Summer is here

Today is the first day of summer here in Pennsylvania, which must mean it is time for a reading from 呂氏春秋 Lüshi Chunqiu LSCQ is best described as a philosophical encyclopedia of the Qin period, probably composed around 239 B.C.E. In part the book is a guide to rulers, and of course Chinese rulers were very interested in the seasons and the changes in the universe since activities in the human world correlated with the patterns of nature and a big part of being ruler was understanding this and taking advantage of this. 1 Apparently our Summer is a bit later than theirs, as the sow-thistle has already blossomed here and the Chinese did not get to the longest day of the year until the second month of summer. Still a good reading if you want to understand Chinese cosmology and rulership.

A. During the first month of summer the sun is located in Net, At dusk the constellation Wings culminates, and at dawn the constellation Serving Maid culminates.
B. The correlates of this month are the days bing and ding, the Sovereign Yan, his assisting spirit Zhurong, creatures that are feathered, the musical notczhi, the pitch-standard Regulator of the Mean, the number seven (the element of human nature ritual propriety, the faculty vision), acrid tastes, burning smells, and the offering at the furnace. At sacrifice, the lungs are given the preeminent position.
C. The small green frogs croak, the earthworms come out, the royal vine develops, and the sow-thistle flowers.
D. The Son of Heaven resides in the left apartment of the Hall of Light. He rides in a chariot of cinnabar-red, pulled by vermilion horses with black tails and bearing vermilion streamers. He is clothed in vermilion robes and wears vermilion jade ornaments. He eats beans accompanied by fowl. His vessels are tall and large.

In this month occurs Establishing Summer. Three days before the cer­emony marking Establishing Summer, the grand historiographer informs the Son of Heaven, saying: “On such-and-such a day begins Establishing Summer. The Power that is flourishing is Fire.” The Son of Heaven then begins his fast. On the day beginning Establishing Summer, the Son of Heaven personally leads the Three Dukes, the Nine Ministers, the feudal lords, and the grand officers in welcoming summer at the southern subur­ban altar. On returning, rewards are distributed, fiefs are given out, con­gratulations and gifts are offered, and everyone is joyful and pleased. He then mandates that the music master should supervise the rehearsal for and the combined performance of ritual ceremonies and music works, that the grand pacifier make known outstanding and remarkable persons, and rec­ommend the unusually worthy and good and those of exceptional stature and size. The conferral of rank and the dispensation of emolument must coincide with the position held.

In this month, things should be encouraged to continue to grow taller and to mature. Do nothing that will cause spoilage or injury. Do not initiate projects involving constructions of earth. Do not send forth large bodies of troops. Do not fell large trees.

In this month, the Son of Heaven begins to dress in thin hemp clothes. He mandates that the foresters go out into the fields and plains to encour­age the farmers and exhort the people; they should not allow anything to miss the season. He mandates that the director of education make a tour of inspection through the counties and border district towns, charging the farmers to exert all efforts and not to evade them by hiding in the cities.

In this month, to prevent injury to the five grains, wild animals are chased away; but there should not be any great hunting expeditions. The farmers then present the new wheat, which the Son of Heaven samples with pork, hav­ing first offered a portion in the apartment at the back of the ancestral temple.

In this month, they collect and store the hundred medicinal herbs. Deli­cate grasses die, and the wheat matures. They decide cases involving light punishments and determine sentences for minor infractions, and they release those incarcerated for slight offenses. When work with the silkworms has been completed, the queen and principal concubines present their cocoons. Then the tithe on cocoons is collected in proportion to the number of mul­berry trees. The tithe is one and the same for noble and mean, young and old, in order that materials might be provided for the robes used in sacri­fices at the suburban altars and in the ancestral temple.

In this month, the Son of Heaven drinks new spirits that have been made to ferment by older spirits, and he observes the ritual ceremonies and musical performances.


With the implementation of these ordinances, the sweet rains arrive in each of the three decades of days. If the ordinances of autumn are imple­mented in the first month of summer, pitiless rains will repeatedly occur, the Five Foods will not mature, and the inhabitants of the four border regions will have to enter fortified areas to seek protection from bandits. If the ordinances of winter are implemented, then the grasses and shrubs will wither early and afterwards there will be great floods that will undermine the inner and outer city walls. If the ordinances of spring are implemented, then locusts will become a plague, violent winds will come in attack, and flowering plants will not bear seeds.

  1. see Sellmann, James D. 2002. Timing and Rulership in Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals (Lüshi chunqiu). Albany: State University of New York Press. 

  2. from Knoblock, John and Jeffrey Riegel. 2000. The Annals of Lü Buwei: A Complete Translation and Study. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 

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