According to traditional Chinese solar terms, the summer solstice on June 21 marks the turning point in the balance of yin and yang elements on earth.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice solar term (June 21–July 6) is when the days slowly grow shorter and the nights longer. Although heat from the summer sun is still building up and the earth is getting warmer, the season has begun to shift, and yin energy is now building.
A plant called the crow-dipper, native to China, Japan, and Korea, exemplifies this emerging yin phenomenon. This poisonous medicinal plant grows in wet and shady environments, and it only starts to grow after Summer Solstice—a time when most plants are already peaking.
Kennin-ji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, Japan, holds an annual flower festival for the crow-dipper to mark the change in the balance of yin and yang.
Another manifestation of increasing yin during this time concerns the common deer. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), deer are classified as yang in nature because their horns grow forward.
As the yin energy becomes stronger from Summer Solstice onward, deer begin to shed their horns. Elk and moose, on the other hand, are considered yin, as their horns grow slanted and toward the back. Elk shed their horns when the yang energy is growing stronger, in the winter.
In Chinese history, the Summer Solstice was considered a public holiday. Everyone got time off for one to three days. During the Liao Dynasty, women would give each other colorful fans and aromatic pouches filled with fragrant herbs. They used the fans to repel the heat, and the herbal pouches to repel insects and cover up bad odors.
Living in Harmony with ‘Summer Solstice’
TCM doctors say that when the yang energy reaches the extreme, it is a good time to treat winter diseases. Since winter diseases tend to appear when one’s yang energy dips to its lowest point, one can draw on the abundant yang energy of summer to try to reverse the disease in advance of the coming winter.
In TCM, the roots of winter diseases are often treated by identifying the proper acupuncture points, or by using the correct herbs to push the disease out of the body. This is especially helpful for those with a weak respiratory system, weak digestive system, or joint problems.
Traditionally, it is considered a good idea to visit a reputable TCM doctor during this time, especially if you experienced health problems during the recent winter. Many Chinese people go for a checkup at this time of year.
For those who were healthy and happy last winter but are still having trouble adjusting to the summer heat, you can practice “earthing” or “grounding.”
This involves walking with bare feet in nature, or gently pressing the ground with the palms of the hands. For maximum benefit, wear only natural fabrics.