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Chinese Calendar and the Solar Terms

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

The Chinese calendar includes the four seasons but is also segmented into the solar terms (aka seasonal nodes). The seasonal nodes are based on the suns position relative to our view on Earth (the ecliptic longitude) and refer to observed patterns and cycles in nature that shift throughout the year. Traditionally, observations of the nodes were used to guide agricultural practices, as well as the behavior of people. Taking cues from the natural world, people adjusted husbandry practices and their own eating habits and activities to be in line with these changes.

Even though the weather and climatic forces in northern California in the 21st century are different from what was experienced by the ancient authors and creators of the Chinese calendar system changes do occur. Pay attention to activities of the plants, animals, and nature around you throughout the year and you will start to notice patterns. We can use knowledge of these patterns to guide us in our own self-care.

In Chinese Medicine, the transitions between the seasons and the seasonal nodes are sometimes considered vulnerable times for human health. We can support our health during these transitions by eating well and getting appropriate amounts of rest and activity, as well as getting acupuncture!

Learn more about the solar terms here.

In 2016, this complex system was added to the “UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage” list and is known in the international meteorological community as, China's "fifth great invention". The Unesco post on this system has a fantastic visual representing the solar terms. Check it out here.

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