冬 至

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文 / 张成熠

2018 年 12 月 22日是中国二十四节气之一的冬至日。

约莫三千年前,政治家、教育家和思想家周公,用石盘与石针制成的土圭测量出了“天下之中”。自此以后,中国古代天文学者通过对太阳轨迹的长期观察,将太阳运行周期二十四等分,形成了可以衡量季节交替的节气系统,成为中国农耕的重要指引。

冬至是中国二十四节气中的第二十二个,是北半球昼极短夜极长之日。这一天,地球运行在近日点附近,太阳正好直射南回归线。由于地球围绕太阳运行一周(一个太阳年)的实际时间为 365天5 小时 48 分多钟,故冬至日的时间会有所变动,一般在 12 月 21-23日之间,也称为“活节”。冬至日一过,太阳北回,北半球从此日照增加,阴气由极盛转衰;阳气由极衰开始复苏。阳气增长,此称“一阳升”。因此,冬至之时万物复苏,新年伊始,古人称之为“亚年”——这一称谓也从侧面反映了冬至在二十四节气中的重要性。

中国古人将冬至分为三候:“一候蚯蚓结,又五日麋角解,又五日水泉动。”冬至之日,如前文所提,阴气盛至极点。蚯蚓,如老祖宗所说,

among all 24 so­lar terms.

Phenol­ogy is the study of the pe­ri­odic change of liv­ing or­gan­ism’s re­sponse to sea­sonal changes. The Win­ter Sol­stice con­sti­tutes one of three ma­jor phe­no­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non— tra­di­tion­ally, it causes the earth­worms ag­glom­er­ate, five days later the elks slough their antlers, and ten days later the springs and brooks start to flow.

On the day of Win­ter Sol­stice, YIN reaches its max­i­mum, as we’ve men­tioned be­fore. Earth­worms, as our an­ces­tors said to be, are an­i­mals that curl in dark­ness and ex­tend out­ward in bright­ness. As a re­sult, at the Win­ter Sol­stice, earth­worms re­main ag­glom­er­ated in the soil. Five days af­ter Win­ter Sol­stice, the rise in YANG be­comes no­tice­able. Elks, with their antlers point­ing back­ward, are con­sid­ered to be an­i­mals that pre­fer dark­ness to bright­ness. Con­se­quently, five days af­ter the Win­ter Sol­stice, elks slough their antlers in re­sponse to the de­clin­ing YIN. Ten days af­ter Win­ter Sol­stice, the rise in YANG be­comes more in­flu­en­tial. Springs, which were frozen in pre­vi­ous sea­sons, start to melt now. The streams mur­mur and the wa­ter it holds is com­fort­ably warm in­stead of freez­ing cold, and other liv­ing things can then be­gin to sprout and grow.

As the say­ing goes, “Win­ter Sol­stice is as im­por­tant as New Year.” In­deed, Win­ter Sol­stice was one of the most im­por­tant so­lar terms among all 24. The tra­di­tion of pray­ing on Win­ter Sol­stice has been es­tab­lished since the Zhou Dy­nasty ( 1046 BC–256 BC). Pray­ing at Win­ter Sol­stice is be­lieved to be ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing famine, epi­demics, and the over­all death rate. In the Han Dy­nasty (202 BC–220), Win­ter Sol­stice is cel­e­brated with a day off and a na­tional- scale con­cert for cel­e­brat­ing the new cy­cle. In the Tang Dy­nasty (618 – 907), peo­ple bought new clothes, threw feasts, and hon­ored their an­ces­tors at the Win­ter Sol­stice.

Nowa­days, Win­ter Sol­stice is cel­e­brated less grandly, for Chi­nese tra­di­tions are di­luted with all those fas­ci­nat­ing western cel­e­bra­tions. Still, tra­di­tional cui­sine keeps on re­mind­ing us of this once- in- a- year cel­e­bra­tion. In Gusu, Suzhou, lo­cal peo­ple brew “win­ter- brewed wine,” a rice- based wine with the fra­grance of os­man­thus flower— they sip the wine gen­tly at the night of Win­ter Sol­stice. In North­ern China, it is a longheld tra­di­tion to eat dumplings at the Win­ter Sol­stice, be­cause two thou­sand years ago, Zhang Zhongjing, the saint of medicine, used th­ese ear- shaped, warm, de­li­cious morsels to cure the frozen ear symp­toms of res­i­dents on the Win­ter Sol­stice Day. In South­ern China, peo­ple eat red bean sticky rice stew to pre­vent fright­en­ing phan­toms from haunt­ing them.

The 22nd of De­cem­ber might be an or­di­nary Satur­day for some, since many Chi­nese now no longer lead an agri­cul­ture­based life, and the so­lar terms are less in­dis­pens­able to our lives. How­ever, as the in­her­i­tors of a cul­ture with thou­sands of years of his­tory, it’s still quite pleas­ant and en­joy­able for us to have a bowl of hot dumplings or some red bean sticky rice to­gether with the fam­ily on the day of Win­ter Sol­stice, just as what Western­ers do on Christ­mas Eve.

是阴曲阳伸的生物。所以,此日蚯蚓仍虬结于土中。冬至五日之后,阳气渐生。麋、鹿同源,而麋因其角向后生长,被古人认为趋阴避阳。因此,冬至五日后,麋感到阴气渐退而解其角。冬至十日之后,阳气更盛。封冻的山泉开始流动。至此,山泉潺潺,而且温热,万物才可萌发生长。

俗语有云,冬至大如年。 各地皆有过冬至的习俗自周朝 (前1046—前 256)起,人们在冬至日祭祀,以求消灾、减免瘟疫饥荒以及延缓死亡。在汉代(前202—公元 220),人们会在冬至日休息一天,举国上下鼓瑟吹笙,以表庆祝。在唐朝(618— 907),人们会在冬至日置办新衣,大摆宴席,祭祀先祖。

如今,冬至日的盛况不复从前,中国的传统习俗已被花哨的、吸引人的西方节日冲淡了不少。尽管如此,冬至的传统佳肴依然令人思念和向往。 在苏州,人们会酿“冬酿酒”,把桂花加在米酒中酿成香醇美酒。冬至日开坛,小酌几杯,酒香、桂香满屋。在中国北方,饺子是冬至日的传统食物。相传医圣张仲景在冬至那天用暖暖和和的“娇耳”(饺子)缓解了当地居民的冻耳朵症状;而后,娇耳演化为如今家喻户晓的饺子。在中国南方,人们会吃赤豆糯米饭来消灾避邪。

2018 年 12 月 22 日,一个普通的星期六。作为继承着已传承了千年之久的文化精髓的一代人,在凛冬已至之时吃一碗热乎乎的饺子或红豆糯米饭,图一个亲人相聚的时刻,像西方过圣诞那样,也是一种惬意和享受。

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