节气 – Chinese philosophy and culture

jiéqì 节气

The Twenty-four Solar Terms

二十四节气的简称,是中国传统农历中特有的现象。古人为了能更好地进行农事活动,从长期的农业实践中总结出了一套用于指导农耕的补充历法。根据太阳一年内在黄道的位置变化以及地面相应发生的气候、物候变化情况,把一年分成二十四段,每一段起始于一个节气,分列于十二个月,这就是二十四节气。二十四节气通常均匀分布于每月,月首的叫“节”,月中的叫“气”(每三年会出现有“节”无“气”或有“气”无“节”的情况,这时需设闰月进行调节)。节气的命名反映了季节、物候、气候三方面的变化。反映季节变化的是立春、春分、立夏、夏至、立秋、秋分、立冬、冬至八个节气;反映物候变化的是惊蛰、清明、小满、芒种四个节气;反映气候变化的有雨水、谷雨、小暑、大暑、处暑、白露、寒露、霜降、小雪、大雪、小寒、大寒十二个节气。二十四节气在秦汉时期就已形成,两千多年来,既有辅助农业生产的实际功效,也成为中国人所特有的时间观念。

“The twenty-four solar terms” is a unique phenomenon on the traditional lunar calendar. To facilitate agricultural production, ancient Chinese people summarized a supplementary calendar that divides a year into 24 segments according to the sun’s movement on the ecliptic and seasonal changes in weather and other natural phenomena, with the 24 solar terms proportionally distributed through the 12 months. A solar term that starts in the early part of a month is called jie (节), and one that starts in the middle part of a month is called qi (气). (Every three years there would be a month which has only a jie without a qi, or a month which has only a qi without a jie, in which case a leap month would be added to regulate it.) The solar terms are so named that they represent the changes in season, phenology and climate. The eight solar terms that reflect seasonal changes are Beginning of Spring, Vernal Equinox, Beginning of Summer, Summer Solstice, Beginning of Autumn, Autumnal Equinox, Beginning of Winter, and Winter Solstice; the four solar terms that represent phenological changes are Waking of Insects, Fresh Green, Lesser Fullness, and Grain in Ear; and the 12 solar terms that indicate the changes in climate are Rain Water, Grain Rain, Lesser Heat, Greater Heat, End of Heat, White Dew, Cold Dew, First Frost, Light Snow, Heavy Snow, Lesser Cold, and Greater Cold. First established in the Qin and Han dynasties, the 24 solar periods have not only facilitated agricultural production but also reflected Chinese people’s perception of time in the past more than two thousand years.

引例 Citation:

◎微雨众卉新,一雷惊蛰始。田家几日闲,耕种从此起。(韦应物《观田家》)

(绵绵细雨伴随百花清新,一声惊雷带来万物复苏。种田的人家哪有几日空闲,自此开始一年的耕种忙碌。)

Drizzles refresh all forms of greenery, / and thunder startles hibernators awake. / Farmers hardly have time to relax, / and tilling the soil starts now. (Wei Yingwu: Watching Farmers Working in Fields in Spring)

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