Background Information

China’s solar terms (also known as seasonal division points) are integral to China’s traditional lunar calendar. Whereas the modern Gregorian calendar is based on the Earth orbiting the sun, China’s original calendar systems is based on the cycles of the moon. One year was then broken in 24 solar terms, and each term came with its own weather predictions, important information for farmers trying to plant and maintain crops. Traditional Chinese holidays still follow this calendar system, and some people follow their birthdays using the lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar. The four seasons also carry important cultural meaning. For example, the “four gentlemen” of Chinese painting describe plants associated with each season, orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and plum blossom symbolizing spring, summer, fall, and winter respectively. The changing of the seasons is also used as a metaphor for one’s life. The rebirth and liveliness of spring represents childhood, the steady and consistently warm summer represents young adulthood, fall represents the waning transition to adulthood, and the cold winter represents the slowing of one’s life in their senior years.

24 Solar Terms (Your Chinese Astrology)

Four Gentlemen (China Museum Online)

中国的节气 Chinese Solar Terms

Suggested Level

Context Information: Elisa is an American student, and 艾 (Ài) is a domestic Chinese student. They are discussing the winter solstice.

Elisa: 今天特别冷。今天我觉得是,第一天算是冬天的天气1

艾: 但但中——

Elisa: Oh! 今天也是正式的冬天的第一天。

艾: 是吗?

Elisa: 因为是11月21号。

艾: Ah!

Elisa: 就是像冬天正式的——

艾: 对对对对对,就是那个时候春分秋分夏至冬至——

Elisa: 对,所以很,很——

艾: 很有纪念意义。

Elisa: 对。

艾: (laughing) 你不要这么疑惑,记——

Elisa: 很配合这个季节。

艾: 嗯。

Elisa: 或者天气

艾: 嗯。Elisa: 2,合适,这个天气很合适今天的日期。


1. Here, 第一天算是冬天的天气 (dìyī tiān suànshì dōngtiānde tiānqì) might sounds a bit strange to a native speaker. It should be ordered算是真的像冬天的天气 (suànshì zhēnde xiàng dōngtiānde tiānqì) ‘the first day of weather that really looks like winter’.

2. 艾 probably stopped short of saying 天气 (tiānqì) ‘weather’. 


      1. 冷 (lěng) Cold
      2. 正式 (zhèngshì) Official; formal
      3. 春分 (chūnfēn) Spring Equinox
      4. 秋分 (qiūfēn) Autumn Equinox
      5. 夏至 (xiàzhì) Summer Solstice
      6. 冬至 (dōngzhì) Winter Solstice
      7. 纪念 (jìniàn) Commemoration; keepsake; memento
      8. 意义 (yìyì) Meaning; significance
      9. 疑惑 (yíhuò) To feel skeptical; to feel uncertain
      10. 配合 (pèihé) To match