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.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice falls on June 21 in 2020. According to traditional Chinese solar terms, the summer solstice marks the turning point in the balance of yin and yang.
The summer solstice solar term is when the days slowly grow shorter and the nights longer. Although the heat from the summer sun is still building up and the earth is getting warmer, the season has begun to shift, and yin energy is now building.
A plant called the crow-dipper, native to China, Japan, and Korea, exemplifies this emerging yin phenomenon. This poisonous medicinal plant grows in wet and shady environments, and it only starts to grow after summer solstice—a time when most plants are already peaking.
Kennin-ji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, Japan, holds an annual flower festival for the crow-dipper to mark the change in the balance of yin and yang.
Another manifestation of increasing yin during this time concerns the common deer. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), deer are classified as yang in nature because their horns grow forward.
As the yin energy becomes stronger from summer solstice onward, deer begin to shed their horns. Elk and moose, on the other hand, are considered yin, as their horns grow slanted and toward the back. Elk shed their horns when the yang energy is growing stronger, in the winter.
In Chinese history, the summer solstice was considered a public holiday. Everyone got time off for one to three days. During the Liao Dynasty, women would give each other colorful fans and aromatic pouches filled with fragrant herbs. They used the fans to repel the heat, and the herbal pouches to repel insects and cover up bad odors.
Living in Harmony With ‘Summer Solstice’
TCM doctors say that when the yang energy reaches the extreme, it is a good time to treat winter diseases. Since winter diseases tend to appear when one’s yang energy dips to its lowest point, one can draw on the abundant yang energy of summer to try to reverse the disease in advance of the coming winter.
In TCM, the roots of winter diseases are often treated by identifying the proper acupuncture points, or by using the correct herbs to push the disease out of the body. This is especially helpful for those with a weak respiratory system, weak digestive system, or joint problems.
If one tends to cough or feel pain during cold days, that shows this person may have a weaker or infected respiratory system. It is highly recommended to use the hair blow dryer in low heat and a low-speed mode towards the center of one’s chest. Keep a safe distance so you don’t get burned. As the acupuncture point is Tan Chong, in the middle of our lungs, and it can strengthen our respiratory system as well as boost our immunity.
Traditionally, it is considered a good idea to visit a reputable TCM doctor during this time, especially if you experienced health problems during the recent winter. Many Chinese people go for a checkup at this time of year.
For those who were healthy and happy last winter but are still having trouble adjusting to the summer heat, you can practice “earthing” or “grounding.”
This involves walking with bare feet in nature or gently pressing the ground with the palms of the hands. For maximum benefit, wear only natural fabrics.
At this time, beneficial foods include almonds, asparagus, bitter foods, broad beans, goose and goose eggs, duck and duck eggs, hawthorn berries, oolong tea, parsley, peas, pumpkins, red beans, seaweed, tomatoes, watercress, and watermelon.
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, Australia, and the founder of Ausganica, a certified organic cosmetic brand. Visit Ausganica.com