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: “Spring Begins”
2022 Dates: Feb. 4 to Feb. 18
The start of “Spring Begins” falls between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5 each year, 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 start to swim more actively under the ice.
Is the natural rhythm inside the human body different from other creatures? Traditional Chinese medicine and solar term theory would say that it isn’t. Accordingly, at this time, we need to rise earlier to absorb the yang energy from the sun and eat spring vegetables to recharge our bodies.
The movement of the sun regulates the four seasons and all living beings on earth, scientifically speaking. 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 that there are two spring arrivals in the same season. Why?
This relates to a philosophical understanding that 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 that he or she 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, the element of growth that’s associated with the liver and uplifting herbs.
The Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a new year and usually falls on the Spring Begins solar term. In 2022, Chinese New Year’s Day is on Feb 1. This is a perfect time to make a new year’s resolution and strengthen your faith for a better year ahead by setting the right goals for yourself. And if your goal is to exercise more, the awakening energy of this solar term makes it a much better time to start this resolution than Jan. 1.
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 as long as 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 great additions 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 to support good growth for the whole year. Colorful beans are particularly beneficial. Try to have a good combination of green, red, yellow, white, and black beans 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 that have a greater focus on what you should or shouldn’t eat, Spring Begins is the time for 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 wake 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 rubs: 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.
Footbath: 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 it’s easier to keep doing. That’s because we’re following the natural rhythm of the world and getting 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 the other terms of the year.