Grain in Ear: The Prelude to a Busy Summer

Grain in Ear (Mangzhong) is the ninth solar term in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, occurring on June 5th or 6th each year, marking the beginning of summer. The term "Mang" refers to crops with awns, such as rice, millet, and sorghum, while "zhong" has dual meanings: seeds to be sown and the act of planting.

Grain in Ear, also known as "Busy Planting," signifies the busiest time for farmers to sow seeds and work the fields. The combined characters imply that grains with awns should be planted before it becomes too late.

Climatic Characteristics

During Grain in Ear, temperatures rise significantly, rainfall is abundant, and humidity is high, creating ideal conditions for planting late rice and other cereals.

Nature also undergoes noticeable changes during this period. In the fields, golden waves of wheat sway, heralding a bountiful harvest. Frogs begin to croak by the ponds, seemingly celebrating the arrival of summer, while swallows dart across the sky, busily building nests in preparation for new life.

Folk Customs and Culture

Grain in Ear is not just an agricultural solar term; it is rich in folk customs and cultural significance. Traditional customs include rituals to thank nature and pray for favorable weather and abundant harvests. Other practices include "Sending Off the Flower Goddess," "Settling Seedlings," mud fights, cooking plums, and eating a vegetable called "Gentleman's Stepping Vegetables." People hang colorful paper flowers on tree branches to show their respect and gratitude to the Flower Goddess.

Moreover, Grain in Ear coincides with traditional festivals such as the Dragon Boat Festival, which typically falls around this time. During the festival, people engage in dragon boat races, eat sticky rice dumplings, and hang wormwood to ward off evil spirits and pray for health and good harvests.

Settling Seedlings

In some areas of southern Anhui, a farming custom called "Settling Seedlings" is observed. After planting rice seedlings, farmers perform rituals to pray for a good harvest in autumn.

Mud Fights

In southeastern Guizhou, young men and women of the Dong ethnic group celebrate Grain in Ear with lively mud fights. They plant rice seedlings together and playfully throw mud at each other. The person covered in the most mud is considered the most popular.

Cooking Plums

The custom of cooking plums during Grain in Ear dates back to the Xia Dynasty. Fresh plums ripen in May and June but are usually too sour to eat directly, so they are cooked before consumption.

Eating Gentleman's Stepping Vegetables

In Ningbo, there is a tradition of eating a seasonal vegetable called "Gentleman's Stepping Vegetables" during Grain in Ear. This vegetable is believed to have properties that clear heat and detoxify the body, helping prevent heat rash in the summer.

Dietary Health

During Grain in Ear, people should focus on a light and digestible diet. Foods such as green beans, bitter melon, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, celery, lettuce, asparagus, and jicama are ideal choices to help the body adapt to the hot weather. Drinking cooling teas, such as chrysanthemum or mint tea, is also beneficial.

Summer is a peak time for intestinal diseases, so consuming "antibacterial" vegetables like garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, and chives can help prevent illness. Staying hydrated and eating fresh fruits and vegetables are key to staying healthy during this period.


Grain in Ear, as one of the twenty-four solar terms, is not merely a temporal marker but an integral part of agricultural production and cultural tradition. It signifies the official start of summer and reminds people to take care of their health while engaging in intense agricultural activities. Grain in Ear embodies deep cultural significance and reflects the hardworking spirit of farmers, making it a brilliant chapter in the history of traditional Chinese agricultural culture.