Culture Insider: Illustrations of 24 Solar Terms & Chinese Delicacies Explore in China

24 solar terms are determined by changes in the sun's position in the zodiac during the year. They were first used in China and now are followed in many other parts of the world. In China, the 24 solar terms were created thousands of years ago to guide agricultural production. They also reflect China’s rich history through the seasonal festivals, special foods, cultural ceremonies, family gatherings and even healthy living tips that correspond with each solar term.

Li Xiaolin, the creator of illustrations of "24 Solar Terms and Chinese Delicacies" presenting the traditional Chinese solar terms through traditional Chinese art.

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Li Xiaolin (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)


Here are her creative artworks of "24 Solar Terms and Chinese Delicacies":

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Start of Spring, the first solar term of the year, marks the beginning of spring. Eating spring pancakes and rolls in the illustration is called "biting the spring". It is almost a ceremony for people to receive the energy and vigor of spring.


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Start of Autumn, the 13th solar term of the year, implies the summer's end and the autumn's start. In Li's illustration, the delicacy is steamed eggplant. In Chinese classic novel The Dream of the Red Chamber, eggplant steamed in a complicated way tasted not like a vegetable but like chicken. According to traditional Chinese medicine, eggplant can detoxify the body and cool down the body's temperature at the beginning of autumn.


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Great Heat, the 12th solar term of the year, indicates the start of the hottest season of the year in most parts of China. In her painting, Li recommended mizao, a kind of food made of fermented rice that is often cooked with brown sugar, eggs and dates. Mizao can help to promote the body's vital energy.


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Major Snow, the 21st solar term of the year, implies the significant drop of the temperature in winter. The illustration pictures bacon and other ingredients. During this solar term, Chinese people often begin to prepare bacon for the upcoming Chinese New Year.


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End of Heat, the 14th solar term of the year, indicates the end of the heat of summer and the beginning of autumn in most areas of China. Duck soup cooked with lily root in the illustration is a popular choice for the season. In China, people often use "tiger" as a metaphor for the start of autumn that is often very hot. According to traditional Chinese medicine, duck meat has a cool nature that can help to detoxify the body during the hot season.


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Start of Winter, the 19th solar term of the year, signals the coming of winter. From this day, people should store up the crops harvested in autumn. Li recommended chicken stewed with four kinds of traditional Chinese medicine in her painting. The chicken can speed up the blood circulation and warm the body during the cold weather.


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White Dew, the 15th solar term of the year, indicates autumn's beginning. From the starting day of White Dew, the temperature gradually declines. Due to the low temperature at night, white dew often forms due to the vapors in the air on grass and trees. Li Xiaolin illustrates White Dew wine as a recommended beverage for the season. Sweet White Dew wine is made of polished glutinous rice and kaoliang (a specific kind of sorghum), which can help to warm the body.


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Awakening of Insects, the 3rd solar term of the year, signals the coming of the key time with rising temperature and increasing rainfall for agricultural activities. In the illustration, the food is named chaochong (literally means stirred pests), a traditional delicacy made of soy beans, sesame, and corns. It bear people's wish to kill all the pests that harm their lives.


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Grain Rain is the last solar term in spring, meaning that the cold weather ends and the temperature begins to rise. Also rainfall is very important to the crops' growth during this period of time. The tea illustrated in the painting is called Grain Rain tea. Southern Chinese people have the tradition of drinking tea on the day.


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Cold Dew, the 17th solar term of the year, marks the beginning of a colder time after White Dew in most places of China. This period will see greater and colder dew, less rain and ripe autumn crops. Li painted sesame cake, which can prevent the body from being hurt by the dryness of the autumn.


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Autumn Equinox, the 16th solar term of the year, divides autumn into two equal parts. It marks the start of the moving of sunlight to the south that will shorten days and prolong nights. Li painted steamed crabs for this solar term. It is the season that crabs often become most delicious. Due to the cold nature of crabs, ginger with a hot nature is often consumed together.


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Grain Buds, the 8th solar term of the year, means that the grain seeds are becoming full but are not ripe. Li Xiaolin, the painter, recommended the herb of the common sow thistle that can help to detoxify the body and clean the blood for the season.


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