In China, the lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. The solar terms were created thousands of years ago to guide agricultural production and function even now.
The 13th solar term of the year is Start of Autumn (Chinese: Li Qiu), which begins on Aug 8, 2015 and ends on Aug 22, 2015.
Start of Autumn reflects the fruitful season is approaching. 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."
Here are some things you should know about Start of Autumn.
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.
Start of Autumn is a big solar term for farmers. It is time to gather crops. There is a saying: "If it rains on the day of the Start of Autumn, a good harvest is expected."
In Shandong province, people make dumplings during the Start of Autumn, and they call it "Eating the Autumn". On the day of Start of Autumn, senior members of the family will stand in the middle of the hall, worshiping a bowl of cereal, and praying for the harvest in autumn. Most of the families will eat dumplings together after Start of Autumn day.
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 seven 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.
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), people would put gourds outside for a day before the Start of Autumn, and eat them on Start of Autumn day to drive off the summer heat. Today people still keep this custom, believing that eating melons such as towel gourd, white gourd and bitter gourd can prevent diarrhea in autumn and the coming winter and spring.