Noteable dates in the Chinese calendar: June 2023 Edition

Summer is here in the capital! This month there are four noteworthy dates for your diary: Children’s Day on the 1st, ‘Grain in Ear’ on the 6th, Dragon Boat Festival on the 14th and Summer Solstice on the 21st.

Read on to find out more about these special days!

Children’s Day (June 1st)

Established in 1925 in Geneva during the World Conference on Child Welfare, Children’s Day (儿童节 Értóng jié) is now widely celebrated around the world. In China, as in many current or former Communist countries, it is celebrated on June 1st every year. On this day, children might not go to school, or the school will put on fun activities for them, and some shops, restaurants and tourist attractions hold promotions or special events.  Unfortunately, apart from some civil servants, it’s not a day off for parents!

Grain in Ear (June 6th)

‘Grain in Ear’ (芒种 Mángzhòng) is the ninth solar term of the year and is a very busy time for farmers. Why the strange name? Well in Chinese the phrase means that the grain crops are ripening and will soon be ready for harvest. During this solar term in Anhui new wheat flour was traditionally used to make dough into the shapes of grains, vegetables and animals. This would be dyed with different coloured vegetable juices and used as a sacrifice to pray for a good harvest  and the safety of the villagers. In Guizhou, the Dong people held mud wrestling matches during Grain in Ear. On this day newlyweds and their good friends would plant rice together. While planting, they threw mud at each other. At the end whoever had the most mud on them could say they were the most popular person!

Dragon Boat Festival (June 22nd)

The dragon boat festival (端午节 Duān wǔ jié) is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. Although in different areas of the country the festival commemorates several different characters from ancient China, with all the stories involving water, the most common origin story is that the festival commemorates Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), a poet and politician.

One of the greatest collections of ancient Chinese poetry, the Chu Ci (楚辭) is made up of works written by him or inspired by Qu Yuan. He was a high-ranking minister in the government of the State of Chu, but later in life began to feel depressed by political events and eventually drowned himself in the Miluo River (in present-day Hebei).

According to legend, the locals rushed over in their boats to try to save Qu Yuan but they were too late. They threw sticky rice into the water and beat their oars on the water to try to keep the fish away from the body. Later, Qu Yuan appeared in a dream to his friends, and told them to wrap rice in silk parcels with three corners.

From these events we get dragon boat racing and zongzi (粽子 zòngzi), which are bundles of sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, and stem from the sticky rice thrown into the water.

Zongzi can be sweet or savoury and are cooked by steaming or boiling

Wooden dragon boats are long, thin canoes with a head shaped like a Chinese dragon. Boat size varies by region but usually boats are 20–35 meters in length with 30–60 rowers. During races, dragon boat rowers are accompanied by a drummer to help them stay in sync. It is said that the winning team will have good luck in the following year.

The connection to dragons may come from the proximity of the festival to the summer solstice. Because the sun represents yang or male energy (with the moon representing yin or female energy) the peak of ‘male energy’ comes at the summer solstice. In China, the dragon represents male energy.

Summer Solstice (June 21st)

Summer Solstice (xià zhì 夏至) is the fourth solar term of the summer, and the longest day of the year (almost 17 hours long in Mohe, China’s most northerly city). There’s a saying: “eat dumplings on the winter solstice and eat noodles on the summer solstice” and in different parts of China, different types of noodles are eaten. After the solstice, some people might start eating more bitter food, as in Traditional Chinese Medicine this is said to cool the body.

Will you be celebrating any of these this month? Let us know in the comments below. We always love hearing your thoughts and insights! 

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– Cultural Keys

Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts and insights on traditional Chinese culture! 

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