On the 7 th of July, China celebrated A Bit Sweltering (xiaoshu) on the other side of the world. A Bit Sweltering, one of the 24 Solar Terms, is the day when central China begins to reach its hottest month. The Solar Terms are 24 points in traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars that match a particular astronomical event or signify some natural phenomenon.
The points are spread 15 degrees apart along the ecliptic – the solar path that the sun appears to follow — and are used by lunisolar calenders to stay synchronized with the seasons, which is crucial for agrarian societies, according to Wikipedia. In the Qin dynasty (221B.C-207B.C), people had already developed the idea of days and months. And as agriculture developed, these ideas became more than just names.
Each year, when the weather gets warm, farmers start to spread seeds into the earth. They found that the beginning of February is the perfect time for seeding, so one of the Solar Terms called Spring Begins (Lichun) was created. Other things including the beginning of seasons, solstices, and times related to farming, were added to the solar terms. One of them, even became one of the Chinese symbols worldwide — the tomb sweeping day (also called Qingming).
Through years of developing, a Solar Term became the 24 Solar Terms. It was first mentioned in an ancient book, titled Taichuli, and the rules in this book about the solar terms still work today.
Apart from playing a significant role in Chinese history, the Solar Terms are also related to the western constellations. Since the constellation divides the sky into twelve parts, the solar terms divide it into twenty-four. The dates of each are related too. For example, the solar term xiaoshu mentioned above, is in the middle of the constellation Cancer. That is because people born between the 22nd of June and the 22nd of July are under the sign of Cancer, and the beginning of July is just in the middle of it.
The 24 Solar Terms are full of history and deserve attention. While some people are excited about the Xiaoshu, and eager to learn its meanings, others are not as that interested.
There is no actual research, but the 24 solar terms are often included in various tests for Chinese people. They became a question in the Civil Worker’s test in 2017 in several provinces.
The idea of testing locals about it is as preposterous as asking Americans who founded the United States. My point is, that if the Solar Terms were not ignored and forgotten, why would anyone want to test people about them? If they are well known enough, then testing about tradition is useless. It is clear that the 24 Solar Terms are forgotten by the new generation.
Besides this concern, the 24 Solar Terms are getting attention abroad- on December 1,2016, 24 Solar Terms were listed as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. It was more than half a year ago, but I hope after being listed a cultural heritage, the solar terms would get more attention, and gradually gain importance in people’s minds.