An intro to China’s 24 Solar Terms

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/1 20:08:40

On Wednesday, China's 24 Solar Terms, an important part of the traditional Chinese calendar, were included on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This decision was made at the 11th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage that is currently taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

By observing the sky, ancient Chinese divided the Sun's annual movement into 24 equal sectors, with each the basis for one solar term.

The terms originated in the Yellow River basin during the Eastern Zhou Dynast (770BC-256BC) and was officially adopted by the government during the Western Han (206BC-AD25).

While the length of the terms was based on the movement of the sun, the names were chosen based on the changes in temperature, weather, rainfall and other natural phenomenon in the Yellow River basin region.

They served as an instruction manual of sorts for farmers, allowing them to know what to expect or do during certain periods of the year.

Solar terms Start of Spring, Start of Summer, Start of Autumn and Start of Winter mark the beginning of the four seasons, while Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice indicate changes in the height of the sun in the sky.

Together these eight terms cover the annual seasonal changes.

Slight Heat, Great Heat, The End of Heat, Lesser Cold and Greater Cold, give an indication of the changes in temperature; Rain Water, Grain Rain, Light Snow, and Heavy Snow are related to precipitation; White Dew, Cold Dew and Frost Descends deal with the dew point and the formation of frost.

These 12 terms represent changes in climate.

The last four terms, Insects Awaken, Pure Brightness, Grain Full and Grain in Ear represent the natural phenomenon that occur at different times of the year.

Since they are based on the movement of the sun through the sky, each term begins at roughly the same time each year, give or take a day or two.


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