The autumnal equinox marks the start of Qiūfēn, the 16th solar term. It is known as Shūbun in Japanese, Chubun i Korean, or Thu phân in Vietnamese. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 180° , the midpoint of the 360° arc and ends when it reaches the longitude of 195°. In the Gregorian or western calendar, it usually begins around September 23 as it does this year and ends around October 8.
In the west it is considered to mark he start of fall, yet you wouldn’t know it this year. Although today was no blisteringly hot, the feel of the sun on my skin as I unloaded the truck this morning was as though if I was out too long I might get burned. The only way I am able to feel the start of fall is that when i woke at 6:30 this morning it was still dark.
Where is the balance? In the ancient book, The Detailed Records of the Spring and Autumn Period(770-476BC), it states “It is on the Autumn Equinox day that the Yin and Yang are in a balance of power. Thus the day and night are of equal length, and so are the cold and hot weather.” In China, most of the areas should have have entered the cool autumn. S should we but instead we are having the same kind of precipitation and temperatures as Guangdong, the southern province which is adjacent to Hong Kong. It is considered tropical and subtropical in climate. By this time in September we should be more like Beijing where when the cold air moving southward is pushing back warm and wet southern air.
We should eat in keeping with the season but this can be hard when the seasons do not progress in the usual way. Normally now in China this is the season for crabs, at their most delicious. It helps nourish the marrow and clear the heat inside the body. In South China, the custom is to eat qiucai (autumn vegetable) on the Autumn Equinox day. Qiucai is a kind of wild amaranth. Every Autumn Equinox day, all the villagers go to pick qiucai in the wild, taking it back home where it is made into soup with fish, named “Qiutang” (autumn soup). There is a verse about the soup: “Drink the soup to clear the liver and intestines, thus the whole family will be safe and healthy”. For city and ton dwellers, at autumn equinox, olives, pears, papaya, chestnuts, and beans are all seasonal and appropriate. .
The Autumn Equinox is the time for smelling the fragrance of osmanthus. At this time, it is hot in the day and cool in the night in South China, so people have to wear a single layer when it is hot, and lined clothing when it is cool. This period is named “Guihuazheng” in Chinese, which means osmanthus mugginess. In China, as it is here, it is also the season to enjoy chrysanthemums in full blossom. In fact they appeared in the garden center just a few days before Autumn Equinox.
On Autumn Equinox day, there are thousands of people in the world trying to make eggs stand on end. This Chinese custom has intrigued people all over the world. Allegedly, on the Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox, when the day and night are of equal time both in the southern and northern hemispheres and the earth’s axis, on its 66.5 degree tilt, is in a relative balance of power with the earth’s orbit around the sun, it’s the perfect time to try this.
If you are sceptical of all this affecting a tiny egg, some say that standing the egg has nothing to do with the time. They say the most important thing is to shift the egg‘s center of gravity to the lowest part of the egg. The trick is to hold the egg vertical until the yolk sinks as much as possible. For this, you’re better off choosing an egg that’s about 4 or 5 days old, whose yolk is inclined to sink down.
Originally, the festival of sacrificing to the moon was set on the Autumnal Equinox day. According to historical records, as early as the Zhou Dynasty (c. 11th century-256BC), the ancient kings by custom sacrificed to the sun on the Spring Equinox, and to the moon on the Autumn Equinox. But since it is not a fixed day in lunar August, there might be no full moon on the Autumnal Equinox. During the festival, if there was no moon to make sacrifices to, it would spoil the fun. Thus, the day was changed to the Mid-Autumn Day.