ANCIENT China divided the sun’s annual movement in the sky into 24 segments, giving each segment a specific solar term. This has played an important role in farming and understanding and being in touch with the climate.
Throughout the dynasties, rituals and festivals have been hosted to celebrate each solar term, which helped build communities’ cultural identities.
Zhejiang Province has compiled a list that matches each solar term with a specific scenic attraction for visitors to enjoy.
Shanghai Daily has drawn up a guide to go with the list. This is the third of four instalments.
Summer Solstice @ Shengsi County 夏至, 嵊泗县
The Summer Solstice, or Xiazhi, in mid-year sees longest day and shortest night of the year, and rising temperatures.
Many people are looking for a short getaway from the scorching days in the city during Xiazhi and the islands dotted off the coast of Zhejiang Province offer an ideal respite.
Shengsi County comprises 404 islands in the easternmost part of the sprawling Zhoushan Archipelago — said to be the first part of the country to greet the sunrise.
The county is divided into four sections: Sijiao, Huaniao, Shengshan and Yangshan.
In summer, Shengsi lures millions of tourists who flock there for beautiful island views, cooler environment, sand and fresh seafood.
It is situated smack in the middle of China’s long Pacific Ocean coastline, connecting the estuaries of the Yangtze and Qiantang rivers.
The idyllic location brings a large quantity and variety of sea creatures, including fish, crabs, shrimps, hairtail, yellow croaker, cuttlefish, sea eel and mussels.
Highlights are Huaniao and Gouqi islands. Huaniao is captivating because of the pure blue sea around it and the chance to experience a fisherman’s life, while Gouqi is attractive with its soft sand, limpid sea and gorgeous scenery.
Stopping the Heat @ Shangyu County 处暑, 上虞县
Meteorologically, Stopping the Heat marks the arrival of autumn. It is the harvest season for kiwis in Zhejiang.
Shangyu County is dubbed the “backyard orchard of Zhejiang,” since the environment and temperature here are suitable for a rich array of fruits.
The annual fruit yield can reach 225,000 tons.
The county boasts kiwi plantations that produce quality, succulent kiwis and welcome guests who want to pick kiwi fruits themselves. Some plantations let tourists enter free, charging them only for the fruit they pick.
White Dews @ Tiantai County
White Dews, or Bailu, marks when the yang (hot) energy begins to decline and the yin (cold) energy starts to rise in nature and human bodies.
Therefore, traditional Chinese medicine recommends people have more hot energy food to replenish the body around this solar term of Bailu in early September.
Some Buddhists retreat to temples, searching for energy balance and inner peace in this period. Many of them would choose Tiantai County, where the Fahua Sect began.
The sect, also named the Tiantai Sect, is an important school of Buddhist teaching in Asia. One of the county’s most popular sights is Guoqing Temple, which could date as far back as the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618) when the then emperors encouraged the spread of Buddhism across the country.
The temple is listed as one of China’s top four Buddhist temples.
In addition, many other temples in Tiantai offer a platform for Buddhists to eat a vegetarian diet, learn Buddhist scriptures and practice meditation with monks for weeks.
Great Heat @ Tianmu Mountain
Great Heat, or Dashu, is the hottest time of the year, when temperatures hover around 40 degrees Celsius in Hangzhou.
Natural disasters such as floods, drought and typhoons are frequent in Zhejiang Province around this season.
Tianmu Mountian is dubbed “Hangzhou’s back garden” by virtue of its lush bamboo forests, ponds, lakes and fresh air. It also has an average temperature below 22 degrees due to its geography and forest cover.
As summer temperatures soar, these cooler heights draw many visitors.
More than 99 percent of this area is covered by vegetation, which provides ample shade for those exploring the area’s trails, streams and waterfalls. Hikers can choose the safe stone-step path or pick their own way through the forest.
Autumn Begins @ Luhetang Phoebe Nees Forest
The heat of summer begins to fade in Liqui (Autumn Begins) in August, although it’s not really the beginning of autumn.
Self-driving tours are popular here as temperatures start dropping.
The Luhetang Phoebe Nees Forest at north of Xin’an River draws many tourists — it is a favorite among hikers and outdoor adventurers.
Phoebe nees is a type of evergreen tree with a long history of being used in China for boat building, architectural woodworking and woodcrafts. It takes a millennium for these trees to mature and produce useful timber, which makes them extremely precious.
The forest, maybe 1,500 years old, covers 30 hectares, opening up expansive vistas and offering the scent of fresh, green vegetation during hikes.
Slight Heat @ Thousand Islands Lake
Slight Heat marks the beginning of stretches of high-temperature days. The rushing rivers, lakes and rapids here might be the best retreats during this solar term, as temperatures are definitely lower in hilly, wooded, river and lake areas than in the concrete jungle.
The Thousand Islands Lake area boasts rapids suitable for rafting at Longtan Gorge, Jiulong Stream Rapid, Jinfeng Canyon Rapid and Pinghe River Rapid. Rafters need to stay alert to appreciate the scenery as it races past.
Meanwhile, the large area of the lake makes it cooler than urban areas. The burning sunshine doesn’t bother you here. Take a yacht shuttling between islands, and stop at Meifengguan and Tianchi islands to view the picturesque landscape.