The 12th Twenty-four Solar Terms: Major Heat
By WEN Haoting
A boat drifts along with the waves. （PHOTO： VCG)
Chinese people say, "When Major Heat comes, it is so hot that there is nowhere to hide." Major Heat refers to the 12th solar term of the 24 Solar Terms. This year, it begins on July 22 and ends on August 6. During this period, most parts of China will have entered the hottest period of the year when temperatures could rise to 40℃.
Facts about the Twenty-four Solar Terms
The Twenty-four Solar Terms is the system that consists of 12 major solar terms and 12 minor solar terms. It originated in the Yellow River region of China. The criteria for its formulation were developed through the observation of changes of astronomical time sequence, air temperature as well as other natural phenomena in the region. It has been progressively applied as a time directory in the production and life of the agricultural industry and then shared by many ethnic groups.
Ancient Chinese divided the sun's annual orbit into 24 equal segments, and each segment was called a jie qi or a solar term. Hence the 24 segments are collectively called the 24 Solar Terms. This system of time embodies the traditional knowledge and the social practices through which Chinese organize their perception of the regularity of seasons, astronomical laws and other local natural phenomena occurring in the course of the year. It is an indispensable component of traditional Chinese calendars. More importantly, its living applications serve as a time-frame for agricultural activities and daily life.
In international meteorology circles, this cognitive system has been honored as the "Fifth Great Invention of China". On November 30, 2016, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization adopted a decision to list the Twenty-four Solar Terms as one of China's intangible cultural heritages.
Major Heat fun facts
The climate conditions of sufficient sunlight, high temperature and rainy weather in the summer season are conducive to the growth of crops. However, many natural calamities such as floods, droughts and typhoons also happen during Major Heat. Therefore, it's important to harvest and plant in time to avoid setbacks caused by natural disasters.
There are many folk traditions taking place during the season. For example, launching the Major Heat boat is a tradition spanning hundreds of years in Taizhou, Zhejiang province. The boat is filled with various animals used for sacrifice such as pigs, chicken, fish, and shrimps. More than 50 fishermen take turns carrying the boat as they march through the streets. Drums are played and fireworks are lit. Both sides of the street are filled with people praying for blessings. After a series of ceremonies, the boat is finally carried to the wharf, where it is towed out of the fishing port and burned at sea. People carry out this ritual to pray for good harvests and good health. Meanwhile, Major Heat is a season with the largest number of crickets found in the fields of countryside. Cricket fighting is a popular pastime for some people in China during the Major Heat.
There are also many unique seasonal foods that are very popular during this period. The favorite is litchi, a nutritious fruit containing glucose and vitamins. It is said that eating litchi during Major Heat is as nourishing as ginseng.
Also favored is grass jelly, which is made from a plant called mesona chinensis that belongs to the mint family of herbs. With the amazing ability to quell the summer heat, those in Guangdong province say that eating the jelly during Major Heat will help people stay young.
Source: Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in New York and ChinaDaily.com