Musings on Autumn in China

 

Musings on Autumn in China

 

Autumn in China begins around August 7 according to the Chinese lunar calendar.  This is hard to understand from a Western point of view because the temperatures are still brutally hot in most places except the far north.  More of a “turning point” than a change in temperature, the beginning of autumn is a marker of hope and expectation for cooler weather.

 

Crickets are said to reach maturity when Autumn begins.  You can hear their singing in the evenings, even in the cities.  You can also hear their songs in the cricket markets, where cricket aficionados gather to appreciate the songs of the singing crickets and debate the merits of the fighting varieties.  Bringing a cricket into the house is a wonderful way to extend the fall season as winter approaches.

 

The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is a major autumn holiday in China.  Families gather and spend the evening eating together, especially “mooncakes”, dried fruit and nuts wrapped in a pastry shell, often with hard boiled egg yolks in the middle to represent the beautiful autumn moon.

 

Red Leaves begin to appear in the mountains, and are deeply appreciated.  Whole cities can turn out on autumn weekends for mountain climbing and hikes through local hills.   Watch out for mountainous traffic jams!  If you are from the northern part of the US or Canada,  it won’t be as spectacular a show.  But red leaves are exciting no matter where they are.

 

Fall Fruits also bring the flavor of Autumn to the table.  In China the summer ends with juicy Honey Peaches, but autumn brings sweet chestnuts which you can find roasted in woks full of hot stones on street corners, huge yellow and red pomegranates, and crisp red Fuji apples with their delightful fragrance and flavor.

 

Sweet Osmanthus blooms in the Autumn in the south, and you can take the blossoms and put them in sugar to make a perfumed syrup to use in sweet soups during the winter months, an aromatic reminder of warmer days.  

 

Fall is considered a melancholy time in China because the harvest is finished, the days are shorter, and many of the green trees and plants are in the dying period of their cycle.  Because there are these feelings associated with Autumn, it is considered a good time to write poetry.   Take a glass of wine out to share with the moon and you may get struck with writer’s muse !

 

And if by chance your own poem doesn’t arise, here is an Autumn poem by a Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) poet, Ma Dai.

 

An Autumn Cottage at Ba Shan

After the shower at Bashang,
I see an evening line of wildgeese,
The limp-hanging leaves of a foreign tree,
A lantern’s cold gleam, lonely in the night,
An empty garden, white with dew,
The ruined wall of a neighbouring monastery.
…I have taken my ease here long enough.
What am I waiting for, I wonder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further Musings on the Fall – Autumn rhythms in China

Further musings on the Fall – Autumn rhythms in China

 

Autumn in China begins around August 7 according to the Chinese calendar.  This is hard to understand from a Western point of view because the temperatures are still brutally hot in most places except the far north at the beginning of August.  I hid in the air conditioning at our house and went outside only if necessary for most of July and August.  My seasonal radar noticed that “li qiu,” the beginning of autumn, had arrived and I felt my hope return.  The beginning of Autumn is like the “border” of the fall season, a “turning point” rather than a change in temperature, showing that the next season is on the way.  

 

In Chinese thinking, Autumn is the time for all things to draw inward and gather resources together.  Seeds and fruits mature and fall to the ground.   Instead of sap rising, like in the spring, it begins to settle down into the roots.  The grass loses its water and turns light and brown.  Our dogs like naps curled up in the warm spots of sun in the house.   

 

Autumn is considered a period of decline, but like other periods or states of decline, the aging of the famous or the decline of a nation, it is often hard to discern it.  If you think only in a straight line, this will be a sad thought, but if you consider the seasons in their cyclical nature, this is only decline that brings the quiet of winter, which will inevitably lead to the greening of spring and the robust summer of the next year. 

 

According to Chinese medicine, Autumn is a good time for filling up with warmer, heavier foods.  People should prepare for the winter like the squirrels do – more nuts and seeds, as well as whole grains, cooked squashes and other root vegetables, and perhaps small amounts of lean meats.  Cool weather means we need to focus on giving more fuel for our “furnace”.   A season for cozy comfort foods means you don’t need to feel badly for eating some carbohydrates, since you are just in harmony with the season.

 

I often forget to wear my socks until the really freezing cold weather of winter arrives, but my Chinese friends tell me that I should wear socks or even better, wear a pair of slippers once the weather has begun to change.  When autumn really sets in and my definition of “cold weather” is met, I put my socks back on and enjoy their warmth.  Sweaters too.  In China, people will have socks and sweaters on long before I do.  “Oh, don’t you have pains in your knees if you don’t wear slippers?”  they ask me.  When I tell them “no,” they marvel and tell me that Americans have strong constitutions.