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.
The start of “Spring Begins” falls each year between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5, when the weather remains cold. The spring equinox arrives about 45 days later. At this time, the earth has absorbed enough heat that nature begins to show signs of life–insects start to move their wings and fish swim more actively under the ice.
Is the natural rhythm inside the human body different to other creatures? Traditional Chinese medicine and solar term theory would say no. Accordingly, at this time, we need to rise earlier to absorb the yang energy from the sun, and eat spring vegetables to recharge our body.
The movement of the sun, scientifically speaking, regulates the four seasons and all living beings on earth. The patterns of agriculture, diet, health, and disease that can be observed through different times of the year can all be correlated to the solar terms. This system is a perfect example of the ancient Chinese belief in the harmony of heaven, earth, and living beings.
There are 24 solar terms in one calendar year, six for each season. Yet there are two solar terms named for spring, suggesting there are two spring arrivals in the same season. Why?
This relates to a philosophical understanding the Chinese hold, in which both the tangible and the intangible (or the natural and supernatural) exist in tandem. A common example is how the traditional Chinese count the age of a newborn baby by including the time it spent in the womb.
In the calendar, “Spring Begins” marks the beginning of the season’s incubation, while “Spring Equinox” marks its maturity. The two are normally 45 days apart, similar to the set period of 280 days between conception and birth.
Yin and yang, the intangible and the tangible, and the concept of five elements are all included within the system of solar term theories. Spring is said to belong to the wood element, which is associated with the liver and uplifting herbs.
Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a new year and usually falls on the Spring Begins solar term. This year the Chinese New Year’s Day is on Feb 12. It is now a perfect time to make a new year resolution and strengthen your faith for a better year ahead with setting right goals for yourself.
- Rice soup: The best food to prepare our organs for the spring season is congee, a rice soup with beans or assorted grains. Soak the grains for at least two hours or overnight, then cook with low heat to produce a thick and nourishing spring pick-me-up food.
- Spring spices: Shallot, onion, leeks, basil, and garlic are very good additives to any dish during this time. Consume these frequently to warm up the body and repel the winter chill.
- Beans: Proteins are essential to support the body turning from Yin to Yang, as well as supporting good growth for the whole year long. Colorful beans are particularly beneficial, try to have a good combination of green, red, yellow, white, and black to nourish your five elements.
- Tea: Vanilla bean, cinnamon, or chai tea can help kickstart the body into the vigor of spring.
- A good feast: Unlike other solar terms in the year that have a greater focus on what you should or shouldn’t eat, Spring Begins is the time you are sort of allowed a good feast. Choose what you enjoy. Even a bit of excess fat or sugar is fine for this time. Just remember to avoid cold or chilled food, as they harm the yang energy inside your body and keep it from rising.
Here are some easy tips to get your body ready for spring, and get rid of winter dullness and accumulated toxins:
- Dry brushing: Use soft brushes with natural animal hair in a circular motion on palms, calves, and thighs. This helps to release toxins, wakes up the senses, and improves circulation. It also helps to remove dead skin cells and beautify and tone the skin.
- Comb your hair: Comb the hair with a wooden brush and use the brush to massage the scalp, from the top to the center-back of the head. You can also use the fingertips for a gentler massage.
- Chest: For those who often get the flu or cough in the spring, rub sandalwood or frankincense oils onto the center of the chest to prevent coldness from getting into the body through the lungs.
- Foot bath: Vetiver oil is great for warming cold feet; ginger works well, too.
- Start exercising or another healthy ritual: As yang energy is rising inside our bodies at this time of the year, any new routine—especially exercise—is encouraged and easier to keep doing. That’s because we’re following the natural rhythm of the world, in tune with the energetic patterns of mother nature. Also yang energy helps us to get energy flowing, so you may find it easier to lose fat compared with other terms of the year.
Epoch Times contributor Moreen Liao is a descendant of four generations of traditional Chinese medicine doctors. She is also a certified aromatherapist, former dean of the New Directions Institute of Natural Therapies in Sydney, and the founder of Ausganica, a certified organic cosmetic brand. Visit Liaomoreen.com.