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24 Solar Terms

Introduction

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    Based on the changes of the sun's position in the zodiac throughout the year and practical needs of agriculture in ancient China, the 24 solar terms is an important kind of calendar in China. It indicates different periods of seasons, the changes of weather, some natural phenomena and more, guiding farmers in agriculture production greatly. Common people also follow the calendar to watch out weather changes and live a healthy life.

    On November 30, 2016, the UNESCO was inscribed China's "The Twenty-Four Solar Terms" on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


    Origin

    As early as the Shang Dynasty (17th century BC - 1046 BC), the Chinese ancestors had already established four major solar terms. During the Zhou Dynasty (1046 - 256 BC), eight solar terms marking the four seasons were established: Start of Spring, Spring Equinox, Start of Summer, Summer Solstice, Start of Autumn, Autumn Equinox, Start of Winter, and Winter Solstice. Until the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), the present 24 solar terms was established completely.
     

    The twenty-four solar terms can be divided into three groups:

    One group reflects the seasonal changes (including 8 terms): Start of Spring, Start of Summer, Start of Autumn and Start of Winter mark the four seasons; Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, and Winter Solstice reflect the height changes of the sun from the astronomy aspect.

     

    One embodies natural phenomena (including 4 terms): Insects Awaken, Pure Brightness, Grain Full and Grain in Ear.

     

    The rest reflects the climate changes (including 12 terms): Slight Heat, Great Heat, The End of Heat, Lesser Cold and Greater Cold tell the temperature changes; Rain Water, Grain Rain, Light Snow and Heavy Snow reflect the precipitation levels; White Dew, Cold Dew and Frost Descent reflect the dropping process and degree of the temperature.

    The date of each solar term is basically fixed with minor differences of within one or two days.  Each month has two solar terms. Following, you can check the exact dates for 24 solar terms in 2016 and detailed meanings for each term.

    Twenty-four Chinese Solar Terms in 2016/2017

    24 Solar Terms 2016 Date
    (Solar Date)
    2017
    Date
    (Solar Date)
    Meanings
    Spring
    Start of Spring Feb. 4 Feb. 3 The spring season begins.
    Rain Water Feb. 19 Feb. 18 The amount of rainfall increases.
    Insects Awaken Mar. 5 Mar. 5 Insects are awakening from winter sleep by the spring thunder.
    Spring Equinox Mar. 20 Mar. 20 The mid-point for the spring season;
    Day and night are equally long on the day.
    Pure Brightness Apr. 4 Apr. 4 It is warm, bright and everywhere gets green;
    It is also the time for tending graves.
    Grain Rain Apr. 19 Apr. 20 Rainfall increases which is helpful to grain crops.
    Summer
    Start of Summer May 5 May 5 The summer season begins.
    Grain Full May 20 May 21 Grains are getting plump but not ripe yet.
    Grain in Ear Jun. 5 Jun. 5 Wheat grows ripe marking the beginning of a busy farming season.
    Summer Solstice Jun. 21 Jun. 21 The sun altitude arrive the highest in north;
    It has the longest daytime of the year.  
    Slight Heat Jul. 7 Jul. 7 The hottest days are yet to come.
    Great heat Jul. 22 Jul. 22 The hottest time of a year.
    Autumn
    Start of Autumn Aug. 7 Aug. 7 (15:39:58) The autumn season begins.
    The End of Heat Aug. 23 Aug. 23 The hot summer is coming to an end and heat stops.
    White Dew Sep. 7 Sep. 7 It is getting cooler and dewdrops appear on grass and trees in the morning.
    Autumn Equinox Sep. 22 Sep. 23 The mid-point for the autumn season;
    The temperature begins to decrease;
    Day and night are equally long on the day.
    Cold Dew Oct. 8 Oct. 8 The dews are becoming frost.
    Frost Descent Oct. 23 Oct. 23 Frost appears and the temperature begins to descent.
    Winter
    Start of Winter Nov. 7 Nov. 7 The winter season begins.
    Light Snow Nov. 22 Nov. 22 It begins to snow but can't accumulate a lot on the ground.
    Heavy Snow Dec. 7 Dec. 7 It begins to snow heavily.
    Winter Solstice Dec. 21 Dec. 22 It has the shortest daytime of a year;
    After the day, many places in China go into the coldest period;
    People in northern China eat dumplings on the day and sweet soup balls for the people in the South.
    Lesser Cold Jan. 6, 2017 Jan. 5, 2018 It is getting colder, but the coldest days are yet to come.
    Greater Cold Jan. 20, 2017 Jan. 20, 2018 It is the coldest time of a year.