Learning the seasons in Chinese is more than just knowing how to talk about the weather.
It’s also about discovering the different holidays and traditions in each season and diving deep into Chinese culture.
In this blog post, I’m going to introduce you to the four seasons in Chinese, the important holidays they bring, how you should pack for each one and related vocabulary you’ll need for having deeper conversations with Chinese people.
- How Learning the Seasons in Chinese Improves Your Fluency
- The 4 Seasons in Chinese: The Words and Weather You Need to Know
- 春天 (chūn tiān) — Spring
- 夏天 (xià tiān) — Summer
- 秋天 (qiū tiān) — Autumn
- 冬天 (dōng tiān) — Winter
How Learning the Seasons in Chinese Improves Your Fluency
While learning the 季节 (jì jié) — seasons in Chinese seems like one of the first things a beginner would check off of their to-do list, mastering these special times of year is crucial for every level of learner.
For me, personally, I knew the words for “spring,” “summer,” “autumn” and “winter” by the time I completed my first beginner Chinese course.
But it wasn’t until I was an intermediate learner that I learned all of the important phrases associated with them, Chinese idioms, how to use them to deepen conversations and much more.
So, here are a few reasons why mastering the seasons in Chinese shouldn’t be overlooked.
Current seasons aren’t always the same on the other side of the world.
If you live in the Northern hemisphere, the weather won’t be the same in the Southern hemisphere.
For example, winter typically starts in the Northern hemisphere on December 21 or 22, and summer begins on June 20 or 21.
However, in the Southern hemisphere, winter begins in June and summer begins in December.
So depending on where you live, the season in your country and the current season in a Mandarin-speaking country might be totally opposite.
Also, some things I didn’t take into consideration until I got a language exchange partner were holidays, like summer and winter breaks.
In China, most schools begin the year in September and end in late June or July, whereas in the United States most start in August and end in May or early June.
Additionally, winter break (寒假 — hán jià) is longer in China than summer break (暑假 — shǔ jià). In the U.S., however, summer break is longer than winter break.
Knowing how to talk about seasons makes for great small talk.
Being aware of differences like those we discussed above can help increase your cultural understanding of Mandarin-speaking countries, as well as provide you with a multitude of different topics for language partners and online Chinese tutors.
I’ve lost count of how many conversations my language partner and I have had about summer vacation, winter vacation, how cold it is in our countries and more.
Whether you want to inquire about a friend’s summer break plans or simply want to complain about the miserable weather in your hometown, knowing how to talk about the seasons in Chinese comes in handy more often than you think.
There are tons of references to seasons in Chinese media.
If you want to be able to understand references to seasons in Chinese media, like songs, you’ll need to know related vocabulary words.
In a song that went viral around 2014 by Chopstick Brothers, you can spot all four seasons in a single verse!
I personally used this song when it was popular to supercharge my Chinese vocabulary, and it was also how I introduced myself to seasons in Chinese.
YouTube is filled with plenty more music videos like this. To see how seasons are talked about in other media formats, the language learning website and app FluentU has a diverse collection of music videos, movie trailers, news reports and other Chinese media clips. These media snippets also come with interactive subtitles to help you spot seasonal vocabulary and learn contextual examples.
You’ll know how to pack for your future trip to China.
Being familiar with the seasons in Chinese means knowing how to prepare for trips to Chinese-speaking countries!
Plus, if you need some advice, you can use your season-related vocabulary to ask your language partner or tutor for suggestions on what to pack and even what to do when you arrive.
Since the weather in China follows the seasonal patterns of the Northern hemisphere, if you live in the Southern hemisphere, you definitely don’t want to pack a pair of shorts and sandals for a trip you’re taking in December.
You’ll deepen your understanding of Chinese culture.
In every country, new seasons bring new 节日 (jié rì) — holidays. I mean, what would winter be like without Christmas?
Not only does knowing how to talk about seasons in Chinese allow you to have a wider range of topics to draw from but it also lets you connect with Chinese culture on a deeper level.
For example, in spring, the Chinese celebrate 春节 (chūn jié) — Spring Festival.
And in autumn, they celebrate 中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié) — Mid-Autumn Festival.
Each of these holidays carries history, traditions and stories. Knowing when and how to celebrate each one lets you understand Chinese culture better.
I’ll never forget the year I surprised all of my Chinese friends by sending them a message on WeChat saying 中秋节快乐！(zhōng qiū jié kuài lè) — “Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!” and asking if they’ve eaten any 月饼 (yuè bing) — “mooncakes” yet.
The 4 Seasons in Chinese: The Words and Weather You Need to Know
Now that you know how you can improve your fluency by mastering the seasons in Chinese, let’s actually get to them!
But I’m not just going to teach you how to say each time of year. Where’s the fun in that?
I’m also going to introduce the holidays celebrated in each one, related vocabulary you need to have in-depth conversations about them and what you should pack if you visit China during a particular season.
For example, check out this intermediate-level video all about 中秋节 — Mid-Autumn Festival that also teaches you nine new words!
春天 (chūn tiān) — Spring
In 春天, China has warm weather. The average temperature during the daytime is 13 degrees Celsius (55.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and 3 degrees Celsius at night (37.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
But China is a big country, which means different regions can be cooler or warmer than average!
In the North, spring comes late and lasts for less than three months. And in cities like Beijing, there’s barely any difference between spring and winter.
In Southern China, spring gets gradually warmer and the daytime becomes longer. Opposite of the North, the South experiences a beautiful spring (although with a bit of rain here and there).
What you should pack during spring
If you’re going to the North, it’s best to bring a thick jacket, sweater, pants and other clothes you’d typically wear in winter.
And if you’re going to the South, feel free to pack clothing that’s a bit lighter. However, it’s still wise to bring a jacket and sweater.
春节 (chūn jié) — Spring Festival
春节的时候我回家乡看父母。 (chūn jié de shí hou wǒ huí dào jiā xiāng kàn fù mǔ.) — I go back to my hometown to visit my parents during Spring Festival.
暖和 (nuǎn huo) — warm
今天的天气很暖和吧？(jīn tiān de tiān qì hěn nuǎn huo ba?) — The weather today is warm, isn’t it?
过 (guò) — to celebrate, to spend
你每年春节怎么过？(nǐ měi nián chūn jié zěn me guò?) — How do you spend/celebrate Spring Festival every year?
大自然 (dà zì rán) — nature
春天的大自然很美。(chūn tiān de dà zì rán hěn měi.) — The nature in spring is beautiful.
夏天 (xià tiān) — Summer
During summer, June and July are the hottest months in China. The places that experience the true summer heat the most are cities. But in August, the temperature starts to drop in preparation for fall.
But perhaps summer is better known in China not for its heat but for its wetness. Summer is the prime time in China for typhoons and summer rains.
The best place to be in summer if you aren’t a fan of the heat is Northern China. In Beijing, the temperature rarely exceeds 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), even in the hottest months.
What you should pack during the summer
For summer travels to China, be sure to pack some super lightweight clothes, like T-shirts and shorts, and consider bringing a hat to protect your skin from overexposure to the sun.
It’s also wise to bring a raincoat.
热 (rè) — hot
夏天太热了！(xià tiān tài rè le!) — Summer is too hot!
台风 (tái fēng) — typhoon
夏天的台风很多。(xià tiān de tái fēng hěn duō.) — Summer has lots of typhoons.
下雨 (xià yǔ) — rain
夏天的时候经常下雨。(xià tiān de shí hou jīng cháng xià yǔ.) — It often rains in summer.
儿童节 (ér tóng jié) — Children’s Day
明天是儿童节。(míng tiān shì ér tóng jié.) — Tomorrow is Children’s Day.
端五节 (duān wǔ jié) — Dragon Boat Festival
端五节是我最喜欢的节日。(duān wǔ jié shì wǒ zuì xǐ huān de jié rì.) — Dragon Boat Festival is my favorite holiday.
秋天 (qiū tiān) — Autumn
Autumn lasts from September to November in China and is by far one of the most beautiful seasons.
From magnificent views to perfect weather, autumn is one of the best times to travel.
On average, the daily temperature during autumn never exceeds 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) in September, 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) in October and 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in November in Beijing.
What you should pack during autumn
I recommend packing both light, summer-like clothes and clothes for cooler weather, such as T-shirts, pants and a light jacket.
凉快 (liáng kuai) — cool
秋天的天气非常凉快。(qiū tiān de tiān qì fēi cháng liáng kuai.) — The weather in autumn is very cool.
中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié) — Mid-Autumn Festival
中秋节是很重要的节日。(zhōng qiū jié shì hěn zhòng yào de jié rì.) — Mid-Autumn Festival is an important holiday.
月饼 (yuè bìng) — mooncakes
中秋节的时候每个人都吃月饼。(zhōng qiū jié de shí hou měi gè rén dōu chī yuè bing.) — Everyone eats mooncakes during Mid-Autumn Festival.
刮风 (guā fēng) — windy
今天风很大。(jīn tiān fēng hěn dà.) — Today, it’s pretty windy.
万圣节 (wàn shèng jié) — Halloween
在美国，我们在秋天的时候过万圣节。(zài měi guǒ, wǒ men zài qiū tiān de shí hou guò wàn shèng jié.) — In America, we celebrate Halloween in autumn.
冬天 (dōng tiān) — Winter
Winter in China is from December to February. And unlike summer, it’s a bit milder in Southern and Central China than in the North.
There’s little snow in winter outside Northern China, and the weather is fairly moist. But due to humidity, the temperature almost always feels colder than it actually is.
What’s known as Tropical China is in the very south of the country, and there, winter basically doesn’t exist. These areas consist of rain forests, islands and beaches, and winter there can even feel warm.
But if you go up to Beijing in the North, winters are cold and dry. They’re also longer. Winter begins in early November and lasts until March!
And if you want to go somewhere extremely cold, visit 哈尔滨 (hā ěr bīn) — Harbin. This city is so cold that it’s known as “Ice City,” where temperatures in January can get to -23 degrees Celsius (-10 degrees Fahrenheit).
What you should pack during winter
If you’re going to Tropical China, simply pack the way you would for autumn. For Central and Southern China, a coat and jacket, long-sleeved shirts, pants and other warm clothing will do.
And if you’re brave enough to go up North, you might want to double up on coats and jackets.
冷 (lěng) — cold
这里太冷了！(zhè lǐ tài lěng le!) — It’s too cold here!
下雪 (xià xuě) — snow
北京经常下雪。(běi jīng jīng cháng xià xuě.) — Beijing snows a lot.
滑冰 (huá bīng) — ice skating
冬天的时候我经常去滑冰。(dōng tiān de shí hou wǒ jīng cháng qù huá bīng.) — I usually ice skate during winter.
圣诞节 (shèng dàn jié) — Christmas
圣诞节在冬天到来。(shèng dàn jié zài dōng tiān dào lái.) — Christmas is in winter.
Congratulations! You’re now fully equipped to have conversations beyond basic weather.
Start having deeper conversations with Chinese people and learning more about Chinese customs!