The 24 solar terms: part five

By / 02-27-2015 / (Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Li Qiu is a big solar term for farmers. It is time to gather crops in southern China.


Da Shu: Major Heat
Da Shu begins when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 120 degrees and ends when it reaches the longitude of 135 degrees. Da Shu means extreme heat. During Da Shu, most parts of China enter the hottest season of the year. After this day, firefly comes out, soil gets more and more humid and heavy thunderstorm comes from time to time.


Due to high temperatures, crops grow rather quickly during this time. It is also a period when droughts and floods happen frequently. Therefore, it’s important to harvest and plant in time in order to avoid natural disasters. For regions where rice is harvested two times a year, people have to harvest the early season rice and plant the late season rice in time, so as to reduce damages caused by rains and wind. In the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, Da Shu is a time of summer droughts. There is a saying in this region which goes “The rain in Xiao Shu is as precious as silver; while the rain in Da Shu is as precious as gold.”

Li Qiu: Start of Autumn
Li Qiu falls on the 7th or 8th of August, when the sun reaches the longitude of 135 degrees. It reflects the withdrawal of summer and the beginning of autumn. When it comes to this season, the leaves of tree start to fall, thus there is a saying of “One leave falls, autumn arrives.”

Li Qiu not only foretells the end of the scorching summer, but also indicates the fruitful season is approaching, a time when early rice is gathered and late rice is transplanted. It is the time that autumn crops come into their crucial growing stage.

Although it indicates the beginning of autumn, the hot weather will not come to an end until the Bai Lu (White Dew). This period of hot days after Li Qiu, usually lasting for 30 days, is called “Autumn Tiger” (Qiulaohu in Chinese). Because of the decreasing precipitation, it is even more sweltering during this period than in Da Shu.

In ancient China, people emphasized a lot on Li Qiu. As recorded, in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), potted Chinese phoenix trees would be moved into palace halls on the day of Li Qiu. At the exact time of Li Qiu, the official would shout “autumn is coming!” Then along with the falling of several phoenix tree leaves, autumn began.