When spring arrives, everything comes back to life, the earth is full of vigor. As soon as the cold winter is gone, people start a new round of farming work. The air is warm, the flowers blossom, green trees make shade, and colorful scenes are all around. People can go out for a walk in the wild and do all kinds of sports. The spring season brings better conditions for activities to people who have been restricted all winter.
Lichun is one of the important traditional festivals for the folks of China. “Li” means “Start”, and refers to the beginning of spring. After Lichun, all things come back to life with vigor. The four seasons of the year start from then on. There is a saying that goes: “A year’s plan starts with spring”. Spring means warmth, bringing the chirping of birds and the fragrance of flowers; spring means growth, a time for cultivating and seeding.
When Lichun comes, people obviously feel that the day time becomes longer and the sun gets warmer. At this turning point of the year, the temperature, sunshine and rainfall often start to rise or increase. There is a farming proverb reminding people that “Lichun comes with lots of rainfall, and it’s good to get up early and go to bed late”. It also tells people to start the preparations for plowing and sowing. Although spring has come, most areas in China are still cold. This should be taken into consideration in the time of arranging agricultural production.
Yushui is the second solar term among the 24 solar terms. There are two meanings of Yushui: the first one is that the weather is warming up with gradually more rain water; the second meaning is that snowfall is reducing while the rainfall is gradually increasing.
At this time, the temperature is rising faster and spring thunder is occasionally heard. The meaning of Jingzhe is that the weather is warming up with the first thundering in spring, awakening the insects hiding under the earth in hibernation. Zhe means hiding. The eggs of insects in hibernation at this period will begin to hatch. It is time for starting spring work in some parts of China. There are proverbs saying, that “After Jingzhe, the weather warms up, and toads and Laojiao, a kind of bird, will sing in the mountain.” and that “Plow the soil in Jingzhe, and the soil will be loosened in Chunfen.”
The solar term, Jingzhe (or Awakening of Insects), is of great importance for the busy farming season. Since the old times, Chinese people have valued this solar term and regarded it as the beginning of the farming work in spring.
In the day of Chunfen, the ecliptic longitude of the sun is 0° degrees. Chunfen has the following meanings: firstly, it divides the day equally into day and night, 12 hours each; secondly, it falls on the middle between Lichun (Beginning of spring) and Lixia (Beginning of Summer). In most areas, the winter crops enter the growth stage in the spring season.
Chunfen is a rather important solar term. It not only has the astronomical meaning of dividing the day time equally into day and night, and time on both the northern and southern hemispheres, but also has obvious features in the climate. In Chunfen, all parts in China have a sunny spring except for Tibet Plateau, northeastern, northwestern and the northern areas of North China.
At first, Qingming was just a name of a solar term. Afterwards, it became a festival to commemorate the ancestors – Qingming Festival. This is a traditional festival in China, as well as one of the most important festivals to worship the ancestors and sweep the tombs. Qingming Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival are called the four traditional festivals of China. On May 20th, 2006, at the approval of the State Council, Qingming Festival was added to the first list of national intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture of China.
Guyu is the last solar term in the spring season. After Guyu, the cold snap is almost over, and the temperature rises quickly, which greatly helps the growth of the grain crops. Guyu means “Grain crops grow fast because of rain”.
In the south, there is a custom of picking tea on the day of Guyu. It’s said that the tea picked that day has benefits like clearing internal heat, exorcising evil spirits and improving eyesight, etc. Therefore, no matter what the weather is on the day of Guyu, people will go to the tea plantation and pick some new tea for drinking. In the north, there is a custom of eating Xiangchun (Chinese toon) on the day of Guyu. Xiangchun has functions like improving the immunity of the organism, invigorating the stomach and regulating vital energy and so on. In areas such as Shandong, Henan and Sichuan, there is a custom called “Appreciate peony three days after Guyu”. Many places will host a “Peony Fair” one after another, feeling the air of spring and the well-being of life.