This coming Sunday begins the solar term White Dew, which marks transition from summer to autumn. In China the temperature drops sharply, and the autumn rains come. Here the temperature began to drop last week after a rainstorm and has stayed cooler, which was a relief after the summer’s intense heat wave. I am looking forward to autumn. Finally the east to west side of the house is bearable during the day. Fall will be a much more productive time. I will have more energy when walking from one room to another does not leave me dripping wet and I can go back to eating on a normal schedule.
The pentads I found for for Cold Dew are:
- 鴻雁來賓, ‘The guest geese arrive’ – 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’.
- 雀入大水為蛤, ‘The sparrows enter the ocean and become clams’ This is a fine example of bad translation. The ancient Chinese were keen observers of nature and I am sure they did not believe sparrows turned into clams. The character used for the verb be or become is also used for the preposition for, so if you take it character by character it is 雀 bird 入 enter 大 great/big 水 water 為 for 蛤 clam. Much more sensible.
- 菊有黃華, ‘Chrysanthemums bloom yellow’ – the chrysanthemum is known as one of the few flowers to bloom in autumn.
In China during the white dews period, it’s considered a time to watch out for respiratory diseases such as sius and nasal problems, asthma and bronchitis. People who can easily get bronchial asthma and similar ailments are told to avoid seafood, cold food, roasted food, spicy food, sour food and salty food. They had better keep a balanced and light diet which is rich in vitamins. You can easily apply this to many parts of the west at this time. Any time there are widely fluctuating temperatures, respiratory illness is more likely.
Traditional activities for this period are many and varied. Farmers are busy both harvesting summer crops and planting or preparing to plant winter crops. On Bailu, Chinese people like to have a cup of Bailu tea, which is made out of tea leaves that have experienced frost and dew. It is said that this kind of tea has a uniquely fresh smell and taste.
White Dew is a time for people in the Taihu Lake area of East China to offer sacrifices to Da Yu, a hero who tamed floods by regulating rivers and watercourses. Besides on the first day of White Dew, people also hold sacrificial rites for Da Yu on the eighth day of the first lunar month, on Tomb-sweeping Day, and on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. In Tancheng county, Shandong province, children play with swallow handcarts, a sharpened wooden cart in the shape of a swallow, on the first day of White Dew. People of every household there can make this kind of wooden toy, which can even make pleasing sounds. Pushing the swallow cars while running is good exercise for the children and builds their immune system.
I have already started collecting the garden items I never got around to using this summer, like the tomato cages. The house and the accursed contractors sucked up all my time and the little energy I could muster in the heat. I have managed to get out most of the equally accursed chain link fence that was actually on my property. I can do nothing about the ugly stuff my neighbors on either side have but wait until another season and hide it with proper fencing, or better yet, hedging, trees and clumping bamboo
We will only have the farmer’s market another month or so. It is one of the few worthwhile things here. I am determined this year to make time for some canning and freezing. I also put a big notice in my calendar to get out to Henley’s orchard early. Hopefully the heat wave did not spoil the early apple crop and finally I’ll get some Northern Spy apples. I did get myself a nice burnt orange colored chrysanthemum and hope it will do well now the heat has abated.
As fall approaches I hope some work will get done on the house. I am waiting (again) to hear back from two contractors. I would like to enjoy my favorite season. All too soon the white dew on the windshield will not be quickly displaced by the wiper blades. Soon enough it will require a scraper and the truck defroster to run a bit. Like the squirrels we will scramble to put in stores for winter and get our nest fortified against the cold. The white dew reminds us start to put away the garden things, organize the firewood and power outage supplies, get to work canning before the farmer’s market ends and in general say goodbye to summer and hello to fall.