The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Start of autumn, the 13th solar term of the year, begins on Aug 7 this year and ends on Aug 22.
Although start of autumn signals beginning of fall, hot weather still lingers. "Autumn tiger" or "Indian summer", refers to a month-long period of hot weather after the start
of autumn. Because of decreasing precipitation, it is even more sweltering during this period than during major heat (July 23-August 7).
People often weigh themselves on the first day of start of autumn and compare their weight to what it was at the start of summer. If one has lost weight during the summer, according to Chinese customs, he or she needs to flesh out at the beginning of autumn by eating more, especially meat.
Start of autumn is a big solar term for farmers as it is a time for harvest.
As a popular saying goes in Chinese: "If it rains on the day of the start of autumn, a good harvest is expected."
"Biting autumn" is a folk custom that signifies biting onto autumn and not letting it go. Many believe that eating a particular kinds of food on start of autumn, in most cases watermelon, can bring along a healthy year. "Biting autumn" can be taken as a sentimental gesture that celebrates good harvest.
In ancient China, weight lifting contests were often held during start of autumn. People lifted rocks, pulled arches with weights and tossed locks made of rocks in order to demonstarte their strength.
In Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, people eat peaches on the start of autumn. The peach pits are kept until New Year's Eve and thrown into the stove then burned into ash, so as to "burn" out any possible illnesses that may harm one's health.
There is the custom of "Touching autumn" in the northern part of Yancheng, Jiangsu province. On the eve of start of autumn, people can take fruits and vegetables as they like from private or public gardens for good luck. Owners will not be angry, no matter how much they lose. Many gardeners even leave some mellow fruits in the field on purpose for the guests during the night.