By Jin Lu
The traditional Chinese calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms, with Li Qiu being the 13th. The Chinese character "li" literally translates to "commencement" or "beginning", while "qiu" means "autumn". Hence, Li Qiu marks the withdrawal of summer and beginning of autumn. This year, the seasons changed on Aug 7.
Despite the start of autumn calendar-wise, the stifling summer heat will still be with us for a while. Though Li Qiu is the first solar term of autumn, it actually falls during the "sanfu" period of the lunar calendar, the hottest and dampest part of the year.
In Chinese, the sweltering hot days immediately following Li Qiu are known as "qiu lao hu" or "the autumn tiger". Temperatures will only plummet after the "tiger" leaves.
Like the other solar terms, Li Qiu was created to inform agricultural production. It heralds the start of the harvest season. According to folk beliefs, if it rains on the first day of autumn, the entire season would be rainy and a good harvest could be expected. If there are clear skies, thunder without rain, or a north wind, the weather in the following days would be dry and unfavorable for crops.
Since the air becomes less humid with each passing day of autumn, the Huangdi Neijing, the earliest and most important written work of Traditional Chinese Medicine, recommends foods that nourish and hydrate the body, such as sesame seeds and cooked seasonal vegetables. Consuming too many icy beverages or always staying in damp, sweaty clothes is a strict no-no.
Different regions of China have different customs for Li Qiu. "Yao Qiu", or "biting autumn", refers to the practice of eating healthy seasonal fruits and vegetables, similar to "biting spring".
In Ningbo, some binge on watermelon on this day because they believe it would flush out "toxins" accumulated in the body during summer and prevent diarrhea in autumn.
Chief Adviser: Zhao Qingchuan
Proofreader: Dong Na