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Summer Solstice, the middle of the fifth lunar month. Ancient Style and Modern Rhyme states: Summer is to grow until the extreme. Everything in the world grows to its extreme during this time period.

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#10 Summer Solstice

Hear the frogs croak.

Three Pentads: deer antlers are shed, cicadas start to sing, pinellia ternata starts to sprout.
In Season: mung beans, loofahs, mangos, leeches, bamboo shoots.
Health Maintenance: disperse heat, eat more bitter food, promote mental health.

Song of Bamboo Twigs lyrics states, “The willows are green, and the river is placid. I hear my lover singing on the river. The sun rises from the east while it rains in the west. Though they say the sun is absent, to me, it is present.” It seems to have imprinted our youthful memories in this season. The summer solstice is full of children’s laughter and the sweet and sour of youth. Summer is often a tug-of-war of youthful love, the uncertainty of love, unpretentious and pretentious behaviors, and other poignant memories. We often only understand how precious the pure love of youth is after we have grown up. Then we understand how to ponder and savor the bittersweet. This is the period for us to pay tribute to our youth and, along with the singing cicadas, rearouse our kids at heart with our shouts.


The Burning of Song Ming Tower

In the Tang Dynasty, there were six tribes in Yunnan, called Liu Zhao. The king of Nanzhao was cunning and wished to overtake the five other countries, so he came up with a plan to set the Song Ming Tower on fire. The Song Ming Tower is a castle built with pine wood. The tower was ordered to be built by the king of Nanzhao in order to hold a festival for the other five kings. The queen of Tengtanzhao – Lady Baijie – recognized this as a conspiracy. However, the king insisted on going to the festival, so she gave him an iron bracelet as a talisman. Unsurprisingly, having feasted on delicious food and wine, the kings became drunk. The king of Nanzhao took the opportunity to exit the tower and threw a torch into the Song Ming Tower. In an instant, the fire engulfed the sky, covered the earth, and swallowed the entire tower like a raging wave.

When Lady Baijie heard this, she traveled to Songming Tower overnight. In the ashes, she found the iron bracelet she gave to her husband and wailed. The king of Nanzhao had heard of Lady Baijie’s beauty and character, and when he saw her, he felt like he discovered treasure and wanted to marry her and make her his. However, Lady Bai Jie said, “I will never marry a second man.” Then, she threw herself into the water and ended her life.


The Jade Emperor Set the Mortal Realm Ablaze

In ancient times, the Jade Emperor was deeply afraid that the turbid air of the mortal realm would pollute the heavenly palace, so he ordered the palace gate to be deeply closed. Having seen all the beautiful sceneries of heaven, the Jade Emperor glanced and saw the beautiful sceneries of the mortal realm. The beautiful rivers that wander through the land and the magnificent mountains that seem to be carved by the gods were comparable to the sceneries of heaven. Unwilling to allow anything to be comparable to heaven, the Jade Emperor ordered the god of fire to descend to the mortal realm and burn everything.

However, the god of fire once roamed the mortal realm and felt that the world was good and the people were kind, so he lied to the Jade Emperor and claimed he had burned the mortal realm. When the Jade Emperor realized that nothing happened to the mortal realm, he was furious and executed the god of fire. Coincidentally, a drop of his blood happened to fall on a temple in the mortal realm. On the evening of the summer solstice when the peasants were returning home after farming, they saw a little child that ran out of the temple and said to everyone he saw, “The Jade Emperor is going to set the mortal realm ablaze tonight. Quickly go home, prepare a torch, and keep it burning for three days and three nights. The bigger the flame the better!” The kind-hearted peasants were convinced and lit fires in front of their houses. This was when the Jade Emperor happened to glance and see that the ground was on fire, so he returned to the heavenly palace and was pleased and immersed in the illusion of victory.


Unsullied from the Mud – Yuji of the West Lake

Yuji was the maid of the Holy Mother. She had seen all the precious and rare treasures of heaven and felt that her life was boring. One day, she glanced and saw the endless splendor of the mortal realm. People cherished each other and were in pairs. One day when the Holy Mother was not paying attention to her, Yuji snuck down into the mortal realm and arrived at the West Lake. However, the beautiful scenery of the West Lake made Yuji linger and forgot to return to the heavenly palace. The Holy Mother was enraged and threw Yuji into the bottom of the West Lake, causing her to get stuck in the mud at the bottom of the lake. Just like how the saying goes, “Lotuses spring from mud yet remains unsullied. They bathe in clear water yet are not bewitching.” In the end, Yuji incarnated into the god of lotus. Her noble and pure essence not only made the West Lake more beautiful but also inspired hundreds of generations of literati poets to create countless elegant odes.


Farmers busy picking lotuses

The summer solstice is not only a busy time for farming but also the time to harvest the ripe wheats. The fields are very lively.

A scene of lotus picking


The Summer Solstice – the Flying Fish Season

The summer solstice is also the time to harvest flying fish roes.


Innocent Playmates and Lotus Appreciation on the Summer Solstice

During the Tang Dynasty in southern China, there was a scholarly family surnamed Chao. They had a daughter called Chao Cai who was beautiful and had talent comparable to Yongxu (talented in writing poetry). She had a childhood friend called Wen Mao, and their relationship was pretentious and cordial. After they became adults, the two cannot see each other often because of the etiquette to avoid close contact between men and women. Chao Cai missed Wen Mao, so she picked ten lotus seeds from the lotus pond, wrapped them in cloth, and had her maid deliver them to Wen Mao. After chewing the seeds slowly, Wen Mao, who was astute, came to the realization that “April showers bring May flowers.” As he danced in realization, he flicked one of the seeds into the small pond of his house. Not long after, the lotus took root and a bingdi lotus (lotus with two flowers on a single stalk) bloomed.

Chao Cai’s mother was also a scholar and was sympathetic to her child’s feelings, so she put aside her prejudice and allowed Wen Mao to marry her daughter. Coincidentally, the day of marriage was on the day of the summer solstice, and the pond of lotus also bloomed on that day like fireworks on the water. Therefore, to commemorate this beautiful marriage, future generations will appreciate and pick lotus on the day of the summer solstice.