Spring Belongs to the Wood Element, and What Does This Mean?

Exploring Solar Terms: 'Clear and Bright' (April 5 to 19)

Spring Belongs to the Wood Element, and What Does This Mean?
The ancient Chinese believed rainbows were the product of yin and yang energy meeting in balance, something that happens often at this time of year.(Petr_Kratky/Shutterstock)
Moreen Liao
A solar term is a period of about two weeks and is based on the sun’s position in the zodiac. Solar terms form the traditional Chinese calendar system. The calendar follows the ancient Chinese belief that living in accordance with nature will enable one to live a harmonious life. This article series explores each of the year’s 24 solar terms, offering guidance on how to best navigate the season.

Solar Term: 'Clear and Bright'

2022 Dates: April 5 to 19

As this solar term’s moniker, “Clear and Bright,” suggests, the weather is often clear and bright during this time as we move into spring, but there's also plenty of rainfall to wash away the dust and dullness of winter.

After the rain inevitably comes rainbows. The ancient Chinese believed rainbows were the product of yin and yang energy meeting in balance and that they couldn’t appear if the energy was purely yang or yin. Clear and Bright is when rainbows first start showing up in the sky. Not incidentally, it’s also a time of energy balance.

A perfect metaphor for the season, the rainbow's brilliant arc represents balance, potential, and the promise of renewal when fresh sunshine appears.

As the yang energy rises in all living beings during this solar term, the qi energy also becomes clear and bright. This time presents boundless potential for our health if we harness it mindfully.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the spring season belongs to the wood element. This doesn’t refer to the material of wood, nor to trees. Rather, it's the idea of growing upward and of a vaporizing quality. It's the power of improving, and it provides a foundation for the rest of the seasons to come.

This is why spring is the best time to stimulate and encourage well-being. By doing the right things, we can follow the rhythm of nature and get the best results with minimum effort.

Living in Harmony With 'Clear and Bright'

As the yang energy starts to rise and accumulate in one’s body, it travels from the inside to the outside of the body. If one eats overly greasy or heat-containing foods, such as hot spices, it may overload the body and cause congestion. The excess heat may also trigger allergic reactions, high blood pressure, or coughs.

During this time of year, people tend to have good appetites—but try not to overeat, and try to include more outdoor activities in your routine to help you lose any excess weight left over from winter. The sun is very mild and beneficial for health during this time of year, so get outside whenever possible. For elderly people, gentle exercise is best. Be careful not to overdo it.

Dragon well tea, or lonjing tea, a type of green tea, is one of the top ten tea types in China. The premium category among the dragon well tea is called yuqiancha, which means tea before the rain. The tender tea leaves were harvested right before the heavy rains as the rain boosted the growth and delicate aromas of the tea.

A special tea ritual has been followed for a very long time—people blended newly produced dragon well tea with old teas to drink around this solar term. It might be interesting to blend old and new, but more importantly, this balance of aged and fresh flavors from different vintages provides a nice mix of enzymes.

Seasonal Foods

Beneficial foods include barley, carrot, cucumber, eggs, melon, potato, rice and most grains, spinach, sweet potato, goji berries and their leaves, and yam. They cleanse the blood and tone the liver. Slow-cooked oxtail with plenty of root vegetables is very light, yet replenishing. Avoid mushrooms, wheat, seafood, and plants that grow in water, such as watercress, as the nature of these foods is wet and can cause water retention in the body.

Avoid grilled and deep-fried foods. Slow cooking is best for this time. Avoid foods that are overly hot in temperature or spicy.

Recommended herbs include rose, celery, coriander, wormwood, chamomile, marjoram, calendula, lavender, and rosemary.

Moreen was born into a family with a lineage of four generations of traditional Chinese medicine doctors and professors. She was Dean of the Natural Therapies Institute in Sydney, Australia. Drawing on her family heritage, she created a certified organic wellness brand, and co-founded the largest Chinese medical image encyclopedia online.
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