A solar term is a period of approximately two weeks based on the sun’s position in the zodiac. There are 24 solar terms in a year, which make up the traditional Chinese calendar system used to guide farming and everyday life. The calendar contributes to the ancient Chinese philosophy that living in accordance with nature will enable a harmonious life. This article series delves into each solar term and offers guidance on how to navigate the changes of season in order to live happier and healthier.
Solar Term: Autumn Begins
2022 Dates: Aug. 7–22
It might be hard to believe, but according to the Chinese system of solar terms, we’ve already entered the season of autumn. This time is aptly named Autumn Begins (Aug. 7–22).
In ancient China, a “taishi” was a ranking official in charge of recording history and astrology. It was his duty to inform the emperor to begin a customary three-day fast right before the beginning of autumn. The emperor would lead his court nine “li” (about 2 1/2 miles) out of the west gate of the capital city to welcome the god of autumn.
Later, during the autumn equinox, the emperor would lead his court back to the center of the capital city to mark the arrival of the god of autumn on Earth.
For the ancient Chinese, autumn’s descent from heaven on his earthly voyage was a time of rebirth and renewal. Just as nature ceases its abundant growth and sheds leaves down to bare branches, autumn is a good time for us to turn inward, to clear out thoughts and emotions that we don’t need, and to even clean out closets and drawers.
According to the “bagua,” a system of eight trigrams used in Taoist cosmology, autumn has three yang trigrams on top, and three yin trigrams on the bottom. This indicates that yang is still dominating yin in autumn, but it’s also receding.
This also is a hint that yin and yang, also known as the forces of good karma and bad karma, aren’t strictly opponents of each other. Instead, they are actually two components of one object and can transform into one another.
Living in Harmony With ‘Autumn Begins’
Autumn is harvest season, and it’s rich with vivid golden colors. In the Chinese five element theory, there’s a cycle of states that matter, the human body, the earth, and society go through. For example, the element wood leads to the element of fire, which then leads to earth. Our body’s organs are also associated with specific elements in Chinese medicine, and both the season of autumn and our lungs are associated with metal.
When metal is unbalanced, it becomes hard to see our own value, and we tend to compensate by seeking things such as status, money, and material possessions. We may seek actual metal, in the form of gold or silver, or items that fulfill the sense of wealth we get from precious metals. Too much pursuit can reflect an imbalance in the metal element, which could also manifest itself as a lung or respiratory condition.
Beware of getting bogged down by worries or negative emotions at this time, and do your best to find ways of letting go of your sadness, which is the dominant emotion of the lungs. Crying is an action of our breath and lungs.
Researchers have found depression is prevalent in patients with asthma. “All respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, breathlessness and nightly symptoms, were more common, at a statistically significant level, in participants who had depression and anxiety, even after adjusting for confounders,” a 2014 Nordic study notes.
A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found depressed smokers reported greater difficulty in quitting tobacco use, and they perceived more severe respiratory symptoms compared to non-depressed smokers.
Traditional Chinese theory sees that one who gets too depressed may damage their lungs or respiratory system. They may also catch a flu or cold more easily than those who are emotionally stable.
Protecting your lungs from cold air or cold drinks can help to prevent coughing and promote smooth digestion. This can also lead to better skin.
A good massage on the body and skin, especially one that presses on acupressure points, can help to reduce cellulite and prevent toxins from accumulating.
Seasonal Foods and Scents
Emphasize cooked food and avoid consuming too much cold food, such as raw salads. This can help you to avoid skin rashes or irritation and keep your emotions stable.
Fewer stimulating flavors and mild food is what the season calls for, with the exception of sour-tasting foods, which nourish the lungs and respiratory system.
Enjoy almonds, bananas, cabbage, celery, citrus fruits, eggs, gingko berries, leeks, olive oil, pears, white rice, soy milk or grain milk, white radishes, and yams.
Scents are also powerful for cleansing and altering the mood in support of health and stable emotions. Try diffusing essential oils of basil, cypress, pine, melissa, or eucalyptus.