Slight Heat (xiaoshu) is the eleventh solar term of the 24 solar terms of the lunar calendar, and the fifth solar term of summer. The Slight Heat indicates the official start of summer. It comes when the sun reaches a celestial longitude of 105 degrees. Heat (shu) signifies the scorching heat, and implies that the weather has begun to be burning hot, but has not reached the peak of heat.
Slight Heat was split up into three periods in ancient China: “Hot winds arrive in the first period; crickets come to enjoy the shade at the corners in the courtyard in the second period; eagles become soaring ferociously up high in the sky in the third period.” Not even a trace of a cool breeze blows through above the surface of the earth during the Slight Heat. Rather, winds carry sweltering air along with them. A sentence describing crickets in the poem“July”in The Book of Songs says, “Crickets are out in the fields in the seventh month, singing under the eaves in the eighth month, coming into the house in the ninth month, and hiding under my bed in the tenth month.” In this text, the eighth month refers to the sixth month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. In other words, crickets leave the fields and go to the corners in the courtyard to avoid the scorching summer heat during the Slight Heat. And eagles are active high up in the cool air because the surface of earth is too hot.
The sixth day of the sixth month of the lunar calendar is the Tiankuang Festival. According to historical records, this festival began in the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Zhezong of the Song Dynasty. Kuang means Ci (to bestow). In other words, it is the festival when heaven bestows gifts. And because in the Song Dynasty the Emperor bestowed bing chao (a kind of food made of the torrefied wheat powder, which is also called chao mian) to his courtiers and staff on the hottest day in summer, the day was called Tiankuang Festival, a festival when heaven bestows gifts.
There are customs for eating toons on the day of guyu in the North of China. Around Guyu is the season to tastetoon. Around this time, the toon is very tasty and full of nutrients. As the saying goes “the toon before the rain is as tender as the silk.” Toon can improve immunity, calm the stomach. Stop diarrhoea, smooth your skin, reduce inflammation, and is said to have antibacterial and insecticidal effects.
The Dumplings of the
1st of the 3 Periods
of Hot Season
Folk proverbs for the hot summer days include “You can grow radishes in the first period, vegetables in the second period, and can still grow buckwheat in the third”, and “Eating dumplings in the first period, noodles in the second, and baked pancake with scrambled eggs in the third.” Eating dumplings in the first of the three periods of the hot season is a traditional custom. People have no appetite on scorching hot days and in most cases end up becoming thinner than usual. Colloquially, this is called ku xia, i.e. loss of appetite and weight in summer. In the traditional custom, dumplings just happen to be the food that stimulates one’s appetite and satisfies a craving for good food. People in some places in Shandong Province eat raw cucumber and boiled eggs to treat the loss of appetite in the hot season, and they eat eggs without any other food in the morning at the start of the hot season. People in Xuzhou eat mutton at the start of the hot season, which is called “eating summer lamb (chi fuyang)”, and can be traced back to the Yao and Shun Periods. There is a folk saying that says, “With one bowl of mutton soup in the hot season in Xuzhou, there’s no need to get a prescription from a doctor.” The love that people of Xuzhou have for eating summer lamb is as vivid as what depicts in their local folk song,“Welcoming my daughter back on the sixth day of the sixth month, with new wheat cake and mutton soup.”
Drying Books and
Clothing in the Sun
Drying things in the sun is very popular throughout the north and south during the Slight Heat. This is because the Yangtze-Huaihe River Basin’s rainy season is about to end, while places like northern and northeastern China are about to enter their rainy season, people take advantage of the time around the Slight Heat where more days are clear and temperatures are high, to busk the books, scrolls, and clothes that haven’t been worn for a long time in the sun to get rid of mites and eliminate musky smells, and to prevent the books from being affected with damp and moths.
In Minor Heat, high temperatures are good for the growth of the lotus flower. From Minor Heat to the Double Ninth Festival, the lotus flower is in full bloom, and always simple but elegant.
Lovers of flowering plants and shrubs we have had by scores, but Tao Yüan-ming alone devoted himself to the chrysanthemum. Since the opening days of the Tangdynasty, it has been fashionable to admire the peony; but my favourite is thewater – lily. How stainless it rises from its slimy bed! How modestly it reposeson the clear pool – an emblem of purity and truth! Symmetrically perfect, itssubtle perfume is wafted far and wide, while there it rests in spotless state, something to be regarded reverently from a distance, and not be profaned byfamiliar approach.
英文译者为英国作家翟理思（Herbert Allen Giles）
Slight Heat falls on the July 7th or 8th of each year, which is the first solar term upon entering the long summer and implies that the weather starts to become scorching hot. Long summer corresponds with the spleen in the five internal organs (heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys) of the traditional Chinese medicine. And heavy humidity is the greatest feature of the long summer, which threatens the health of the spleen most. Symptoms including feeling weak all over the body, disharmony between the spleen and stomach, nausea and sweating, edema in the hands and feet, and thin sloppy stool easily occur after an attack from the “damp evil”. Therefore, one should eat a light diet, and eat food of less greasy and food that help to relieve summer-heat and strengthen the spleen.
There is also a folk custom of eating lotus root during the Slight Heat. Lotus root contains a large amount of carbohydrates,and micro nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and potassium and ferrum along with many kinds of vitamins and dietary fiber. It helps to clear heat, nourishing blood, and relieving restlessness, which is a such a good food to be eating in summer. Simmered slowly with low heat till tender, the fresh lotus root can be eaten after cutting into slices with an appropriate amount of honey added to it. It functions well in soothing the nerves and helping with sleep, and treating insomnia caused by blood deficiencies.
A folk adage goes that the finless eel in the season of the Slight Heat is better than ginseng. Finless eel grows in mud caves on the water’s edzige. And the summer finless eels are most nutritious and delicious in the month around the Slight Heat. Summer is always the remission phase of diseases like chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis, while the Finless eel is warm in nature and sweet in taste, which makes it a excellent tonic in invigorating the spleen-stomach and replenishing Qi, nourishing the liver and spleen, alleviating rheumatism, and strengthening muscles and bones.
Missing Him on a Summer's Day
By Meng Haoran
Tr. Zhao Yanchun
The sun uphill sets down the west
The moon downstream climbs up the east
Hair loose, by the zephyre caressed
I rest, the door open, so pleased
The lotus balmy air here brings
The bamboo dew drips, a clear lay
Now I would pluck the zithern strings
Who will listen and with me stay
I miss my friend, where is he now
It's but a dream, dreamed anyhow