Olympics on lichun: China’s message of hope, vitality to the world
Published: Feb 04, 2022 03:58 PM
Spring pancake Photo:Sina Weibo

Spring pancake Photo:Sina Weibo

As athletes and spectators from around the world celebrated the opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on Friday night, a global event aimed at conveying a message of hope and solidarity, there was also a celebration in China of "lichun" - the beginning of spring, which also symbolizes hope and vitality. 

The timing of the two occasions might not be a mere coincidence and instead what some call a Chinese-style romance designed to convey China's message of hope and solidarity to the world, which is facing profound challenges and changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It also reflects the massive planning and efforts China undertook to deliver a safe, simple and splendid Olympics.  

Many Chinese across the country also marked the special day by sending their warm wishes on social media, with a special topic of "lichun" and opening of the Winter Olympics attracting 1.07 billion views and nearly 20 million comments on Sina Weibo as of Friday night.  

A reporter from Japan's Kyodo News, who is covering the Olympics in Beijing, told the Global Times that lichun brings people a feeling of warmth and rebirth and the Beijing Winter Olympics, kicking off on this very special festival, will bring to the world and humanity hope of a better future.

Liu Bailing, an expert on Chinese folk customs from Luoyang, Central China's Henan Province, said that the Chinese solar term is romantic, and it is a very good omen that the Games of ice and snow sports are held on this day. 

"The timing of lichun is perfectly matched with the slogan 'together for a shared future'. The Games will also be a great opportunity for China to present its ancient traditional culture to the world to better know and understand China," Liu said.

Among the 24 Chinese solar terms listed in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, "lichun" is the first to hint that a new year is coming. The solar term suggests the land's revival and symbolizes the beginning of a new life cycle, which in Chinese traditional culture carries an auspicious meaning of hope and vitality. 

Apart from "lichun," there are three other solar terms: the "lixia" - the beginning of summer, "liqiu" - the beginning of autumn, and "lidong" - the beginning of winter, which all describe new seasonal beginnings. 

Such solar terms carry different cultural meanings in China. For example, summer symbolizes thriving growth, autumn harvest and contentment, and winter suggests purity and restoration.

Such terms show the poetic pursuit of Chinese people. The spirit of positivism conveyed by the solar term "lichun" echoes the "together for a shared future" slogan of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.  

Although "lichun" falls around February 4 every year, its history traces back to the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), when people in China could already tell it was the first chapter of spring. 

It is believed that the solar term symbolizes a "good season" in traditional farming culture. Because farming preparations during "lichun" can decide the year's harvest, Yingchun, meaning "welcoming the spring," is carried out as a popular activity in Chinese folk tradition. 

Yaochun, a seasonal diet tradition meaning "bite the spring," is a popular folk custom related to the solar term that has been practiced since the Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. On the day of "lichun," people eat spring pancake, a flour-baked thin pancake commonly stuffed with stir-fried meat and vegetables in hopes of a good harvest, prosperity and abundant health.

Biting raw radishes was another special folk custom on "lichun" to symbolize one's resilience and victory. Ancient Chinese people believed that if one can tolerate the pungent flavor of a radish root, the person would be successful in many other ways.

Such implications show the poetic pursuit of Chinese people. The romanticism in traditional Chinese culture has also been used as a lucky omen for the upcoming event, which is appreciated by many people around the world.  

"Opening the Olympic Games on the day of 'lichun' is a kind of symbolization and connection between spring and sports… Maybe in the future, snow sports will grow and develop in China, just like the plants grows in spring," Dev Raturi, an Indian actor and entrepreneur who has been living in China for 16 years, told the Global Times.