Almanac is relevant guiding principle for Chinese farmers

It’s November here, just like everywhere else. Autumn. Our autumn season usually doesn’t last very long. Just like our spring season for that matter. Most years, it only takes a few weeks for summer to turn into winter. This year, autumn seems to be lasting a bit longer. We’re getting that true in-between feel with alternating pleasant and dark and rainy days.

Like in many other countries all over the world, the Chinese farmers have a special almanac. It allows them to forecast the weather reasonably well. According to this almanac, we can expect a relatively cold winter here in the south of China. I wouldn’t mind if it were true, I prefer the cold but sunny weather over dark, grey days.

The almanac used by the farmers here is based on the 24-solar-term calendar. Each term roughly spans two weeks – the time required for the sun to change position by 15 degrees. So, it’s all about the position of the earth in relation to the sun. Each position indicates a different angle and that’s what the terms are based on.

Although this traditional calendar stems from China’s distant past, it’s still a relevant guiding principle for many people. Not just for farming, but also for everyday things, like what’s the best day to get married, or which days are most likely to be prosperous.

Each of the 24 periods has a name. Some names specifically mention the beginning of a certain season, like the beginning of winter, the beginning of spring, etc., others refer to the increasing presence of certain insects. The beginning of March, the fifth period of the year, for example, is called ‘the insects are starting to crawl’.

The 24-term lunisolar calendar dates back to the Han Chinese, who’d use the system to measure the length of the day. They’d study the shadows to calculate which of the 24 periods they were in. The calendar was their guide for all the different agricultural activities. Planning in accordance with the calendar ensured that everything would happen at the right time.

Pretty handy, those solar terms!

Cok Harteveld,

General manager Van den Berg Roses China

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