Today, Saturday August 23 is Chu Shu 處暑, ‘End of Heat’, the next seasonal node after the beginning of Autumn in the Chinese calendar. The transition from August to September is also the transition to the end of warmer weather. Right now as I sit and write this post here in New Jersey, it is only 68 degrees outside!
Autumn is the time of year when Yin grows. All things are moving towards the hibernation phase and many plants are being readied for harvest. The names of the smaller 5-day periods of this seasonal node are quite interesting and illustrative of what Autumn represents. The first is called Ying Nai Ji Niao 鷹乃祭鳥, Hawks Start to Sacrifice Birds. This time of year starts the slow march towards the death phase of nature. Many plants and animals with short life spans won’t make it to next Spring. The image of hawks harvesting or killing smaller birds then fits perfectly with this image. The next two 5-day time periods are Tian Di Shi Su 天地始肅， Heaven and Earth Become Austere, and He Nai Deng 禾乃登, Rice Plants Are Harvested and Presented as Offering. Just as this is the time of year for bringing things to harvest, it is also the time for us to start becoming quieter and more introspective, for us to take stock of what, out of the myriad things in our lives, is really important (i.e., we become austere like heaven and earth).
In more tangible respects there are things to keep in mind so we stay healthy this time of year. The first traditional recommendation for this time of year is Ben Franklin’s favorite – ‘early to bed, early to rise’ (zao shui zao qi 早睡早起). When there is more Yin in the natural environment we can mimic that in our own body by getting more sleep. In the summer it is permissible to stay up later and still wake up early. In the Yang time of year less sleep is just fine. However, not that Autumn (a Yin season) is upon us, we need to get a little more rest. To accomplish this, try to get into bed a bit earlier, preferably before 11pm or midnight.
The weather pattern associated with Autumn is dryness. The thing we need to be cautious of is being too dry this season. One way we do this is through diet. In Chinese, this time of year we need to focus on shao xin, zeng suan 少辛增酸 – ‘less spicy, more sour’. Spicy flavors have a mild drying quality as well as a sweat promoting quality, both of which dry the body. To the contrary, sour foods are gently moistening and hold in sweat. Increasing the amount of foods such as vinegar, pickled vegetables, and fruits such as plums is appropriate to the season. Other moistening foods include milk, soymilk, and fruit juices (especially apple or pear).
We wish everyone peace and health this season！