Chinese Name: 惊蛰
English Name: Awakening of Insects; Jingzhe; the 3rd of the 24 solar terms
Date: March 5 or 6
Sun Position: Celestial Longitude of 345°
Jingzhe惊蛰 is the third of the 24 Solar Terms二十四节气 in the traditional Chinese calendars. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 345° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 360°.
The word Jingzhe惊蛰 means the awakening of hibernating insects. Jing(惊) is to startle and Zhe(蛰) means hibernating insects. It signals a rise in temperature and increased rainfall. As the third solar term in the lunar year, its name alludes to the fact that animals sleeping in winter are awakened by spring thunder and that the earth begins to come back to life. It is the key time for spring agricultural activities.
The 24 solar terms embody the ancient Chinese wisdom of observing nature, represent a picturesque landscape as the seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter change, and reflect Chinese people’s outlook on life and cosmology. Jing Zhe, the third term of the 24 solar terms, reflects the growth and development of natural organisms affected by climate change
During the Jingzhe, all kinds of insects or other hibernating animals gradually wake up and resume their activity because the temperature is getting warmer. Spring thunders, rain increases, temperature rises, and everything is full of vitality. After the Jingzhe, the temperature rises quickly, and spring thunder has gradually occurred in most areas south of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River; except for a few years in the northwest of North China, thunder generally does not occur until Qingming.
Modern meteorological science shows that around the Jingzhe, the earth becomes humid and the hot air near the surface rises; meanwhile, the hot humid air from the north is strong and creates frequent winds. For this reason, thunder occurs in this period. China covers a large range of latitudes from north to south, so the first spring thunder appears at different times in different areas.
The spring thunder is most noticeable during the Awakening of Insects solar term. An old Chinese saying goes: “If the first spring thunder crashes before the Awakening of Insects solar term, there will be abnormal weather that year.” The Awakening of Insects falls after the end of winter and before the beginning of spring. Wind during this period is an important factor in weather forecasting.
The Importance of Jingzhe
Farming production is closely related to the rhythm of nature, and the solar term of Jingzhe provides ideal farming conditions. During this period, most parts of China experience the quickest rise in temperatures, with the average level reaching above 10 degrees Celsius, and there is a marked increase in sunshine, which provides good natural conditions for farming. That is why the farmers have attached great importance to the Jingzhe solar term and regarded it as the beginning of spring ploughing since ancient times.
The Awakening of Insects is an extremely important time for farmers and is widely seen as the beginning of the busiest time for agricultural work. Old Chinese sayings such as “once the Awakening of Insects comes, spring ploughing never rests” reveal the importance of this term to farmers.
Offering sacrifices to the white tiger 祭祀白虎
According to ancient Chinese folklore, a white tiger is the creature that brings quarrels and disputes. It always begins hunting during the Awakening of Insects, and sometimes bites people. It is said that those bitten by a white tiger will encounter evil villains in their life that bring obstructions and bad luck.
Therefore people offer sacrifices to the white tiger during the Awakening of Insects to protect themselves. When practicing this old custom, people draw the white tiger on paper, and then smear pig’s blood and pork on its mouth. This means the tiger is fed so that it would not bite people, avoiding bad luck and conflict.
Beating ‘villains’ 打小人
“Villain” hitting originated in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and it’s a folk ritual popular in Guangdong and Hong Kong. The custom is practiced during the Awakening of Insects to expel the “villain” and to bring good luck. People often assign a specific “witch” (usually an elderly woman) to “beat the villains”. They use paper cut in the shape of humans to represent “villains” in their lives and the “witch” would use shoes or other tools to hit the paper to expel bad luck.
In Hong Kong, The Goose neck Bridge 鹅颈桥 between Causeway Bay(铜锣湾) and Wan Chai station(湾仔站) has become a popular place for people to beat ”villains”.
Eating pears 吃梨
Eating pears around the Awakening of Insects is a widely-practiced custom in China. As the weather gets warmer and the air becomes dry, people tend to feel their mouths are parched and tongues dry, which can cause colds or coughs. A pear is sweet, juicy and cold, moistening the lungs to arrest a cough. Therefore, pears are highly recommended during the Awakening of Insect.