THE 24 SOLAR TERMS
The 24 solar terms, based on the sun's position in the zodiac, were created by farmers in ancient China to guide the agricultural affairs and farming activities. The 24 solar terms reflect the changes in climate, natural phenomena, agricultural production, and other aspects of human life, including clothing, food, housing, and transportation. The 24 solar terms play important roles and have greatly influenced people's basic needs in life, and they still have an important function nowadays.
THE 24 SOLAR TERMS
The earliest complete record of the 24 solar terms is seen in Huainanzi: Tianwenxun, “Between the two dimensions is 91 and 5/16 degrees; the passage of one day brings the Beidou to cross one degree; 15 days constitute a section and changes appear between 24 solar terms.
Huainanzi sets seasons based on the position of the Beidou’s handle and develops a complete system of celestial phenomena: the four seasons, 24 solar terms, 12 months, farming, phenology, meteorology, heavenly stems and earthly branches, rhythms and orientation. It has become the main basis of various major events such as the administration of government, farming, sacrifice, fishing and hunting, implementation of criminal law and military activities in the past over 2000 years, and also the important content of the Taoist view of following the Heavenly Way to conform to nature and live in harmony with nature.
The name, order and theoretical basis of the 24 solar terms in Huainanzi are exactly the same as they are today. It is a great leap for ancient Chinese people to understand the laws of nature, and a crystallization of the wisdom to control nature and make it better serve mankind. The 24 solar terms recorded in Huainanzi are rich in content, strict in logic, and characterized by structured knowledge, and can be roughly divided into three categories:
The first category is indicative of seasons. For example, two “zhi”, two “fen”, and four “li” accurately divide the four seasons in a year.
The winter and the summer solstices are the two most important solar terms in a year.
The coldest winter day when the sun is in the north with the longest shadow is winter solstice.
The hottest summer day when the sun is in the south with the shortest shadow is summer solstice.
On the winter solstice and the summer solstice, the sun reaches the celestial longitude 270° and 90° respectively.
On the spring and autumn equinoxes when the day and night time is equal, the sun reaches the celestial longitude 0° and 180° respectively.
In Chinese, li means the start. Lichun, Lixia, Liqiu and Lidong mean the start of the four seasons. Each of the four seasons contains six solar terms.
The second category reflects the characteristics of the climate, such as the Great Heat, Slight Heat, Great Cold and Slight Cold. Reflecting the time and intensity of rainfall and snowfall are the Rain Water, the Grain Rain, the Slight Snow and the Great Snow. Showing the temperature on the decline and characteristics of water vapor are the White Dew, Cold Dew and Frost’s Descent.
The third category reflects phenological phenomena. Phenology is the language of nature. Animals and plants have been adapted to the temperature and other conditions of nature over a long time to produce periodic changes and reflect corresponding growth laws, which is called phenology. It shows a deep understanding of the natural seasonal change by ancient people who grasp the law of time to serve agricultural production. Among the 24 solar terms, those indicative of phenology include Lesser Fullness, Grain in Ear, which show the maturity, planting and harvest of the crops. The Waking of Insects and Pure Brightness reflect the activities of animals and plants.
Evidently, the 24 solar terms cover a very wide range, based on laws and highly relevant to our practice. The creation of the 24 solar terms is very significant for China which has long been an agrarian society to follow the law of changes in solar terms to develop agricultural production, safeguard the people’s health, conform to the laws of nature, protect the ecological environment, and enhance harmony between man and nature.
It is a fixed custom to observe the 24 solar terms in China. Such festivals as the Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Pure Brightness Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, and Double-ninth Festival are all determined according to the 24 solar terms.
THE 24 SOLAR TERMS
WISDOM ABOUT LIFE IN 24 SOLAR TERMS
In the style of cultural prose, this book describes the beauty of culture, philosophy and life contained in the 24 solar terms. It is full of the author’s poetic and philosophical thoughts, as well as profound reflection on Chinese culture and life wisdom, which is refreshing to read. The most impressive point is that the author demonstrates an individual experience of the 24 solar terms in literary style, instead of knowledge introduction. In this way, the terms are creatively combined with history, culture and thoughts, arousing people’s reverence of nature and sense of affinity.
THE STORY OF CHINESE FESTIVALS
The Story of Chinese Festivals comes in 12 volumes, each telling a festival story. It contains nearly 200 exquisite pictures, myths and legends, history, literature, folk culture, art, and myriad knowledge. It is the most comprehensive book of its kind. He Youzhi’s exploration of the artistic language of picture books shows the wisdom with Chinese characteristics. Different from the existing books for “talking about the pictures you see”, his paintings are the extension and expansion of the meaning of the Chinese characters, and bring children more inspiration and prompts. It is as innovative and as explorative as the comic books are. On top of all, folklore experts have been invited to record videos related to festivals and folk customs for this book so that children can read interesting stories about festivals, learn about festival-related knowledge and have an enhanced experience with literature.
ILLUSTRATED ACCOUNT OF JIEQI: TWENTY-FOUR TRADITIONAL CHINESE SOLAR TERMS
The book making use of a great number of precious pictures and relics, Illustrated Account of Jieqi: Twenty-Four Traditional Chinese Solar Terms gives a detailed introduction to Chinese traditional seasonal divisions and its culture as well as the way to stay healthy. Readers will have a knowledge of Chinese ancients’ great achievement in agriculture and their contribution to it after reading the book.
TWENTY-FOUR SOLAR TERMS: CREATION AND HERITAGE
The Twenty-four Solar Terms, a great invention of the ancient Chinese people, was inscribed on the list of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO on November 30, 2016. The earliest complete record of the twenty-four solar terms is seen in the Huainanzi: Tianwen Xun, dating back 2159 years. The twenty-four solar terms are a combination of the yin and yang calendars, representing an eternal calendar formulated according to the operation laws of the sun, the moon, the big dipper handle, the 28 lunar mansions, the temperament, and the climate and phenology in each lunar month.
This book gives a detailed explanation for the scientific basis of the 24 solar terms, and illustrates their influences on state governance, agriculture and ecology, festivals and folk customs, diet and health care, and literature and art. This book helps us to understand the history, technology, customs and ways of life of the Chinese people.
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