The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Awakening of Insects (Chinese: 惊蛰) falls on Mar 6 and ends on Mar 20 this year.
Awakening of Insects signals a rise in temperature and increased rainfall. As the third solar term in the lunar year, its name alludes to the fact that animals sleeping in winter are awakened by spring thunder and that the earth begins to come back to life. It is the key time for spring agricultural activities. Here are 5 things you may not know about Awakening of Insects.
1)Spring thunder cracks the sky
The spring thunder is most noticeable during the Awakening of Insects solar term. An old Chinese saying goes: "If the first spring thunder crashes before the Awakening of Insects solar term, there will be abnormal weather that year." The Awakening of Insects falls after the end of winter and before the beginning of spring. Wind during this period is an important factor in weather forecasting.
Modern meteorological science shows that around the Awakening of Insects, the earth becomes humid and the hot air near the surface rises; meanwhile, the hot humid air from the north is strong and creates frequent winds. For this reason, thunder occurs in this period. China covers a large range of latitudes from north to south, so the first spring thunder appears at different times in different areas.
2) Spring ploughing
The Awakening of Insects is an extremely important time for farmers and is widely seen as the beginning of the busiest time for agricultural work. During this period, most parts of China experience the quickest rise in temperatures, with the average level reaching above 10 degrees Celsius, and there is a marked increase in sunshine, which provides good natural conditions for farming.
Old Chinese sayings such as "once the Awakening of Insects comes, spring ploughing never rests" reveal the importance of this term to farmers.
3) Offering sacrifices to the white tiger
According to ancient Chinese folklore, a white tiger is the creature that brings quarrels and disputes. It always begins hunting during the Awakening of Insects, and sometimes bites people. It is said that those bitten by a white tiger will encounter evil villains in their life that bring obstructions and bad luck. Therefore people offer sacrifices to the white tiger during the Awakening of Insects to protect themselves.
When practicing this old custom, people draw the white tiger on paper, and then smear pig’s blood and pork on its mouth. This means the tiger is fed so that it would not bite people, avoiding bad luck and conflict.
4) Beating 'villains'
"Villain" hitting originated in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and it’s a folk ritual popular in Guangdong and Hong Kong. The custom is practiced during the Awakening of Insects to expel the "villain" and to bring good luck. People often assign a specific "witch" (usually an elderly woman) to "beat the villains". They use paper cut in the shape of humans to represent "villains" in their lives and the "witch" would use shoes or other tools to hit the paper to expel bad luck.
In Hong Kong, the Swan neck bridge between Causeway Bay and Wan Chai has become a popular place for people to beat villains.
5) Eating pears
Eating pears around the Awakening of Insects is a widely-practiced custom in China. As the weather gets warmer and the air becomes dry, people tend to feel their mouths are parched and tongues dry, which can cause colds or coughs. A pear is sweet, juicy and cold, moistening the lungs to arrest a cough. Therefore, pears are highly recommended during the Awakening of Insects.