Saturday, January 24, 2009

24 Solar Terms 二十四节气

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar that takes into account the movement of Sun and Moon. In a monthly basis, it follows the Moon's movement strictly while in a year basis, it follows the Sun's movement. That explains the reason for leap month after some time to correct the calendar.

The Chinese uses the Solar Terms (节气), which is a calendar of 24 periods and climate, to govern agricultural arrangements and functions in China. One of the significant similarity of Chinese calendar and Gregorian calendar is that both takes into account the longest (Summer Solstice) and the shortest days (Winter Solstice) of the year as well as two days eah year when the length of the day is equal to that of the night (Spring and Autumn Equinoxes).

During the Shang Dynasty, the Chinese had used only 4 solar terms. The number was increased to 8 during the Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC - 221BC). It was until the Western Han Dynasty (206BC - AD24) that the 24 terms were finally decided upon, which is the same as what it is today.

The 24 Solar Terms (二十四节气)

The date of Solar Terms are better described by the Gregorian Calendar as both follow the Sun's movement. However, there is a range of date for each terms as the Gregorian Calendar is not accurate on a year basis. (It has an error of around 6 hrs per year. That's why there is a leap day correction every 4 years and every 400 years)
Solar Terms节气MthDatesMeaning
Beginning of Spring立春Feb03 - 05Spring begins
Rain Water雨水Feb18 - 20It begins to rain
Waking of Insects惊蛰Mar05 - 07Hibernating animals come to sense
Spring Equinox春分Mar20 - 21Day and night are equally long. Mid Spring
Pure Brightness清明Apr04 - 06It is warm and bright
Grain Rain谷雨Apr19 - 21Rainfall is helpful to grain
Beginning of Summer立夏May05 -07Summer begins
Lesser Fullness of Grain小满May20 - 22Kernels plump
Grain in Beard芒种Jun05 - 07Wheat grows ripe
Summer Solstice夏至Jun21 - 22Longest daytime and shortest night
Lesser Heat小暑Jul06 - 08Torridity comes
Greater Heat大署Jul22 - 24Hottest moment of a year
Beginning of Autumn立秋Aug07 - 09Autumn begins
End of Heat处暑Aug22 -24Heat hides
White Dew白露Sep07 - 09Dew curdles
Autumn Equinox秋分Sep22 - 24Day and night are equally long. Mid Autumn
Cold Dew寒露Oct08 - 09Dew is very cold
Frost's Descent霜降Oct23 - 24Frost descends
Beginning of Winter立冬Nov07 - 08Winter begins
Lesser Snow 小雪Nov22 - 23It begins to snow
Greater Snow大雪Dec06 - 08It snows heavily
Winter Solstice冬至Dec21 - 23Shortest daytime and longest night
Lesser Cold小寒Jan05 - 07It is rather cold
Greater Cold大寒Jan20 - 21Coldest moment of a year

Two important Solar Terms to the Chinese are the Pure Brightness (清明) and Winter Solstice (冬至) which happen around 5th Apr and 22nd Dec on Gregorian Calendar each year respectively.

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