top of page
Chinese Solar Terms.jpg

24 Solar Terms in Chinese Calendar 

Chinese Traditional Calendar consists of 24 Solar Terms, which correspond to the sun’s position in the ecliptic and is an accurate guide for agriculture in the history of China.


Every 15° apart along the ecliptic, a solar term represents a season, temperature, agricultural and natural phenomena.  


Generally, each lunar month contains two solar terms, and each solar term in Chinese culture has many poems describing it and some to-do customs. 


In the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC), people set the first four terms presenting four seasons; later, it evolved into eight.


In the year 104 BC, the Twenty-Four Solar Terms were officially established and widely applied in the history of China. 

Solar Terms in Spring
Solar Terms in Autumn
Solar Terms in Summer
Solar Terms in Winter
Beginning of Spring of Chinese Solar Terms, Li Chun.

Beginning of Spring

4th or 5th of February 

When the spring breeze sways the ground, the whole world regains vitality. This is the day of beginning and hope in the Chinese Calendar. 


In the history of China, emperors would hold a big ceremony to welcome spring and pray for the harvest. Civilians also would celebrate the seeding season when they put clay-made cattle in front of the east gate of the city wall. After sacrifice rites, people would whip this clay cattle and then take some pieces home, representing an upcoming bumper year. 


The favorite food of this day is the Spring Pancake, a filmy wrapper with some delicious stuffing. Nowadays, the ceremony of whipping clay cattle only exists in some villages, but the Spring Pancake is still quite famous. 


Colorful paper cutting and decoration are widely applied in many places. These Spring decorations could be attached to the window and front door or as hair ornament and armlet, showing that the splendid season is coming. 

Rain Water of Chinese Solar Terms, Yu Shui.

Rain Water

19th or 20th of February

The mild breeze brings warmth and melts snow and ice; the air becomes moister when more rain falls on earth. Then comes the Rain Water solar term, when various plants grow and wild geese fly back to the north. This is a good time for sowing. 


Besides working hard on the farmland, people also consider this day the time to seek blessings and show gratitude, since the early water of the spring is quite valuable and nourishes the earth.


On this day, some parents will search their children for a lovely godfather who could help bless their kids. They used to find a friendly stranger on the street, but now only among acquaintances. Also, married couples would visit the wives' parents with different gifts, showing gratitude for raising the incredible women. 

Waking of Insects of Chinese Solar Terms, Jing Zhe.

Waking of Insects

5th or 6th of March

With the temperature getting warmer, the spring thunder awakens the animals that are in hibernation. On the day of the Waking of Insects, according to Chinese custom, people will hold a ceremony to worship the God of Thunder and pray for proper rainwater for the whole year.  


In an agricultural society, plagues of insects could cause severe damage. So, the expelling of harmful insects, both for houses and farmland, was significant in the history of China. During this period, various methods of insect elimination activities will be applied, and the most widely accepted one is fumigation.  

The pronunciation of "Pear" is similar to "Leave" in the Chinese language; hence, eating pears on this day means that all the insects and bad luck would be leaving the family. 

Spring of Equinox of Chinese Solar Terms, Chun Fen.

Spring of Equinox

20th or 21st of March

The Spring of the Equinox is the spring's midpoint when the daytime length equals nighttime.


In the history of China, emperors would hold a ceremony to worship the sun, while civilians would honor and memorize their ancestors. 


People would try to have eggs stand straight on this day.


Flying a kite is another popular activity, especially among women and kids. When the kite is flying high, people would cut the string and let the kite go with the wind, meaning take away all the bad lucks.


In other places in China, people write their wishes on a kite and send them into the sky, wishing immortals would know and bless their dreams to come true. 

Pure Brightness of Chinese Solar Terms, Qing Ming.

Pure Brightness

Qingming Festival

Tomb-sweeping Day

4th or 5th of April

During this term, the weather becomes clear, warm, and cool, and everything beings to grow. It is a busy season for cultivation in farmland. 


A prince named Ji Chonger (697 BC — 628 BC) was framed by his stepmother and exiled outside his country for several years, during which he always needed to escape from assassinations. Once, when he ran to a mountain and fainted from starvation, his loyal follower Jie fed him some meat and saved his life; soon, he found that Jie used his flesh to save him. 


Years later, this prince finally defeated his enemies, returned to his country, and claimed king; he achieved great success and was respected as the most honorable overlord. Afterward, he rewarded many loyal followers, but Jie already left and lived in seclusion.


The king led his army and finally arrived at Mount Mian, where Jie and his old mother lived; however, Jie didn’t want any reward and hid somewhere challenging to find. The king then listened to a general’s suggestion and set fire to this mountain, believing that Jie and his mother would be forced to come out and meet him. However, after the fire was extinguished days later, he only found Jie and his mother’s bodies under a giant willow tree.


The king felt extremely sad and guilty. Then he commanded everyone to eat cold food on that day when no one should use fire to cook. Soon, he surprisingly found that the dead willow tree, under where Jie and his mother departed, came alive. The king believed that the tree was Jie’s incarnation, so he prayed to this tree, took a branch of it, and left. 


Since then, eating cold food and snapping willow twigs have become essential activities on this day. It gradually became an important festival, Qing Ming, to sweep tombs of the dead and to memorize and worship ancestors. In addition, because of the nice weather of this period, tree planting, hiking, flying kites, and playing on swings are popular activities. 

Grain Rain of Chinese Solar Terms, Gu Yu.

Grain Rain

20th or 21st of April

In Chinese culture, rain of this solar term is believed could nourish all types of grains in the growing season. 


Thousands of years ago, after Cang Jie had created Chinese Characters, countless grains fell from the sky to celebrate this great invention. Since then, this day has been named the Grain Rain. 


In the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), a brave young man saved a beautiful peony from a flood. Later, this flower, the Fairy of Peony, incarnated into a wonderful woman and fell in love with this young man.


Before this happy couple’s wedding day, the fairy and many of her friends were captured by a demon.


This young man fought bravely, killed this evil, and rescued those flower fairies; however, he also sacrificed. 


This brave young man was born and departed on the date of the Grain Rain. So, millions of peonies will bloom each year’s Grain Rain day, showing the fairy’s eternal love.  

Beginning of summer of Chinese Solar Terms, Li Xia.

Beginning of Summer

5th or 6th of May

When the temperature keeps rising and everything is flourishing, summer begins. Chinese emperors would hold the ceremony to welcome this season and award ice stored last winter to essential officials. 


Kids will play a fun game of hitting boiled eggs. In Chinese culture, people believe eating boiled eggs this day could protect kids from summer diseases. 


Another custom in this term is to weigh at noon, praying for long life and good luck. 

Grain Buds of Chinese Solar Terms, Xiao Man.

Grain Buds

21st or 22nd of May

When Grains are complete but still immature, here comes the term Grain Buds, also named the Lesser Fullness of Grain in the Chinese Calendar. 


On this day, Chinese people would start using water wheels to irrigate their farmland. In some places of China, people worship the God of Water Cart, a white dragon, to pray for adequate rainfall.


In southern China, it is believed that the term Grain Buds is the birthday of the Fairy of Silkworm, so they also would hold a worship ceremony to pray that their precious silkworms could stay healthy and productive. 

Grain in Ear of Chinese Solar Terms, Mang Zhong.

Grain in Ear

5th or 6th of June

In the Chinese Calendar, this is the time to harvest awn crops and sow millet crops, a hectic season in the agricultural society. 


It is also the day to farewell to the Fairy of Flowers when many blossoms are fading. On this day, women would dress up, and decorate trees and flowers using various types of colorful pendants, to show their gratitude for the beautifulness that those fairies brought to the world. This was an essential custom in the history of China.


Making Green Plum Soup is popular as well. After having been boiled with icing sugar, Licorice, or slat, those fresh plums would taste both sweet and sour, which is a very delicious and healthy beverage in hot summer. 

Summer Solstice of Chinese Solar Terms, Xia Zhi.

Summer Solstice

21st or 22nd of June

This is the turning point of the sun when the northern hemisphere has the longest daytime, and most crops are in their prime.


On this day, Chinese emperors and officials would hold a sacrificial ceremony to worship the land and pray for fortune and harvest. At the same time, civilians would honor their ancestors and eat different food. Those ceremonies don't exist anymore, but delicious food never goes out of date. 


The Northern Chinese eat cold noodles today, while people in the south eat Wonton. Women send each other sophisticated fans of scented powder to prevent prickly heat.  

Slight Heat of Chinese Solar Terms, Xiao Shu.

Slight Heat

7th or 8th of July

The weather will be getting hot this term, so this is the day that Chinese people take most of their stuff out and put them under the sun, trying to dehumidify them to prove moths and mold. 


Children would take off the five-color strings they had worn since the Dragon Boat Festival; many throw the strings onto the roof to let magpies take them away. Then, on the Double Seventh Festival, when the only day the separated fairy and her husband are allowed to meet, those magpies could use these countless five-color strings to make a beautiful bridge over the galaxy for them. 

Great Heat of Chinese Solar Terms, Da Shu.

Great Heat

22nd or 23rd of July

This is the most scorching period, with a large amount of rainfall. People in some southern places of China would build a big wooden boat stuffed with many types of food, named the Boat of Heat; then send it to the river, and burn it down when it arrives at the sea.


By doing this, they believe that the scorching weather and bad luck will leave with the boat, after which the weather will improve, and the flood risk will be eliminated. 


Another popular activity is trying to stay cool and eat food that can help people feel less hot, such as watermelon, mutton, and Bean Jelly. 

Beginning of Autumn of Chinese Solar Terms, Li Qiu.

Beginning of Autumn

7th or 8th of August

When the cool breeze arrives and the leaves of Phoenix Tree fall, autumn is finally coming. In the past, the royals would hold a big ceremony to welcome autumn and worship some former great monarchs, while civilians would use their newly harvested foods to worship their ancestors. 


This is harvest season, so Chinese people would also worship the God of the Land to show gratitude. After having helped each other finished harvest, they would take food to the market to sell.


Farmers also get together and share watermelon or other local food, and this is named the Bite of the Autumn, trying to get rid of bad luck and celebrate the harvest of this year's hard work. 

In some southern China, people also spread their food and bask them under the sun to dehumidify it. 


Another fun custom is eating more food and gaining weight, which can help people get through the following harsh winter. However, this is only popular in old times.

End of Heat of Chinese Solar Terms, Chu Shu.

End of Heat

23rd or 24th of August

The hot weather will leave soon in this term; eagles begin to prey on birds, and most crops are fading in northern China. Meanwhile, it is also an excellent season to hike and travel since the weather is cool and comfortable, and peasants have finished harvesting. 


The Ghost Festival is in this term when the gate of another world opens, and the dead can come back to visit the world they left in Chinese mythology. Therefore, this is an important day to offer sacrifice to ancestors.


Some religious sites of Taoism and Buddhism would also hold ceremonies for homeless ghosts whom no one memorizes. 


The beautiful river lamp is another way to show people’s memory and blessing and to help nameless ghosts find their way to reincarnate. Lotus-shaped river lamps can guide every spirit to reach a good end.

White Dew of Chinese Solar Terms, Bai Lu.

White Dew

7th or 8th of September

With the weather getting colder, glittering dew would appear on many plants. Wild goose and swallow will be setting off to the south while other animals begin to store food for the upcoming winter. 


In some southern places of China, the essential custom of that day is to hold a big worship ceremony for the God of Water named Yu the Great, the hero who conquered massive floods and founded the first dynasty in China. Since autumn is a good season for the fishing industry, people believed that Yu could protect them, be safe and have a good harvest. 


In some other places, people would collect ten types of white color food and eat them on the White Dew day, which is believed can help them stay healthy and lucky. 

Autumn Equinox of Chinese Solar Terms, Qiu Fen.

Autumn Equinox

23rd or 24th of September

This is the midpoint of autumn when the length of daytime equals nighttime. From royals to civilians, all the Chinese people would worship the moon on this day. 


The moon worship ceremony gradually became the Mid-Autumn Festival on the 15th of August in the Chinese Calendar, when the moon is beautiful and perfect. 


Some seasonal vegetables and fruits and Glue Pudding are the most popular food for that day. Flying kites and trying to have eggs stand straight is also popular in some places in China. 

Cold Dew of Chinese Solar Terms, Han Lu.

Cold Dew

8th or 9th of October

Cold Dew is when the weather gets colder; the dew becomes more plentiful, and the chrysanthemum blossoms. 


Since the Cold Dew is close to the Double Ninth Festival, they share many similar activities in Chinese cultures, such as climbing a mountain, drinking chrysanthemum wine, and eating flower cakes. 

Frost Descent of Chinese Solar Terms, Shuang Jiang.

Frost's Descent

23rd or 24th of October

When a layer of frost covers the whole land, and the grass turns yellow, people know winter is on the way.


Frost is the representative of sternness and solemn, so in history, this is a good season for training troops and hunting. 


Civilians’ favorite activity is appreciating the chrysanthemum, the most beautiful flower of this season, with family and close friends. Eating persimmon is believed to be an excellent way to prevent cold and flu while the weather is getting cold. In some places of China, duck, taro, or mutton are popular as well. 


Beginning of Winter

7th or 8th of November

Beginning of Winter of Chinese Solar Terms, Li Dong.

Seeing water freeze means the winter officially comes. In old times, Chinese emperors would hold a ceremony to welcome the winter, pray for those who sacrificed protecting the country, and then award clothes and hats to officials. 


On that day, besides the typical ceremony to worship ancestors, people would burn five-colored paper, which is still applied in many places in China. It's believed that departed ancestors in the other world could use these colorful papers to make clothes that keep them warm in the upcoming winter. 


Afterward, the family would feast together to celebrate this year's harvest. In some places, people would divine the following year's production.

In the agriculture society, winter was a relatively less busy season in history, when schools' winter sessions were quite popular, and many kids began to learn knowledge. 

Light Snow of Chinese Solar Terms, Xiao Xue.

Light Snow

22nd or 23rd of November

This is when the snow comes, and the weather gets colder when farmers are involved in the production of agricultural sidelines. 


People also would pickle vegetables or make a food called Ciba, which is made of sticky rice with delicious stuff. 

Major Snow of Chinese Solar Terms, Da Xue.

Major Snow

7th or 8th of December

When the snow gets heavier and many animals begin to hibernate, the term Major Snow in the Chinese Calendar arrives. 


This is the day when Chinese people start to pickle meat for the new year.


It is also believed that this day is an excellent time to eat fine food and gain more energy to prevent sicknesses, such as lamb, local fruit, or porridge. 

Winter Solstice of Chinese Solar Terms, Dong Zhi.

Winter Solstice

22nd or 23rd of December

Among 24 solar terms, the Winter Solstice was the first to be established in the history of China.


Over 3000 years ago, Ji Dan, the regent of the Zhou Dynasty, was trying to use GUI (a timekeeper template) to locate a central city where they planned to set their new capital. They found that the length of the sun’s shadow is the longest on the Winter Solstice day, so they made this day the beginning of the new year until a thousand years later. 


It is believed that this day is when Yin fades away and Yang begins to grow, a lucky day to celebrate. On Winter Solstice, Chinese emperors would lead officials to hold a big ceremony to worship heaven while civilians send greetings to each other. 


The favorite food in northern places of China for that day is dumplings, while in the south are glue puddings and noodles. People eat mutton, red bean, pumpkin, sticky rice, etc. 

Winter Solstice
Lesser Cold of Chinese Solar Terms, Xiao Han.

Lesser Cold

5th or 6th of January

This is the coldest time of the year, when plum blossoms, the fighter in winter, will bloom. 


Spring Festival, the most important holiday in China, is not far from the Lesser Cold. Therefore, from that day on, people would begin to prepare everything for the Chinese New Year, like fireworks, lucky paper cuts, and holiday couplets.

Great Cold of Chinese Solar Terms, Da Han.

Great Cold

20th or 21st of January

The Great Cold brings the most frigid weather and the end of winter. 


Farmers would prepare for next year's planting while others continue preparing and celebrating the Spring Festival. 

Illustration pictures of 24 Solar Terms are designed by Shi Changhong; photographs are taken by Zhou Jie.

bottom of page