Ancient Chinese Wisdom
We all witness the transformation of the landscape brought about by the changing seasons. Our bodies sense and feel the changing weather, the shortening and lengthening of our days, and many more of nature’s patterns.
Based on observations of the sun’s annual motion, the ancient Chinese created a lunar calendar dividing the year into 24 segments lasting about 15 days each. Each segment is given a specific solar term and reflects the changes in climate, natural phenomena, and agricultural production, providing a time frame to guide farmers, festivals, and other aspects of everyday human life. Having been merged into the Gregorian calendar, the system has been passed down for generations.
The sun gives energy to all living organisms on earth, and the cosmic system revolving around it regulates our living patterns on a fundamental level. Working with the natural flow of the earth is easier than going against it, and can teach us how to live in harmony with the universe and natural environment. If we can learn the basics of this ancient wisdom, living with nature instead of against it, we can make the best use of opportunities to improve our well-being.
We’re excited to share a series of articles on the solar terms for each season so you can begin to learn the characteristics and signs of the changing solar terms, and tips for how to best care for yourself as the seasons change.
Jīng zhé 惊蛰
Awakening of Insects
From the 5th of March to the 20th is the third solar term of the year, Jing zhe. The word Jing zhe means the awakening of hibernating insects. Jing means “to start” and Zhe means “hibernating insects”. Traditional Chinese folklore says that during Jing zhe, thunderstorms will wake up the hibernating insects, telling them that the weather is getting warmer.
Here are some health tips for different body types during this solar term:
Yin deficient type 陰虛體質
Individuals usually have a thin physique, with an outgoing and impatient personality. They often complain about warm palms and soles, mouth dryness, dry nose, dry stools or constipation. They often feel uncomfortable in hot and dry environments and have a preference for cold drinks. They are susceptible to cough, fatigue, seminal emission, insomnia, and some chronic conditions.
Because Yin deficient type individuals have outgoing and impatient personalities, they should strengthen their self-cultivation in order to develop a calm and stable state of mind during Jing zhe.
Yin deficient type individuals often feel uncomfortable in hot and dry environments. While the weather begins to get warmer during Jing zhe, it is best for those who have a Yin deficient type body to stay by the mountain or forest, and relax their body and mind. Staying in living environments that are quiet and facing south would suit them best.
To balance the lack of Yin, those who have a Yin deficient type body should keep their diet light by avoiding foods like glutinous rice, sesame, honey, dairy products, tofu, fish, vegetables, sugar cane, dry and spicy food. Eating sea cucumber, turtle meat, crab meat, white fungus, drake, cordyceps sinensis would be beneficial if they are affordable.
It is best to avoid excessive activity. Tai Chi would be a great option for those who are Yin deficient.
Yang deficient type 陽虛體質
Individuals tend to have flabby muscles, and have quiet and introverted personalities. They often complain about cold hands and feet, cold feeling in stomach, sensitivities to low temperatures or noises, sleepiness, discomfort after eating cold foods, and have a pale and bulky tongue. They often feel uncomfortable in windy, cold and humid environments. They are susceptible to health problems such as puffiness, diarrhea and excess throat secretions.
People with yang deficiency are prone to having bad moods, and feeling sad or fearful. Such people need to be better at regulating their emotions. Listening to more music, making more friends are good ways to do so.
Yang deficient type bodies have a poor ability to adapt to the climate. During winter it is best to avoid cold temperature. In spring and summer they should take the opportunity to cultivate Yang. Be “tireless of the sun”, that is, during spring and summer try to get under the sun no less than fifteen to twenty minutes everyday. This will greatly improve their ability to adapt to the climate.
With a Yang deficient type body, it is important to strengthen the body all year round. Walking, jogging, tai chi, and wuqinxi are a few recommended exercises. Sunbathing and getting fresh air are also some indispensable methods to strengthen and maintain the Yang in the body.
Blood stasis type 血瘀體質
Individuals tend to be impatient and forgetful. They often present a dull complexion, spots on the face, dark-red lips, dark circles under the eyes, rough skin, unknown bruising on the body surface, and varicose veins. They often feel uncomfortable in cold environments. They are susceptible to bleedings, painful conditions, and abnormal growths.
Blood stasis types are susceptible to depression which affects the flow of Qi in the body, meaning being more optimistic is essential. Blood and Qi can only flow through the body easily and conduct changes to the blood stasis body when they are in a good state of mind. Conversely, depression and melancholy will increase the tendency of blood stasis.
Eat foods that encourage blood circulation, such as peaches, black beans, arrowheads, and vinegar. Hawthorn rice porridge and peanut rice porridge are also good choices for the blood stasis type body. It is also beneficial to take some traditional Chinese medicine such as Angelica, Chuanxiong, Salvia, Rehmannia, Burnet or Wujiapi under a doctor’s supervision.
People with a blood stasis type body should do more activities that are beneficial to the heart, such as ballroom dancing and tai chi. Massages that help all parts of the body to stay active and help the Qi and blood flow through the body are also beneficial.
Phlegm & dampness type 痰濕體質
Individuals are usually overweight with a tummy, have a mild temper, and have steady and patient personalities. They often present oily faces, sticky or sweet taste in the mouth, excessive throat secretion, sweating, chest stuffiness, a thick tongue coating, and a preference for sweet and greasy foods. They often feel uncomfortable in humid and rainy environments. They are susceptible to diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.
During rainy season, it is best to avoid humidity. With a phlegm and dampness type body, one should not be living in a cold and humid environment.
It is best to eat foods that strengthen the spleen and allow the humidity to leave the body, such as white radish, lentils, cabbage, broad beans, onions, seaweed, jellyfish, water chestnuts, ginkgo, loquat, jujube, coix seed, and red bean. They should also avoid eating fats, heavily seasoned food, sweetened beverages and alcoholic drinks. It is also advised to not eat until full.
Phlegm-damp people usually lack muscles, have loose skin and are prone to be tired. It would be beneficial for them to exercise regularly. Walking, jogging, dance, and ball games are recommended. The amount of activity should be gradually increased, so that loose skin gradually transforms into strong, dense muscle.
Chūn fēn 春分
When the vernal equinox arrives, there will be a marked increase in both rain and sunshine, which is also the planting period for early rice. As the vernal equinox is characterised by equally divided day and night, cold and heat, people should pay attention to maintaining the body’s yin and yang balance.
The time between the start of spring and the Qingming festival is when plants grow into buds. Human blood is also in a period of exuberance and hormone levels are at a relative peak. This is a time when we are prone to common non-infectious diseases such as high blood pressure, menstrual disorders, hemorrhoids and allergies. During this solar term, we should avoid a diet that disturbs the body’s balance, doing our best to avoid cool-natured foods. When cooking cool-natured foods, such as fish, shrimp, and crab, pair with warm-natured ingredients like onions, ginger, wine or vinegar to prevent the body’s balance from being disturbed. Eating too much cool-natured food can cause stomach damage and abdominal discomfort. Another option is to pair leeks, garlic, papaya and other yang-type dishes with yin-type food such as egg, in order to balance out the yin and yang of the food. It is also best to maintain a relaxed, optimistic state of mind. In addition, regular exercise, sleep and meals are vital in nurturing your body to health during Chun fen.
Qīng míng 清明
Clear and Bright
In terms of traditional Chinese medicine, Ching Ming is a particularly important solar term because we are prone to having higher blood pressure during this time. Simple changes in our daily habits can help us combat high blood pressure.
Modern medical research also shows that the adverse external stimuli, such as prolonged mental stress, anxiety, irritability and other mood swings can lead to and aggravate the symptoms of hypertension. Therefore, we should reduce and eliminate abnormal emotional reactions and ease the mind with gentle movements. Exercises that move the body gently like Tai Chi are preferred. One should also avoid competitive sports in order to avoid being overly emotional. Avoiding weight-bearing activities can also help maintain a calm state of mind, and reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
As for daily diet, we should eat regularly with a regulated quantity – in other words, portion control. We can all avoid over-eating, but for those who are obese, it is also best to reduce the amount of sugar intake and eat more fruits and vegetables. Those who have elderly hypertension should follow a low-salt diet and increase potassium intake by eating more vegetables and fruits.
For those who are Yin deficient, take 5-10 grams of wild chrysanthemum – add water to boil 3-5 minutes and drink it as tea. For those whose liver and kidney are Yin deficient, it is advised to eat royal jelly regularly.
For those who are Yin and Yang Deficient, bring 20 grams each of wolfberry, walnut meat and black sesame seed to decoction, take once daily with water.
Gǔ yǔ 谷雨
Gu Yu, the sixth solar term, and the last solar term of spring, is characterised by rising temperatures and increasing rainfall. Rain and warm temperatures have nurtured seedlings, while new crops are able to gain moisture and growth. Due to the increased rainfall, the humidity in the air gradually increases. Through the internal regulation of the human body, the internal environment (physical changes in the body) and the external environment, we are able to maintain balance and normal physiological function. After GuYu begins the onset of neuralgia – intense, typically intermittent pain along the course of a nerve.
Three common types of neuralgia are intercostal neuralgia (pain between the ribs), sciatica (leg pain and possibly tingling, numbness, or weakness that originates in the lower back and travel through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg), and trigeminal neuralgia (episodes of severe, sudden, shock-like pain in one side of the face that lasts for seconds to a few minutes).
Those who are cool-natured should avoid eating persimmon, watermelon, celery, raw cucumber, crab, snail, clam meat, kelp and other cold-natured foods; heat-natured individuals should avoid eating pepper, cinnamon, ginger, white wine and other hot-natured food.
Here is a recipe that can help you maintain your inner balance and calm the nerves during Gu yu:
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