Sunday, March 18, 2007

Vernal Equinox (Chūnfēn)

Would you have guessed we are in the third solar term now, "The Waking of Insects"? The Chinese calendar divides the year into 24 solar units. Chūnfēn (春分) is the fourth solar term, although it is now also used to refer to the first day.

In the USA, "the first day of spring" will be March 20, 2007. The Vernal Equinox is *really* the moment that the sun passes over the equator, the moment when light is equal to dark. On that day there should be 12 hours of sunlight and 12 of darknesses. For Europe, it will be March 21st. In China, Chunfen is March 21st to April 5th, 2007. (In 2008, 2009, and 2010, it will be from March 20th to April 4th.) The following solar term is Qingming(清明, Pure Brightness).

Students - Did anyone recognize the "chun" (spring) character? and "ming" or bright? Can you see the sun and moon characters that combine to make the character "ming"?

In the Southern Hemisphere March 20/21st is the Autumnal Equinox.

The legend (or rumor?) that eggs can only balance on their end on the Vernal Equinox seems to have come from China - although by the time it reached America it seems to have changed so that it could *only* happen then, and in China it may have been for one whole solar period.

What I hear more often now is that eggs can be balanced on end on any day - that you have time and patience. Try it and let me know!

Each solar term is divided into 3 pentads. For Chunfen they are, the first pentad: xuánniǎo zhì (玄鳥至, Swallow Zhì); the second pentad: Lèinǎi Fāshēng (雷乃發聲) and the last pentad: shǐléi (始雷).

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