A solar term is a period of approximately two weeks based on the sun’s position in the zodiac. There are 24 solar terms in a year, which make up the traditional Chinese calendar system used to guide farming and everyday life. The calendar contributes to the ancient Chinese philosophy that living in accordance with nature will enable a harmonious life. This article series delves into each solar term and offers guidance on how to navigate the changes of season in order to live happier and healthier.
Solar Term: Summer Begins
2017 Date: May 5 to 20
Characteristics and Meaning: The Chinese name for the solar term Summer Begins is li xia. Li means “put up” and xia means “summer.” In the ancient Chinese language, xia meant “big,” since crops grow rapidly in the summer. Insects and snakes also become very active during this time of year due to the increase in temperature and relative humidity.
This season has two main effects on plants. The first is that the increased heat makes them grow quickly but also produce less resilient fiber, as seen in plants like melons or asparagus. The other impact of high heat is on flavor. If the heat is strong, plants such as tea will grow quickly but have less flavor. Thus, clever farmers in ancient China used summer tea leaves in fruit or flavored tea blends, such as with plum flower, berries, orange, or jasmine. This masked the taste of the less-flavorful tea leaves.
The heat from this solar term affects both the earth and our bodies. Very hot weather can damage the heart, so during summer we need to take good care of our circulatory system by staying calm and not getting angry, and by eating a healthy diet.
In ancient China, Emperor Qianlong from the Qing Dynasty (1711–1799) always made tea to reduce his body heat in the summer by collecting morning dew on the leaves of water lilies and green sprouts from lotus seeds in his palace gardens. Both of these plants are considered extremely cold in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of cold, cool, hot, and warm property classifications. This method classifies foods according to their nature, not by whether they are physically cool or warm to the touch.
Impact on People: The elderly or people with weak health often have a poor appetite around this time. Therefore, it is important to design a well-balanced diet for them and pay extra attention to their well-being. Those who have heart and blood problems need to be more careful around this time as well.
Living in Harmony With the Season: Midday naps can be beneficial during this time, as they help to strengthen heart function. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding exposure to wind after sweating are also advisable. Massaging the temples and pressing firmly on the center of both palms can be helpful, as these two pressure points eliminate water retention inside our bodies and protect the heart.
Foods to Eat: Fish, millet, zucchini, melons, cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, lemons, strawberries, bean sprouts, bean curd, passion fruit, grapefruit, milk, seaweed, eggs, fava beans, and any red-colored foods are good to eat during this time. Avoid over-processed foods.
Flavors: Sour is perfect for this time, as sour-tasting foods, especially vinegar, help maintain moisture levels inside the body and stimulate the appetite.
Herbs: Rose, dandelion, liquorice, coriander, melissa, jasmine, peppermint, and tender ginger.
Epoch Times contributor Moreen Liao is a certified aromatherapist; former dean of the New Directions Institute of Natural Therapies in Sydney, Australia; group vice president of New Directions Australia; and founder of Ausganica, one of Australia’s leading makers of certified organic skincare and cosmetics. Visit Ausganica.com