Beginning of Spring (Lichun)
In Chinese, "Li" means to start or begin. Literally, "Lichun" means that spring begins. At this time, the temperature is gradually rising. As the proverb goes, "as spring comes with rainwater, farmers begins to get up early and sleep late." It's time to sow seeds.
In traditional customs, this ancient solar term is also an important festival. On this day, the emperor would lead his dukes and ministers to the eastern suburb of the capital to welcome the spring and issue favorable policies. In the countryside, a respected senior of the village would be invited to whip a bull three times to officially announce the beginning of farm work.
Radish: On the day of Beginning of Spring, it's a custom known as Yaochun to eat radish, ginger, scallion or pastries.
Spring roll: a thin sheet of dough rolled, stuffed and sometimes fried.
The Rains (Yushui)
As its name suggests, this solar term means an increase of rainwater. Even in the midst of winter, rain is not uncommon in the warm Sichuan Basin. During this period, the average temperature in Sichuan is above 10oC. Peaches and plums are budding and cherries are flowering. It's the time for grafting and tree planting.
The ground humidity gradually increases during this solar term. In the mornings, dew and frost commonly appear. Food which benefits the spleen and stomach, dispelling wind and eliminating dampness is recommended. Seasonal dietary recommendations include honey, jujubes, yams and white fungus to supplement the body.
Wild geese: As the temperatures rise following The Rain, swans begin migrating from the south back north.
Red silks and stewed meat: According to traditional customs, married daughters should visit their homes on the day of Yushui to present their mothers with red silks and stewed meat as presents.
Insects Awaken (Jingzhe)
Jingzhe refers to the natural phenomenon in which the thunders of spring awaken hibernating animals. During this period, the temperature rebounds considerably and spring thunders resound above the Yangtze River regions. By Jingzhe, the countryside is already bustling with farm work. For the farmers, every second is important.
In ancient times, people burned aromatic herbs such as mugwort to fend off snakes, insects, mice and ants, which have been awakened by the spring thunders. Today, this custom has evolved into a ritual to ward off misfortune, rather than animals.
Winter jasmine: This flower is acclaimed to bloom "earliest" in spring. When clusters of winter jasmines crawl on green vines, people come to know that the weather is warming and spring has come.
Vernal Equinox (Chunfen)
On the day of Chunfen, the plane of Earth's equator is in line with the center of the sun, and day and night are approximately equal in duration all around the planet. After Chunfen, Sichuan experiences a continuing rise in temperature and the occasional influx of cold air, which tends to bring overcast rainy days, consequently bearing inconveniences in farming.
On the day of Chunfen, it's custom to eat wild amaranth. In the south of the Yangtze River, characteristic customs include giving special treatment to farm cattle, and the worship of birds.
Kites: Flying a kite in an open space is a good way to relax and alleviate drowsiness.
Eggs: The vernal equinox is the best time to stand an egg on its end.
Clear and Bright (Qingming)
Qingming is a phenological solar term signifying clear weather and the lush growth of trees and grasses. As described by Du Mu, a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, "Rains fall heavily as Qingming comes." During this time, Sichuan is in the midst of spring with warm weather and lush vegetation.
It's a time-honored tradition to sweep tombs and worship ancestors during the Qingming Festival. People will also go for walks in the country with family and friends to experience the spring time. Other various customs include tug-of-war, playing on swings, flying kites, playing polo and cockfighting.
Swing: Playing on a swing is a customs tracing back to ancient times, practiced during the Qingming Festival , when it's just the perfect time to relax under a tree.
Qingtuan: A delicious seasonal snack popular in the south of Yangtze River, made from sweetened bean paste, also used as tributes to ancestors.
Grain Rain (Guyu)
As a Chinese proverb goes, "rain produces a hundred grains." The timely and abundant rainwater during Guyu makes grain crops thrive. During this time, flying willow catkins, bloomy peonies and ripe cherries are frequently seen in Sichuan. This scenery tells people that spring has come to an end.
According to legends, Cang Jie, an official historian of the Yellow Emperor, invented Chinese characters 4,000 years ago. Later, Guyu became a memorial day for him.
Peonies: In the south of Yangtze River, peonies are known as "Grain Rain flowers". On the day of Grain Rain, people go to flower fairs to travel, feast and appreciate the blossoming peonies.
Tea: In southern China, it's custom on Guyu to pick tea leaves which are said to clear internal heat, exorcise evil spirits and improve eyesight. Nowadays, this custom has mainly become a seasonal tourist attraction.