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冬至 Dōng Zhì: Winter Solstice

December 22nd through January 4th marks the time of 冬至 Dong Zhi , or the Winter Solstice, the 22nd term in the Ancient Chinese solar calendar.

冬至 Dōng Zhì: Winter Solstice

Archaeological research has revealed that the Ancient Chinese have been observing the movements of the sun, the moon and the stars for more than 4,000 years. These observations have determined and distinguished changes in seasons, climate and other important aspects of both our human and the planetary existence.

December 22nd through January 4th marks the time of 冬至 Dong Zhi , or the Winter Solstice, the 22nd term in the Ancient Chinese solar calendar.

冬至 Dong Zhi is a major seasonal event in China and has been celebrated with the 冬节 Winter Festival for over 2,000 years. During the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) 冬至 Dōng Zhì was made an official three day holiday.  It is traditional during the Winter Solstice festival to eat tangyuan in southern China to symbolize family and prosperity. In Northern China, the traditional food is 饺子 jiǎozi, created by the famous doctor Zhang Zhongjing in the Han Dynasty.

“Dong Zhi is as great as Chinese Lunar New Year”

– Old Chinese Saying

Let’s look at the direct translation of 冬至 Dong Zhi:

冬 (dōng) means winter
“至 (zhì) consists of “极 (jí)” and “最 (zuì)” characters, and is translated as “extreme”

During this time it is believed that:

  • 蚯蚓結, ‘Earthworms form knots’, referring to the hibernation of earthworms.
  • 麋角解, ‘Deer shed their antlers’
  • 水泉動, ‘Spring water moves’

Song of Nine & Nine 九九歌

According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the winter season consists of 81 days, starting on the winter solstice and ending in the beginning of the spring season. Those 81 days are further divided into nine sections, each corresponding to a particular condition. The 九九歌 Song of Nine & Nine depicts that in a simple and beautiful way

“During the First Nine and the Second, I keep my hands covered.
In the Third Nine and the Forth Nine, I walk on the frozen river bed.
When it’s the Fifth Nine and the Sixth, I see the willows along the shores sprout new buds.
When the Seventh comes, the river thaws.
And the Eighth, the wild goose arrives.
Eventually, the Ninth of Nine descends, farm cattle are everywhere tilling the fields.”

冬至 Dōng Zhì: Winter Indications

The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Yin energy is at its peak. Although this is the darkest day of the year, it also marks the return of Yang energy. The Yin will continue to dominate throughout the winter season; however, the Yang will slowly but steadily grow in its presence. The blending of the Yin and the Yang indicates future rebirth.

On the day of the Winter Solstice the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 270°.

Winter solstice and the remaining days of winter continue an important phase of stillness. Consequently, diving within yourself and embracing introspection is recommended. Focusing on replenishment and conservation of energy in preparation for the next season of spring is imperative.

“This is the way of nourishing life in response to the energy
of winter. To act to the contrary will cause injuries to the kidneys and one will suffer weakened limbs in spring, because he is bound to be short of energy to cope with the spring.”

~黃帝內經Huangdi Neijing Su Wen

Expend Less, Store More

The entire winter season corresponds with the Water element and is associated with the kidneys, the bladder and adrenal glands.

“Nothing under heaven is softer or weaker than water; yet nothing can compare with it in attacking the hard and strong.”

-老子 Lao Tzu, 道德經 Dàodé Jīng

The 黃帝內經 Huangdi Neijing Su Wen, translated as Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, connects the natural progression of human life (growth, development, reproduction and aging) and changes in bone conditions, to be controlled by Kidney Essence.

The following tips will assist you with maintaining your well-being during winter months and preparing for spring:

  1. Expose your body to the right type of sunlight at the appropriate time of day for just 10-15 minutes a day.
  2. Spend 10-15 minutes per day outside absorbing fresh oxygen.
  3. Drink Water!
  4. Daoyin– Such breathing methods require a minimal amount of movement to achieve maximum results leading to internal peace and a calm emotional state.
  5. Use sleep to repair, rejuvenate and restore. 

    “It is desirable to sleep early and get up late, to await the arrival of sunlight.”~ 黃帝內經Huangdi Neijing Su Wen

柳宗元 江雪 River Snow by 柳宗元 Liǔ Zōngyuán

A Famous Poem from the Tang Dynasty on winter:

柳宗元 江雪 River Snow
by 柳宗元 Liǔ Zōngyuán


In a thousand mountains, the flight of birds is not seen;
on ten thousand paths, human footprints have vanished.
On a lonely boat, in straw cloak and bamboo hat, an old man,
fishing alone, in the cold river snow.

冬至 Dōng Zhì In Practice

Some acupoints to consider using during this time are 腎俞 Bladder 23 Shen Shu accompanied with 陽陵泉 Gallbladder 34 Yang Ling Quan to support the Kidneys and flex the tendons to keep the joints loose as we start the transition towards Spring.

Also consider using formulas like:

當歸四逆湯 Dang Gui Si Ni Tang
右歸湯 You Gui Tang
桂枝湯 Gui Zhi Tang

Now that we are moving into the deepest part of the Winter season, keep in mind the following: to protect the Yang, maintain circulation in the joints, and to protect the body from the cold.

In the realm of Chinese food therapy consider adding grapes and goji berries to facilitate the above principle of tonify the blood and nourish the essence.

For those of us in the Northern latitudes, bundle up as the humidity changes and the dew points bring more of a wetter Winter.

If you have any further questions, you can setup a 15 minute Q&A session with me here when you sign up for a Si Jin Bao PRO account.

Picture of Kamal Polite, D.O.M., A.P., C.H.E.

Kamal Polite, D.O.M., A.P., C.H.E.

Founder & Chief Herbaceutical Engineer

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