Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

The Autumn almanac of Tokyo

September 1st, 2008

I now have a definite structure for this project. Inspired by Liza Dalby’s usage of the Chinese almanac in her book, East wind melts the ice: a memoir through the seasons, I too decided to utilise this ancient calendar.

The Chinese calendar is actually a lunar-solar calendar. This means that it incorporates both the movements of the moon and the sun into its calculations. Besides the 12 months (moons), the year is also dvided into 24 solar terms (Jie qi), each lasting around 15 days. These terms are determined by the path of the sun and are designed to help famers plan their activities. These terms describe the seasons, the weather and changes. They are as follows:

List of solar terms

[from:] Wikipedia has in-depth entries concerning this calendar.


The structure of the solar terms is very symmetrical. Each season begins with with ‘start of season’ (beginging with the verb li, meaning ‘to establish’). The fourth term of each season marks its mid-point: the equinoxes and solstices. These form the eight positions. We can also see that the ‘minor heat’ and ‘major heat’ in summer and winter’s ‘minor cold’ and ‘major cold’ mirror one another.

The 15 days of each solar term are further divided into 3 pentads (hou): first pentad, second pentad, and last pentad, totalling 72 in one year. Each pentad is a phrase that describes conditions of crops, animal behaviours, or the weather. For instance, ‘East wind melts the ice’ (the title of Dalby’s book) is the first pentad of the new year.

The calendar has been adopted by other asian cultures such as Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Although they largely retain the solar terms, each culture made its own modifications to suit its native surroundings. Japan has an ancient as well as a modern set of pentads.

I have worked out the solar terms and pentads for my three-months in Tokyo and the idea is to respond to each pentads visually, aurally, or both by making a short work (e.g. collages, photographs, videos etc). I have made a shell or frame for each pentad. The work: image/ photograph/ collage/ video etc. will sit within this.

\'Limit of heat\' frameight=”298″ />’Limit of heat: Rice ripens’

\'Minor snow\' frame‘Minor snow: Heaven up, earth down’

An example of an observation based here in Australia:

\'Rain water\' example

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