The “Con­duc­tor’s Ba­ton” of Daily Life

China Scenic - - Feature -

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

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