XIAZHI, or Summer Solstice, features the longest day and shortest night of the year. From this day on, daytime gradually shrinks, and night expands.
Summer Solstice usually occurs on June 21-22 when the sun’s elliptical longitude reaches 90 degrees, marking the end of the ascending yang energy in the universe and the start of yin energy.
This year it falls on Wednesday.
The Chinese proverb suggests the days after Summer Solstice as the “three periods of waitings” — waiting for the deer antlers to fall off, waiting for the cicada to sing, and waiting for banxia (pinellia ternate) to grow.
In the immediate 15 days after Summer Solstice, most Chinese regions enjoy high temperatures, sufficient sunshine and rains that support quick growth of not only crops and fruits, but also weeds, virus and insects. Still, it is a busy season for farmers.
There were historical records of prayer ceremonies being held on the Summer Solstice to ensure there were no lean years, hunger and death.
Farmers in some regions still retain faith in the tradition — it’s their way of being grateful for a good wheat harvest in summer and praying for another good harvest in autumn.
Frequent thundershower, rainstorm, or constant rain is common after Summer Solstice in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River including Shanghai.
Though generally sufficient rain supports crop growth, it can also lead to floods.
The temperatures usually climb after xiazhi.
Sending beautiful fans and cosmetics as gifts used to be a tradition among Chinese women on the Summer Solstice. The royals and some rich families usually stored ice and used them to cool rooms.
Food made of wheat flour harvested during Summer Solstice is used for celebrating the day in different regions.
Cold noodles with dressing are popular with Beijing natives on Summer Solstice. Wuxi residents in Jiangsu Province traditionally eat wheat congee as breakfast and wonton for lunch. Fresh wheat is boiled on the day in households in Huang County in Shandong Province, while children pick them out by a wheat-straw strainer both as a snack and game.
With waxberry maturing in the season, many households start to make their own waxberry wine, supposedly offering relief from diarrhea that is common in this season.
Waxberry, as a TCM herb, is effective in relieving thirst, improves digestion, and stops diarrhea and bleeding, according to Xu Yi, a pharmacist at Yueyang Hospital attached to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Xu recalls a small cup of waxberry wine and wine-soaked waxberry, given to her by her parents in the childhood, helped deal with the pain of diarrhea.
“It is especially effective in relieving diarrhea caused by eating too much cold food, caught in rain or improper exposure to air-conditioner. But if the patient has diarrhea with blood or jelly-like stuff in their stool, waxberry wine won’t help. It is better then to see a professional doctor,” says Xu.
Ingredients: Waxberries (350g), 45 ABV distilled Chinese liquor (500ml), rock sugar (100g)
• Soak the waxberries in salty water for 15 minutes to get rid of the worms.
• Rinse and drain the waxberries.
• Put the waxberries in a glass jar together with rock sugars. Place them in the order of one layer waxberries under one layer of rock sugar.
• Pour distilled liqor in until all the berries immersed well.
• Seal the jar and put it at cool and ventilated place.
• Shake the jar gently every three days.
• Waxberry wine will be ready for drink in 15-25 days.