SCIENCE CHINA Earth Sciences, Volume 60, Issue 9: 1707-1718(2017) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-016-9059-0

From solar terms to medical terms (Part I): A first step with big data

Ge CHEN1,2,*, Jie SHI3,†
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  • ReceivedMar 1, 2017
  • AcceptedMay 22, 2017
  • PublishedJul 18, 2017


The story of the Twenty-four Solar Terms (24-STs) is one of the most popular elements in Chinese culture, which has a profound influence on agriculture production, health care, and even daily life in both ancient and modern China. This traditional calendric system was invented by the Chinese ancestors through combining fundamental astronomical knowledge with climatic and phenological conditions in the Yellow River Basin some 2000 years ago. Although the basic philosophy of the 24-STs remains valid for the country as a whole to date, their regional robustness has been increasingly challenged by accumulating observational data in terms of temporal shift and spatial inhomogeneity. To tackle these issues, we propose to recalibrate the medically related critical timings of Great Heat and Great Cold in the classic ST system by using big meteorological data, and adjust them by introducing geographically correlated analytical models. As a result, a novel calendric system, called the Twenty-four Medical Terms (24-MTs), has been developed as an upgraded version of the traditional 24-STs. The proposed 24-MTs are characterized by two striking features with respect to the 24-STs: A varying duration of each MT instead of a fixed one for the ST, and a geographically dependent timing for each MT instead of a unified one for the entire nation. As such, the updated 24-MTs are expected to provide a more realistic estimate of these critical timings around the year, and hence, a more precise guidance to agronomic planning and health care activity in China.

Funded by

Natural Science Foundation of China(61361136001)


The authors would like to thank Wang Xuan, Ren Yibin and Liu Yingjie for their assistances in figure plotting and literature survey. This research was partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 61361136001).

Contributions statement

Corresponding author (email: jieshiqd68@163.com)


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