October 21 marked the end of autumn in Beijing and as the day progressed from morning into afternoon, a temperature drop was palpable. In celebration of the advent of the new seasonal solar term – Frost Descent - parents and students descended upon Courtyard 27 in Beijing’s hutongs as part of Keystone’s traditional cultural exploration series.
Citing poems out of the Book of Songs describing seasonal hallmarks in nature, guest speaker Professor Dong Mei explained how Frost Descent marks the start of winter’s colder and shorter days bringing about changes we can detect and experience in our emotions, cultural expressions, literature and natural surroundings.
Professor Dong Mei, Associate Professor at the School of Humanities, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, went on to delve more deeply into the Chinese system of the 24 solar terms and the deep well of knowledge encapsulated in it. “By interpreting this natural cycle and the ancient calendars,” she said, ”we return to nature, and find the key to better understanding Chinese literary traditions and Eastern philosophy.”
Many early civilizations existed by the laws of nature and the norms and practices constructed around them. The ancient Chinese lived in harmony with the changing seasons also known as the 24 solar terms and 72 pentads (five-day intervals). This system helped the Chinese manage their lives on the basis of seasonal variations, and farm based on celestial movements and events.
The 24 solar terms were not only a way of life, but also a way of knowing life. This is evident in China’s rich language and literature that has been inspired beyond measure by nature and its extraordinary beauty.
Traditional music performances on pipa, kuqin and flute followed Professor Dong Mei’s presentation after which the students and their parents scattered across Courtyard 27 to participate in seasonal workshops like flower arrangements, spice bag filling, dessert making, fabric tie dyeing, and tea tasting. The event culminated in a grand firework finale properly launching us all into Beijing winter.