On July 7th we entered the solar term of Xiǎoshǔ, or Shōsho in Japanese, Soseo in Korean, and or Tiểu thử in Vietnamese. It is the 11th solar term of the year, beginning when the Sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 105°. In the western calendar it usually begins around 7 July and ends around 22 July . Minor Heat actually signifies the hottest period is coming but has not yet arrived.
In China, the 24 solar terms were created thousands of years ago to guide agricultural production. However, the solar term culture is still useful today to guide people’s lives. There are special foods, ceremonies and healthy living tips that correspond with each term. The terms also describe the weather and climate during the term. Storms, thunder and hail often happen during Minor Heat, though in some years there might be droughts. The prevailing farming activities during Minor Heat are staying on top of flood control or drought relief.
The high heat and humidity during this solar term mean most people take time off of work to rest and recuperate. This is also the perfect time, according to traditional Chinese medicine, to purge winter diseases from the body. Here in Virginia we have a had similar weather, bouts of torrential rains with flash flood warnings, several days of heat and humidity so high the index was above 100F and things began to wither and plenty of intermittent thunderstorms. And my aching ear, sinuses and jaw may be a sign my body is purging itself as I drink plenty of water and juice.
In Minor Heat, the high temperatures are good for the growth of the lotus flower. From Minor Heat to the Double Ninth Festival, the lotus flower is in full bloom, and always simple but elegant. It is always good on hot evenings to sit by a lotus pond and admire the blossoms and feel cooled by the water.
Minor Heat is the season when fireflies begin to rise. Zhu Shuzhen, a woman of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), once described in her famous poem “Summer Fireflies” a happy scene of children playing with fireflies in the woods at night. Another poem about fireflies is “Two Poems about Fireflies” written by Luo Ye of the Tang Dynasty. He has described a beautiful scene of the moss on steps in front of the house which is decorated by thousands of winking lights, actually fireflies.
Minor Heat comes when all kinds of melons are being harvested. One custom in Nanjing, Jiangsu province has to do with enjoying small melons on the day of Minor Heat and having big melons on the day of Major Heat. The small melons are known to us as cantaloupes and the big melons as watermelons. Dumplings are a traditional food among Chinese for a lot of occasions and when Minor Heat takes away the appetite, dumplings can refresh people’s feelings toward food. I can alway eat dumplings but when it’s really hot I also like summer rolls in the thin, light rice paper with crispy vegetables inside.
Ideal foods to eat during Minor Heat are onion, apricot, chai tea, fennel, and cinnamon. People who often get overheated in the summer can drink mint tea and eat pears, plums, celery, any kind of melon, all green-colored foods, and bitter-tasting foods. Regardless of your body constitution, it’s considered a good idea to get a foot massage or practice meditation during this time, to adjust and rebalance the body, and offset the stress of the weather.
During the Minor Heat period, with the longest amount of sunlight and the strongest sunlight radiation, many families hang their clothes out in the sun for the cleansing and disinfecting power of the sun. It’s a good tie to air out winter blankets and quilts that have been packed away for months and refresh their storage containers with herbs like lavender and artemisia.