects the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. The fruitful season is approaching.

End of Heat, (Chinese: 处暑),the 14th solar term of the year, implies that most parts in China are getting rid of the hot summer and entering autumn. But in some areas, especially in South China, autumn is late in coming and people are still bothered by hot weather. End of Heat is also the busy harvest season for farmers.

White Dew, (Chinese: 白露), the 15th solar term of the year, indicates the real beginning of cool autumn. The temperature declines gradually and the vapors in the air often condense into white dew on the grass and trees at night.

Autumn Equinox, (Chinese: 秋分), the 16th solar term of the year, lies at the midpoint of autumn, dividing autumn into two equal parts. After that day, the location of direct sunlight moves to the south, making days shorter and nights longer in the northern hemisphere.

Cold Dew, (Chinese: 寒露), is the 17th solar term of the year. At this time, temperatures are much lower than in White Dew in most areas of China. The dew is greater and colder and there will be less rain. Autumn crops will be ripe.

Frost's Descent, (Chinese: 霜降), the 18th solar term of the year, is the last solar term of autumn, during which time the weather becomes much colder than before and frost begins to appear.

Start of Winter, (Chinese: 立冬), the 19th solar term of the year, is the first solar term of winter, which means winter is coming and crops harvested in autumn should be stored up.

Minor Snow, (Chinese: 小雪), the 20th solar term of the year, refers to the time when it starts to snow, mostly in China's northern areas, and the temperature continues to drop.

Major Snow (Chinese: 大雪), is the 21st solar term of the year. During Major Snow, the snow becomes heavy and begins to accumulate on the ground.The temperature drops significantly.

Winter Solstice (Chinese: 冬至) is the 22nd solar term of the year. On the first day of Winter Solstice, the Northern Hemisphere experiences the shortest day and the longest night in the year, as the sun shines directly at the Tropic of Capricorn. From then on, the days become longer and the nights become shorter. The Winter Solstice also marks the arrival of the coldest season in the year.

Minor Cold (Chinese: 小寒) is the 23rd solar term. During Minor Cold, most areas in China have entered the bitter cold stage of winter. The ground and rivers are frozen. The cold air from the north moves southward continuously. 

Major Cold (Chinese: 大寒), the 24th solar term, is the last solar term in winter and also the last solar term in the annual lunar calendar. In this period, snow, rain and icy cold weather exert a big influence on people's lives.


In China, the 24 solar terms were created thousands of years ago to guide agricultural production. But the solar term culture is still useful today to guide people's lives through special foods, cultural ceremonies, gardening and even healthy living tips that correspond with each solar term.

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