Encounter with Spring Equinox in Ancient Chinese Poetry

Author:Wang Ying, Song Yidai     March 21,2019


"The Spring Equinox usually starts on the fourth day of mid-spring."“仲春初四日,春色正中分”

The Spring Equinox is one of the earliest defined solar terms of all twenty-four in ancient China.
During this season, the sun shines so brightly and warmly, filling every inch and space of the land with vigor and vitality. With the descending rain, precious as oil, moistening the world, everything begins to come to life.

" Day and night, Yin and Yang, the Spring Equinox divides the both."“日月阳阴两均天”

The beauty and wisdom of the Spring Equinox lie in its equilibrium. The lengthening days signal the end of winter, and when Spring Equinox comes, the length of day and night becomes equal. Also, on the exact day, people at the same longitude, despite north and south, witness the sunrise at the same moment. The whole season of spring is as well divided by this day, so is cold and warm, wet and dry, which gradually move from one to another along with the change of climate.

“The Spring Equinox in other areas: Marking the New Year.” “处处春来处处知”

However, the Spring Equinox is more than a solar term only celebrated by the Chinese, its popularity also exists in other areas.
In some countries like Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, for instance, the Spring Equinox is given much significance and even celebrated as the New Year's Day. The peoples of these countries call this occasion “Celebrations of New Day”. The tradition is over three thousand years old.


“Special features after the Spring Equinox: three ‘hous’.” “春分有三候”

After the Spring Equinox, you may notice three extremely prominent climate phenomena. If that so, congratulations, your finding happens to coincide with that of ancient Chinese people! They have divided the fifteen days after Spring Equinox into three "hous". According to the old saying, swallows fly back to the north in the first “hou”; thunder cracks the sky in the second “hou”; lightning occurs frequently in the third “hou”, which vividly reveals the climate features after Spring Equinox until Rain Water (2nd solar term). 


“Seize the day when wheat turns green.” “春分麦起身,一刻值千金”

The Spring Equinox is an important solar term for farming as well. By this time, the northern permafrost melts and the soil gets ventilated. In most parts of China, people embark sowing from then on.


“Do not take off your coat in February and March as there might still be snowfall.” “二月休把棉衣撇,三月还有梨花雪”

The old Chinese saying goes: “One should keep warm in spring and cool in autumn(春捂秋冻)”, which means it’s wise to wear more clothes in spring when it’s getting hotter and not to wear too much clothes in autumn when it’s getting colder. Weather in early spring can be changeable and tricky, so your immune system is vulnerable and you should take measures to keep warm. If you follow this advice, it’s less likely for you to catch seasonal diseases like cold, respiratory inflammation and arthritis. So, you’d better not put your long Johns away too soon.

“Prevention is better than pills.” “善服药者,不如善保养。”
Not only should we mind our clothing when spring comes but we also need to pay attention to what we eat to keep healthy and fit. Blood circulation of our body is very strong and hormone levels are relatively high around the time of Spring Equinox. That’s why we should carefully choose what to eat and drink based on what our body tells us. It’s a good idea to avoid food that’s too cold, hot or spicy. A balanced diet is advised to keep your body functioning well and improve your immune system. In addition, onion, garlic, ginger and Chinese chives are excellent food options for Spring Equinox. 

“After-school kids come home early, keen to fly kites while East Wind's spry.” “儿童散学归来早,忙趁东风放纸鸢”
Spring Equinox marks the time of renewal for everything. It’s the best time of the year to go outing with friends and family. While appreciating the fantastic mother nature, one also gets the best chance to express your feelings to your loved ones.

“Eggs in upright posture as the Spring Equinox arrives.” “春分到,蛋儿俏”
There’s a Chinese traditional folk custom called “Egg Balancing”. It’s said that when Spring Equinox arrives, objects show excellent balance so that an egg can easily stand on the flat surface on its own without any support.


Photographer: Song Yidai

Editor: Cao Wanchen, Arshad Bhatti