On February 19th we moved into the period called Rain Water or Spring Rains. According to the Chinese agricultural calendar there is an increase of rainfall from then on. We have had as much if not more rain than snow so far this winter, so we certainly are not matching the traditional labels. And while it did not rain yesterday, last night we had snow which metamorphosed into freezing rain in the morning and throughout the day.
Each solar term can be divided into 3 pentads (候) and the pentads for Yushui are: First pentad: 獺祭魚, ‘Otters make offerings of fish’. This is the time when rivers thaw and as fish begin to swim upstream, they are hunted by otters, which are believed to offer the fish to heaven.
Second pentad: 鴻雁來, ‘The wild geese arrive’. Wild geese begin to make their northward migration, following the onset of spring.
- Last pentad: 草木萌動, ‘Trees and grass put forth shoots’. Rain Water signals the increase in rainfall and rise in temperature. Trees and grass begin to turn green again. In bringing things in from my truck yesterday before the snow, I noticed green shoots of grass coming up through the sawdust left by cutting up the large branch which fell in the ice storm last fall.
First pentad: 土脉潤起 If you run this through Google translate you get “soil vacuolization”. Vacuoles are little membrane surrounded organelle in cells. This is not much help as a translation makes very little sense. 土 is earth or soil for sure. 脉 is pulse in both Chinese and Japanese. 潤 is to moisten or lubricate in Chinese and 起 (qǐ in pinyin) has many meanings including to rise or raise and to start. It seems to me it refers to the pulse of the earth, so I translate it as ” rising moisture quicken’s the earth’s pulse”
Second pentad: 霞始靆 “Red clouds begin to form heavy mists” Perhaps this refers to the formation of clouds as the air cools at sunset.
Last pentad: 草木萠動 This one is exactly the same for the Japanese as it is for the Chinese as you can see from the characters used.
In northern China the spring drought is common and the precipitation of this season accounts for only 10 to 15 percent of annual average rainfall. For this reason, Rain Water is considered a key period for irrigation once the days gets warmer and rainfall increases. In an agricultural society, the old Chinese saying, the rainfall in spring is as precious as oil, was all too true.
The weather at this time can be tricky, both here and in China. Extra care is needed to cope with a returning cold spell in the late spring that often happen during Rain Water period. Today’s snow to freezing rain is starting us off with this phenomenon. The fast increase in air humidity due to rainfall can result in lower temperature and wet weather. In spite of the increased longing for spring people are having, it is wise not to put away the thick coats too early and to keep warm, especially elderly and children.
In keeping with this, the right foods are important. The wet and damp weather during the Rain Water period is considered harmful for people’s spleen and stomach according to Chinese medical practice. Therefore, a bowl of nutritious porridge is thought by many to be the best choice to nourish the body. Others consider soups to be good for this season.
People in Beijing often eat porridge cooked with rehmannia glutinosa libosch, a Chinese herb medicine, to resist cold and wet weather and eliminate heat from the blood. It is also good for people with constipation, arthritis and headaches.