FAREWELL TO SUMMER, AND HELLO TO THE START OF AUTUMN

FAREWELL TO SUMMER, AND HELLO TO THE START OF AUTUMN

Start of Autumn, known as "Liqiu" in Chinese, is the 13th of the 24 yearly seasonal cycles on the Chinese calendar, and begins this year on Tuesday, August 7.

Based on observations of the sun's annual motion, people in ancient China created a lunar calendar, dividing a year into 24 segments, each given a specific "solar term" or "jieqi."

The system, predicting a general trend of temperatures and rainfall, as well as providing a time frame for agriculture, everyday life and festivals, has been passed down for generations in China, and is known as "China's fifth invention" as far as international meteorological circles are concerned.

These different periods are also marked nationwide with rituals and festivities, with variations among regions and ethnic groups.

Of all 24 terms, Start of Autumn, one that normally falls between August 7 to 9 (corresponding to the moment when the sun reaches the longitude of 135°) marks a mid-point of China's traditional lunar calendar, as it symbolizes the end of a scorching summer and the arrival of a new fruitful season.

Over the past few thousand years, various customs have developed to celebrate Start of Autumn.

Officially, in ancient times, the emperor, accompanied by his officials, would hold an autumn welcoming ceremony on the day of the Start of Autumn.

In the folk level, numerous traditions are still alive today, covering cultural ceremonies, specialty foods and healthy living tips.

The practice of "Shaiqiu," or "Autumn Basking," is a folk tradition unique to farmers in certain mountainous areas.

On the Start of Autumn day, locals mark "Shaiqiu" by drying their harvests and produce in the sun to preserve the food. Through the process, chili peppers, chrysanthemum flowers, pumpkin slices and corn are normally placed in bamboo baskets on roofs and racks across the whole village, forming a stunning view from above, which has become representative of Chinese agrarian culture.

Food is a key part of the Start of Autumn traditions.

Many in China believe that summer in China - which is often extremely hot - can lead to one losing their appetite due to the hot weather. Therefore, on the day of Start of Autumn, many people weigh themselves and compare it to the Start of Summer. If they've lost weight, they will need to feast, especially on meat.

People in Tianjin have a tradition of eating watermelons, with the tradition suggesting they "bite away" summer.

In Hangzhou, people eat peaches. Tradition holds that if a person keeps the peach stones, then months later, throws the stones into the stove and burns it into ashes on Lunar New Year's Eve, plagues can be prevented for the whole year. Other special foods includes dumplings, longans and red beans.

Meanwhile, collecting and wearing leaves of the Chinese catalpa, a species whose leaves, bark and seeds are all part of traditional Chinese medicine, is also a long standing custom for the Start of Autumn.


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