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Cultivating Good Health: Lessons from China’s Dragon Boat Festival

2019-06-07
Nyelv:Mandarin Chinese(中文)
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Since ancient times, the Dragon Boat Festival has been celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month around the summer solstice. During the festival, people watch dragon boat races and eat rice dumplings to mark this special occasion. In today's program, we will share tips from Traditional Chinese Medicine on how you can cultivate a healthy lifestyle during the upcoming dragon boat season and summer months.

As the famous Tang Dynasty doctor Sun Si-Mao said well over a thousand years ago, “The superior doctor prevents illness. The mediocre doctor treats imminent illness. The inferior doctor treats manifest illness.” Thus, it is essential to learn what daily steps we can take to avoid disease.

The summer solstice, which marks the start of summer, annually occurs sometime between June 20th and June 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the longest day and shortest night of the year. After this event, the days will gradually become shorter and the nights longer. Since the Dragon Boat Festival comes around or right before the summer solstice, this occasion is also known as the “Summer Solstice Festival.”

During the Dragon Boat season, it is traditionally a time in China to develop balance and harmony between the mind, body, and nature to build up disease resistance to ensure wellness over summer. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theories, we must refrain from doing three things to maintain good health when the yang energy is at its peak. First, we must abstain from raw and cold foods in the evening, as they are hard to digest. Raw vegetables and gourds should be avoided in the summertime, especially at night. Moreover, we should not drink tea on an empty stomach, as this could consume our yang energy.

Second, we should not take cold water baths. Our sweat glands and skin pores are open in the hot summer months. Taking a cold shower will make our body vulnerable to cold air, leading to an imperceptible loss of our yang energy.

Third, we should not sleep exposed to the cold air at night. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the head is where all yang energies converge. Sleeping in the cold air overnight could lead to a decline in our yang energy and eventually to its complete depletion – thus causing severe illness. To maintain good health at the summer solstice and beyond, we should remain in line with our invigorating yang energy, which must be protected and nourished.

Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are three dietary guidelines for the summer solstice: Eat light foods for easy digestion, such as green beans, watermelons, jujubes, sugar cane, and pears. Eat bitter foods to disperse heat and dampness. Examples include bitter gourd, celery, dandelion, cucumber, and gouji leaf. Eat sour foods to improve appetite and digestion, such as tomatoes, lemons, strawberries, black plums, grapes, hawthorn berries with seeds removed, pineapples, mangos, and kiwis.

What about having an ice-cold drink in the hot season? Sounds appealing, doesn't it? However, it is not recommended according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. This ancient teaching says cold beverages or items like ice cream will prevent the enzymes in our gut from working properly; the result is our meal is incompletely digested. It is not only a waste of food, but also potentially harms our health.

Nurturing Mental Health for the Summer Solstice

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, summer is related to the fire element, the heart, which is the organ responsible for the emotion of joy. In summer months, try to keep a clear and peaceful mind, happy and cheerful disposition, and spirit of magnanimity and vitality. All living things need sunlight to grow. So, we should maximize our time outdoors as well as foster good cheer and liveliness. Such measures allow our vital energy to function smoothly.

Physical Exercise to Nurture Health for the Summer Solstice

Physical exercise is a vital element for ensuring good health. In the summertime, it is best to be active early in the morning or evening when it is cooler. If exercising indoors, the space should have plenty of fresh air. Avoid extreme exercise that leads to profuse sweating, which hurts both your yin and yang energy.
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