What does meaning of 24 solar terms in chinese lunar calendar

what is solar terms?Ancient Chinese divided the circle of the annual motion of the sun into 24 equal segments; each segment was called a “jie qi” or 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, of astronomical laws and of other local natural phenomena occurring in the course of the year. It is an indispensable component of the traditional Chinese calendars and its living applications, serving as a time-frame for agricultural activities and daily life. In international circle of meteorology, this cognitive system has been honored as the Fifth Great Invention of China.

The solar terms are: Beginning of Spring, Rain Water, Insects Awakening, Spring Equinox, Fresh Green, Grain Rain, Beginning of Summer, Lesser Fullness, Grain in Ear, Summer Solstice, Lesser Heat, Greater Heat, Beginning of Autumn, End of Heat, White Dew, Autumnal Equinox, Cold Dew, First Frost, Beginning of Winter, Light Snow, Heavy Snow, Winter Solstice, Lesser Cold, and Greater Cold.

How does the 24 Solar Terms come into existence and develop?

24 Solar Terms Origin:The 24 Solar Terms come to being and develop in close relationship with Chinese agricultural production, and today the year comprises of 24 Solar Terms. During the Shang Dynasty they only used four solar terms; the Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC – 221BC), used eight; but it was in the Western Han Dynasty (206BC – 24) that the 24 terms were finally decided upon.

solar terms why is it important

The terms has been closely combined with the living rhythm, lifestyle and especially traditional festivals of Chinese people. It also absorbed some contents of history, religions and folklore. These cultural features are still playing an energetic role in our society despite increasing urbanization.

At the initial stage of agricultural development, people began to explore the seasonal rule in the agricultural production to meet the needs in seeding, harvesting and other activities. Gradually, they formed the concept of “Seed in Spring, grow in Summer, Harvest in Autumn and Store in Winter”. During the Spring and Autumn Period, the agricultural production was high, subject to the seasonal changes with the invention of iron tools, thus forming the concept of Solar Term. At that time, the method of tugui was used to measure the shadow of the sun for determining the solar terms. Initially, there were only the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice. Later added were the Spring Equinox, the Autumnal Equinox, the Beginning of Spring, the Beginning of Summer, the Beginning of Autumn and the Beginning of Winter.

The table below show the Twenty-four Solar Terms :
solar termsChinese nameGregorian date (approx.)Remarks
start of spring lìchūnFebruary 4spring starts here according to the Chinese definition of a season, see also Cross-quarter day
rain water yǔshuǐFebruary 19starting at this point, the temperature makes rain more likely than snow
awakening of insects jīngzhéMarch 5when hibernating insects awaken
vernal equinoxchūnfēnMarch 20lit. the central divide of spring (referring to the Chinese seasonal definition)
clear and brightqīngmíngApril 5a Chinese festival where, traditionally, ancestral graves are tended
grain rainsgǔyǔ or gǔyùApril 20rain helps grain grow
start of summerlìxiàMay 6refers to the Chinese seasonal definition
grain fullxiǎomǎnMay 21grains are plump
grain in earmángzhòng or mángzhǒngJune 6lit. awns (beard of grain) grow
summer solsticexiàzhìJune 21lit. summer extreme (of sun’s height)
minor heatxiǎoshǔJuly 7when heat starts to get unbearable
major heatdàshǔJuly 23the hottest time of the year
start of autumnlìqiūAugust 7uses the Chinese seasonal definition
limit of heatchùshǔAugust 23lit. dwell in heat
white dewbáilùSeptember 8condensed moisture makes dew white; a sign of autumn
autumnal equinoxqiūfēnSeptember 23lit. central divide of autumn (refers to the Chinese seasonal definition)
cold dewhánlùOctober 8dew starts turning into frost
descent of frostshuāngjiàngOctober 23appearance of frost and descent of temperature
start of winterlìdōngNovember 7refers to the Chinese seasonal definition
minor snowxiǎoxuěNovember 22snow starts falling
major snowdàxuěDecember 7season of snowstorms in full swing
winter solsticedōngzhìDecember 22lit. winter extreme (of sun’s height)
minor coldxiǎohánJanuary 6cold starts to become unbearable
major colddàhánJanuary 20coldest time of year


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