Vernal Equinox: Best time of spring marked by blooming flowers
Published: Mar 20, 2024 10:00 PM
Photo: GT

Photo: GT

Wednesday marks the arrival of the fourth of China's traditional 24 Solar Terms, Chunfen, or the Vernal Equinox. On this day, the sunlight almost directly hits the equator, dividing day and night equally between the northern and southern hemispheres. Imagine standing on the equator; the sun passes directly overhead as it starts to shift north. One can marvel at the magic of nature and the universe. 

To welcome the arrival of warmer weather and worship the Sun God, China has had the tradition since the Zhou Dynasty (1046BC-256BC) of performing certain rituals on the day of the Vernal Equinox. Among these folk customs are activities like standing eggs upright, flying kites and enjoying spring delicacies.

Since ancient times, China has had the tradition of egg-balancing on the Vernal Equinox, originating 4,000 years ago. It is believed that on this day, eggs are most easy to balance, and in many places, egg-balancing competitions are held to celebrate the arrival of spring.

As the weather warms up, during the Vernal Equinox, various regions of China gradually enter the busy stage of spring plowing and planting. Among the folk customs is the tradition of "sending oxen" in spring, not actual oxen, but rather "images of oxen." People print the Solar Terms on red and yellow paper, draw pictures of farming, and distribute them door to door while repeating auspicious sayings related to spring plowing, praying for successful planting and an abundant harvest.

With the full arrival of spring, it's also the best time to enjoy spring delicacies during the Vernal Equinox. In many parts of China, there's a tradition of eating spring vegetables during this time. Originally, "spring vegetables" referred to a type of wild amaranth, which was usually boiled with fish slices to make "spring soup." People savor the freshness and tenderness of spring, indulging in the flavors of the season.

Apart from savoring the taste of spring, people also fly kites and go on outings to appreciate flowers on this day, embracing the season fully. The weather is warm and comfortable, flowers are blooming, making it perfect for outdoor activities, stretching muscles, and enjoying the sunshine.

Ancient Chinese bestowed the Vernal Equinox with three good omens.

The first is the return of swallows, representing the soulful birth of life. The return of swallows traditionally signals the arrival of spring around the Yellow River Basin of China. With their return, spring warmth and blooming flowers spread everywhere, bringing verdant banks with them.

"The thunder begins to sound" is the second omen of the Vernal Equinox. As the name suggests, it signifies the sound of thunder echoing across the sky. This is a natural phenomenon marking the current season in the cycle of the year.

The thunder of the Vernal Equinox heralds the joy of all things reviving. As the days of spring thunder in, every bit of warmth hastens the greenery and the blooming of flowers. 

This scene is joyful and moving. Spring wants to completely break free from the shackles of winter and gain new freedom. "The thunder begins to sound" signifies the great beauty of ascending yang energy between the yin and yang of Heaven and Earth, brimming with an unstoppable force of upward growth.

The third good omen of the Vernal Equinox is "the beginning of lightning," which signifies gentle spring rains, and the rain of flowers in the Jiangnan region. This region south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River epitomizes the typical spring scene of the Vernal Equinox. 

In a poem, Song Dynasty (960-1279) poet Zhi Nan wrote, "The apricot blossom rain wets my clothes, the willow breeze brushes my face without chill," which depicts such a scene perfectly.