Part of my quest was motivated by something I read in a book on Aikido by the great master Koichi Tohei. He said that the real meaning of Aikido (the "Way of Harmony with Chi," or Universal Energy) was to become so in tune with the Universal Energy that Nature would protect us at all times. What a huge and powerful idea! Following this suggestion, I set about to make part of my Tai Chi practice a study of cycles and patterns of energy in Nature.
One of the simplest ways to go about this is to study the Yin and Yang calendars of ancient China. The Yin was the lunar calendar; the Yang was the solar calendar. Right here we will not look at the solar calendar per se (as in the usual 365 ¼ day calendar), but the Solar Terms, which are 24 periods of the year, or “mini seasons,” sometimes called Qi-nodes.
These “mini seasons” last for approximately 15 days each, and each one of them indicates a subtle shift in the QI of that time period. Since they were developed in North China, they would correspond most accurately to the northern part of the United States. I have often been amazed at just how accurate they are, and they seem to be effective from Vermont to as far south as North Carolina. Of course, the opposite conditions would apply to the Southern Hemisphere.
Here is a summary of the Solar Terms:
The Chinese “Solar Terms”
(Reverse these for Southern Hemisphere)
Solar Terms with Month, Date, and Special Information
Lesser Cold Jan 5th
Greater Cold Jan 20th
Establishment of Spring QI Feb 5th Time to allow a slight adjustment away from Warm and Building foods
Rains and Waters Feb 18th Cool Spring rains
The Awakening of Insects Mar 5th Stirrings underground, as insects awaken from hibernation.
The Spring Equinox Mar 20th Quarter of Great Yang begins
Pure Brightness Apr 5th First signs of Spring light and warmth. Traditionally a day to celebrate early Spring and “Sweep the graves of the Ancestors”
Grain Rains Apr 20th
Establishment of Summer QI May 5th You can begin to start taking cooler foods
Lesser Fullness of Grain May 21st
Grain in The Ear Jun 5th Grains start to ripen
The Summer Solstice Jun 21st Apogee of Yang; start of Quarter of Lesser Yin
Lesser Heat Jul 7th
Greater Heat Jul 23rd The hottest time of the year
Establishment of Autumn QI Aug 7th Time to make subtle changes away from cooling foods
The End of Summer Heat Aug 23rd
White Dew Sep 7th
The Autumn Equinox Sep 22nd Beginning of Quarter of Great Yin
Cold Dew Oct 8th
Descent of Hoarfrost Oct 23rd First faint signs of cold weather
Establishment of Winter QI Nov 7th Time to begin using warming foods to prepare the body for Winter
Lesser Snow Nov 22nd Light snowfall in northern regions
Greater Snow Dec 7th It snows heavily
The Winter Solstice Dec 22nd Apogee of Yin; begins the Quarter of Lesser Yang
These Solar Terms are referenced in the Calendar section of my website at:
I have found that making subtle adjustments to my lifestyle in each of the “establishment periods” of the seasons (Feb 5th, May 5th, August 7th and November 7th) allows my body to adjust to the COMING season. So on Feb 5th I can begin sleeping a bit less, and ever so slightly start to alter my eating patterns away from very warming to less warming foods. I might also start to dress just a bit lighter. The precise opposite would happen around Nov 7th, as I prepare for Winter.
(You can check out my e-book on the Tai Chi Way of Healthy Eating for more specific details on how to adjust food through the Solar Terms). http://www.totaltaichi.com/Master_Key_to_Healthy_eating.htm
By following the Solar Terms, you will experience the ebb and flow of the Seasons in a very intimate way—and be comfortable and balanced in each Season.
The Yin Calendar of China is the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar varies each year, and generally starts on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice (about 97% of the time). The lunar calendar puts you in tune with the waning and waxing energy of the moon throughout the year and offers an interesting counterpoint to the Solar Terms. The lunar calendar is used in China to celebrate the major popular festivals, which have been observed for hundreds of years.
Here are a few of the festivals celebrated in the lunar calendar:
Needless to say, all references to “month” will be to the LUNAR month, starting with Chinese New Year on 2nd new moon after Winter Solstice.
MONTH , DAY and FESTIVAL MEANING
First Month 1st Day New Year’s Day. Pretty obvious---more profoundly a time to let go of the past year, forgive others and anticipate a bright new beginning
First Month 3rd Day Birthday of Tsai Shen, the God of Wealth. It’s always good to pay respects
First Month 15th Day Lantern Festival, formally ends the New Year Period. First Full Moon of the New Year In some ways similar to Western festivals celebrating the newly born light
Fifth Day 5th Day Dragon Boat Festival. Time of maximum acceleration of Yang energy
Seventh Month 7th Day “Seven/ Seven Day.” Day for lovers—or for long-separated lovers to reunite
Seventh Month 15th Day Festival of Ghosts, sometimes called the “Hungry Ghosts” Note: This is a Full Moon day. It was believed the spirits of the departed come to the earthly world to visit their families. Time to respect your departed ones…
Eighth Month 15th Day “Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival.” Celebration of the Moon and of the harvest. Generally corresponds to Western “Harvest Moon.”
Ninth Month 9th Day “Nine/Nine Day.” Time to enjoy the chrysanthemums and to climb a nearby mountain
Tenth Month 15th Day “Respect the Water God.” As the year nears its greatest Yin period
Twelfth Month 23rd Day Chinese folk festival: “Kitchen God Returns to Heaven.” Kitchen God reports on the conduct of the family—somewhat like Santa Claus “who knows if you’ve been bad or good!”
I hope you have fun watching these lunar festival and Solar Term periods of the year. It is a wonderful way to experience the undulating wave-form of seasonal energy and to hone your understanding of Yin and Yang.
In line with this whole idea, I am developing the “Tai Chi Master Key Series”™ which will give you numerous practical applications of the Yin Yang principle of diverse areas of life—from Meditation to economics and home decorating with much in between.
The first publication in this series is the “Tai Chi Master Key to Healthy Eating” mentioned above. http://www.totaltaichi.com/Master_Key_to_Healthy_eating.htm
Till next time, enjoy the flow of the seasons and the rhythm of the Tao!
And don’t forget to give Thanks, as I thank all of you.