Bi Xuling

  ◆The term "autumn equinox" has two meanings, one refers to the equal division of autumn, and the other refers to the equal division of day and night.

  ◆The Autumn Equinox is not only an important agricultural solar term for autumn newspapers, but also develops the connotation of celestial worship with the theme of loving life, and also shows the efforts of the ancient Chinese to construct social order in accordance with the seasons.

In the connotation of such solar terms, we fully understand the ancient Chinese people's respect for nature and their love for life.

  The autumnal equinox is one of the four solar terms with the same name as the spring equinox, summer solstice and winter solstice. It is the 16th solar term of the twenty-four solar terms and the fourth solar term in autumn.

The word "autumn equinox" has two meanings, one refers to the equal division of autumn, that is to say, by the time of the autumnal equinox, the autumn is half over; the other refers to the equal division of day and night, at this time the sun travels on the ecliptic and reaches the ecliptic longitude of 180°, and the sun's rays almost hit the equator directly. , day and night are equal in most parts of the earth.

  The ancestors of China had a long understanding of the solar terms of the autumn equinox. The "Book of History Yao Dian" records the myth of Emperor Yao's respect for the people, saying: Yao dispatched four members of the Xi family and the He family, who were in charge of the astronomical calendar for generations, respectively. They went to observe the celestial phenomena in the four directions of the south, south, and northwest to formulate the calendar. They found the midpoint of the four seasons as the basic time point for formulating the calendar.

The mid-autumn mid-autumn (autumn equinox) is characterized by the "empty star in the night", that is, the length of day and night is equal, and the virtual star appears in the sky due south at dusk.

In the pre-Qin period, the ancients not only recognized the characteristics of the autumnal equinox being equally divided between day and night, but also summed up the astronomical and phenological characteristics of the autumnal equinox: "It is the moon (the mid-autumn moon) that also divides day and night, the thunder begins to close, and the stinging insects Bad households, the murderous energy is flooded, the yang energy is declining, and the water begins to dry up” (“Book of Rites, Yueling”) When the autumn equinox is reached, there is basically no sound of thunder, and the dormant insects build soil around the cave. The water began to dry up.

  The autumnal equinox is a solar term with complex connotations, involving many aspects of agriculture, astronomy, and human affairs.

  Gratitude to nature's autumn newspaper

  The autumn equinox is first and foremost a very important agricultural solar term.

  On the one hand, "everything is born from the vernal equinox and is formed from the autumnal equinox" ("Wenzi Shangren"), the autumnal equinox is the harvest season for most crops, such as rice, corn, sorghum, soybeans and sweet potatoes in the Northeast region. On the other hand, the autumn equinox is also the sowing time of winter wheat and other crops. There is a proverb in North China: "The white dew is early, the cold dew is late, and the autumn equinox is the time to plant wheat."

The temperature in the white dew season is often higher than 20 ℃. Planting wheat at this time will cause the leaves and stems of the wheat seedlings to be too lush before winter, and they are prone to freezing damage during winter.

In the cold dew season, the temperature is often lower than 10°C. Planting at this time will cause the wheat seedlings to be thin and weak before winter, which is neither able to accumulate nutrients nor conducive to turning green; at the same time, the autumn equinox is also the key moment for the double-season late rice heading and flowering in many places in the south, which determines whether it can be high-yield. , need to step up field management.

Therefore, there is a farmer's saying: "Summer is busy for half a month, and autumn is busy for forty days."

  The ancients who experienced spring ploughing and summer cultivation, ushered in a bumper agricultural harvest around the autumnal equinox.

In order to appreciate the gift of nature, they held a grand ceremony to worship the god of earth (the god of the shrine) and the god of grain (the god of rice), called "autumn society".

The Autumn Society and the Spring Society are symmetrical. When the spring ploughing began, the ancients prayed to the God of Land and the God of Grain for a good harvest.

The two ceremonies are collectively referred to as "Spring Prayers for Autumn", "Spring Prayers for Autumn", "Spring and Autumn Prayers" and so on, which have a long history.

The "Liang Si" in the "Book of Songs" is a record of the rituals of the Autumn Society. Among them are the descriptions of the harvest scene such as "it is worshipped like Yong, and it is like Chou. With the opening of a hundred rooms, a hundred rooms are full", and there are also "killing". Shi Qianmu has its own horns. It is a description of the traditional customs of preparing sacrifices for sacrifice.

The Autumn Society is usually held on the fifth E-day after the Beginning of Autumn.

The ancients used the combination of ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches to keep track of the days.

The fifth E-day after the beginning of autumn is at least fifty days apart from the beginning of autumn. It is around the autumnal equinox. Therefore, the autumn club has become an important part of the autumn equinox solar term activities. In some places, the autumn club is even held on the autumnal equinox.

  The traditional autumn society is divided into two types: official society and civilian society, the latter is also called "li society".

Guanshe is the official sacrifice to the God of Sheji, and its ceremonies are standardized and solemn.

The flexible and lively civil society not only expresses the people's gratitude to nature when they are happy with the harvest, but also is a spontaneous collective entertainment activity to relieve the fatigue of the autumn harvest.

"Tokyo Menghualu·Autumn Society" once traced the situation of the civil society held in Kaifeng, the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty: on the day of the autumn society, the people presented each other with their own cakes and wines.

Dignitaries, royal relatives, etc. make a deluxe version of "bowl rice" made of pork and mutton, kidneys, animal breasts, belly lungs, duck cakes, melon and ginger, etc. - social rice, which is used to entertain guests and serve as offerings .

Married daughters return to their parents' home during the day to save relatives, and at night they often bring new gourds and jujubes presented by their grandfather, aunt and uncle, which are said to bring good luck to their nephews.

Teachers will also charge tuition fees in advance as the fee for the celebration of the autumn club, which is mainly used to hire catering staff and performers to work in the autumn club.

  celestial worship that loves life

  The autumnal equinox is also an important astronomical solar term, and it is an important festival for the ancients to worship the moon and the canopy.

  After the autumn equinox, the night becomes longer, the day becomes shorter, the yin qi rises on the day, and the yang qi gradually gives way to the yin qi. The ancient emperor chose this day to represent the country to hold a ceremony to worship the moon at night, which is called "sunset moon".

"Mandarin·Luyu" contains: "The emperor seldom picks the evening moon." Wei Zhao noted: "The evening moon is on the autumnal equinox... Less picking, and wearing clothes." That is to say, the emperor should wear a specific dress to worship the moon. , that is, a tunic embroidered with a black and white axe pattern.

During Emperor Xuanzong's time, the standard of the emperor's sacrificial ceremony was upgraded from the middle sacrificial to the grand sacrificial; in the Song Dynasty, the western suburbs were determined as the fixed place for the sacrificial ceremony to be held.

Even the minority regimes, Liao and Jin, held ceremonies to sacrifice to the moon.

The ritual of offering sacrifices to the moon on the autumn equinox continued until the Ming and Qing dynasties.

During the Jiajing period of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Sejong ordered the construction of an altar dedicated to the moon, the Xiyue Altar. Since then, the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties have worshipped the moon here on the autumn equinox, which is now the Beijing Moon Altar Park.

  The act of offering sacrifices to the moon originated from the celestial worship of the moon.

For human beings, the moon is the second most important celestial body after the sun, and has had an important impact on the calendar, mathematics, production and life of early human beings.

First of all, the lunar calendar based on the changing laws of the phases of the moon is the earliest calendar in human history.

In this calendar, the day of the new moon (new day, that is, the first day of the first month) and the day of the full moon (watching day, that is, the fifteenth) are clearly visible to the naked eye and become the time points for important ceremonies and celebrations.

Until now, many of our traditional festivals are still held on the fifteenth day of the lunar calendar, such as the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, the Mid-Autumn Festival on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, and the Mid-Autumn Festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month.

Secondly, in the Chinese creation myth, there has long been a myth that Chang Xi, the wife of Emperor Jun of Heaven, gave birth to twelve moons and bathed her moon children ("The Classic of Mountains and Seas: The Great Wild West").

Why did Chang Xi give birth to twelve moons?

This may represent that the ancestors summed up the knowledge that there are twelve months in a year in the law of moon phase changes, and then discovered the twelve-digit number.

Third, the change of the moon's fullness and vacancy will affect the tides, thus affecting the production and life of the ancestors who made a living on the seaside of rivers and lakes.

  However, the ceremony of offering sacrifices to the moon on the autumn equinox did not go deep into the people, but only remained in the royal family.

Because the solar terms belong to the knowledge system of the solar calendar, which reflects the position of the earth's revolution around the sun, and is not necessarily related to the change of the moon phase, so the full moon may not be visible on the autumn equinox.

The behavior of offering sacrifices to the non-full moon was not so satisfactory. Later, the day of the folk sacrifice to the moon was selected on the August viewing day when the full moon could be seen, and finally the custom of offering sacrifices to the moon on August 15 was formed.

  Although you may not be able to see the full moon on the autumn equinox every year, you will definitely be able to see Canopus.

Canopus, the longevity star, scientifically called Alpha Carinae, is the second brightest star in the sky, second only to Sirius, about 640 light-years away from Earth.

Canopus is a quite auspicious star. According to "Historical Records, Tianguan Shu": "The wolf has a big star compared to the ground, called the old man in Antarctica. When the old man sees it, it will be safe; Below Sirius, near the southern horizon, is a large, bright star called Canopus Antarctica.

If Canopus appears, the world will be peaceful and the people will live and work in peace and contentment.

If you can't see Canopus, the world will be in chaos.

  As a celestial body worship, Canopus worship reflects the notion that celestial phenomena influence the rise and fall of the human world.

Canopus was considered to have the ability to control the length of the country's fortunes in the Qin and Han Dynasties, and later the meaning of "shou" was gradually added to its worship.

When Zhang Shoujie, a scholar in the Tang Dynasty, commented on the "Historical Records", he explained: "The old man has one star, in the south of the arc, and the other is in the south pole, which is the main reason for the extension of life. It is often seen in the landscape at the dawn of the autumnal equinox, and seen in the ding at the eve of the spring equinox. See, the country has a long life, so it is called Shouchang, and the world is peaceful; if you don’t see it, the master is worried.” The Tang people believed that Canopus could determine the emperor’s lifespan, and in order to prolong the emperor’s lifespan, warlocks must divination and pray to Canopus.

The Shouxing Temple and the Old Man Temple that worship the old star appeared quite early. According to the "Historical Records Fengchan Book", in the Qin Dynasty, "there were three shrines for the head of the society and the Longevity Temple in Du and Bo".

"Book of the Later Han Dynasty, Chronicle of Etiquette" contains: "The moon of the mid-autumn... Sacrifices the Canopus in the old man's temple in the southern suburbs of the capital." sacrificial ceremony.

Not only did he personally make offerings and read the sacrificial texts, he also arranged a banquet for the ancient and rare old people to attend, and at the same time worshipped the Canopus star in the sky and the long-lived old people in the world.

  Canopus worship reflects the ancient Chinese people's longing for longevity, and expresses their cherishing and love for life.

Longevity is one of the core concepts of the Chinese traditional view of life.

"Shangshu Jiuchou" is said to be the nine great ways that the emperor of heaven gave Dayu to govern the world. The "five blessings" are mentioned as "the first is longevity, the second is wealth, the third is Kang Ning, the fourth is good morality, and the fifth is end of examination. Life".

"Kang Ning" and "Kao Dingming" are both synonyms or synonyms of "Shou".

"Zhuangzi: Heaven and Earth" records the myth of Yao's visit to China.

At that time, the people stationed at the border in Huadi blessed him three times, saying: "Let the sages live... make the sages rich...and make the sages more men." The concept of happiness of many children, "longevity" is also the core of "three more".

  The ritual of worshiping the moon on the autumn equinox based on the worship of the moon and celestial bodies also reflects the ancients' love for life.

The moon changes from new moon to full moon and then disappears, just like the process of human life from infancy to prime age to old age and death.

However, after the moon disappears, it will reappear, showing a cycle of changes that will never be exhausted. Qu Yuan once asked the question, "What is the virtue of the night light, and it will grow again after death" ("Tian Wen"), which means that what characteristics does the moon have that make it die out? grow up again?

Can human life be like the moon and come back from the dead?

Around the ultimate question of life and death, the ancestors began to imagine and think, and they created the myth of the jade rabbit in the moon palace.

The myth of the Jade Rabbit pounding medicine arose as late as before the middle of the Eastern Han Dynasty. The image of the jade rabbit in the middle of the moon holding a pestle and pounding medicine appeared on the portrait stones unearthed in Huaibei, Anhui, Songshan, Henan and other places. The magic medicine is like a wooden side, and the white rabbit kneels long to pound the medicine shrimp.

According to legend, Chang'e also took the medicine of immortality and flew to the Moon Palace. "Yi asked the Queen Mother of the West to take the medicine of immortality. Before she could take it, Yi's wife, Chang'e, stole it and ate it. Sub-Lan Ming Training").

If the immortality of the individual cannot be achieved, can the reproduction of the population be guaranteed?

Therefore, the ancestors created the myth that the toad is the moon spirit, such as "there is a toad in the sun, and there is a toad in the moon" ("Huainanzi Spiritual Training"). figure.

Because toads produce a lot of eggs when they reproduce, they are considered by the ancestors as a symbol of many children. Therefore, ancient women's rituals of worshiping the moon have also arisen, and the important purpose is to pray for the prosperity of their children.

  The construction of order according to the season

  "Autumn has been divided equally, and the moon is still illuminating the mountains and rivers." ("August 15 Night Waiting for the Moon"), the autumn equinox is also a season that shows the ancient Chinese people's construction of social order in accordance with the season.

  The autumnal equinox has the characteristics of equal division of day and night, and the balance of yin and yang. Therefore, the personnel activities during the autumnal equinox must maintain the principle of fairness and reasonableness. Therefore, the ancients chose to check the weights and balances during the autumnal equinox. The same degree, quantity, equal weight, balance, positive balance, stone, gladiatorial, yong." At the autumnal equinox, the unit of length and the unit of volume are checked, so that the scale, weight and scale meet the requirements, so that there is no error in Jun and stone, and so that the bucket and dendrobium meet the standard.

Of course, the measurement of the autumnal equinox is not based on unfounded subjective associations, on the contrary, it is quite scientific.

Because the temperature difference between day and night in the autumn equinox is small, and the temperature is moderate, it is not easy to be affected by the external environment (such as temperature changes) when calibrating weights and measures, so it is more accurate.

  Checking and calibrating weights and measures is of great significance to the ancient society. The ancients regarded the weights and measures system as the basic criterion for weighing all things. "Huainanzi Shi Zexun" said: "The sky is the rope, the earth is the standard, the spring is the rule, the summer is the balance, and the autumn is the rule. , Winter is the right. The rope person, so rope everything. Accurate, so quasi everything. Regulation, so round everything. Balance, so flat everything. Right, so square everything. Power, so right everything. Also.” Only accurate weights and measures can accurately weigh all things, so the act of checking weights and measures on the autumnal equinox is actually helping to establish an order of weights and measures.

  The execution of death row prisoners after the autumnal equinox is also a construction of criminal law order.

The setting of the date of the death penalty in ancient times reflects the notion that the time is right.

The ancients matched the five elements and the four seasons, the classification knowledge system for recognizing the material world, and came to the conclusion that "spring is for wood, wood is for life, summer is for fire, fire is for growth, autumn is for metal, gold is for killing, winter is for water, and water is for water. The conclusion of “Main Collection”, in which “Autumn belongs to gold, and gold is for killing” is an important reason why the ancients chose to carry out the death penalty after the autumn equinox.

"Zuo Zhuan·Xianggong Twenty-six Years" contains: "In ancient times, those who governed the people feared punishment when they persuaded them to reward them. The means, spring and summer are the seasons when all things breed and grow, and are suitable for the implementation of benevolence, while autumn and winter are the time to kill the plants and trees.

In the Zhou Dynasty, the judicial lawsuit was named after Qiu, "it is the beginning of the autumn lawsuit, and the commander of his subordinates is in charge of the state ban, and the king punishes the state" ("Zhou Li·Autumn Lawsuit").

Calling Sikou qiuguan indicates that his duty is a punishment corresponding to the chilling autumn.

The Tang Dynasty stipulated that executed prisoners should be executed after the autumn equinox, and they would not be executed before the autumn equinox, otherwise they would be severely punished. ).

  Not only does the human world execute prisoners after the autumn equinox, it is said that the "God Realm" also holds a party during the autumn equinox to decide the life and death of mortals.

The Song Dynasty Taoist book "Yunji Seven Signs", Volume 15: The ancients used the day of the autumn equinox as the day of the autumn judgment. The order of the people is gathered by many people, and the gods and respects are gathered together." Obviously, the "God Realm" gathering to determine the mortal life and death narrative was affected by the time arrangement of the human criminal law for the execution of death row prisoners after the autumn equinox. An orderly construction that adapts to the seasons.

  The "gold master kill" is actually because after the autumnal equinox, as the direct sunlight point gradually moves southward to the southern hemisphere, the northern hemisphere gets less and less solar radiation, resulting in accelerated heat loss from the ground and a rapid drop in temperature, which is easy to make people feel chilled. Therefore, Qiu Qi is also called murderous Qi.

"Autumn belongs to gold, and gold kills" is only the logic rather than the reason for the execution of death row prisoners after the autumn equinox.

The objective reason is that after the autumn equinox, agricultural activities gradually cease, and the people have free time to "watch" the executions. The government can use this to achieve widespread warnings and crime prevention.

The earliest existing administrative code in our country - "Tang Liu Dian" stipulates: "Everything that resolves and exorcises crime is in the city".

That is to say, the execution of death row prisoners in ancient times was public, and places with a large number of people were specially selected for execution. Beijing's Chaishikou, Xisi Pailou, and Caishikou were all official execution places in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

The Ming Dynasty official Liu Jin was executed by Ling Chi in Xishi. At that time, "all people cheered and celebrated, and children and women also fought with tiles to buy their meat and eat them" ("Zhenze Jiwen").

  In general, the autumnal equinox solar term is not only an important agricultural solar term for autumn newspapers, but also develops the connotation of celestial worship with the theme of loving life, and also shows the efforts of the ancient Chinese to construct social order in accordance with the seasons.

In the above-mentioned connotations of the autumnal equinox and solar terms, we fully understand the ancient Chinese people's respect for nature and their love for life.

  In the contemporary era, because the autumnal equinox is full of fruitful fruits, which can best reflect the joy of harvest in spring and autumn, the State Council has designated the autumnal equinox as the "Chinese Farmers Harvest Festival" since 2018.

The Chinese Farmers Harvest Festival is the first special festival set up for farmers at the national level. It not only continues the tradition of autumn newspapers in the ancient autumn society, but also reflects the Chinese people's feelings of respecting and grateful for nature. It can also serve the contemporary rural revitalization strategy and improve the The sense of honor and happiness of farmers is conducive to the inheritance and promotion of Chinese agricultural civilization.

  (The author is the director of the Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Research Office of the Institute of Literature, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, and the deputy director of the Theoretical Review Committee of the Chinese Folk Writers Association)