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.
Lì xià 立夏
Start of Summer
Li Xia is the time to bid farewell to spring and welcome the summer days.
We often welcome summer with thin and light clothing and sheets, but even the most physically healthy should beware of getting sick from this change of climate. Eat a little onion in the early morning, drink a small amount of red wine during dinner to unblock the blood vessels. It is advised to follow a low fat, low salt, fiber-rich and light-based diet. Elderly should specifically pay attention to the flow of Qi and blood in order to lower the risk of heart disease. Here are some recipes to help regulate your body during Li Xia.
Xiǎo mǎn 小满
Small Full (Grain)
Late May is the 8th solar term, Xiaoman. The temperature is significantly higher, but it is best to avoid sleeping without covers. This can lower the risk of triggering rheumatism and eczema. “Prevention before cure” should be the health concept of this solar term. We should start by strengthening the body’s Qi and avoiding negative environmental factors.
Xiaoman is the peak for skin diseases, an d our diet can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing one.
It is advised to stay on a fresh and light vegetarian diet. Incorporate foods that reduce inflammation and remove humidity from the body, such as red bean, coix seed, mung bean, melon, sponge gourd, cucumber, lily, cress, water chestnuts, black fungus, lotus root, carrot, tomato, and yam. Avoid eating greasy and heavily flavoured food such as animal fat, seafood or foods that are sour and spicy. It is also best to avoid foods that are hot-natured, fried or baked, such as raw onion, raw garlic, ginger, mustard, pepper, fennel, cinnamon, leek, eggplant, mushroom, sea fish, shrimp, goose and so on.
Here are 2 dishes that can aid your health:
Mang zhǒng 芒种
Grain in Ear
Mang Zhong, June 6, is the time summer temperature and the humidity in the air increases. The body’s sweat can not be dissipated. Since we are in contact with the heat and humidity that filled the air it is easy for us to feel a lack of strength and energy. Therefore, we should pay attention to strengthen the body and avoid the catching seasonal diseases and infectious diseases such as heat stroke, mumps and chickenpox.
According to the climatic characteristics of MangZhong, it is best to keep their mind relaxed and stay light hearted.
In terms of daily life, in order to boost the energy, it is necessary to sleep in late and get up early to properly receive the sunlight (avoid the direct sunlight and be careful of heatstroke) so as to cultivate Yang and encourage the flow of qi and blood.
Seasonal food therapy recipes:
Xia zhì 夏至
Although Xiazhi, the summer solstice falls on the longest day during the summer solstice, but it is not the hottest time of the year. It is because the heat is still accumulating in the earth surface, and has not reach the maximum time. As the saying goes, “hot in three volts”, around mid-July to mid-August, the temperature in all parts of China is the highest, with the maximum temperature in some areas reaching about 40 degrees.
From traditional Chinese medicine standpoint, the summer solstice is the most prosperous season of yang. Since the Yang energy is so strong, it might leak out of the body. One should pay attention to protect and maintain the yang energy in the body.
For a daily routine, one should follow the changes of the yin and yang of nature, and sleep late and get up early. As for exercise, walking, jogging, Tai Chi, radio exercises are recommended. It is best to avoid extreme exercise. If you sweat too much, not only do that hurt the Yin energy, it would also damage the yang. After excessive sweating, you can drink lightly salted water or green bean soup. One must not drink cold water, and certainly not a cold water shower. Otherwise it will cause aggravate humidity and coldness related disease.
As for diet, to balance between the flow of Qi between heart and lungs, it is advised to eat more bitter food. Summer is the season of sweating, with that, the salt loss is also more. And if there are lack of salt in the heart, the heart beats would appear abnormal.
Watermelon, green bean soup and black plum bean soup are good to sooth the thirst in summer, but please avoid having them frozen. Summer climate is hot, people’s digestive function is relatively weak, therefore, the diet should be light should not greasy. One should also eat more grains to cool down the body. Avoid eating hot-natured food, so as to reduce heat in the body. Appropriate amount of cold food is okay but too much can make damage to the spleen and stomach. It is also best to avoid greasy food because that might aggravate diseases like scabies.
Here is a recipe that can help reduce the heatness in the body during Summer:
xiǎo shǔ 小暑
Xiao Shu is the time fireflies are active. During Xiao Shu, the weather is hot and people are susceptible to being easily frustrated and irritable, tired and fatigued. It is important for us to take care of our five main organs during this time. The heat of summer affects our heart, so guarding the yang of the heart is key. Calm your heart to ensure strong heart function, if the heart-mind is damaged, other organs will be affected as well.
From an emotional aspect, happiness is the mind of the heart. Happiness is important for us to relieve tension and ease our mood so that our Qi and blood can move freely in our body. Therefore, “calmness of the heart” is the main focus for maintaining health during summer.
An unclean summer diet is the culprit of a variety of gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea and parasites. Ingesting spoiled food can lead to food poisoning causing abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Here are some recipes that can ease the summer heat:
dà shǔ 大暑
Da Shu is the hottest solar term of the year. In many parts of China, it is usual for the temperature to be 40 degrees Celsius or more during Da Shu. Da Shu has the most rapid growth of hi-temperature crops, and is also the season with the highest numbers of rural field crickets. There are often many thunderstorms during this season.
In this extremely hot season, sunstroke prevention must not be ignored. The hot and humid climate makes it easy for the ‘Shushi’ (the hot and humid air) to invade our body. It is easy to lose the Qi in the heart, especially for elderly, children and frail persons, leading to heat stroke and other diseases. If you have obvious symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, palpitations, chest tightness, inattention, excessive sweating, numbness, thirst, nausea and other symptoms, you are most likely having a heat stroke. In the event of the above symptoms, patients should be immediately moved to a ventilated place to rest and drink some lightly salted water, green bean soup, watermelon juice or plum juice.
Summer heat stroke prevention methods:
Make sure you have a comfortable work environment; pay attention to getting enough rest; avoid exposure to the sun; stay indoors to cool down; get adequate sleep; pay attention to food hygiene.
After entering the summer, it is good to take some aromatic detoxifying drinks that help to clear heat and humidity from body. Boil the following with water for a detoxifying tea drink: 10 grams each of fresh patchouli leaves and perilla leaf, 30 grams each of talcum and fried malt, 3 grams of licorice.
Da Shu is has highest temperatures throughout the year with a peak of yang energy. The concept “curing winter illness in summer” is that the yang energy of the season can help replenish the lack of yang in one’s body. It is the reason why it is the best time to treat chronic diseases that are caused by a lack of yang energy, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, diarrhea, and rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with the above chronic diseases should take advantage of this time and nurse their yang energy in order to prevent and help treat the illness.
The following recipes are created to complement the characteristic of Da Shu:
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