Li Chun marks the end of winter and the start of spring
(Image: Original source unknown, edited by Harry Leong)
Li Chun (立春 start of spring) is the first day of the Chinese solar new year and marks the end of winter and the official arrival of spring. The day is not necessarily characterized by warm spring weather, but refers to the beginning signs of spring when the winter snow and ice start to thaw and melt. This day usually falls on February 4th or 5th of the Western Gregorian calendar.
Many uninformed people might not know that there is a Chinese solar calendar. This is probably due to the fact that the first day of the lunar new year (lunar new year's day) is taken to officially celebrate the Chinese New Year. Because of this, many people mistakenly assume that the traditional Chinese calendar is solely a lunar based calendar.
In actuality, the traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar. In other words, it combines elements of both the lunar and solar calendars. While the lunar calendar is based on the changing phases of the moon, the solar calendar is based on the division of the entire year separated into 24 periods called the Twenty-four Solar Terms (二十四節氣 Ershisi Jieqi). These solar terms are used in conjunction with the lunar phases to make up the traditional Chinese calendar. Li Chun is the first day of the first solar term (for a more in-depth article about the Twenty-four solar terms, please click here).
In Chinese astrology, it is believed that if a lunar new year does not include the solar new year’s day (in other words, the lunar new year’s day does not come before Li Chun, the first day of the solar new year), it foretells an inauspicious year. This is called a “Year without spring” (無春年 wuchun nian) in northern
or a “Blind year” (盲年 mangnian) in southern China. It is especially considered a
bad year for marriages and is also known as a “Widow’s year” (寡婦年 guafu nian).
If the lunar new year does include the solar new year’s day (in other words, the lunar new year’s day arrives before Li Chun, the first day of the solar new year), then the year will be fine.
So for example, in the Year of the Monkey in 2016, the lunar new year arrived on Feb 8th, but the solar new year (Li Chun) arrived earlier on Feb 4th, so the lunar new year did not include the solar new year’s day. That means the year will perhaps be a year of obstacles, and is not recommended for marriages.
Text © 2016 Harry Leong