Six Solar Terms in Autumn

Six Solar Terms in Autumn
By Carol Guan

People usually say that autumn is a cooler season. When autumn approaches, temperatures begin to drop, and the weather is no longer as hot as in summer. Autumn is a season of harvest. After busy spring and summer, all crops bear lots of fruits. A vast field of golden color comes into sight. Autumn begins at Liqiu (Beginning of Autumn) and ends at Shuangjiang (Frost’s Descent).

Liqiu (Beginning of Autumn)

LiqiuLiqiu 立秋

Liqiu is the thirteenth of the twenty-four solar terms of the lunar calendar. It signifies the end of summer. It is also the first solar term in autumn, marking the beginning of the season. Autumn means the departure of heat and the arrival of coolness. When Liqiu comes, the leaves of sycamore trees begin to fall. Therefore, there is an idiom in China, Luoyezhiqiu, which means that one will sense the arrival of autumn when they see leaves begin to fall from trees. Literally, the Chinese character qiu (秋, autumn) consists of two parts, he (禾, rice) and huo (火, fire), meaning the ripening of rice. Autumn is a transitional season in which heat is replaced by coolness, and coolness is replaced by coldness.

Chushu (End of Heat)

Chushu Chushu处暑

The term Chushu literally means the Exit of Heat. The solar term means the beginning of autumn meteorologically. After Chushu, temperatures in the areas to the north of Yangtze River gradually drop.

After Chushu, autumn gradually takes over. The customs before the solar term usually have something to do with ancestral worship and celebrations for autumn’s arrival. Important festivals before and after the solar term are the Double Seventh Day and the Ghost Festival (Zhongyuan Festival).

Bailu (White Dew)

Bailu Bailu白露

Bailu is the fifteenth in the twenty-four solar terms, as well as the third one in autumn. When autumn begins, the temperature begins to drop, and the difference in temperature between day and night becomes greater. Vapor will condense into water drops on the ground or on the objects close to the ground. Therefore, Bailu is a symbol of the cooling weather.

Qiufen (Autumn Equinox)

Qiufen Autumn EquinoxQiufen 秋分

At Qiufen, most parts of China have entered the cool autumn. The cold air going southward meets the warm and humid air which is weakening. This process generates one round after another of rainfall, and the temperature also drops over and over. As people usually say, “A round of autumn rain brings a period of coldness”. However, the daily rainfall after Qiufen is not much. At the time, there are differences of farming activities in the south and north.

Hanlu (Cold Dew)

Hanlu Cold DewHanlu 寒露

Hanlu is the seventeenth in the twenty-four solar terms, as well as the fifth one in autumn. In ancient times, people considered dews as a sign of transition from coolness into coldness. When Bailu comes, “the tiny drops of dew may condense and appear white”. At Hanlu, “with coldness, dew is to freeze” into frost. This means there will be a greater number of dews, and the temperature will drop further. At this time, late autumn sights prevail in Northern China, where white clouds float above forests with red leaves, and early frost appears occasionally. In Southern China, there are also more autumn sights.

At Hanlu, it is already late autumn. At this solar term, it is getting colder, and the main custom is mountain climbing. The Double Ninth Festival (Chongyangjie) coincides with this period. The Double Ninth Festival is an important traditional festival in China. Along with Chinese New Year’s Eve, Qingming Festival, and Ghost Festival (Zhongyuan Festival), it is known as one of the four major festivals for ancestral worship.

Shuangjiang (Frost's Descent)

Shuangjiang Shuangjiang霜降

The solar term of Shuangjiang signifies the transition into coldness and the advent of early frost. It is the last solar term in autumn, and it also signifies the beginning of winter.

Autumn is a season with diverse colors. You may see the clear and blue sky, white clouds, and red leaves all over the mountains. The season is also ideal for traveling. In autumn, there is neither the scorching sunshine of summer, nor the freezing coldness of winter. You may go for a journey anytime you like.

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