Musty air, dripping umbrella, wet shoes, the almost forgotten sun, washed clothes feeling like they would never become dry again… If gloomy or wet weather will lower your spirit, a visit to Shanghai during the plum rain season is really not recommended – probably a Londoner can be an exception though. That’s also why sometimes the plum rain (梅雨) is also known as the “musty rain”(“霉雨”, interestingly the two Chinese characters 梅 and 霉 happens to have the same pronunciation mei).
It’s not that there is no positive side of the plum rain season at all, since during the rain season the temperatures of Shanghai are comparatively cooler (comparatively of course, after all it’s still summer) than midsummer. Also you can find lots of romantic compliments of the misty rain in classical Chinese poetry – Chinese people also tend to compare the misty rain to soft and delicate girls of the Jiangnan region.
In short, the plum rain season could be quite beautiful and romantic to look at, however it might bring you plenty of inconveniences in real life.
Something you might want to know about the plum rain season:
1. What is the plum rain season?
The season of the plum rains or, misleadingly, intermittent drizzle, is a special meteorological phenomenon of the middle and lowland areas of the Yangtze River. Usually, the plum rain season starts in the middle of June and ends in early July, lasting for about 20 days.
Japanese and Korean people are also familiar with this regular rainy season. Japanese and Chinese characters for the plum rains are identical.
The climate during this season is characterized by continuous rain and relatively hot temperatures.
Precipitation during the rainy season averages about 200mm in Shanghai, about one fifth of the annual total. But not all the plum rain seasons have a lot of precipitation. During dry years there is very little rain and sometimes drought. However in some years the season brings abundant rainfall, which has sometimes caused disastrous floods.
Due to the rains, the humidity runs between 80 and 90 percent. At the same time, the air temperature ranges from 20 to 34 degrees centigrade.
2. Where does the name come from?
Many people do not understand why this uncomfortable season is named after a fruit. The ancient Chinese timed the arrival of the season by the growth of the plum.
Usually, the rainy season begins in early summer when the plums are ripe, and lasts about three weeks. There is an old saying about the rainy season: “When the rain falls on the ripe plums, there follows 40 rainy days”.
3. Some quotations from classical Chinese poems regarding the plum rain season:
During the plum rain season continuous rains seems to be everywhere. While frogs and their croaks can also be found all around the grass and ponds. — Zhao Shi Xiu
Mei yu shi jie jia jia yu, chun cao chi tang chu chu wa. — Zhao Shi Xiu
You could barely notice the spring had quietly left the world in the continuous rain. And before you could realize it the midsummer had already arrived when the rain finally stopped. — Zeng Shu
Lian yu bu zhi chun qu, yi qing fang jue xia shen. — Zeng Shu
It keeps raining when the plums are ripening, while vast amount of Melia azedarach are blossoming. — Lu You
Si si mei zi shu shi yu, mo mo jian hua kai hou sai. — Lu You
When the plum rain season finishes around the Midsummer’s Day, the monsoon winds will start to blow.
San xun yi duan huang mei yu, wan li chu lai bo chao feng. — Su Shi
Emma Wang is the founder and co-owner of Miracle Mandarin Chinese language school. In addition to language classes, Miracle Mandarin provides students with cultural activities and offers companies and organizations cross-cultural training. If you have a question or suggestion for a specific cultural topic, feel free to contact Emma (firstname.lastname@example.org).