Saturday, September 24News For London

Countdown from 24: Solar terms in Beijing Winter Olympics

2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credit: Weibo.com

Speaking of the countdown to the opening of the Olympic Games, what else can you think of besides numbers? At the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, general director Zhang Yimou creatively used a new countdown method – using the traditional Chinese 24 solar terms instead of numbers to express the pass of time.

The day of the opening ceremony is the first of the 24 solar terms, “Lichun”, which means the beginning of spring. It is also the inspiration of this idea.

What are the 24 solar terms?

The 24 solar terms are specific days in the Chinese lunisolar calendar that represent the changes of natural rhythm. There are four seasons of the year, three four seasons, and two solar terms per month. Each solar term has a unique meaning. The 24 solar terms basically summarize the exact time of the alternation of the four seasons in a year. It is not only a season system to guide agricultural production, but also a folk custom system with rich folk events. The 24 solar terms contain a long cultural connotation and historical precipitation and are an important part of the long history and culture of the Chinese nation.

Names of 24 solar terms

Clips from the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credits: People’s Daily

Beginning of spring: The beginning of spring is the first of the 24 solar terms. It reflects the alternation of winter and spring seasons, marking that the winter has passed and the spring beginning when the wind and the sun are warm, and everything grows.

Rain Water: As the second solar term of the year, rainwater means the beginning of rain. Entering the rainwater, northern China is still cold while most places in the south are full of the scene of early spring.

Awakening of insects: When you heard the first thunder in spring, that indicates the Awakening of insects which is the third solar term is coming. The name means the hibernating insects lying underground will wake up and the weather begins to get warm.

Spring Equinox: When spring equinox, arrives, the sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 0 degrees (the equator). The spring equinox is of great significance in astronomy. The day and night in the northern and southern hemispheres are divided equally. 

Clips from the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credits: People’s Daily

Pure brightness: Pure brightness describes warmer and moister weather. And it is also a traditional festival when people go to the tombs of their families to worship the ancestors.

Grain Rain: Grain rain is the last solar term of spring. Currently, the rainfall increases significantly, as there is a saying in China:” Rain in spring is as precious as oil”. With sufficient and timely rainfall, cereal crops can be maturing well. 

Beginning of summer: The beginning of summer signifies the end of spring, especially in southern China. 

Clips from the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credits: Peoply’s Daily

Grain buds: The second solar term of summer is grain buds. The grain buds mean entering the rainy season. Southern China generally has a lot of rainfall while for Northern China, a little or no rainfall is not as impressive as the rise in temperature.

Grain in the ear: As the dividing point of planting crops, grain in the ear is a busy solar term for sowing, which is also called “busy planting” by the people. In this term, people in the south are busy with rice transplanting and sowing, while people in the north are busy with harvesting wheat.

Summer Solstice: As the fourth solar term in summer, the summer solstice is the northernmost day of the year. After that day, the direct sunlight point begins to move southward from the Tropic of Cancer, and the days in the northern hemisphere will be shortened day by day.

Clips from the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credits: People’s Daily

Minor heat and major heat are the last two solar terms in summer. This is the period with the hottest average weather, the largest rainfall and the most frequent thunderstorms in China.

Beginning of Autumn: The beginning of autumn implies that it has entered autumn, but it does not mean that the hot weather is over. Beginning or autumn is still in the hot summer period, while the second solar term in autumn (end of heat) means it is the time to leave summer.

Clips from the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credits: Peoply’s Daily

White Dew: White Dew is an important solar term reflecting the growth of cold in nature. As the weather gradually turns cool, the sun is still hot in the daytime, but as soon as the sun sets, the temperature drops quickly, and the temperature difference between day and night increases.

Autumn Equinox: On the autumnal equinox, the sun shines almost directly at the equator of the earth, with the same length of day and night all over the world. By the autumnal equinox, the summer heat had disappeared, and the weather turned cool.

Clips from the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credits: People’s Daily

Cold dew and Frost’s Descent: As the last two solar terms in autumn, cold dew and frost’s descent reflect the weather characteristics of a sudden drop in temperature and large temperature difference between day and night.

Beginning of winter: As the first solar term in winter, the beginning of winter means that since then, the climate has gradually changed from less rain and dryness in autumn to rainy, cold and frozen winter.

Clips from the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credits: People’s Daily

Minor Snow, Major Snow and Winter Solstice: Both minor snow and major snow mean that the temperature will continue to drop. As time goes by, the sun eventually reaches its southernmost point of the year, almost directly above the Tropic of Capricorn, marking the arrival of the winter solstice. On the winter solstice, there is a custom of ancestor worship and mutton eating in southern China. In northern China, it is customary to eat dumplings on the winter solstice every year.

Clips from the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Credits: People’s Daily

Minor Cold and Major Cold: Finally, there are minor colds and major colds, in the last two solar terms of the year. It means that the weather is extremely cold.

Let’s watch this video and feel the beauty of four seasons by following the 24 solar terms.