In Chinese culture, solar terms mark the changing of seasons and the transition of nature throughout the year. Xiaoman is one of the twenty-four solar terms in the traditional Chinese calendar. Occurring around May 21st or 22nd in the Gregorian calendar, Xiaoman signifies the arrival of early summer. Let’s explore the significance and characteristics of Xiaoman solar term in Chinese culture.
Small Grain, also known as Grain Buds, Xiaoman, is the seventh solar term in the traditional Chinese calendar, marking the transition from spring to summer. It usually falls around May 21st or 22nd in the Gregorian calendar. During this time, the grains, such as wheat and barley, enter the budding stage, indicating the beginning of their growth and development.
The weather during Small Grain is characterized by rising temperatures and increased rainfall. It is a critical period for agricultural activities as farmers need to pay close attention to the growth of the crops and take necessary measures to protect them from potential pests, diseases, and adverse weather conditions.
In terms of daily life, people in China often adapt their diet and lifestyle to align with the characteristics of the Small Grain season. This includes consuming lighter and fresher foods to adjust to the warmer weather and increased humidity. Popular ingredients during this time may include various vegetables, fruits, and herbs that are in season, such as cucumbers, watermelons, green beans, and lotus roots.
when is the xiaoman?
Xiaoman solar term typically falls around May 21st or 22nd in the Gregorian calendar. However, it’s important to note that the exact date may vary slightly each year due to the differences between the lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar. It is recommended to consult a Chinese lunar calendar or refer to specific astronomical calculations for the precise date of Xiaoman in a particular year.
Xiaoman meaning and symbol
Xiaoman, the eighth solar term in the Chinese calendar and the second solar term of the summer season, falls between May 20th and 22nd in the Gregorian calendar. The name “Xiaoman” carries two main meanings. Firstly, it is related to climate and precipitation. During Xiaoman, the southern regions of China experience an increase in heavy rain and frequent showers. There is a folk saying that goes, “Xiaoman, Xiaoman, rivers gradually fill up,” highlighting the abundance of rainfall during this period. The term “满” (mǎn) in Xiaoman refers to the abundance of rainwater.
Secondly, Xiaoman is associated with wheat cultivation. In the northern regions of China, there is typically little to no rainfall during Xiaoman, which is referred to as “满” (mǎn) signifying the fullness of wheat grains, rather than precipitation.
The “Twenty-Four Solar Terms” originated from ancient agricultural civilization and served as a seasonal system for guiding farming activities. It also encompasses a rich system of folk customs and traditions. Xiaoman has its unique customs rooted in agricultural society, including rituals to worship the deity of carts, the procession of three carts (water cart, oil cart, and silk cart), water fights, silkwormfestivals, and the consumption of wild vegetables during this period.
During Xiaoman, the southern regions of China typically experience heavy rainfall due to the active warm and moist airflow from the ocean colliding with cold air masses moving southward. This often leads to widespread and persistent heavy rain or even torrential downpours in South China. In the Jiangnan region, rivers and lakes may become full. However, if there is a scarcity of rainfall during this phase, it could indicate a weakened subtropical high-pressure system from the Pacific, which suggests the arrival of the Huangmei season.
In contrast, the northern regions of China usually experience little to no rainfall during Xiaoman. During this time, temperatures rise rapidly, narrowing the temperature difference between the north and south.
Xiaoman Historical Origins
The “Twenty-Four Solar Terms” is a calendar system that represents the rhythm of nature and establishes specific seasonal markers. It accurately reflects the changes in natural rhythms and carries profound cultural and historical significance. Xiaoman, as a solar term, is characterized by frequent precipitation, often experiencing sustained and widespread heavy rainfall. In the southern regions of China, the term “满” (mǎn) in Xiaoman refers to the abundance of rainwater. Its original meaning is “to overflow” or “to be full.” As stated in the Shuowen Jiezi, “满 means to overflow.” During Xiaoman, the summer monsoon intensifies in the South China Sea, leading to an increase in rainfall in southern China. The rivers and lakes gradually become filled during this period. Xiaoman coincides with the time of water storage for rice cultivation. If there is a shortage of rainfall during this period, it may lead to the drying and cracking of the fields, affecting the planting of rice during the upcoming Mangzhong season. There is a saying in agricultural folklore: “If it’s not full during Xiaoman, the field’s ridges will dry up; if it’s not full during Xiaoman, it doesn’t matter for Mangzhong,” emphasizing the importance of adequate water supply for rice cultivation.
In the northern regions of China, “Xiaoman” does not refer to precipitation but rather signifies the degree of ripeness of wheat. During Xiaoman, the northern regions have not yet entered the rainy season, experiencing minimal or even no rainfall. Dryland farming is predominant in these areas, with wheat being the main crop. By the time of Xiaoman, the wheat grains have started to become plump but are not fully ripe yet, corresponding to the stage of milky maturity. Hence, it is called “Xiaoman.” In Confucian teachings, there is a caution against being excessively full or overflowing, as it is believed that “excessive fullness invites loss, while modesty brings benefit” and “extremes lead to reversals.” Xiaoman represents a state of being full without excess or overflow. It symbolizes the wheat grains being just adequately plump during this period, avoiding excessive fullness. Thus, it signifies a state of being full without overflowing.
Southern Region: During the Xiaoman solar term, the southern regions of China generally experience abundant and heavy rainfall. The active warm and humid airflow from the southern seas intersects with the cold air moving southward from the north, leading to sustained and widespread heavy precipitation in the South China region. This often results in torrential rain or even severe storms, as depicted by the proverb “Xiaoman, the rivers gradually fill.” After Xiaoman, the southern regions, especially South China, enter a concentrated period of rainfall known as the “dragon boat water.” The Jiangnan region also experiences rivers and lakes reaching their full capacity. If there is a shortage of rainfall during this period, it may indicate a weaker influence of the Pacific subtropical high pressure system, with its position shifted southward, signaling the arrival of the Huangmei period. For the southern regions, Xiaoman is often associated with the fullness of rivers and lakes.
Northern Region: During the Xiaoman solar term, the northern regions of China have not yet entered the rainy season. The rainy season in northern China typically occurs from late July to early August (“qià xià bā shàng”). In the northern regions, Xiaoman is characterized by minimal or no rainfall, and it is not as notable as the rising temperatures. Xiaoman is often the period with the longest daylight hours in the twenty-four solar terms for the northern regions. Heating dry air in the north is much easier than heating moist air in the south, so during Xiaoman, some areas in the north experience a rapid increase in temperatures, further narrowing the temperature difference with the south. The northern regions mainly rely on dryland agriculture, with wheat being the predominant crop. Xiaoman signifies that the grains of summer crops such as wheat have become plump but are not yet fully ripe, corresponding to the stage of milky maturity.
Xiaoman Phenological phenomenon
Due to the differences in climate and phenology between northern and southern China, the ripening and harvesting of wheat also vary. Generally speaking, in some southern regions of China, wheat becomes plump, matures, and is harvested around the Li Xia and Xiao Man solar terms. In certain northern regions of China, wheat only begins to ripen and be harvested around the Mang Zhong solar term, while during the Xiao Man solar term, wheat crops in the northern regions enter the grain-filling stage, gradually becoming plump.
In Wu Cheng’s book “Explanation of the Seventy-Two Hou of the Monthly Ordinances” during the Yuan Dynasty, he divided the twenty-four solar terms into “seventy-two hou,” with each solar term consisting of three hou. The three hou of the Xiao Man solar term are as follows: “The first hou, bitter greens flourish; the second hou, delicate grass withers; the third hou, wheat reaches autumn.” This means that after the Xiao Man solar term, bitter greens have grown lush; subsequently, some shade-loving, delicate grasses start withering under intense sunlight; and in the final period of Xiao Man, wheat begins to ripen. Originally, the third hou was written as Xiaoshu arrives, but in some works, it was changed to wheat reaches autumn. Although it is still summer, for wheat, it has reached the mature “autumn” stage. Summer is the season when winter wheat in the north matures, while autumn is the season when grains ripen. Therefore, ancient people metaphorically referred to early summer as “wheat autumn” (the season when wheat matures).
Xiaoman farming activities
From the perspective of climate (average temperature) characteristics, during the Xiao Man solar term, most regions in China have entered the summer season, and the temperature difference between the north and south has further decreased. China is the most active region for summer monsoons globally and is significantly influenced by the East Asian summer monsoon. The summer monsoon not only fundamentally determines the climate distribution pattern in China but also controls the shifting of the rain belt and the occurrence of droughts and floods. After the Xiao Man solar term, the summer monsoon erupts in the South China Sea, which means a continuous influx of water vapor into China, leading to significantly increased convective rainfall in southern China. Some regions in China are currently in the pre-flood season, which will be followed by the main flood season. China has a vast geographical span, and the climate varies across different regions. In terms of precipitation, during the Xiao Man solar term, the southern regions receive abundant rainfall, while the northern regions experience scarce precipitation. Specifically, the precipitation in the regions south of the Yangtze River generally exceeds 100 millimeters, with coastal areas such as Fujian and Guangdong receiving over 180 millimeters of rainfall. In northern China, the precipitation ranges between 20 and 40 millimeters in the North China and Northeast regions, while the precipitation in the northwest region is less than 20 millimeters.
Xiao Man reflects the climatic characteristic of abundant rainfall, as described by the folk saying “Xiao Man, rivers gradually fill.” The gradual filling of rivers ensures sufficient water supply for irrigation in farmlands. At this time, crops in the fields require ample water, so people are busy using water wheels and irrigation systems to water the fields. After Xiao Man, rainfall increases further, providing sufficient and timely precipitation for the growth of cereal crops, resulting in lush and abundant vegetation. Just like the Rain Water, Grain Rain, Light Snow, and Heavy Snow solar terms, Xiao Man directly reflects the precipitation. The main weather characteristics before and after Xiao Man are high temperatures, high humidity, and heavy rainfall. The presence or absence of rainfall during Xiao Man indicates whether the fields should be filled with water; otherwise, the furrows may crack, and it may even be impossible to plant rice, affecting crop yields.
In the southern regions of China, paddy fields are predominant, with rice being the main cereal crop. In some rice-growing areas, “Xiao Man” is the time for transplanting seedlings, ensuring that the harvest season coincides with the rice ripening. The arrival of the Xiao Man solar term marks a busy period for agricultural activities. Proper field management is crucial. In the northern regions of China, dryland farming predominates, with wheat being the main cereal crop. The northern regions, including areas north of the Qinling Mountains and Huai River, belong to a temperate monsoon climate with lower heat and less rainfall. Dryland crops, particularly wheat, are primarily grown in these regions. After Xiao Man, winter wheat in the northern regions enters a critical stage of grain formation, requiring enhanced late-stage nutrient and water management to prevent premature senescence of roots and leaves, promote sufficient grain filling, and increase grain weight.
Due to the large geographical span of China, there are significant differences in climate, agricultural production, major crop varieties, and growth conditions across different regions. The ripening and harvesting time of winter wheat also vary. Generally, in Hubei Province, wheat begins to mature and be harvested around the Li Xia solar term, while in central and southern parts of Anhui, Henan, and Jiangsu provinces, wheat reaches maturity and is harvested during the Xiao Man solar term.
During the Xiao Man solar term, wheat in the southwestern region of China has already mature
The Xiao Man solar term signifies the onset of the rainy season with a significant increase in rainfall, often accompanied by continuous and widespread heavy precipitation. In the folk sayings of southern China, Xiao Man refers to the precipitation among the three essential elements of climate: sunshine, rainfall, and temperature. During the Xiao Man solar term, there is abundant rainfall, and rivers gradually become filled. The saying “Xiao Man moves the three cars” refers to the water cart, oil cart, and silk cart. At this time, crops in the fields require sufficient moisture, and farmers are busy using water carts to irrigate the land. In the past, the operation of water carts for irrigation was a significant event in rural areas, and it was customary to start the water carts during the Xiao Man solar term.
Ancient people believed that all things have spirits, and the “Three Gods” correspond to the “Three Carts,” namely, the Water Cart God, Oil Cart God, and Silk Cart God. Worshiping the Car God is an ancient custom in some rural areas during the Xiao Man solar term. There is a legend that the “Car God” is a white dragon, and rural households place fish meat, incense, and other offerings on the foundation of the cart, including a cup of clear water. During the worship, they pour the water into the field, symbolizing the wish for abundant water resources. These customs vividly demonstrate the importance people attach to water irrigation.
Xiao Man is the birthday of the Silkworm God, so there is a Silkworm Festival in the Jiangsu and Zhejiang regions during the Xiao Man solar term. Chinese agricultural culture is characterized by the saying “men plow, women weave.” In the northern regions, cotton is the main material for weaving, while in the southern regions, sericulture and silk production are predominant. Silk production relies on raising silkworms, cocooning, and reeling silk from the cocoons. Therefore, sericulture is highly prosperous in rural areas of southern China, especially in the Jiangsu and Zhejiang regions.
According to the records in the “Qing Jia Lu,” during the Xiao Man solar term, silkworm breeders boil cocoons and process silk continuously day and night. It can be seen that in ancient times, with the arrival of the Xiao Man solar term, newly harvested silk was about to enter the market, and the silk industry was thriving. Silk farmers and merchants were full of expectations, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the harvest.
Eating Wild Vegetables, Bitter Greens
Eating wild vegetables is also a custom during the Xiao Man solar term. Bitter greens, such as bitter herbs, are among the earliest wild vegetables consumed by the Chinese people. In the past, there was a tradition of eating wild vegetables and bitter greens to cool down and relieve internal heat. As the spring breeze blows, bitter greens flourish, and uncultivated fields become food stores. In traditional medicine, bitter greens are often used to treat heat-related symptoms, and they were also used by ancient people to sober up after drinking.
Note: “Bitter greens” refers to a variety of wild vegetables that have a bitter taste, which may include different types of greens depending on the region and availability. The specific type of bitter greens may vary in different cultural and culinary contexts.
Water Diversion Ritual
With the arrival of the Xiao Man solar term, precipitation in the southern regions increases, and there is an abundance of rainfall. In ancient times, the primary tool for irrigation was the waterwheel. “Water diversion” is a folk custom observed during the Xiao Man solar term, where waterwheels are used for irrigation purposes. There is a saying: “Xiao Man activates the three carts” (referring to the silk cart, oil cart, and water cart). Waterwheels are set in motion during the Xiao Man period.
This ritual is practiced in the vicinity of Haining, Zhejiang Province, and is typically organized by senior individuals who gather households together at dawn on a predetermined date. They light torches and gather around the waterwheel base to consume wheat cakes, biscuits, and dumplings. When the appointed individual strikes a gong, the group responds with various percussive instruments, and together they step onto the waterwheels placed in the small river. Dozens of waterwheels are simultaneously operated, diverting water from the river into the fields until the river runs dry.
During the Xiao Man period, drought conditions can occur, which are detrimental to crops. In ancient times, farmers would utilize waterwheels for irrigation to alleviate the impact of drought.
Xiaoman Daily health
Living and Daily Activities
The Xiao Man solar term is characterized by high temperatures, high humidity, and increased rainfall. Additionally, frequent fluctuations between warm and cold weather and severe convective weather such as heavy rain, strong winds, and thunderstorms should be closely monitored.
After Xiao Man, temperatures noticeably rise, and rainfall increases, but mornings and evenings can still be relatively cool. There is a significant temperature difference throughout the day, especially when temperatures drop after rainfall. Therefore, it is important to add appropriate clothing in a timely manner. Pay special attention to keeping warm while sleeping at night to avoid catching a cold from exposure to cool air. Additionally, it is advisable to adapt to the seasonal pattern of longer daylight hours during summer, waking up early and going to bed late while ensuring an adequate amount of sleep to maintain energy levels.
During Xiao Man, the combination of wind and fire can make people feel restless and irritable. It is important to adjust your mood and strive to maintain a calm and broad-minded attitude to prevent severe emotional fluctuations that may lead to cardiovascular accidents such as hypertension and cerebrovascular incidents. Engaging in outdoor activities such as playing chess, calligraphy, or fishing can help cultivate a peaceful state of mind. Additionally, participating in morning exercises such as walking, jogging, or practicing Tai Chi is beneficial, while intense exercise and excessive sweating should be avoided to prevent excessive depletion of both Yin and Yang.
During Xiao Man, the average daily temperature in most parts of China is above 22°C, and areas south of the Yellow River to the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River experience temperatures exceeding 35°C. During this period, it is advisable to avoid outdoor activities during the hottest hours of the afternoon and take precautions to prevent heatstroke and cool down. Workers performing outdoor or high-temperature tasks should take protective measures. It is also recommended to have some commonly used heatstroke prevention and cooling medications available, such as Huoxiang Zhengqi water or cooling oil.
Health and Wellness
During the Xiao Man solar term, as temperatures rise, people can often feel restless and uneasy. It is important to adjust your mood, strive for emotional well-being, and maintain a broad perspective to prevent severe emotional fluctuations that may lead to cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and cerebrovascular accidents. While temperatures continue to increase, people often enjoy consuming cold drinks to cool down, but excessive intake of cold beverages can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other symptoms. Engaging in outdoor activities such as playing chess, practicing calligraphy, or fishing can help cultivate a peaceful state of mind. Additionally, participating in morning exercise routines such as walking, jogging, or practicing Tai Chi is beneficial. However, intense physical activities that result in excessive sweating should be avoided to prevent excessive depletion of both Yin and Yang. Consumption of raw and cold foods can easily cause gastrointestinal discomfort, resulting in abdominal pain and diarrhea. As the digestive systems of children are not fully developed and the organ functions of the elderly gradually decline, children and the elderly are more prone to such conditions. Therefore, it is important to avoid excessive consumption of raw and cold foods.
After Xiao Man, not only does the weather become hot with increased sweating, but there is also more rainfall. Dietary adjustments should focus on light and refreshing vegetarian meals. It is recommended to consume foods that have a cooling and moistening effect while nourishing Yin, such as adzuki beans, coix seeds, mung beans, winter melon, cucumber, daylily, water celery, water chestnut, black fungus, carrot, tomato, watermelon, Chinese yam, crucian carp, grass carp, and duck meat. It is advised to avoid foods that are greasy, heavy, sweet, and dampening, as well as foods that promote dampness. Additionally, incorporating herbal cuisine can be beneficial, and regularly consuming nourishing beverages can help replenish energy and promote fluid production. Avoid consuming foods that are greasy, heavy, sweet, and dampening, such as animal fats, pungent and spicy foods, and foods with warm and hot properties. Examples include raw onions, raw garlic, raw ginger, mustard, pepper, chili pepper, fennel, cinnamon, chives, eggplant, mushrooms, seafood, beef, lamb, dog meat, and goose meat.
As temperatures continue to rise during Xiao Man, people often enjoy consuming cold drinks to cool down. However, excessive intake of raw and cold foods during this time can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, resulting in abdominal pain and diarrhea. As the digestive systems of children are not fully developed and the organ functions of the elderly gradually decline, children and the elderly are more susceptible to such conditions. Therefore, it is important to avoid excessive consumption of raw and cold foods.
Xiaoman solar term marks an important milestone in the Chinese calendar, symbolizing the arrival of early summer and the approaching harvest season. It highlights the growth and maturation of crops, as well as the changes in weather and natural phenomena. Beyond its agricultural significance, Xiaoman holds cultural and symbolic importance, reminding people of the harmony between humans and nature. It is a time for reflection, appreciation, and preparation for the bountiful season ahead.
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