Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

Crazy about the seasons

September 3rd, 2008

I was talking to my parents on the phone the other day. I was curious as to whether the solar terms still hold much sway in Hong Kong. I have heard the ‘start of spring’ being spoken about. I remember my late paternal grandmother talking about the start of each season and using terms like ‘minor heat’ and ‘major heat’ in conversations. ‘Clear and bright’ is still a public holiday in Hong Kong where people are supposed to visit their ancestors’ graves. I also remember having family gatherings/ dinners for the Winter solitice when I was a child.

In fact, I have a suspicion that seasonality becomes a big topic for people in Hong Kong when the traditional calendar takes over the Gregorian calendar at certain times of the year. The most apparent example of this is the Lunar new year and the period leading up to it.

A large stand of peach blossom in a public park

People just go crazy over flowers in January. The flower markets are chock-a-block with people buying all sorts of cut flowers, plants, and fruit plants (mainly mandarins and cumquats).

Flower markets in HK during the lunar new year period

Flowers are everywhere: in shopping centres, on the streets, in cars, in flats; and people just don’t stop talking about flowers.
A stand of blossoms inside shopping centre

Anyway, my mum didn’t seem to have much of an opinion on the subject of solar terms in contemporary society but my dad, who normally doesn’t like to say much on the phone, heard what we were talking about, leaped in and gave me an impromptu lecture. It turns out that he knows a lot about solar terms. His father made him memorise all 24 when he was a child (I don’t quite know why, he wasn’t a farmer) and he can still recite them today. He really got into explaining the reasons for seasonal phenomeona like ‘Rain water’ in spring occurs when the warm and cold currents meet. I was impressed by how he combines the traditional calendar with the metreological and astronomical knowledge.

Dad

Here is Dad, pleased that I show interest in traditional Chinese culture.

One thing that really interests me is the significance of the Winter solitice in many cultures. Something that I would like to look into more.

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