A fun way to move through winter!

A Winter Character Activity

The Emperor was in charge of making the seasons go by smoothly
In ancient times the Emperor was considered descendant and representative of Heaven on earth, and so he had absolute power over everything that happened “under heaven.” So he was really interested in nature, the seasons, rain, drought, and the physical state of the earth. The Emperor was required to hold various rites and ceremonies that were supposed to keep the world going smoothly and harmoniously, help the seasons change, and make life easier for the people.

The Emperor wrote characters as the days passed
I am not sure if the Emperor felt that it was his job to keep winter moving along smoothly or not, but surely he longed for spring. It was cold in the Forbidden City. I know, because I have visited many times in the winter, and the cold is bitter. So here is one set of characters an Emperor devised to speed along the chill days of winter:

In the deep of winter the Emperor wrote characters stroke by stroke, one each day, to speed the passing of winter.







“In front of the pavilion willows wait for
the return of the spring breeze.”










How to do it:
Each character in this sentence has 9 strokes. If you write one stroke a day, you will finish a character in 9 days. The whole sentence will be finished in 81 days (9 x 9), and that is how many days there are between the winter and spring solstice. When the spring solstice has come, winter is officially over. This is the character-writing equivalent of crossing off days on the calendar, but instead of crossing something off, you are using strokes to create characters.

Winter began on the 21st of December… all you have to do is count how many days have passed and catch up. From there you can do it day by day.

Writing the Chinese characters for the season of “Winter.”

Dong Tian - the characters for winter


The actual characters that mean “winter” are written 冬天。The first character is a combination of two parts – the top means “end of the year” and the two drips hanging off it are icicles. The second character is used in words denoting time – as in “today or tomorrow,” but it also means “heaven.” It shows a person with their arms outstretched, 大, and the great expanse of heaven above them: 天.

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