## Meaning/origin of 三寒四温【さんかんしおん】

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Recently I was introduced to the 四字熟語【よじじゅくご】:

... to describe the type of changing weather one often experiences around late Winter/early Spring.

As to the literal meaning of this expression (and where it came from):

The 寒 and 温 in this expression are fairly obvious. For the 三 and 四, I automatically assumed a construction similar to the famous idiom: 七転び八起き【ななころびやおき】, where the "8" merely means "one more time than 7" and therefore something like "for every time you fall you get up, and then one".

With that perspective, 三寒四温 would be (very roughly) something like: "for every time it gets cold, it gets warm again". At any rate: some idea of a back-and-forth (ending on warm).

However, Wikipedia gives a completely different explanation:

In their definition, the "3" and "4" correspond to somewhat specific durations, and together make a "one-week cycle" of cold and warm characteristic of the season.

As much as I hate to question a Japanese Wikipedia page, this seems surprisingly specific and does not sound particularly grounded in any scientific or folk theory I have ever heard of. The reference links on the Wikipedia page are more illustrations than explanations and not helpful there.

Has anybody ever heard of this expression and its possible origins? Is there any substance to this "one-week cycle" of late Winter in older Japanese folklore?

Following some links from the page you mention, it says that the word originates from North Eastern China or Northern Korea to describe the winter climate where anticyclones from from Syberia strengthen and weakens in 7-day cycle, and that it is actually rarely literally observed in Japan. – None – 2012-03-12T03:37:35.337

Hmm, I always thought the "3" was March and "4" was April. – istrasci – 2012-03-12T15:00:28.623

@Dave: 七転八起 is also read しちてんはっき in its 四字熟語 form. FYI in case you (or anyone else reading this post) didn't know. – istrasci – 2012-03-12T15:07:36.307

@sawa: I must have missed that. Would you mind making your comment a reply (and if possible, include a copy-paste of the text)? istrasci: had not even occurred to me. But if you know of any sources going that direction, it's an interesting idea... – Dave – 2012-03-12T16:48:17.373

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On this webpage by Japan Airlines, it says that the word originates from North Eastern China or Northern Korea to describe the winter climate where anticyclones from Siberia strengthen and weaken in a 7-day cycle, causing repetition of cold and warm days:

And it goes on to say that it is actually rarely literally observed in Japan, and in recent Japanese, this word is used to describe early Spring rather than Winter. This is a departure from its original usage:

Following Dave, I ended up doing a copy and paste, but I actually do not like to do that. That is why it was originally a comment rather than an answer. Doing a web search and copying and paste as if it is your answer is too stupid. Too many of the answers posted on this website are like that. Those answers make me question: "Is this website a portal website?", "Is this website a collection of links to Wikipedia", or "Is this website meant to be another Google?" What I think should be an answer is something that tells what you have known regarding the question asked. – None – 2012-03-12T17:24:42.823

Obviously, this is not the perfect place to discuss it (so if my answer does not satisfy you, let's move it to Meta, please), but in a nutshell: 1) some questions are bound to be answered appropriately somewhere else online and there is no good reason to reinvent the wheel there 2) in many cases, it is nicer to have references rather than an authoritative argument 3) in cases where an external source is used to answer, SE policy strongly encourages to copy-paste the relevant part in order to not be dependent on URL persistence... – Dave – 2012-03-13T13:55:35.567