Solar Term: Minor Cold

Editor:Amanda Wu
Source:Women of China


Xiaohan, also known as Minor Cold, is the 23rd solar term of the Chinese lunar calendar. It usually begins around January 5 and ends around January 20. In most areas of China, the solar term marks the start of the coldest time of the year. 

This year, the first day of Xiaohan coincides with Laba Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month. It's customary on this day to eat Laba congee, also known as eight treasure porridge. The dish is usually made from at least eight ingredients, representing people's prayers for the harvest, happiness and peace. 

Traditional Customs

Making 'Jiujiuxiaohantu'

Since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), at this time many people like to make a special type of chart called jiujiuxiaohantu, which helps them get through the cold days. The chart shows a picture of a plum tree with nine blossoms, each with nine uncolored petals. Or, it can be a grid of nine Chinese words, each with nine strokes. 

The practice of making a jiujiuxiaohantu properly starts with the first day of Winter Solstice and lasts throughout the nine nine-day periods that follow. From the first day, people draw one petal or stroke every day until it is finished. As Xiaohan takes place during the third nine-day period of the coldest days, people usually link the custom to this solar term.

Eating Vegetable Rice

During this period, it is customary for people in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, to eat rice steamed with various ingredients, such as aijiaohuang (a kind of green vegetable), sausage, salted duck and fresh ginger.

Eating Glutinous Rice

In Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, during this period people have a tradition of eating glutinous rice in the morning, combined with ingredients such as fried pork, sausage, peanuts and green onions.

Eating 'Huangyacai'

During this period, there is also a tradition of having huangyacai, a kind of Chinese cabbage, in north China's Tianjin. After Winter Solstice, locals take the vegetables, cut off the stem leaves and store the hearts. A couple of weeks later, yellow sprouts grow in the hearts and look fresh, thus giving rise to its name. When it is fresh and tender, people fry, roast or braise it to make a tasty dish.

January 5, 2017