On September 8th we enter the solar term of White Dew, which marks the change from summer to autumn. The white dew is the condensation that is heavier in the cooler mornings so that is show white rather than clear. In China it is considered to be when the autumn rains come but here there is not much change. There is no sharp drop in temperature and no rain. If rain comes it will arrive here after the autumnal equinox.
In China, autumn comes earlier in the west and northeast of China. Kanas in Xinjiang, Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan and the Greater Hinggan Mountains in Northeastern China enter their most beautiful season . Just as in the west fall colors in the landscape are much admired.
At the time of White Dew is when grapes become widely available and eating them in autumn can help dispel one’s internal heat and expel toxins. Longan are at their best at White Dew. The tradition in Fuzhou, Fujian province, is that eating longan on the first day of White Dew can help nourish the human body. It is said that one longan is as nutritious as an egg. Although this sounds exaggerated, longan does reinforce the spleen, nourish the blood, calm the nerves and improve one’s looks. Happily I love longan so perhaps if I eat enough it will even improve my looks but of that one benefit I remain sceptical.
In Nanjing people favor White Dew Tea. Tea during White Dew has passed through the hot summer and is in its highest state of growth. White Dew Tea is better than spring tea, which is usually very tender and doesn’t last. It’s also superior to summer tea, which is dry and on the bitter side. White Dew Tea has both a sweet taste and fragrance.
Others in Nanjing, from hometowns are in Zhejiang province or the southern part of Jiangsu province, have a tradition of making White Dew Wine. Made of cereals such as polished glutinous rice and kaoliang (a type of sorghum) it has a sweet taste. In the past, country people in those regions all made the wine and served it to guests when entertaining.
For many Chinese the best food during White Dew is sweet potatoes. Formerly, peasants had the custom of eating sweet potato on the first day of White Dew. According to TCM, sweet potato fights against cancer, nourishes the spleen and reduces the risk of disease. In Wenzhou, Zhejiang province there is a tradition of gathering 10 herbal medicines on the first day of White Dew. The names of these herbs contain the Chinese word “bai” which means white, such as baimujin (white hibiscus). The belief is that stewing these medicines with black-bone chicken or duck can nourish the human body and cure arthritis.
It is easy to see there is a theme in all this eating off dispelling the heat built up in summer and preparing the body for winter. I am really looking forward to it. We are missing the garden items I normally processed at this time but this year there was no garden. It was just too hard to maintain in the kind of heat and humidity we have now. Those I know who did try to garden had p00r results. These are the kinds of things I remind myself will get better in another, cooler climate.
It is truly a time of transition, not just in the scenery or the weather. In searching for a home of our own we may be making a major move. When I moved from Connecticut to Annapolis Maryland. I didn’t have my cats. All my things were already in storage so it was easy to rent a room while I looked for a job and a place to live. Now things are much more complicated. But we will sort it all out one way or another.