The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Major Heat, (大暑 in English), the 12th solar term of the year, begins this year on July 22 and ends August 6.
During Major Heat, most parts of China enter the hottest season of the year.
In China, the 24 solar terms were created thousands of years ago to guide agricultural production. But solar term culture is still useful today to guide people’s lives through special foods, cultural ceremonies, and even healthy living tips that correspond with each term.
The following are 7 things you should know about Major Heat.
A season of harvesting and planting
During Major Heat, the sunshine, high temperatures, and heavy rainfall are good for agricultural crops. But like Minor Heat, many natural calamities such as floods, droughts, and typhoons also happen during Major Heat. Therefore, it’s important to harvest and plant in time to avoid setbacks caused by natural disasters.
Sending the Major Heat ship
Sending the Major Heat ship is a folk tradition spanning hundreds of years in Taizhou, Zhejiang province.
The ship is filled with various animals for sacrifices such as pigs, sheep, chicken, fish, and shrimps. More than 50 fishermen take turns carrying the ship as they march through the streets. Drums are played and fireworks are lit. Both sides of the street are filled with people praying for blessings.
After a series of ceremonies, the ship is finally carried to the wharf. Then, the ship is pulled out of the fishing port and burned at sea. People carry out this ritual to pray for good harvests and health.
Major Heat is a season with the largest number of crickets that can be found in the fields along the countryside. Cricket fighting is a popular pastime for some people in China during this period. The custom dates back more than 1,000 years to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Eating litchi and mizao
On the day of Major Heat, there is a custom of eating litchi, Mizao in Putian, Fujian province, as a celebration of Major Heat.
Litchi is a nutritious fruit containing glucose and vitamins. People usually soak litchi in cold well water first and eat it. It is said that litchi during Major Heat is as nourishing as ginseng.
Mizao is made of fermented rice. On the day of Major Heat, people cook them with brown sugar. It can reinforce the vital energy of the human body.
There is a saying in Taiwan which goes, “eating pineapples in Major Heat.” During the period of Major Heat, pineapple tastes best.
Drinking mutton soup
There is a custom in southern Shandong province where people drink mutton soup on the day of Major Heat. Many people go to local restaurants to drink mutton soup, which is called “summer mutton soup.”
Eating grass jelly
Grass jelly, Xiancaodong in Chinese, is made with a special grass whose stems and leaves can be made into herb jelly after being dried in the sun.
With the amazing ability to quell the summer heat, grass jelly is described in a popular saying in Guangdong province that goes, “eating herb jelly in Major Heat will make you stay young like the immortals.”
The herb jelly looks and tastes like another jelly-like Guilinggao, or called Turtle Jelly, but without the bitter taste!