1st Month of Spring

  1. In the first month of spring, the tail of the Great Bear points to the east.
  2. Spring occupies the east. The fullness of power is in Wood.[i] Its will of life is anger, its power birth and its virtue benevolence.
  3. The correspondences of this month are the days jia and yi, the Sovereign Taihao, his assisting spirit Goumang, the creatures that are scaly, the musical note jue, the pitch-pipe known as Great Budding, the number eight, the taste of sour, the smell of rancid, and the sound of shout. The domestic animal is the goat; the weapon is the spear.
  4. Sacrifices are made to the spirits of the door; in sacrifice, the spleen is offered first.
  5. The trigram of the east is Chên, Thunder. “The Arousing is decisive and vehement, it is bamboo that is green and young, it is reed and rush[ii]…All living things come forth in the Arousing.”[iii]
  6. In the period of Beginning of Spring, the East Wind liberates the land from icy fetters. Dormant creatures and insects begin to stir. The fish rise up and rub their backs against the ice.
  7. In the period of Rain Water, otters sacrifice fish. The migrating geese head northward again and vegetation emerges.[iv]
  8. The Son of Heaven is the Lake Sturgeon.[v] He wears blue-green robes and azure jade pendants. He rides in a chariot pulled by blue-green dragons and flies an azure banner. He resides in the chambers of the east. He drinks waters gathered from the eight winds and cooks with fires kindled with fern stalks. His dishes are open, resembling the unfolding of the plants[vi]; from them, he eats wheat[vii] and mutton.
  9.  His consorts also wear blue-green garments and play upon lutes, zithers and fiddles[viii].
  10. On the first day of spring[ix], the Son of Heaven leads the ceremony known as “Establishing the Spring’ at the eastern altar. He also rewards his leaders so that these favors may spread out to all the people. Moreover, he orders the Observer of the Heavens to carefully observe and record the movements of everything above, so that all below may be in harmony with it.
  11. At this time, the Son of Heaven also leads the ritual of opening the earth so that it may receive the five grains. Prayers are offered for a good harvest. After this ritual, he returns to the palace and offers his leaders wine for their labors.
  12. In this first month of spring, the qi of Heaven descends, the qi of Earth ascends. Heaven and Earth harmoniously join and the Green Nation[x] begins to sprout and grow.[xi] The hexagram of this month is T’ai (Peace). “Thus the ruler divides and completes the course of heaven and earth, and so aids the people.[xii]
  13.  In this month of renewal and birth, the task of all people is to nurture life. The newly born and young of the ten thousand beings are protected from all harm. The remains of the winter season are cleared away so that only life is visible. This furtherance of life can only happen if impartiality is honored. “The world does not belong to one person; it belongs to the whole world. The harmony of the Yin and Yang forces does not favor growth in only one species of thing, the sweet dews and seasonable rains are not partial to one thing, and so the ruler of the myriad people does not show favoritism towards a single individual.”[xiii]
  14. In this month, the Son of Heaven orders the people to make sacrifices and offerings to the mountains and forests, the great lakes and rivers. He prohibits large gatherings of warriors and the instigation of war.
  15. If in this first month of spring, the rituals of summer were enacted, unseasonable winds and rain would come, withering the young plants and creating anxiety among the people. If the rituals of autumn were enacted, violent winds and rain would come, thorns and weeds would spring up and the people would suffer epidemics. If in this month, the rituals of winter were enacted, there would be rain and floods, frost and hailstones. The seeds would not sprout.
  16. The tree of the first month is the Willow.[xiv]
  17. Its medicinal plant is dandelion.[xv]
  18. The messenger of Heaven is the robin.[xvi]
  19. This month is governed by the Master of Works.


[i] This reference is found in the Yueling.

[ii] I Ching, p.272.  References to the trigrams were not included in the original almanacs.

[iii] I Ching, p. 268

[iv] In all the almanacs, there are references to “Omens and portents from the world of living creatures: signs of the changing year [monthly]. See p.220 of Major, J. S. (1993). Heaven and earth in early Han thought: Chapters three, four and five of the Huainanzi. Albany: State University of New York Press. I have modified the omens and portents through personal research and observation of Nature in these periods as well as reference to Heiner Fruehauf’s “Correlative Cosmology in Chinese medicine”.

[v] Given that the original texts describe the thearch’s steed as a dragon, I have continued this “aura of ritual magic” (Major, p.226). The emperor in each season is represented by a resonant North American species.  The creatures of spring are scaly, thus the sturgeon- the largest fish in this region, able to “grow to nearly eight feet and weigh hundreds of pounds.” http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09200/984887-358.stm

[vi] While the Lüshi chunqiu speaks of the vessels as “porous” and “carved with openwork”, the Li chi’s reference is more in keeping with the correspondences. This is also seen in the summer period where the vessels are tall and large as is consistent with the encouragement of maturity in the natural world.

[vii] The Lüshi chunqiu has millet; however, the Li chi and the Yueling are in agreement as to wheat as the grain of spring.

[viii] It is interesting to note that the musical instruments of spring are resonant with the seasonal pulse quality. This quality is felt on the liver, gallbladder and stomach pulses and is classically described as ‘bowstring’.

[ix] The Yueling refers to this ceremony occurring on the first day of spring (which is logical). On the other hand, the Li chi and the Lüshi chunqiu speak of this ceremony occurring at some point in the first month. In all likelihood, there is no conflict as the first day of each season would be calculated anew each year rather than having a set date.

[x] The Green Nation refers to all vegetative life.

[xi] Lüshi chunqiu, p.62

[xii] I Ching, p.49. While references to the hexagrams relating to each month were not included in the original almanacs, I believe they bring another layer of understanding to the movement and manifestations of qi in the relevant month.

[xiii] P.71 of Lüshi chunqiu, “Chapter 4- Honoring Impartiality”

[xiv] In this month, Willow is the most visible tree, turning yellow-green and preceding all other trees in its emergence.

[xv] The addition of medicinal plants is purely my own- it is based on the actions of the plants and their resonance with the season. Dandelion is noted for its action on the liver and gallbladder (organs associated with the Wood element).

[xvi] The ‘messenger of Heaven’ is another addition based on personal observation of Nature. Birds are chosen by their arrival times, characteristics and resonance with the season.

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