Chinese calendar -Chinese lunar calendar
Brief Introduction of Chinese calendar
Chinese calendar represents one of the longest unbroken sequences of time measurement in history. Chinese Lunar New Year is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600BC, when the Emperor Huangdi introduced the first cycle of the zodiac.
Chinese calendar is based on exact astronomical observations of the longitude of the sun and the phases of the moon. This means that principles of modern science have relation with the Chinese calendar. The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the twelve years after an animal. Legend has it that the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: "This is the animal that hides in your heart.
Same with the western calendar, Chinese calendar is a yearly one, with the start of the lunar year being based on the cycles of the moon. The Chinese calendar combines the lunar and solar systems together. The Year and Day cycles use the solar system. However, there are two different Month cycles in the Chinese calendar. One uses the lunar system and the other uses the solar system. In the lunar system of Month, the new moon day is the first day of a lunar month. The length of a lunar month is the length of time between two new moon days. The name of a lunar Month is taken from the solar system. The Chinese solar months are not like the months of a modern calendar. The Chinese calendar divides the year into 24 solar segments according to the sun positions on the tropical zodiac (Similar to western astrology). Each segment's name was given for ancient Chinese farmers' use. Therefore, because of this cyclical dating, the beginning of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. A complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five cycles of 12 years each.
The year can be divided in to ordinary year and leap year. An ordinary year has 12 months, a leap year has 13 months. An ordinary year has 353, 354, or 355 days, a leap year has 383, 384, or 385 days.
Although the People's Republic of China uses the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes, a special Chinese calendar is used for determining festivals. Various Chinese communities around the world also use this calendar.
What Years Are Leap Years?
Leap years have 13 months. To determine if a year is a leap year, calculate the number of new moons between the 11th month in one year (i.e., the month containing the Winter Solstice) and the 11th month in the following year. If there are 13 months from the start of the 11th month in the first year to the start of the 11th month in the second year, a leap month must be inserted.
In leap years, at least one month does not contain a Principal Term. The first such month is the leap month. It carries the same number as the previous month, with the additional note that it is the leap month.
How about the relation between Zodiac Animal and Gregorian calendar
Rat 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996
Ox 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997
Tiger 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998
Rabbit 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999
Dragon 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000
Snake 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001
Horse 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002
Sheep 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003
Monkey 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004
Rooster 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005
Dog 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006
Boar 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007
Future New Year dates:
2003 - Feb 1
2004 - Jan 22
2005 - Feb 9
2006 - Jan 29
2007 - Feb 18
How Does Ancient Chinese Count Years?
Unlike most other calendars, the Chinese calendar does not count years in an infinite sequence. Instead years have names that are repeated every 60 years. (Historically, years used to be counted since the accession of an emperor, but this was abolished after the 1911 revolution.)
Within each 60-year cycle, each year is assigned name consisting of two components:
The first component is a Celestial Stem (Tiangan in Chinese). These words have no English equivalent:
1. jia 2. yi 3. bing 4. ding 5. wu 6. ji 7. geng 8. xin 9. ren 10. gui
The second component is a Terrestrial Branch (Dizhi in Chinese). The names of the corresponding animals in the zodiac cycle of 12 animals are given in parentheses.
1. zi (rat) 7. wu (horse)
2. chou (ox) 8. wei (sheep)
3. yin (tiger) 9. shen (monkey)
4. mao (hare, rabbit) 10. you (rooster)
5. chen (dragon) 11. xu (dog)
6. si (snake) 12. hai (pig)
Each of the two components is used sequentially. Thus, the 1st year of the 60-year cycle becomes jia-zi, the 2nd year is yi-chou, the 3rd year is bing-yin, etc. When we reach the end of a component, we start from the beginning: The 10th year is gui-you, the 11th year is jia-xu (restarting the Celestial Stem), the 12th year is yi-hai, and the 13th year is bing-zi (restarting the Terrestrial Branch). Finally, the 60th year becomes gui-hai.
This way of naming years within a 60-year cycle goes back approximately 2000 years. A similar naming of days and months has fallen into disuse, but the date name is still listed in calendars.
It is customary to number the 60-year cycles since 2637 B.C.E., when the calendar was supposedly invented. In that year the first 60-year cycle started.
What about the year 2033?
In the early 1990s, Chinese astronomers discovered that there was an error in the Chinese calendar for 2033. The traditional calendar claimed that the leap month would follow the 7th month, while in fact it comes after the 11th month. It is very unusual that the 11th month has a leap month; in fact it hasn't happened since the calendar reform in 1645 (before 1645, all months had the same probability for having a leap month). But many astronomers still claim that there will never be a leap month after the 12th and 1st month. In addition, there will be a leap month after the 1st month in 2262 (in fact, it should have happened in 1651) and there will be a leap month after the 12th month in 3358. Since the Chinese calendar is an astronomical calendar, predictions require delicate astronomical calculations, so my computations for 3358 should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
When did the calendar really start?
If the Chinese calendar started in 2637 B.C.E., why is the current year 60 years too late? (e.g., in 1999, the current year was 4697? and not 4637)?
The Chinese calendar does not use a continuous year count! They used a 60 year cycle and a system of regional years (starting with each emperor). Before the 1911 revolution, Sun Yat-sen wanted to establish a republican alternative to the imperial reign cycles. According to Chinese tradition, the first year of the Yellow Emperor was 2698 B.C.E., so he introduced a counting system based on this. Under this system, 2000 is year 4698. An alternative system is to start with the first historical record of the 60-day cycle from March 8, 2637 B.C.E. Based on this system, 2000 is year 4637.
What was the Early Chinese calendar like?
Picture here Two oracle bones --------Shang Dynasty in China(c. 1800 - 1200 BCE)
Evidence from the Shang oracle bone inscriptions shows that at least by the 14th century BC the Shang Chinese had established the solar year at 365 1/4 days and lunation at 29 1/2 days. In the calendar that the Shang used, the seasons of the year and the phases of the Moon were all supposedly accounted for.
In China, the calendar was a sacred document, sponsored and promulgated by the reigning monarch. For more than two millennia, a Bureau of Astronomy made astronomical observations, calculated astronomical events such as eclipses, prepared astrological predictions, and maintained the calendar. After all, a successful calendar not only served practical needs, but also confirmed the consonance between Heaven and the imperial court.
Analysis of surviving astronomical records inscribed on oracle bones reveals a Chinese lunisolar calendar, with intercalation of lunar months, dating back to the Shang dynasty of the fourteenth century B.C.E. Various intercalation schemes were developed for the early calendars, including the nineteen-year and 76-year lunar phase cycles that came to be known in the West as the Metonic cycle and Callipic cycle.
From the earliest records, the beginning of the year occurred at a New Moon near the winter solstice. The choice of month for beginning the civil year varied with time and place, however. In the late second century B.C.E., a calendar reform established the practice, which continues today, of requiring the winter solstice to occur in month 11. This reform also introduced the intercalation system in which dates of New Moons are compared with the 24 solar terms. However, calculations were based on the mean motions resulting from the cyclic relationships. Inequalities in the Moon's motions were incorporated as early as the seventh century C.E., but the Sun's mean longitude was used for calculating the solar terms until 1644.
Years were counted from a succession of eras established by reigning emperors. Although the accession of an emperor would mark a new era, an emperor might also declare a new era at various times within his reign. The introduction of a new era was an attempt to reestablish a broken connection between Heaven and Earth, as personified by the emperor. The break might be revealed by the death of an emperor, the occurrence of a natural disaster, or the failure of astronomers to predict a celestial event such as an eclipse. In the latter case, a new era might mark the introduction of new astronomical or calendrical models.
Sexagenary cycles were used to count years, months, days, and fractions of a day using the set of Celestial Stems and Terrestrial Branches. Use of the sixty-day cycle is seen in the earliest astronomical records. By contrast the sixty-year cycle was introduced in the first century C.E. or possibly a century earlier. Although the day count has fallen into disuse in everyday life, it is still tabulated in calendars. The initial year (jia-zi) of the current year cycle began on 1984 February 2, which is the third day (bing-yin) of the day cycle.
Details of early calendars
One of the two methods that they used to make this calendar was to add an extra month of 29 or 30 days, which they termed the 13th month, to the end of a regular 12-month year. There is also evidence that suggests that the Chinese developed the Metonic cycle (see above Complex cycles) -- i.e., 19 years with a total of 235 months--a century ahead of Meton's first calculation (no later than the Spring and Autumn period, 770-476 BC). During this cycle of 19 years there were seven intercalations of months. The other method, which was abandoned soon after the Shang started to adopt it, was to insert an extra month between any two months of a regular year. Possibly, a lack of astronomical and arithmetical knowledge allowed them to do this.
By the 3rd century BC, the first method of intercalation was gradually falling into disfavour, while the establishment of the meteorological cycle, the erh-shih-ssu chieh-ch'i (Pinyin ershisi jieqi), during this period officially revised the second method. This meteorological cycle contained 24 points, each beginning one of the periods named consecutively the Spring Begins, the Rain Water, the Excited Insects, the Vernal Equinox, the Clear and Bright, the Grain Rains, the Summer Begins, the Grain Fills, the Grain in Ear, the Summer Solstice, the Slight Heat, the Great Heat, the Autumn Begins, the Limit of Heat, the White Dew, the Autumn Equinox, the Cold Dew, the Hoar Frost Descends, the Winter Begins, the Little Snow, the Heavy Snow, the Winter Solstice, the Little Cold, and the Severe Cold. The establishment of this cycle required a fair amount of astronomical understanding of the Earth as a celestial body, and without elaborate equipment it is impossible to collect the necessary information. Modern scholars acknowledge the superiority of pre-Sung Chinese astronomy (at least until about the 13th century AD) over that of other, contemporary nations.
The 24 points within the meteorological cycle coincide with points 15o apart on the ecliptic (the plane of the Earth's yearly journey around the Sun or, if it is thought that the Sun turns around the Earth, the apparent journey of the Sun against the stars). It takes about 15.2 days for the Sun to travel from one of these points to another (because the ecliptic is a complete circle of 360o), and the Sun needs 365 1/4 days to finish its journey in this cycle. Supposedly, each of the 12 months of the year contains two points, but, because a lunar month has only 29 1/2 days and the two points share about 30.4 days, there is always the chance that a lunar month will fail to contain both points, though the distance between any two given points is only 15o. If such an occasion occurs, the intercalation of an extra month takes place. For instance, one may find a year with two "Julys" or with two "Augusts" in the Chinese calendar. In fact, the exact length of the month in the Chinese calendar is either 30 days or 29 days--a phenomenon which reflects its lunar origin. Also, the meteorological cycle means essentially a solar year. The Chinese thus consider their calendar as yin-yang li, or a "lunar-solar calendar."
When were foreign calendars introduced?
Although the yin-yang li has been continuously employed by the Chinese, foreign calendars were introduced to the Chinese, the Hindu calendar, for instance, during the T'ang (Tang) dynasty (618-907), and were once used concurrently with the native calendar. This situation also held true for the Muslim calendar, which was introduced during the Yan dynasty (1206-1368). The Gregorian calendar was taken to China by Jesuit missionaries in 1582, the very year that it was first used by Europeans. Not until 1912, after the general public adopted the Gregorian calendar, did the yin-yang li lose its primary importance.
Western (pre-Copernican) astronomical theories were introduced to China by Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century. Gradually, more modern Western concepts became known. Following the revolution of 1911, the traditional practice of counting years from the accession of an emperor was abolished.
Why is 2000 a Golden Dragon Year?
This cycle is used for keeping track of years, months, days and (double) hours in Chinese astrology. Your date and time of birth is determined by the Eight Characters () formed by the pair of cyclical characters for the year, month, day and hour. The 60-day cycle has been used for keeping track of days since ancient times. In 4 CE, during the Hn () dynasty, the 60-year cycle was also introduced. The earliest recorded use of the 60-year cycle is from 13 CE. In modern times, the year cycle is the only one that is in common use. Notice that each branch, or animal, occurs five times in each 60-year cycle. An animal corresponding to an odd number, will meet the stems that correspond to the odd numbers. Year 2000 is the 17th year in the current cycle (see below), so it corresponds to (7,5) (17 = 10 + 7 = 12 + 5) or (, ). So we see that it is a metal dragon year, or a Golden Dragon. 24 solar segments or Jieqi:
Chinese months follow the phases of the moon. The part of the calendar that follows the movement of the sun is called Jie Chi ( jie2 qi). Jie Chi is also translated to "Solar Terms". There are twenty four Jie Chi. These Jie Chi roughly fall on the same date in solar calendars such as Gregorian Calendar because they were solar based. Obviously these Jie Chi do not form any pattern in the Chinese calendar. Before the Gregorian calendar was introduced to China, these Jie Chi are published each year in farmers' almanac. Farmers relied on these Jie Chi to plan their planting and harvest.
Chinese Name Occurrence (Gregorian Date) Literary Meaning Remark
(li chun) February 4 ~ February 18 start of spring
(yu shui) February 19 ~ March 4 rain water indicates more rain instead of snow
(jing zhe) March 5 ~ March 20 awakening of the insects indicates animals and insects awakening from hibernation
(chun fen) March 21 ~ April 4 vernal equinox
(qing ming) April 5 ~ April 19 clear and bright the time for tending graves
(gu yu) April 20 ~ May 5 grain rain indicates rain will help grain growth
(li xia) May 6 ~ May 20 start of summer
(xia man) May 21 ~ June 5 small plumpness indicates plumpness of grains
(mang zhong) June 6 ~ June 20 grain in ear indicates grains growing ears (botany usage)
(xia zhi) June 21 ~ July 6 summer solstice
(xiao shu) July 7 ~ July 22 minor heat
(da shu) July 23 ~ August 6 major heat
(li qiu) August 7 ~ August 22 start of autumn
̎(chu shu) August 23 ~ September 7 stop of heat
(bai lu) September 8 ~ September 22 white dew indicates condensed moisture makes dew white
(qiu fen) September 23 ~ October 7 autumnal equinox
(han lu) October 8 ~ October 22 cold dew
(shuang jiang) October 23 ~ November 6 frost descent indicates appearing of frost and descent of temperature
(li dong) November 7 ~ November 21 start of winter
(xiao xue) November 22 ~ December 7 minor snow
(da xue) December 7 ~ December 21 major snow
(dong zhi) December 22 ~ January 5 winter solstice
(xiao han) January 6 ~ January 19 minor cold
(da han) January 20 ~ February 3 major cold
The solar months are defined by the sun longitudes. The first month, Tiger month, begins from the "Start of Spring" segment or when the sun enters the 315th degree on the tropical zodiac. The second month, Rabbit month, begins from the "Excited Insects" segment or when the sun enters 345th degree. The beginning of a solar month is called the Segment Point. In the middle of a solar month is called the Center Point. For example, the segments of "Rain Water" and "Vernal Equinox" are Center Points. The astrology names of "Pisces" and "Aries" apply to these Center Points.
The lunar month name is derived from the Solar Center Point. For example, If a lunar month contains the "Rain Water" Center Point, then it is the first month of the lunar calendar, as known as the Tiger month.
If a lunar month does not contain any Solar Center Point, that month is known as a Leap Month. The name of this leap month is the same as previous lunar month. The reason to assign leap months is that we want the moon cycle to harmonize with the sun cycle. Because one year has about 365.2425 days and one month has about 29.53 days, one year has about 12.3685 months. 12.3685 are about 12 and 7/19. If we put seven extra months in 19 years, sun and moon should be back to the same sky position. "Seven Leap Months in 19 years" is easy for people to remember. However, 12.3685 are almost equal to 12 and 144/391. That means "144 Leap months in 391 years" is a more accurate way to assign Leap months. So far, no one has lived long enough to observe the entire cycle.
Anyway, the principles of the Chinese Calendar use the following three rules which the ancient Chinese made them thousand years ago.
l The new moon day is the first day of a lunar month
l The name of a lunar name is named by the Solar Center Point
l The lunar month without a Center Point is a Leap month
In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the new moon day is the first day of a lunar month and the length of a lunar month is the length between two new moon days. In the Chinese Fortune-Telling (Astrology) Calendar, the first day of a month is the day on a Solar Segment Point and the length of a month is the length between two Solar Segment Points. Therefore there is no Leap Month in the Chinese Fortune-Telling System.
Without this knowledge, above-mentioned, most people will be confused about the solar months and lunar months. They may think all Chinese Fortune-Telling system use lunar months. Actually, the Fortune-Telling system called Eight Characters only uses the solar month, not the lunar month. The other popular system called Dipper uses solar month and lunar month together.
The counting system of Day is the Stem-Branch 60-day cycle system. No one knows who invented the Stem-Branch for Day counting system, but legend has it that characters of Day Stem-Branch were found on Oracle bones. The Animal names of Stem-Branch were applied into the Month system around 206 B.C. (between the Chin and Han dynasties). The Stem-Branch was applied into the Year system around 164 B.C..
Almost every Chinese dynasty had its own calendar. One reason was that the new emperor needed to announce the new rules including the new calendar to the public. The other reason was that the astronomer's officers had to make some adjustments on the calendar in order to match the sun and moon in the sky.
The first day of a year has been changed many times in Chinese calendars. The current Chinese calendar uses the first day of the first month of Tiger month as the first day of a year, which was initially adopted by the Shiah dynasty (2183-1752 B.C.). Today, some people consider the Winter Solstice as the first day of a year in the Chinese Fortune-Telling System, because that makes more sense from the astronomy view.