THE ancient Chinese divided the year into 24 segments, called solar terms. These embody the rhythms of nature, and the harmony between human beings and the physical world.
Over recent weeks, Shanghai Daily has introduced popular destinations in Hangzhou as well as the best solar terms during which to visit them. This week, the series concludes with a final batch of recommendations.
Autumn Equinox @ Wuyun Hill 秋分, 五云山
During this solar term, daylight and nighttime both equal 12 hours, followed by the onset of fall and a gradual decline in daylight hours in the northern hemisphere.
Autumn’s cool temperatures and crisp air make ideal conditions for hiking at Wuyun Hill, which boasts one of the most popular trails in Hangzhou.
Wuyun means “five clouds,” which derives from the legend that clouds of five colors would often appear around the hill, particularly at sunset.
After a demanding two-hour climb, hikers reach the summit of Wuyun Hill, where there is a 1,420-year-old ginkgo tree growing in front of the ruins of the Zhenji Buddhist Temple.
Hoar-frost Falls @ Wuzhen Town 霜降, 乌镇
This is the last solar term of autumn, which signals the approach of winter. In traditional Chinese medicine, this is a time to nourish the body, which is vulnerable to sickness when temperatures drop.
Mutton and radish is a popular food combo for locals at this time. Lamb meat is traditionally considered a “hot” food to replenish energy, while radishes help neutralize grease and add a refreshing flavor to mutton soup.
Wuzhen is famed for its delicious mutton. Locals raise sheep chiefly on a diet of straw, fresh mulberry leaves and grass, which makes the meat tender and gives it a pleasing aroma.
In addition, Wuzhen is one of China’s most picturesque watertowns. It is crisscrossed by watercourses and flanked by black-roofed, white-walled houses which epitomize the architectural traditions of southern China.
Cold Dews @ Xixi Wetland 寒露, 西溪湿地
During the Cold Dews solar term, autumn landscapes take on varied appearances across China. At this time, northeastern China is already in late autumn, while southern areas like Guangdong Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region are just entering the golden season.
In Hangzhou, fiery persimmons hang from the trees, adding a red hue to the yellow autumn. The most succulent persimmons are found at the Xixi Wetland National Park, which holds a persimmon festival in every October.
A century ago, locals planted more than 4,000 persimmon trees in the wetlands. Every year, as the fruit ripens, families descend on the area to pick persimmons and take part in fun activities.
The park is crisscrossed by watercourses. Visitors can also take paddle boats to view the park’s many bird and flower species.
Winter Begins @ Anchang Town 立冬, 安昌
This solar term, as its name implies, traditionally marks the arrival of winter. This is a big term for people in Shaoxing, as they begin to brew their famous local rice wine on that day. Rituals are also hosted in honor of the God of Wine and to pray for good luck and fragrant wines.
Shaoxing has been renowned for its rice wine for centuries. As early as the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), natives were using glutinous rice to make the beverage. Now, rice wine is a central part of Shaoxing culture.
On Lidong, as the term is known in Chinese, the ancient Anchang Town is filled with a vinous aroma and dotted with large ceramic wine jars. Its waterways are flanked by folk houses with up-turned eaves, carved beams and painted rafters.
The town’s history is said to date back to the Northern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), when it emerged as a busy transport hub for rice and other commodities.
Light Snow @ Yangjia Village 小雪, 杨家村
Light Snow is known for a kaleidoscope of colors. Gingko, phoenix and maple trees cover the ground with a colorful carpet of leaves. This sight is one of the great charms of Yangjia Village.
This secluded village is located at the junction of Fuyang, Lin’an and Tonglu counties. It is popular with shutterbugs, as it boasts a magnificent landscape of thousands of ginkgo trees.
The trees are not planted in regular rows, but have grown naturally between folk houses with their yellow hues creating a vibrant landscape. This beautiful scene only lasts for about two weeks.
Heavy Snow @ Songyang County 大雪, 松阳
Heavy Snow marks the beginning of midwinter, when the chance of snow is at its highest. Due to undulating mountains and high altitude, Songyang County in southwestern Zhejiang usually receives snows earlier than other regions in the province. The poetic snow-covered landscapes are its biggest draw during this season.
Songyang boasts two noted villages, Shanxiayang Village, the layout of which was designed according to theories about yin-yang and the eight trigrams of Taoism, and Yangjiatang Village, a once secluded hamlet that rose to prominence after being listed as one of China’s most beautiful villages in 2013.
When the antiqued villages are shrouded with snow, they take on an appearance of a Chinese ink painting. Natives here live simple lives and subsist largely on agriculture.