On October 23rd we pass into the period called Frost Descends. In north China the weather becomes cold and frost begins to form. This also happens in northern Europe, Canada and the northern United States. Frost Descends is the 18th solar term. It spans the period Sun traverses the celestial longitudes from 210° to 225°. On this occasion the weather is not in sync with the attributes of it’s solar term. We are in what is know as Indian summer, with bright sun and temperatures in the low 70sF/ 20sC. For the most part everything is still green, with some areas only a brownish yellow to show some change in in progress.
The first of the pentads, or three subdivisions of the period are 豺乃祭獸, ‘Jackals make offerings of the beasts’. I have no clue as to the origin of this title. The translation is from Wikipedia but I played with the characters and could not come up with anything much better. Jackals are not indigenous to China. I would love to know the backstory to the use of this expression. The other two pentads are more matter of fact and the Wikipedia translations made sense so I didn’t re-analyze them. They are 草木黃落, ‘The plants yellow and shed leaves’ and 蟄蟲咸俯, ‘All insects go dormant’.
The cooling temperatures and shorter days are evidence of inevitable seasonal change. In the past, in times when climate control and a 24/7 lifestyle were unknown, people didn’t try to fight these changes but adapted to them. As the farmer’s wrap up their harvest we should be wrapping up all the summer projects. Frost signals the end of the gardening season. Tomato cages and hoses can be put in storage. Those who do home canning and preserving of their own food, like the farmers, are finishing up their work. Their reward will be pantries and freezers full of healthy food to consume over the winter. Today most people rely on the local grocery stores, yet every winter in much of the northern hemisphere, storms disrupt truck deliveries and cause stores to be stripped of food as people do a last minute “stock up”.
In the Chinese tradition autumn is when cold yin chi is rising and hot yang chi descends. It is important to take steps to help make this transition gentle and smooth. The yin energy of slowing down and releasing in the trees can guide us to adjust our own lives for better harmony. It is a good time for examining things in your life you should be letting go. The trees don’t cling to their leaves, the plants release their seeds and we should release what no longer serves us, the negative, the burdensome and the wasteful.
Transition times can trigger the return of old illnesses as our modern schedules do not change with the changing chi. In Chinese medicine, autumn is the season of the metal element. The organ systems associated with the metal element are the yin lungs and the yang colon. Physiologically the colon eliminates wastes and toxins from the body. This harmonizes with the “letting go” we need to do on the practical, mental and spiritual level. Onepf the reasons we eliminate and let go is so we can replace what is gone with new, useful things. The lungs are the balance to the colon. They take in new oxygen to renew our bodies. On a sunny, clear fall day, we instinctually breath in deeply the crisp, pure air. The lungs have been referred to in Chinese medicine as “‘receiver of the pure heavenly chi”.
It’s good to keep these things in mind as we enter the time of “Frost Descends”.If we follow the flow of nature and chi, and clear things now and allow our lung chi to renew we sill be prepared for what is to come. In the winter when yin is strongest and our bodies and spirits are tending toward rest and renewal as they have for thousands of years, we can use that time to do just that and make plans for the new we will manifest to replace the old.