The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Autumn equinox, the 16th solar term of the year, begins on Sept 23 this year and ends on
Oct 7. Autumn equinox lies at the midpoint of autumn, dividing autumn into two equal parts.
As it is said in the ancient book The Detailed Records of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC), "It is on the autumn equinox day that the yin and yang are in a balance of power. Thus the day and night are of equal length, and so are the cold and hot weather."
Originally, moon sacrifices ceremony was held on autumn equinox, but since dates are not fixed on lunar calendar, sometimes the moon was not full. The ceremony is meaningless without a full moon and moon sacrifices ceremony was subsequently moved to Mid-Autumn Day (Oct 3 this year).
In ancient China, people threw arrows into pots to welcome autumn equinox. Hosts would invite guests to throw arrows into a pot at a distance with their hands. Players whose arrows failed to make the pot had to drink wine as a punishment.
On the day of autumn equinox, there are thousands of people in the world trying to make eggs stand on their ends. This Chinese custom has become a game of the world. Eggs that are 4 or 5 days old are best for this game.
Autumn is the season for hairy crabs. Crabs from Yangcheng Lake of East China's Jiangsu province are widely acknowledged as the best kind of hairy crabs. Hairy crabs are "cool" in nature, thus it is advised to consume them with something "warm" in nature, such as ginger tea.
Having qiucai (autumn vegetable) on autumn equinox is a custom in South China. Qiucai, a kind of wild amaranth, is often stewed with fish into qiutang, or autumn soup.