The “Conductor’s Baton” of Daily Life
In Historicalrecord , the author Sima Qian described the official ceremonial etiquette of the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC–8 AD). One such custom is that at the beginning of the first month of lunar year, the members of the court would gather at Ganquan Palace to worship Taiyi, a folk god of the Han Chinese. The ceremony would begin at dusk, and convene at dawn. Throughout the ceremony, comets could often be seen in the sky above the outdoor altar.
There are also sacrificial events in the other seasons, and each time a chorus consisting of seventy young boys and girls would be present, singing different songs depending on the season: Songof Sunlight for spring, Crimsonsun for summer, Song ofthewest for autumn, and Songofblackness for winter.
Sima Qian only mentioned the titles of these four songs, not recording the details as they were prevalent in society. Although the original lyrics of these widespread songs of the four seasons were recorded word for word in Thebookofhan by Eastern Han (25–220) historian Ban Gu, to Chinese people today the songs are all but obsolete. However, from a cultural perspective, the songs of the four seasons have by no means been lost, as the 24 solar terms are just like an unending song, accompanying the Chinese as they pass through the changing seasons of the year. And with the 24 solar terms as a sort of “conductor’s baton” to guide the people, life takes on the rhythm of a poem, its choruses repeating time after time.
At the same time, some people may retort that, under the impact of modern industrialized civilization, the 24 solar terms have long since lost their significance in guiding daily life. Greenhouse agriculture has created new conditions for producing crops, so that summer and winter have been reversed. We can even eat any kind of out-of-season produce any