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 Dōng 立冬
Start of Winter
LìDōng marks the beginning of winter. LìDōng is a very important solar terms since it is the best time replenish the body. LìDōng literally can be interpreted as: “Li, Building a start. Dōng, winter, the end, time when myriad things hide.”
LìDōng, as the first solar term in winter, starts around the 8th of November every year when the sun reaches 225 degrees. Due to the difference between latitude and longitude in China, the start of winter does not always refer to LìDōng, but instead refers to when the temperature is below 10 degrees for several consecutive days. While literal meaning of “Dōng” is “the end”, Chinese medicine believes that this the time Yang Qi lurks, the Yin Qi is extremely vigorous. Though the plants and trees withered, insects are hidden, and the activities of myriad things are at rest, they do so to hibernate, recharge and prepare for the vigorous growth of spring.
Chinese medicine believes that: “Cold is bad and often hurt the Yang Qi in the body”. The Yang Qi in human body is like the sun in the sky, giving the warmth to the living. Without the sun no thing can survive. If there is no Yang Qi in the human body, one will lose the vitality to metabolize, so it is important to hibernate and recharge during winter.
Here is a recipe that cultivates Yin in the body and strengthens the stomach:
Xiǎo Xuě 小雪
The first snow will appear in the northern part of China by the time of XiǎoXuě. Although the amount of snow is limited, it is a warning sign for us to stay warm. Before and after XiǎoXuě, the weather is often gloomy and cold, affecting people’s mood, especially for those with depression. This is why in this solar term, it is important for those whose mood are easily affected to be aware of how to take care their mental and physical health.
Not only in traditional Chinese medical theory, western medical research has also found that seasonal changes have a direct effect on patients with depression. It is because the neurotransmitter associated with depression corresponds with seasonal changes. In spring and summer, the serotonin system is at its strongest whereas in autumn and winter the serotonin system is at its weakest. When daylight decreases, it causes a lack of serotonin in the brain and causes a series of symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, pessimism and world-weaning.
With both Chinese and Western medical theory in mind, it is important to adjust our mentality, remain optimistic, reduce excitement and anger. It is also beneficial to participate in some outdoor activities to strengthen the body, more sunbathing also keeps the serotonin system stable. Listening to music also adds joy to life. Wu Shang, a doctor in the Qing Dynasty once said: ” For those with emotional illness, appreciate the beauty of flowers to avoid boredom, listen to music to reduce sadness is better than taking medicine.”
In addition to that, dietary adjustment can not be ignored, famous doctor Sun Simiao wrote in his book:” Food can rid the bad and calm the organs, lighten the mood, clear the mind and encourage Qi to flow with the blood.”. It is advised to eat bananas during this time because bananas contain substances that help the brain produce serotonin.
Here is a list of advised foods to eat:
Dà Xuě 大雪
After December, the temperature gradually decreases and enters the season of heavy snow. In winter, Yang is easy to wear out, and the onset of cardiovascular disease also increases. It is best to follow the chinese medicine principle of “keeping warm” in the winter. It is advised to sleep early and wake up late, following the rise of the sun and get 7 hours of sleep.
Chinese medicine believes that Yang can promote the operation of the internal organs and is also a source of warmth for the human body. Ample sleep can replenish Yang, and you can sleep for 7 to 8 hours a day. After Major Snow, it is recommended to go to bed at 10 o’clock in the evening. When your body is warm in the morning avoid going out in the cold, as it will reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke due to large temperature difference and rapid contraction of blood vessels.
Chinese medicine emphasizes that it is necessary to keep the head, chest and foot warm because they are most vulnerable to cold evil. Wearing hats and scarves are essential when you go out. To avoid inhaling too cold air, carry a mask with you. The ancients said that “the cold starts from the foot”. If there is no heating equipment in the house, remember to wear thick socks to keep warm, avoid the feet from directly contacting the cold ground and get cold. You can also do a warm water foot bath before going to bed. Let the body warm and you will sleep better.
In addition to avoiding cold, you can also protect your cardiovascular health through your diet. Seasonal spinach and onion are good choices. Carrots, yam, black fungus, kelp, straw mushroom have a lot of benefits for the heart.
Dōng Zhì 冬至
The principle of winter solstice health is that the diet should be warmer and less cold, eat more foods with warm nature, eat less cold foods. Warm foods includes glutinous rice, chestnuts, jujube, walnuts, leeks, cumin, coriander, pumpkin, ginger, onion, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, pepper, longan, lychee, papaya, pomegranate, ebony, etc.
The second principle of winter health is that the diet should less salty. The function of the kidneys in the winter is too vigorous. If you eat more salty foods, the kidneys will be more vigorous, which will greatly damage and weaken the heart, affecting human health. Therefore, eat less salty foods in winter and eat some bitter foods to replenish the heart and enhance kidney function. It is advised to eat yam during this time as it is not hot or dry. Other recommended foods include kohlrabi, lettuce, etc.
Other recommended foods and benefits:
Xiǎo Hán 小寒
During Xiǎohán the weather is still, but it is not the coldest season of the year. In the national calendar, Xiǎohán should be the first solar term of the year, because this is the January 5th of the National Calendar. However, the real first solar terms in a year is actually Li Chun. During this time cold fronts come together, and the influenza virus is often raging, so emphasis you be placed on the body’s warmth to reduce the chance of getting a cold. In addition to the adding layers of clothing, you must keep your stomach warm. Eat more warm food and blood food to ensure the warmth of the body.
For your daily diet you can choose high-calorie, mild-temperature foods, such as sesame seeds, chestnuts and so on. Other recommended foods include peach, chestnut, jujube, longan meat, lotus seeds, etc. The most beneficial food to eat during this time is Flammulina velutipes. Flammulina velutipes not only has the effect of tonifying the liver and tonifying the stomach, but it also replenishes Qi and blood.
You should avoid all kinds of sticky foods such as, cold fruits, ice cream, frozen drinks, etc. and avoid cold foods such as mung beans, mung bean sprouts, persimmons, etc.
Dà Hán 大寒
DàHán is the last solar term of the year. Although it is not as cold as the winter solstice, it is still a cold period. After the busy spring, summer and autumn, people enter the ” three winter months” without farming work. With the arrival of DàHán, winter season comes near to an end. It is the time to be busy with preparing salted fish and bacon. You can start to feel the rejuvenation of the earth. It is time for to people to re-adjust to warmer weather.
Medicinal dishes suitable for this season are:
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