The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. The solar term culture is still useful today to guide Chinese people's lives through special foods, cultural ceremonies and even healthy living tips that correspond with each term.
Start of Autumn, the 13th solar term of the year, begins this year on Aug 7 and ends on Aug 23. Start of Autumn reflects the end of summer and the beginning of autumn and the fruitful season is approaching. Chinese people has some interesting traditions when the Start of Autumn comes.
Although Start of Autumn indicates the beginning of autumn, hot weather will not come to an end. The period of hot days after Start of Autumn, usually lasting for 30 days, is called "Autumn Tiger" or "Indian Summer." Because of decreasing precipitation, it is even more sweltering during this period than during Major Heat (July 23-August 7).
Fleshing out in autumn
On the first day of the Start of Autumn, usually people will weigh themselves and compare their weight to what it was at the Start of Summer. If one has lost weight during the summer, then at the beginning of autumn, he or she needs to flesh out by eating many different kinds of delicious food, especially meat.
In Hangzhou, people eat peaches on the Start of Autumn day. The peach stones are kept until New Year's Eve and thrown into the stove, burned into ash. People believed that in this way, plagues could be prevented for the whole year.
Eating red beans
Starting from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the Song Dynasty (960-1279), people in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, have eaten red beans on Start of Autumn day. They take 7 to 14 little beans, swallowing them with well water. When taking the beans, one must face west, it is said, so as not to get dysentery during the autumn.
There is the custom of "Touching Autumn" in the northern part of Jiangsu province. On the eve of Start of Autumn, people can touch and take for free all kinds of fruits as they like in private or public gardens, and the owners will not be angry, no matter how much they lose. Many gardeners even leave some mellow fruits in the field on purpose for the guests during the night.