3rd Month of Spring

  1. In the third 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 is 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 Maiden Purity, 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 Clear and Bright, serviceberry blooms, field mice transform into killdeer[iv] and the first rainbows appear.
  7. In the period of Grain Rain, duckweed starts to sprout, brown-headed cowbirds[v] flutter their wings and the tufted titmouse[vi] alights lands on the maple tree.[vii]
  8. The Son of Heaven is the Lake Sturgeon.[viii] 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[ix]; from them, he eats wheat[x] and mutton.
  9.  His consorts also wear blue-green garments and play upon lutes, zithers and fiddles[xi].
  10. In this month, the Son of Heaven offers robes the color of young maple leaves to the spirits. He orders the master of boats to turn over the canoes for inspection. Upon a five-fold inspection, they are declared ready and the Son of Heaven takes to the waters for the first trip of the year. After this, he offers a shad to the ancestors, sending prayers for the ripening of the wheat.
  11. In this month, the new growth begins to flourish thus the task of all the people is to further this movement. The Son of Heaven enacts a prohibition against the use of snares, nets and poisoned bait by the hunters. He orders that the granaries are opened to feed the hungry and destitute. He opens the royal treasuries so that his leaders may be rewarded with cloth and fur, leather and beadwork.
  12. The hexagram of this month is Kuai, Breakthrough. “The lake has evaporated and its waters are gathering high in the heavens as mists and clouds.”[xii] Soon the waters will descend again with great force. The Son of Heaven orders his leaders to look to the dams and dikes as the seasonal rains are about to arrive.
  13. The Son of Heaven orders the Master of Craftsmen to carefully inspect the goods within the Five Storehouses and to ensure that only the correct and true are kept. The Master also examines the work of the hundred craftsmen to ensure that all is in resonance with the season.
  14. In this month, “The Yang ether rises up and flows out. All the sprouts issue forth, and the buds completely open up. One should not keep things enclosed within.”[xiii] At this time, bulls and cows roam the pastures together. Young calves are selected to be sacrificed at the nine gates in order to complete the rituals of spring.
  15. At the end of this month, the women lead the planting ceremony, giving thanks to the Three Sisters and welcoming them into the earth once more.[xiv] At this time, the Son of Heaven attends the first ceremony of sacred music of the new year.
  16.  If the ordinances for this month are observed, fertile rains will fall in each period. If in this third month of spring, the rituals of summer were enacted, the seasonal rains would not fall and young plants would wither. The people would suffer epidemics. If the rituals of autumn were enacted, great rains would arrive bringing floods. The rains arrive early; the army rebels. If in this month, the rituals of winter are enacted, late snow and frosts would destroy the new crops.
  17. The tree of the third month is the serviceberry.[xv]
  18. The medicinal plant of the third month is cleavers.[xvi]
  19. The messenger of Heaven is blue jay.[xvii]
  20. This month governs the villages.


[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] Quail is the traditional reference. However, the bobwhite quail is a rare bird indeed these days. The killdeer shows up in field and pastures in the third month of spring and is also a ground-nesting bird.

[v] The cuckoo is noted for the fact that it builds no nest, but instead utilizes brood parasitism (laying eggs in the nests of other birds). The bird noted for this behavior in North America is the brown-headed cowbird.

[vi] The hoopoe is noted for its crest (a yang manifestation). The tufted titmouse exhibits similar nesting and flight behaviors to the hoopoe.

[vii] 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”.  While mulberries grow readily in North America, in this instance, I have changed it to a native tree, the maple. “The maple tree was one of the trees venerated by the Iroquois. It was in fact the goddess of trees and the only one to which a stated ceremony was dedicated and to which offerings were made.” Retrieved 5/4/11 from http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/polcrt/GreatTree.html

[viii] 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

[ix] 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.

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

[xi] 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’.

[xii] I Ching, p.604. 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] Lüshi chunqiu, p.96

[xiv] The Lüshi chunqiu, Yueling and Li chi all refer to the inspection of the mulberry trees and the women’s work with them. The analog in this region is the Planting Ceremony of the Iroquois. Gardening was traditionally seen as the work of the women (as was the work with silkworms in China). The Three Sisters refers to the sacred trinity of corn, beans and squash.

[xv] Serviceberry is the earliest blooming tree in the northeast. Its name refers to its use at Appalachian funerals when little else was blooming.

[xvi] The addition of medicinal plants is purely my own- it is based on the actions of the plants and their resonance with the season. Cleavers (gallium aparine) is not specifically linked to liver and gallbladder function.  However, it is a traditional spring tonic that can only be used fresh and is profuse at this time.

[xvii] 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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