On Beijing time July 16, The Futian (dog days) of China has arrived. Traditionally, the northern Chinese will make dumplings or at least buy some from restaurants on this day.
The word “fu” in Chinese, means the intense heat of summer and as a result, the power of “Yang” becomes quite powerful and the “Yin” is forced to hide. Therefore, in Chinese, Futian means the hottest period of every summer. This conception is very close to the so-called “dog days” in English. From the beginning of Xiazhi, one of the 24 solar terms, the third Geng day (the seventh day of a ten-days-week) is the first stage of Fu, and the fourth Geng day is the second stage, and the first Geng day after Liqiu, another period of the 24 solar terms, is the last stage of Fu.
Geng is the seventh word of Celestial Stems, an ancient Chinese system that includes ten different words. In this extremely old calendar, one week has ten days. Therefore, one stage of Fu generally is a ten-day period. However, due to the third stage of Fu begins at the first Geng day after Liqiu, sometimes the second stage may cover another Geng day which means it may last twenty days. Based on the modern calendar, Futian usually occurs around mid-July to mid-August, lasting 30 or 40 days.
There is an old saying in northern China that “eating dumplings in the first stage of Futian, eating noodles in the second stage and eating laobing egg rolls in the third stage.” The most important event of Futian is eating dumplings. Despite many Chinese are no longer interested in these traditional rites and some even taunt that northern Chinese will have dumplings in every festival, there are still people who believe it matters. Traditionally, Futian is very close to the harvest season of wheat, people celebrate the good harvest by making wheaten food. It has also been said that people will be less appetitive due to the hot weather. In such a situation, compared to rice, food like noodles, dumpling, and laobing is more satisfied and easier to be digested.
Beijingers also drink mutton and wax gourd soup during this period. People believe that drinking hot soup in such hot days could help them sweat to release the damp inside the body. In Yangzhou, local people have the tradition of eating poussin during Futian.
Indeed, dumplings, mutton, and chicken are very common nowadays, yet they were very rare for widespread poverty people lived in ancient China. People give their good wishes for life to these ordinary ingredients and make them become culturally significant dishes for all kinds of Chinese festivals.