Cold Dew — Hánlù 寒露
The 24 Solar Terms or Jiéqì:
In ancient China, 24 solar terms, or Jiéqì, existed to guide farmers in agricultural affairs and farming activities throughout the year—each of these periods lasting approximately 15 days. The Jiéqì are based on the sun’s position in the zodiac and reflect changes in climate, agricultural production, natural phenomena and other aspects of living. This is often referred to as ‘the farmer’s calendar’.
Embracing the Chill of Cold Dew:
As we continue our journey through the 24 solar terms of ancient China, we arrive at Hánlù 寒露, also known as ‘Cold Dew’. This seventeenth solar term typically falls around October 8th, marking a pivotal moment in the transition from the vibrant hues of autumn to the serene stillness of winter. Like all the solar terms, Hánlù carries its own unique significance, deeply rooted in Chinese medicine and philosophy.
Hánlù, as the name suggests, brings a noticeable drop in temperatures and a hint of frost to the early mornings. It signifies the gradual onset of colder weather as we bid farewell to the warmth of summer. In the context of the farmer’s calendar and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Hánlù represents when the dew turns cold, a subtle reminder that nature is preparing for winter’s icy grip.
Lifestyle Guidance for Hánlù:
- Strengthen the Immune System: With the changing weather, it’s essential to bolster your immune system. Incorporate immune-boosting foods like garlic, ginger, and medicinal mushrooms (such as shiitake and reishi) into your diet.
- Dress Warmly: As temperatures plummet, dress in layers to keep warm. Pay special attention to covering the neck and lower back, areas often vulnerable to cold winds.
- Balanced Diet: Opt for warming foods that nourish the body’s Yang energy. Root vegetables, hearty soups, and stews made with warming spices like cinnamon and star anise can help keep you warm from the inside out.
- Stay Active: Although the chill may tempt you to hibernate, it’s vital to maintain physical activity. Indoor exercises like yoga or qigong can help you stay energized and maintain flexibility.
- Prevent Dryness: As the air becomes drier, consider using a humidifier to maintain indoor moisture levels. This can help prevent dry skin, sore throats, and other discomforts associated with low humidity.
Traditions and Customs for Hánlù:
- Chrysanthemum Appreciation: Just as chrysanthemum tea is associated with Autumn Equinox, this flower remains significant during Hánlù. Admire the blossoming chrysanthemums; some may even brew chrysanthemum tea to enjoy its purported health benefits.
- Chasing Away Snakes: In some regions, there is a custom of symbolically chasing away snakes during Hánlù. This is believed to prevent snake bites, as the cold dew entices snakes to seek warmth.
- Preparing for Winter: In rural areas, Hánlù marks the time for farmers to make final preparations for winter. This includes storing crops, protecting livestock, and insulating homes.
Food Recommendations for Hánlù:
The foods you consume during Hánlù should align with the changing energies of the season. Here are some nourishing options:
- Chestnuts: Roasted chestnuts are a beloved autumn snack. They’re not only delicious but also provide warmth and energy.
- Sweet Potatoes: Sweet and grounding, these root vegetables are perfect for combating the chill of Hánlù.
- Persimmons: These autumn fruits are sweet and soothing, making them a delightful addition to your diet.
- Ginger Tea: A warm cup of ginger tea can help stave off the cold and aid digestion.
- Mutton and Lamb: These meats are considered warming and are enjoyed in many Hánlù dishes.
- Nourishing Soups: Indulge in hearty soups and stews, using ingredients like butternut squash, carrots, and warming spices.
- Chinese Hawthorn: Often used in traditional Chinese snacks, hawthorn is believed to help digestion and can be found in candies and preserves.
As Hánlù ushers in the crisp days of autumn, it invites us to embrace the changing seasons and adjust our lifestyles and diets accordingly. By aligning with the wisdom of the 24 solar terms, we can cultivate harmony with nature and support our well-being throughout the year. So, raise a cup of chrysanthemum tea, savour the season’s flavours, and welcome the serene beauty of Hánlù.
Remember that these dietary recommendations are general guidelines, and individual needs may vary. It’s essential to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian if you have specific dietary concerns or restrictions.
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