End of Heat: Time to say goodbye to shorts and skirts
By Ai Yan
It is not until the heat of the summer days finally subsided can we bid goodbye to the sweating season decently. And now, it is time!
Wednesday marks "Chu Shu" or the "End of Heat", the 14th of the 24 Solar Terms recorded by the ancient Chinese people in their lunar calendar.
Most areas across the Chinese territory will cool down during the period of time started with "Chu Shu", and even people living in southern part of the country, after being grilled for months, could finally take a breath of relief.
The weather during this period of time is noted by the large temperature swings between days and nights, so carrying an additional coat is advisable. Signs of the autumn could also be seen everywhere, with leaves starting to fall, grass and trees beginning to wither.
Contrast to the bleak atmosphere are the scenes in the fields, where crops are starting to ripen and harvest is closing in.
What is more meaningful to the farmers this solar term is that the raining season in most parts of China will soon end, and it is necessary to store some water, to prevent possible drought that would impact the planting of winter crops.
Traditions and rituals to be expected
As usual, there are many traditions and rituals derived from the ancient times that have been adopted and developed into new forms of celebrations. Most of them around the period of "Chu Shu" is related to the welcome of autumn as well as paying tribute to the ancestors.
The Zhongyuan Festival celebrated on 15th in the seventh month of the lunar calendar is one Chinese people attached much importance to.
The ancient Chinese people believed that the seventh month of the year is the "Ghost Month", and the 15th day of that month is the "Ghost Day." It is when the spirits of the deceased ones come out from the lower realm.
Besides paying homage to their ancestors, the Chinese people would set afloat lotus lanterns in rivers and lakes, which they believe would guide the lost souls of their forgotten ancestors to the afterlife. Nowadays, the celebrations have already got rid of the superstitious colors, but people still kept the tradition of floating lanterns in various shapes, carrying their best wishes.
Glittering lanterns drifting along rivers have become a tourist attraction for many cities and towns, and the scenery could be frequently seen in Chinese TV dramas, films, and documentaries.
Another important festival to be celebrated around this time is the Fishing Festival. For the fishermen living in the coastal areas of China, the fishing ban usually ends by this time of year, and grand celebrations would be held to see off the fishermen sailing to sea.
Such celebrations could be seen annually in Xiangshan county of east China's Zhejiang Province, the South China Sea as well as other coastal areas.
Different from the Zhongyuan Festival, the Fishing Festival has only been widely celebrated since 1998, after China adopted the fishing-ban system to protect its fishery resources.
Even one is too busy to take a break for attending those celebrations, outing with friends and families, and enjoying the clear weather and leisurely scattered clouds would also make a nice weekend.
Food of the season is always worth the expectation
The ancient Chinese people, who paid great importance to health, have accumulated rich knowledge of what are the best foods to eat during the period of time.
The duck meat is a must on the menu of "Chu Shu". From the north to the south, the Chinese people's tastes and habits vary greatly, so does their preferred method for cooking ducks vary. In Beijing, people usually cook the duck with lily bulbs, or simply the roast duck, while in the south, duck soup is a more popular cuisine.
Some people would also distribute the duck meat to their neighbors, for auspiciousness.
Congees are also suitable for the early autumn days. A bowl of congee in the morning could not only provide enough nutrition to the human being but is also helpful for protecting the stomach and intestine.
Litchi, pear, apple, and grape are the fruits listed as suitable by doctors of Chinese medicine, all of them are in line with the characteristics of the preferred food at this time: to supplement Qi, or "life force", which the ancient Chinese believe form the basic life.
Of course, they are also suitable for being succulent and could make the people feel good in such a drought season.
Meanwhile, as the human body would gradually fit a cooler season, people are easily getting tired during the season. Staying up late is strongly advised against. Why not take a nap if possible, and a little sports will be very helpful, too.