On October 8th we passed into the 17th solar term Cold Dew (節氣). It is Hánlù in Chinese, Kanro in japanese, Hallo (한로) in Korean and in Vietnamese Hàn lộ. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 195° and ends at the longitude of 210°. In the western calendar it will end this year on October 22. Each of the solar terms are divided into three pentads and the first pentad for hán lù is 鴻雁來賓, ‘The wild swans and geese arrive as guests arrive” (my translation). Geese which completed their migration in summer were considered ‘hosts’, and the later-flying ones as ‘guests’. This pentad can also be interpreted as ‘The geese arrive at the water’s edge’. The second is 雀入大水為蛤, ‘The sparrows go into the big water for clams” (my translation). The first translation I saw was , ‘The sparrows enter the ocean and become clams’. I do not really believe the ancient Chinese were thinking this, they were very astute observers of nature. I think it was meant they were feeding. Finally, the third is 菊有黃華, ‘Chrysanthemums all flowery yellow” (my translation). Anyone who would like to critique my translations feel welcome, I am still a humble student of the Chinese language and have much to learn.
In China at this time, temperatures are much lower than in the earlier White Dew, just as we are finally cooler here (but bot by much this year). When the colder air of October encounters autumn rain, the abundant water vapor in the air soon reaches saturation, and then it turns into misty rain or fog. The period of Cold Dew is famous for mist and fog in many areas of China. This is the cause of people saying it’s smart to fish in shallow water in autumn. During the Cold Dew period, the water is not getting as much sun and combined with the cooler temperatures draws the fish to the warmer, shallower water areas where the water temperature is relatively higher. Fog and mist begin to form in fields and valleys where I live at this time of year too.
As in the west autumn crops will be ripening. Cold Dew is the time pomegranates become are in season. They have been cherished for their exquisite beauty, flavor, color, and health benefits for centuries. Also popular in the Middle East and India they are less familiar to Americans but they appear in Asian markets now here in Virginia. Chrysanthemums begin to bloom. Chrysanthemum is the iconic flower of Cold Dew. In many parts of China people indulge in the custom of drinking chrysanthemum wine to prevent autumn dryness. This is a tradition of the Double Ninth Festival (on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar), which often falls around Cold Dew.
There are traditional Chinese herbal formulas to take during Cold Dew. Drinking wine made with chrysanthemums, poria cocos and pine oleoresin grants people long lasting youth. Poria cocos or fu ling (茯苓) is a medicinal mushroom. This mushroom has been widely accepted in modern medicine as a treatment for inflammation and as a central nervous system depressant. Oleoresins are a naturally occurring combination of oil and resin that can be extracted from plants. Pine has many constituents useful as medicine, including cortisone-like substances and bioflavonoids. So this combination is probably more beneficial than it sounds at first. For those reluctant to experiment I can recommend chrysanthemum tea as a very pleasant drink. There is a saying that “It is time to harvest hawthorn during Cold Dew.” Extracts of the berries have long been used in herbal medicine. The antioxidants in hawthorn are thought to boost heart health by strengthening blood vessels and stimulating blood flow.
Some final miscellany about Cold Dew. People of the Dong ethnic group in western Hunan province make a version of kippers during Cold Dew. It is made with rice wine, salt, glutinous rice, pepper powder, paprika powder and ginger. I would love to find a recipe so i culd try doing this, they sound delicious. In southern Hunan province is a famous area for producing teas seed oil. People are not allowed to go to the mountains to pick the seeds until the start of Cold Dew. It has a very high smoke point and is the main cooking oil of the region. Tea seed oil is like olive and grape seed oil in storing well another reason it is popular. It is fairly healthy too, with a low saturated fat content and is high in vitamin E and other antioxidants.