Cao Yuran, a Beijing-based civil servant, went on a run in her usual gear when a cold wind began to blow and she suddenly realized she was beginning to shiver and sneeze. "Later, I realized it was the first day of Frost's Descent, marking that from now on, the weather will become much colder," she said.
Sunday, October 23, marks the Frost's Descent (Shuangjiang), the last seasonal node before winter in the 24 solar terms created by ancient Chinese for agricultural practices. Traditionally, the recommendation for this time of year is to begin to protect your body from the cold and to find ways to preserve internal warmth since winter is only a few short weeks away.
According to Cao, keeping warm is essential for Chinese in the frigid winter months. She uses various traditional Chinese methods for comfort and maintaining a proper body temperature to stay healthy.
Georges Hymans, a 36-year-old French, has been living in China for over 10 years. He said that keeping warm is a concern for foreigners as well. Hymans explained that in France they have their own culture-specific ways of beating the cold with traditional French foods, clothing and common heat-saving activities, which he continues to use here in China.
Anastasia, a Russian expat living in Beijing for five years, said she has gotten used to the weather differences between Beijing and her hometown, and has accepted new ways of keeping warm in combination with her traditional methods.
There are many similarities and differences in methods for staying warm and healthy in the East and West. With winter approaching, it is the perfect time to look at the various ways people tackle winter weather.
Home remedies for staying warm
Cao said that it is important to keep feet warm in winter.
"Wear warm shoes that cover your entire feet and thick insulating socks to keep your body temperature up," said Cao.
"When my feet feel cold, it makes my whole body cold, so I give myself a warm foot bath every night before going to bed to improve blood circulation and help me sleep at night."
Zhao Qi, associate chief physician of department of acupuncture and moxibustion at Dongzhimen Hospital, told Metropolitan that feet are an important body part to keep warm in winter.
"Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) states that when people's feet are warm, their heart is in good condition," said Zhao. "Many Chinese take foot baths at night, which helps their blood circulate better."
Cao believes that following tips from traditional Chinese medicine is helpful as well.
"I often massage acupuncture points on my body to keep them warm and increase blood flow, such as zusanli (located at the outside of calf) and sanyinjiao (located at the inside of ankles)," said Cao.
Grace Chen, founder of herbalshop.com, a website for questions and answers on using traditional Chinese herbs and medicinal practices, said that there are certain points on the body that can reduce coldness in the hands and feet when being massaged. It can also help you feel better more quickly when sick.
"It is important to drink plenty of warm water after the massage to help clear away the toxic substances in the body," she said.
Ten years of living in China has not changed Hymans' tactics for keeping warm in winter months.
"Changsha's winter temperatures are similar to my hometown, except Changsha doesn't offer heating, which makes it colder inside," said Hymans.
The head and neck are the main parts of the body that French focus on keeping warm. "You can see lots of French wearing hats and scarves on the streets in the winter, for warmth as well as fashion," he said. "Older generations of French people wear a sleeping cap to keep their heads warm during the night."
"TCM says that keeping the lower part of the body warm is more important than keeping the upper part warm," said Zhao, adding that Westerners have their own ways to resist the cold, and even though the head is the least important part of the body to worry about [based on TCM], it is still good for people to keep their heads warm in the winter."