Grain in Ear, the ninth of the 24 solar terms in the Chinese lunar calendar, begins on June 5 this year. It happens when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 75 degrees. In Chinese, Grain in Ear is pronounced "Mang Zhong." "Mang" is also homophonic to the word "busy" in Chinese. Grain in Ear is the period that farmers get back to the busy field work since it is the deadline for sowing activities.
(Illustration: JIAN Shan; Beijing International Design Week)
This solar term is featured by abundant rainfall and significantly increased temperatures, and most areas have now entered summer. Southern and southeastern China are entering the period with increased precipitation. The middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River also enter into the "plum rain season," when there are more rainy days and less sunshine.
Here are some traditional customs during Grain in Ear.
Flowers begin to wither in Grain in Ear, so people used to hold rituals to worship the goddess of flowers on the first day of Grain in Ear, and express gratitude to her, showing their eagerness to see the flowers again next year. Some would hang colorful silk ribbons on the flower branches, and others would reattach the fallen petals to the stem, symbolizing that the flowers will never die.
Farmers get busy with field work in Hai'an, East China's Jiangsu Province, on June 4, 2020. (Photo: VCG)
It is an agricultural custom in southern Anhui Province, which can date back to the early Ming Dynasty. During Grain in Ear, after the rice is planted, people would hold sacrificial activities called "An Miao (meaning seedling protection)" to pray for a good harvest in autumn. The families would make steamed stuffed buns with new wheat flour. They knead the flour into the shape of grains and animals, fruits and vegetables, and then dye them with vegetable juice, offering them as sacrifices to pray for a good harvest and the safety of the villagers.
It's a traditional custom among young people of the Dong minority in southeastern Guizhou Province. They hold mud wrestling matches before and after Grain in Ear every year. On the first day of Grain in Ear, newlywed couples would be accompanied by close friends to plant rice together. At the same time, they play with the mud and enjoy a mud fight. At the end of the event, the one who gets the most mud on his or her body is seen to be the most popular.
Green plums boiling
People place plums into a ceramic urn. (Photo: Xinhua)
In southern China, plums become ripe in May and June. Plums have a unique cultural connotation in Chinese history. For example, there was an allusion that Cao Cao and Liu Bei, two famous figures in the Three Kingdoms period (AD220-280), talked about heroes while brewing plum wines. Green plums are rich in nutrients and are beneficial to the human body. However, most fresh plums taste sour and bitter, so people used to choose to boil them or turn them into wine, and that became the custom for boiling green plums.
(Compiled by Zhang Yuanzheng)