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February 17, 2017

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A time of rain and local family traditions

RAIN Water, or yushui, is the second of the 24 solar terms used in Chinese tradition. As its name implies, this term bodes for an increase in rain starting around late February.

As indicated by a Chinese proverb, there are also “three periods of waiting” that signal the arrival of Rain Water — waiting for otters to display fish on the shore, waiting for wild geese to fly from south to north, and waiting for sprouts to open in the spring rain.

Rain Water, which falls tomorrow this year, is welcomed across rural regions of China as rainfalls brought during this solar term will help crops grow later.

But while spring rains can revive and restore, they can also create sickness and discomfort for those who aren’t prepared.

Even though temperatures generally rise around the time of Rain Water, people should not put away their warm clothes too soon. Unexpected temperature changes this time of year can cause colds or aggravation conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and asthma.

With pathogenic germs and viruses reactivating in the warming weather, it is also important to stay alert of various infectious diseases.

Protecting the spleen (digestive system) while dispelling pathogenic dampness is a major principle for health maintenance during Rain Water, according to adherents of traditional Chinese medicine.

A balanced diet featuring fresh seasonal vegetables is highly recommended. Dampness-dispelling foods like yams, millet, carrots and crucian carp can also help protect the digestive system in this season.

In most Chinese regions, yushui marks the start of a new season in the agricultural cycle. In parts of Sichuan Province though, it features some local traditions involving family.

La baobao 拉保保

The custom (literally “grab a godfather”) has been practiced in the province since ancient times. On the day of Rain Water, parents planning to get their child a godfather will prepare food, wine, incense and candles in a basket. They then walk along the streets, searching for an ideal candidate.

Parents who want their children to become knowledgeable usually target scholarly-looking men, while those with smaller, more frail children might keep their eyes on strong-looking passersby.

Once they located a target, the parents will simply approach the man and ask him to be the godfather. If the target agrees, there will be a simple ceremony with a dinner and incense burning. There are cases of frequent contact between godfathers and families after the ceremony. It is also considered acceptable if the godfather never visits again. After all, this custom is just about drumming up good luck for one’s child, rather than recruiting an actual potential guardian.

Jie shou 借寿

Another local Sichuan custom practiced during Rain Water is jieshou (or “extend life”). This is an important tradition, especially among newly-weds, and involves visiting a wife’s parents on the day of Rain Water.

A long piece of red cloth is an essential gift for parents on the day, as it is meant to symbolize an extension of their lifespan. Another traditional gift on the day is homemade guanguan rou (potted preserved pork), which is a famous food in Sichuan Province.

In return, parents-in-law will present their son-in-law with an umbrella as a gift, symbolizing their wish of sheltering him in all difficulties.


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