The 24 solar terms: part seven

By / 03-13-2015 / (Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Qiu Fen is a golden harvest time for farmers.


Qiu Fen: Autumnal Equinox
Qiu Fen arrives on Sept. 22 or Sept. 23 each year when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 180 degrees. “Qiu” means autumn and “Fen” means division. Qiu Fen lies at the midpoint of autumn, dividing autumn into two equal parts. On this day, day and night are of equal length, each occupying 12 hours.

The sun on the day of Qiu Fen shines almost directly onto the equator. After this day, the location of direct sunlight moves to the south, making days shorter and nights longer in the northern hemisphere. An ancient Chinese book says, “Qiu Fen means the day when yin is accompanied by yang, day and night are the same length and the cold and heat are balanced.”

The origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival derives from Qiu Fen. An old saying goes, “Worship the sun in spring, the moon in autumn.” The ancient Chinese chose Qiu Fen for making sacrifices to the moon, for they believed it was the beginning of autumn.  However, Qiu Fen is not a fixed day each year. The moon would not be always full on this day. People cannot enjoy the moon when it is not full. Then the day to worship the moon was changed to the Mid-Autumn Day.

Han Lu: Cold Dew
Han Lu begins when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 195 degrees and ends when it reaches the longitude of 210 degrees. On the Gregorian calendar, it usually begins around Oct. 8 and ends around Oct. 23. The weather gradually becomes cold during this period. Frost may happen in some parts of China. Due to the scarcity of cloudy days, sunshine is plentiful and there is an invigorating autumn climate.

There are three things to look forward to in the Han Lu period: the first is that wild geese migrate southward; the second is that sparrows transform into clams; the third is that chrysanthemums are in full bloom.

Chrysanthemums are the iconic flower of Han Lu. As the Double Ninth Festival approaches, drinking chrysanthemum wine is popular in some places. Therefore, the Double Ninth Festival is also called “The Chrysanthemum Festival.” According to ancient records, drinking the wine made with chrysanthemums, poria cocos and pine oleoresin grant people long lasting youth.

People of the Dong ethnic group in western Hunan Province have the custom of making kippers during the Han Lu period. It’s said that the kipper made on the day of the Han Lu with accessory foods such as rice wine, salt, glutinous rice, pepper powder, paprika powder and ginger is especially delicious.