In the start, water freezes and thunder rumbles,all things on earth begins to retreat from coldness outside.
The Beginning of Winter is the 19th of the 24 Solar Terms. It is the first Solar Term in the winter season, which marks the beginning of this season. It is called the “four beginnings” along with the Beginning of Spring, the Beginning of Summer and Beginning of Autumn. This term suggests that leaves would fall and wither, and everything is about to lie dormant.
For this solar team, the Chinese character “Li”, can be understood easily, which means “the beginning”. However, the second character “Dong”, is not just about “winter”. Instead, it refers to “the end; the storage of everything”. In other words, after autumn, the corps have already been harvested, sunned and stored while animals are also getting ready for hibernation. Therefore, the Beginning of Winter means that the winter has arrived; everything has gone into storage; and one should be aware of the coldness.
The autumn harvest is over at the time of the Beginning of Winter. Farmers can finally take a break and enjoy the fruits of their labours with their families.For the ancient Chinese, therefore, the Beginning of Winter was more than just a solar term.
According to the Book of Rites, on the day of the Beginning of Winter, the emperor would take the royal family to the northern outskirts to perform rituals to welcome winter.He would also bestow winter clothes and food on his officials in recognition of their dedication.
The common people also held ceremonies on the dayto express their gratitude for a successful harvest and pray for good weather the following year.
People in northern China store a large number of Chinese cabbages in winter.Some families will buy in around a hundred pounds of cabbages around the Beginning of winter as a source of vegetables for the whole winter.
This custom reflects the difference between the north and the south.As the southern climate is spring-like, fruits and vegetables are readily available year-round. Keeping large stocks, however, easily ends in spoilage. In the north, the climate is the other way around.
Although heavy snow hinders food transport, it turns the north into a natural refrigerator. Storing vegetables that don’t freeze or spoil easily well exemplifies people’s wisdom to adapt to their environment.