Chinese Name: 立夏
English Name: Lixia; the Beginning of Summer; the 7th of the 24 solar terms
Date: May 5 (6 or 7)
Sun Position: Celestial Longitude of 45°
Lixia 立夏 is the seventh of the 24 Solar Terms二十四节气. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 45° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 60°. It more often refers in particular to the day when the Sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 45°.
Lixia signals the transition of seasons. On this day, the sun’s rays reach an angle of 45 degrees to the earth. The temperature will rise quickly during this period, yet in northern China, the weather remains mild, not tropical.
After the Lixi, the rainy season officially entered, and the rainfall and rainy days increased significantly. Summer is the best season for many crops to grow vigorously. Sufficient light, suitable temperature, and abundant rain provide plants with the conditions they need. Affected by the warm and humid air from the ocean in summer, the southern region is generally hot, humid and rainy.
Due to the vast territory and large north-south span of China, the regional climate conditions are hugely diverse. Before and after the “Lixia”, only the areas south of the line from Fuzhou福州 to Nanling南岭 in China may enter summer, while most of the other areas are still hovering at the end of spring. In some areas in the northeast and northwest, spring has even just entered at this time.
During the Beginning of summer, the average temperature in most parts of China is around 18-20 ℃. At this time, although the temperature in North China, Northwest China and other places rose quickly, there was still little precipitation. In addition, the spring was windy, evaporation was relatively strong, which cause the weather was very dry.
The origin of Lixia
The Beginning of Summer was originated at the end of the Warring States Period (239BC). Since it is a crucial time for the harvest of summer crops such as wheat and canola, ancient Chinese emperors in different dynasties attached great importance to the Lixia.
In the Zhou Dynasty周朝 (1050-221 BC), the emperor led his officials to stage a welcome rite for the Beginning of Summer and encouraged his residents to seize the key time to do farm work. It’s said that most of the decorations were arranged in the color red, including the emperor and the officials’ dress, the jade pendants, the horses and the flags, in order to show respect to the god of summer and pray for a good harvest.
In the south of the Yangtze River, there is a so-called “seeing three new things” custom, which is to eat some fresh and tender things that grow out of this season. For example, the typical “three new things” are: cherries, broad beans and bamboo shoots, or they can be replaced with Greengage, Wheat, Peas, etc.
Health Tips in Lixia
According to Traditional Chinese medicine 中医, Lixia is a key time to moisten the heart. When the weather grows hotter dampness and heat can affect human health. Food rich in vitamins and cool in nature is highly recommended. Vegetables, such as cucumber, tomato, watercress, celery and fruits that include watermelon, pear and strawberry are top recommendations.
Checking one’s weight 秤人
The custom of weighing people at the Beginning of Summer originated from the Three Kingdoms Period (220-180) and prevails in South China today. It was believed this practice would bring health and good luck to the people weighted.
After lunch on the day of Lixia, people would suspend a stool or basket from a beam. The young and old took turns to get weighed while the person calculating the weight would offer good wishes and auspicious words. It is said those who were weighed would stay healthy in the hot summer and those who weren’t would suffer illness.
Egg Competitions 斗蛋游戏
As an old Chinese saying goes “hanging an egg on children’s chest can prevent them from getting summer diseases”, parents will prepare boiled eggs and put them in a knitted bag before hanging them on their child’s chest.
When at school, children gather together to play egg competitions by colliding each other’s eggs in pairs and the one whose egg is not broken wins. And the loser should eat the egg.