Dreams of White Tiles . . .


Four Seasons in One Year

Filed under: Uncategorized — Roddy @ 10:40 pm

Chinese people1 are very fond of saying that China / Beijing / their hometown has four distinct seasons. I’ve never lived anywhere that hasn’t got four distinct seasons so I find it odd that people need to point it out2. If you get onto Google, you can go as high as ten distinct seasons before the internet runs out (although soon enough this page will be on Google, and you’ll have to go to eleven).

I noticed in the back of my dictionary recently a list of 节气 or solar terms. These were the 24 subdivisions of the Chinese calendar. I looked about a bit and found this PDF document, ‘The Mathematics of The Chinese Calendar’ which helped me realise how much I don’t know. I’m always happy to expand the boundaries of my unknowledge3. It’s interesting, if somewhat esoteric reading:

235 mean lunar months (6939.6885 days) are roughly equal to nineteen tropical years (6939.6018 days) . . .

What actually interested me though was the names of these solar terms. Assuming these were used in conversation, they must have been much better sounding coversations . . .

“So when did he finally snap?”
“I’m not sure exactly. Sometime in Limit of Heat (处暑)”

“When did you first realise you felt that way about her?”
“Hard to say. Awakening of Insects (惊蛰), I suppose”

“We should go away for the weekend sometime soon.”
“Ok, but don’t forget my mother’s visiting in Descent of Frost(霜降)”

“I see. So when did these hearing problems start?”
“Well doctor, I first noticed it round about Grain in Ear (芒种)”

“When was it they told you?”
“Cold Dew(寒露)”

There’s a full list in that .pdf file if you’re interested.

I also think we should update these 节气. For example, perhaps now we could be in Awaiting Heat (候暖), describing this troublesome time of year when the weather is cold but the heating not yet on. If I can think of 23 others I’ll let you know . . .

1: Only, however, Chinese people who write tourist brochures and essays entitled ‘My Hometown’.
2: Although I suppose I may have been imposing my spring, summer, autumn, winter knowledge scheme onto an infinite variety of unrecognised seasons.
3: Thinking about it, the more I read the more I realise I don’t know, making what I know an ever smaller subset of what I know there is to know. Meaning reading just makes me stupider.


  1. 候暖 is a nice name. The only problem may be that in southern China we are still awaiting cold (候寒 probably?).

    Comment by skylee — 11/5/2004 @ 7:57 am

  2. sure I agree. Any little knowledge helps to expand our unknowledge, or at least the knowledge of our unknowledge.

    What is the one for Li Chun?

    Comment by audrey — 11/8/2004 @ 12:08 am

  3. Asia by Blog
    Asia by Blog is a twice weekly feature, posted on Monday and Thursday, providing links to Asian blogs and their views on the news in this fascinating region.

    This edition contains China’s petitions system, simulated nukes for North Korea, energy secu…

    Trackback by Simon World — 11/8/2004 @ 6:33 pm

  4. San Francisco has one season: spring only.

    Pheonix has summer and nothing else.

    Comment by Anonymous — 11/10/2004 @ 11:50 pm

  5. Where I come from in Australia, we too have four seasons, but they really only feel like 3; spring, summer, and autumn.

    btw: you will recieve an email from me (invizabo@hotmail.com) just so you know it’s not spam.

    Comment by matt — 11/14/2004 @ 2:24 pm

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