Xiaoman is the 8th of the 24 solar terms, meaning that the seeds of the summer crops are becoming full but not yet ripe. Xiaoman is the time when bitterly tasted herbs are growing fast and early summer is approaching. Thus, Xiaoman is referred to as “Lesser Fullness” in a Chinese book written 800 years ago.
In the Song Dynasty, many poems were written about Xiaoman.
The famous Song Dynasty poet Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072) has this to say about Xiaoman: “Warm south breeze turns grass green. In the distance a small cottage is hidden across the field. The ears of wheat are also turning green, and silkworms are feeding on mulberry leaves.” This poem describes a pleasant rustic scene. The rural people hope good weather in Xiaoman will bring a good harvest. In another poem, Ouyang Xiu described the scene in Xiaoman: “Nightingales are singing on the green willow, and the bright moon shines in the sky. The breeze makes wheat swing in the field, as if laughing at falling flowers.”
Xiaoman is also the subject of many other Chinese classic poems. Some lines read: “Peony petals fall to the ground in Lixia, while hostas bloom in the garden in Xiaoman”. “In Lixia, mulberries are as big as cherries, while Xiaoman is the time for growing crops and raising silkworms”. According to legend, Xiaoman is the birthday of God Silkworm, so it is a good time to raise silkworms. This tradition was mentioned in “The Book of Songs”, a collection of poems and songs from the 11th century BC to the 6th century BC. In this book, a poem vividly describes women picking mulberries in the spring field. The best-known lines about silkworm were written by Tang Dynasty poet Li Shangyin (813-858): “Spring silkworm never stops spinning silk until its death; a candle never stops shedding light until it is burned out.” Later, this verse is used as a metaphor for true love.
Around the time of Xiaoman, every crop is full of life, but not yet ripening, and people hope for a good harvest. It is said in the Book of History, a Chinese classic, that “One loses by being arrogant and gains by being modest.” This is why the solar term of Xiaoman was named “Lesser Fullness” by ancients. As they believed it, things should be full but not overflowing, a principle that applies to both movement of nature and human life.