A solar term is a period of about two weeks based on the sun’s position in the zodiac and forms the traditional Chinese calendar system. The calendar follows the ancient Chinese belief that living in accordance with nature will enable one to live a harmonious life. This article series explores each solar term, offering guidance on how to best navigate the season.
The first day of spring on March 20 bursts onto the scene at the tail end of the solar term Insects Awaken (March 5-20), which is characterized by lots of thunder.
In Chinese legend, thunder comes from the god Pangu, the creator of human beings. After he created the space between heaven and earth, his breath turned into wind, his voice into thunder, and his sweat into rain.
During the winter, legend says, the thunder hibernates inside the earth. When spring comes, farmers who begin digging their fields wake up the thunder from hibernation. In turn, the thunder helps break the ground. The loud clapping also wakes up the insects; hence the term Insects Awaken.
At this time, insects and microbes are actively moving under the earth, which helps prepare the land for farming. All farming commences from this time of year.
Underground insects aren’t the only ones to awaken—all bugs are starting to move around. This includes airborne insects like bees and butterflies, as well as tiny lifeforms invisible to the naked eye. Bacteria starts to repopulate after the humidity buildup from the previous solar term, Rain Water.
A traditional festival called The Longtaitou Festival (Lóng Táitóu), or “Dragon raising its head,” happens on March 18. The dragon is regarded in China as the deity in charge of rain, which is an important factor for agriculture. On this day, beginning in 1046 BC, the Chinese Emperor would go out into the fields and lead his officials in farming. Another ancient practice to celebrate Longtaitou Festival was to fumigate insect pests by burning herbs.
Living in Harmony With the Season
In traditional Chinese medicine, spring is the season to detox.
During this season, the Chinese recommend avoiding red meat, cutting out alcohol, and reducing sugar intake, as these all cause “heat” in the body, leading to inflammation. According to the five elements theory from traditional Chinese medicine, red belongs to the element fire. Red meat should be avoided at this time because it may worsen the symptoms of skin allergies, which is a very common spring problem. Alcohol speeds up inflammation inside our body, which may cause irritation and disease. Sugar is one step away from alcohol, so having less sugar is good during this term, especially for those who easily get the flu or cough in spring.
Those with weak respiratory systems or allergies to pollen, or who suffer from skin diseases, often feel uncomfortable around this time due to changes in temperature and humidity.
Steaming and boiling are the best cooking methods to mitigate the effects of this term, as foods cooked with these methods are less stimulating or irritating to the body.
In general, avoid deep-fried foods, as they add heat. Salads with vinaigrette dressings are perfect for cleansing the blood and trimming down extra fat from the winter.
Good foods to eat include asparagus, bitter melon, carrot, celery, green beans, pumpkin, radish, and tomato. The best herbs are cooling peppermint, daisy, and yarrow.
Moreen Liao is a descendant of four generations of traditional Chinese medicine doctors. She is also a certified aromatherapist and the founder of Ausganica, a manufacturer of salon-quality, certified organic cosmetics. Visit Ausganica.