Chinese calendar

Not to be confused with the official calendar in China, which is Gregorian calendar.
Shíyīyuè, Bǐngshēnnián
初 八
Tue, Dec 06, 2016
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
sang 1 point 22 fen
02:05:26 3:12
Chinese Calendar of 2017

The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar which reckons years, months and days according to astronomical phenomena. It is used for traditional activities in China and overseas Chinese communities. It determines the dates of traditional Chinese holidays, and guides Chinese people in selecting the luckiest days for weddings, funerals, moving, or beginning a business.

In the Chinese calendar, the days begin and end at midnight. The months begin on the day with the dark (new) moon. The years begin with the dark moon near the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox. The solar terms are the important components of the Chinese calendar. There are one to three solar terms within a month.

The present traditional Chinese calendar is the product of centuries of evolution. Many astronomical and seasonal factors were added by ancient scientists, and people can reckon the date of natural phenomena such as the moon phase and tide upon the Chinese calendar. The Chinese calendar has over 100 variants, whose characteristics reflect the calendar's evolutionary path. As with Chinese characters, different variants are used in different parts of the Chinese cultural sphere. In Korea, Vietnam, and the Ryukyu Islands, the Chinese calendar was adopted completely and evolved into Korean calendar and Vietnamese calendar with the main difference being the use of different meridian which lead to same astronomical event fall onto different date in different countries and thus occasionally same day would have different date in each of those calendars. The old Japanese calendar was also evolved from the Chinese calendar with Japanese meridian, however it have been abolished in early 20th century and since then being gradually forgotten. Calendars in regions like Mongolia and Tibet have also absorbed elements from the Chinese calendar, but those calendars have also absorbed elements from other systems and thus not a direct decedent of the Chinese calendar.

The official calendar in China is the Gregorian calendar, but the traditional Chinese calendar still plays an important role there. The Chinese calendar is known officially as the Rural Calendar(traditional Chinese: 農曆; simplified Chinese: 农历; pinyin: Nónglì),[1] but is often referred to by other names, such as the Former Calendar (traditional Chinese: 舊曆; simplified Chinese: 旧历; pinyin: Jiùlì), the Traditional Calendar (traditional Chinese: 老曆; simplified Chinese: 老历; pinyin: Lǎolì), or the Lunar Calendar (traditional Chinese: 陰曆; simplified Chinese: 阴历; pinyin: Yīnlì).



The calendar is a year, month and date frame. The key elements are day, synodic month, solar year. The Chinese calendar is a little more complex system. Chinese calendar is the lunisolar calendar, as Hindu calendar and Hebrew calendar.

The concepts in the Chinses, Hindu, and Hebrew calendars:

The Chinese calendar lost the status of the statutory calendar from the beginning of the 20th century, but has the great influence in the Eastern Asia.
The Hindu calendars are in status of disunity, but the versions of the Hindu calendars influences the nations and states in the mainland of the Southern Asia.
The Jewish calendar is one of the official calendars in Israel.


Several coding systems are used for some special circumstances in order to avoid ambiguity, such as continuous day or year count.

Coding system in Chinese calendar and time system
Heaven stems ¦
Earthly branches
Value 1 2 3 4 5 6 789 0 T 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 789 X
Pinyin jiǎ bǐng dīng gēng xīn rén guì chǒu yín mǎo chén wèi shēn yǒu hài
Chinese Character
time of -gēng /-shí 19:1221:360:002:244:487:129:3612:0014:2416:48 0:002:004:006:008:0010:0012:0014:0016:0018:0020:0022:00

Time system

Explanatory Chart for Chinese time

Currently, people use hour-minute-second system to describe time. In ancient china, people use the shi-ke system to describe the daytime, and the geng-dian system to describe the time at night. For example:

The Chinese standard time is 02:05:26, or 3:12(sang 1 point 22 fen).

In the Chinese calendar, the days begin at midnight and end at the next midnight, but people tend to regard the days as beginning at dawn.

In Han Dynasty, a day is divided into 24 hours, and the 15 active o'clocks(6:00-20:00) are named as: dawn(晨明), daybreak(朏明), morning(旦明), earlier breakfast(蚤食),later breakfast(宴食),ante noon(隅中),noon(正中),short shadow(少还), drum time(铺时),long shadow(大还), higher setting(高舂),lower setting(下舂), sunset (县东), dusk(黄昏), rest time(定昏)
A day is divided into 100 centidays by kes(the scales), or into 12 dual-hours by 12 shis, which are named with 12 earthly branches.
In the earlier stage, the time expression is sss initial, sss 1 ke,..., sss 8 ke, such as wush 3 ke(the third ke after wush)
After Tang dynasty, the time expression is pre-sss initial, pre-sss 1 ke,..., pre-sss 4 ke, sss initial, sss 1 ke,..., sss 4 ke, such as prewush 3 ke(the third ke of wush), yinsh 4 ke(the fourth ke after yinsh)
For the calendar convenience, A day is divided into 6000 fens. 1 centiday = 60 fens, 1 fen = 14.4 seconds.
A day is divided into 10 decidays by gengs(The midnight is sang, and each deciday is divided by 5 dians(points).
The time expression is ggg, ggg 1 point,..., ggg 5 point, such as sang 2 point(the second point after sang).
Among a year, the night length is inconstant. At 35°N, it's about 60% at the winter solstice, and about 40% at the summer solstice. So, the night gengs starts from a time between dawn and yig, and end at a time between wug and morn
At pre-Qin and Qin-Han, a day was divided into 16 parts from the cock time(3:00; 4:15 / sig 1 point 50 fen). The 16-parts system is established for calendar convinience, for:
A season is about 91 days and 5 parts, and a solar month is about 30 days and 7 parts.
A couple of months is about 59 days and a part.


For more information on the adaption of seven-day week, see Names of the days of the week § East_Asian_tradition.

The Chinese seem to have adopted the seven-day week from the Hellenistic system by the 4th century, although by which route is not entirely clear. It was again transmitted to China in the 8th century by Manichaeans, via the country of Kang (a Central Asian polity near Samarkand).[2][lower-alpha 1][lower-alpha 2] It is the most predominately used system in modern China.

Other than the seven-day week system, in ancient China, the days were grouped into 10-day weeks with the stems, 12-day weeks with the branches, or 9/10-day weeks(Chinese: ; pinyin: xún) with the date in the month.

The ten-day week was used in antiquity (reportedly as early as in the Bronze Age Xia Dynasty).[3]

The law in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220) required officials of the empire to rest every five days, called mu (沐), while it was changed into 10 days in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618 – 907), called huan (澣/浣) or xún (旬).

Months were almost three weeks long (alternating 29 and 30 days to keep in line with the lunation). As a practice, the months are divided into 3 xún. The first 10 days is the early xún (Chinese: 上旬), the middle 10 days is the mid xún (Chinese: 中旬), and the last 9 or 10 days is the late xún (Chinese: 下旬).

Markets in Japan followed the Chinese jun (旬) system; see Japanese calendar. In Korea, it was called "Sun" (순,旬).


Month is the time between the dark moon. In the early days, the month length was estimated, and balanced. In general, 15-months-cycles and 17-months-cycles alternated for compliance with the synodic month.

The 15-months-cycle is 30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30
The 17-months-cycle is 30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30,29,30

In different ages, the calendar use different major cycle, which contains several 15-months-cycles and 17-months-cycle. The synodic month of Taichu calendar is 2943/81 days, so the major cycle contains three 17-months-cycles and two 15-months-cycles.

In 7th century, the Wùyín Yuán Calendar of Tang dynasty in 7th century, the month length was determined by the real synodic month for the first time, instead of the cycling method, which mean month lengths is determined by observation and prediction starting from Tang dynasty, except a few brief period of time.[lower-alpha 3]

A month with 30 days is called a long month (Chinese: 大月), and a month with 29 days is called a short month (Chinese: 小月).
The days of the month are numbered beginning with 1, and in Chinese the day's number is always written with two characters,
such as Chūyī (Chinese: 初一) for 1, Shíwǔ (Chinese: 十五) for 15, and Niànsān (Chinese: 廿三) for 23.

Because astronomical observation is used to determine month length, date of the Chinese calendar corresponds to the moon phase.

The first day of each month is the dark moon.
In the 7th or 8th day of each month, the first quarter moon is visible in the afternoon and early evening.
In the 15th or 16th day of each month, the full moon is visible all night.
In the 22nd or 23rd day of each month, the last quarter moon is visible late at night and in the morning.

As the beginning of every month is determined by the time when the new moon occur, thus other countries who have adopted the calendar and use time standard that are different from China to calculate their own version of the calendar could result in deviation. For instance, the first new moon in the year 1968 in Gregorian calendar happened in UTC Jan 29 16:29, which would translate to Jan 29 23:29 in UTC+7 timezone (which is what North Vietnam used to calculate their Vietnamese calendar) while it would be Jan 30 00:15 based on the longitude of Beijing (as used by South Vietnam at the time), causing the two countries celebrate Tết holiday in different date that year and result in asynchronized attacks in Tet Offensive.[4]

Solar year and solar term

See also: Solar term
Solar term vs Zodiac

The solar year(traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: Suì) is the time between the winter solstices. The solar year is divided into 24 solar terms.

In ancient China, the solar year and solar terms were estimated and balanced, and the solar term is just the 1/24 of the solar year, about 157/32 days.

Starting from the 17th century, when the Shixian Calendar of Qing dynasty was adopted, the solar year is determined by the real tropical year instead, and the solar terms correspond to intervals of 15° along the ecliptic.

Different version of traditional Chinese calendar might have different average year length. For instance, one solar year of Taichu calendar, which were implemented in 1st century BC, is 365385/1539 days, while one solar year of Shoushi calendar, which were implemented in 13th century, is 36597/400 days, which is the same as the Gregorian calendar.

Couples of solar terms are climate terms(solar months). The first of each couples is "pre-climate" (traditional Chinese: 節氣; simplified Chinese: 节气; pinyin: Jiéqì), and the second of the each couple is "mid-climate" (traditional Chinese: 中氣; simplified Chinese: 中气; pinyin: Zhōngqì).

The relationship between Chinese Solar Terms and Chinese Months.
  1. FTC小寒 First Term of Cold Season
  2. STC大寒 Second Term of Cold Season
  3. VC立春 Vernal commence
  4. LTC雨水 Last Term of Cold Season(惊蛰)
  5. FTR惊蛰 First Term of Rainy Season(雨水)
  6. VE春分 Vernal Equinox
  7. STR清明 Second Term of Rainy Season(谷雨)
  8. LTR谷雨 Last Term of Rainy Season(清明)
  9. SC立夏 Summer commence
  10. FTG小满 First Term of Growing Season
  11. STG芒种 Second Term of Growing Season
  12. SS夏至 Summer Solstice
  13. FTH小暑 First Term of Hot Season
  14. STH大暑 Second Term of Hot Season
  15. AC立秋 Autumn Commence
  16. LTH处暑 Last Term of Hot Season
  17. FTD白露 First Term of Dew Season
  18. AE秋分 Autumn Equinox
  19. STD寒露 Second Term of Dew Season
  20. LTD霜降 Last Term of Dew Season
  21. WC立冬 Winter Commence
  22. FTS小雪 First Term of Snowy Season
  23. STS大雪 Second Term of Snowy Season
  24. WS冬至 Winter Solstice
Interactive chart of the dates of the start of the Chinese year from 1912 to 2101.

In general, there are 11 or 12 complete months and 2 incomplete months, which contains the winter solstice, in a solar year. The 11 mid-climates except the winter solstice are in the 11 or 12 complete months. The first month without a mid-climate is the leap month.

The complete months except the intercalary month, queues up from 0 to 10, and the incomplete months follows this queque, to be 11. The intercalary follows the queque number before by rule.

A solar year is about 3651/4 days, and 12 months is about 3543/8 days. So, the date of Chinese date will shift 11 days backward, or 18 days forward(there's a leap month in the year before).

The date of a Chinese date is always within the tolerance of ±15 days to a certain date, for example, the Chongyang Festival(9-09) is always within Oct 2 to Nov 1.
On the other hand, the Chinese date of a date is always within the tolerance of ±15 days to a certain Chinese date, for example, the National day of China is always within 7/7i-22 to 8-22.

The concert between the solar terms and the months, comply with the Metonic cycle in general. It means that the Chinese date gets the nearly date 19 years later, but the date near the leap month may be over a month.

Metonic cycle in the Chinese calendar

A representative sequence of common and leap years is lcc lcc lcc lc lcc lcc lc, and intercalary months are about 8i, 6i, 4i, 2i, 7i, 5i, 3i in each section.

The intercalary month of the leap year between 1862 and 2108 in the Chinese calendar
Leap1862~1880~1899~1918~1937~1956~1975 ~1994~2013~2032~2051~2070~2089~2108
0th year 7/8, 111862 81881 71900 81919 71938 71957 81976 81995 82014 92033 112052 82071 82090 8
3rd year 5/61865 51884 51903 51922 51941 61960 61979 61998 52017 62036 62055 62074 62093 6
6th year 41868 41887 41906 41925 41944 41963 41982 42001 42020 42039 52058 42077 42096 4
8/9th year 2/3, 101870 101890 21909 21928 21947 21966 31984 102004 32023 22042 22061 32080 32099 2
11th year 6/71873 61892 61911 61930 61949 71968 71987 62006 72025 62044 72063 72082 7 2101 7
14th year 51876 51895 51914 51933 51952 51971 51990 52009 52028 52047 52066 52085 5 2104 5
17th year 3/4, 21879 31898 31917 21936 31955 31974 41993 32012 42031 32050 32069 42088 4 2107 4

The month 9l/10l/11l/0l/1l is rare, and may be unified to the year junction, if we change the rules a little. For example:

1. The solar year is the time between the vernal commences, and the full moon after the vernal commences is the first of the year.
2. The first month is Zhengyue, the Last month is Layue; The month with vernal equinox is month 2, and the month with the first frost is month 9,
3. If there're two months before month 2, Zhengyue is month 0; else month 1, If there're four months after month 9, Layue is month 13; else month 12.
4. If there're nine months between month 2 and month 9, the first month without a mid-climate is a leap month(2l-8l).
5. For ordering convenience, the common months were recorded as 00-90 and 100-130(or 91-94 for shorter formula), the leap months were recorded as 21-81.

Civil year

The civil year starts from the first spring month(1), and ends at the last winter month(0/0i). The first and last month is called as Zhēngyuè (Chinese: 正月, capital month) and Làyuè (traditional Chinese: 臘月; simplified Chinese: 腊月, sacrificial month), and the other month is called according to the queque number(except that the 0th month is Shieryue, if the Layue is a leap month).

There are 12/13 months in each year. The years with 12 months are common years, or 353~355 days, is a common year. The years with 13 months, or 383~385 days, is a long year. There're two vernal Commences in a long years.

Years were numbered after the reign title in ancient China, but the reign title was neglected after the founding of PRC. People use the stem-branches to demarcate the years. For example, the year from February 8, 2016 to January 27, 2017 is a Bǐngshēnnían, a common year with late Vernal Commences(Chinese: 年尾春) , 12 months or 355 days long.

Age recognition in China

In China, age for official use is based on the Gregorian calendar. For traditional use, age is based on the Chinese calendar. From birthday to the end of the year, it's one year old. After each New Year's Eve, add one year. "Ring out the old age and ring in the new one(traditional Chinese: 辭舊迎新; simplified Chinese: 辞旧迎新; pinyin: cíjiù yíngxīn)" is the literary express of New Year Ceremony. For example, if one's birthday is Làyuè 29th 2013, he is 2 years old at Zhēngyuè 1st 2014. On the other hand, people say months old instead of years old, if someone is too young. It's that the age sequence is "1 month old, 2 months old, ... 10 months old, 2 years old, 3 years old...".

After the actual age (traditional Chinese: 實歲; simplified Chinese: 实岁) was introduced into China, the Chinese traditional age was referred to as the nominal age (traditional Chinese: 虛歲; simplified Chinese: 虚岁). Divided the year into two halves by the birthday in the Chinese calendar,[5] the nominal age is 2 older than the actual age in the first half, and the nominal age is 1 older than the actual age in the second half (traditional Chinese: 前半年前虛兩歲,後半年虛一歲; simplified Chinese: 前半年前虚两岁,后半年虚一岁).[6]

Year number system

Main article: Chinese era name

In the ancient system, years were numbered from 1, beginning when a new emperor ascended the throne or the authorities announced the reign title. The first reign title was Jiànyuán (Chinese: 建元, from 140 BCE), and the last reign title was Xuāntǒng (traditional Chinese: 宣統; simplified Chinese: 宣统, from 1908 CE). The era system was abolished in 1912 CE, after which the Current Era or Republican era was used. The epoch of the Current Era is just the same as the reign title of Emperor Píng of Hàn Dynasty, Yuánshí (Chinese: 元始, the original of the era).

The 60 stem-branches were used to mark the date continually from Shang Dynasty. Before Han Dynasty, people knew the orbital period of Jupiter is about 4332 days, which is about 12*361 days. So, the orbital period of Jupiter was divided into 12 periods, which was used to number the year. The Jupiter was called as the star of age(traditional Chinese: 嵗星; simplified Chinese: 岁星; pinyin: suìxīng), and the 1/12 Jupiter orbital period was called as the age(traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: suì).
361 days is just 6 cycles of 60-stem-branches, so the stem-branches of the first day move forward one after each sui. The first day of each sui was called as the sui capital(traditional Chinese: 太嵗; simplified Chinese: 太岁星; pinyin: tàisuì).
And the stem-branches of the taisui was used to mark the year. Obviously, there're two taisui in some year for the sui is shorter than solar rear. About after each 86 year, a taisui was leaped. The leaped of the sui was called as beyond the star(Chinese: 超辰; pinyin: chāochén).
At the eastern Han Dynasty, the chaochen are abolished, and the 60 stem-branches are used to mark year continually without leap.
The Stem-branches year number system provided a solution for the defect of era system(unequal length of the reign titles)

Occasionally, nomenclature similar to that of the Christian era has been used, such as[7]

Anno Huángdì(Chinese: 黄帝紀年), referring to the beginning of the reign of the Yellow Emperor, 2698+AD=AH
Anno Yáo(Chinese: 唐尧紀年), referring to the beginning of the reign of Emperor Yao, 2156+AD=AY
Anno Gònghé(Chinese: 共和紀年), referring to the beginning of the Gonghe Regency, 841+AD=AG
Anno Confucius(Chinese: 孔子紀年), referring to the birth year of Confucius, 551+AD=AC
Anno Unity(Chinese: 統一紀年), referring to the beginning of the reign of Qin Shi Huang, 221+AD=AU

No reference date is universally accepted. On January 2, 1912, Sun Yat-sen declared a change to the official calendar and era. In his declaration, January 1, 1912 is called Shíyīyuè 13th, 4609 AH which implied an epoch of 2698 BC. The implication was adopted by many overseas Chinese communities outside Southeast Asia such as San Francisco's Chinatown.[8]

In the 17th century, the Jesuits tried to determine what year should be considered the epoch of the Han calendar. In his Sinicae historiae decas prima (first published in Munich in 1658), Martino Martini (1614–1661) dated the ascension of the Yellow Emperor to 2697 BC, but started the Chinese calendar with the reign of Fuxi, which he claimed started in 2952 BCE. Philippe Couplet's (1623–1693) Chronological table of Chinese monarchs (Tabula chronologica monarchiae sinicae; 1686) also gave the same date for the Yellow Emperor. The Jesuits' dates provoked great interest in Europe, where they were used for comparisons with Biblical chronology. Modern Chinese chronology has generally accepted Martini's dates, except that it usually places the reign of the Yellow Emperor in 2698 BC and omits the Yellow Emperor's predecessors Fuxi and Shennong, who are considered "too legendary to include".

Starting in 1903, radical publications started using the projected date of birth of the Yellow Emperor as the first year of the Han calendar. Different newspapers and magazines proposed different dates. Jiangsu, for example, counted 1905 as year 4396 (use an epoch of 2491 BCE), whereas the newspaper Ming Pao (traditional Chinese: 明報; simplified Chinese: 明报) reckoned 1905 as 4603 (use an epoch of 2698 BC). Liu Shipei (劉師培; 1884–1919) created the Yellow Emperor Calendar, now often used to calculate the date, to show the unbroken continuity of the Han race and Han culture from earliest times. Liu's calendar started with the birth of the Yellow Emperor, which he determined to be 2711 BC. There is no evidence that this calendar was used before the 20th century.[9] Liu calculated that the 1900 international expedition sent by the Eight-Nation Alliance to suppress the Boxer Rebellion entered Beijing in the 4611th year of the Yellow Emperor.

There is an epoch for each version of the Chinese calendar, which is called Lìyuán (traditional Chinese: 曆元; simplified Chinese: 历元). The epoch is the optimal origin of the calendar, and it's a Jiǎzǐrì, the first day of a lunar month, and the dark moon and solstice are just at the midnight (Chinese: 日得甲子夜半朔旦冬至). And tracing back to a perfect day, such as that day with the magical star sign, there's a supreme epoch (Chinese: 上元; pinyin: shàngyuán). The continuous year based on the supreme epoch is shàngyuán jīnián (traditional Chinese: 上元積年; simplified Chinese: 上元积年). More and more factors were added into the supreme epoch, and the shàngyuán jīnián became a huge number. So, the supreme epoch and shàngyuán jīnián were neglected from the Shòushí calendar.

Shao Yong (Chinese: 邵雍 1011–1077), a philosopher, cosmologist, poet, and historian who greatly influenced the development of Neo-Confucianism in China, introduced a timing system in his The Ultimate which Manages the World (traditional Chinese: 皇極經世; simplified Chinese: 皇极经世; pinyin: Huángjíjīngshì) In his time system, 1 yuán (Chinese: ), which contains 12'9600 years, is a lifecycle of the world. Each yuán is divided into 12 huì (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ). Each huì is divided into 30 yùn (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ), and each yùn is divided into 12 shì (Chinese: ). So, each shì is equivalent to 30 years. The yuán-huì-yùn-shì corresponds with nián-yuè-rì-shí. So the yuán-huì-yùn-shì is called the major tend or the numbers of the heaven, and the nián-yuè-rì-shí is called the minor tend or the numbers of the earth.

The minor tend of the birth is adapted by people for predicting destiny or fate. The numbers of nián-yuè-rì-shí are encoded with stem-branches and show a form of Bāzì. The nián-yuè-rì-shí are called the Four Pillars of Destiny. For example, the Bāzì of the Qianlong Emperor is Xīnmǎo, Dīngyǒu, Gēngwǔ, Bǐngzǐ (辛卯、丁酉、庚午、丙子). Shào's Huángjíjīngshì recorded the history of the timing system from the first year of the 180th yùn or 2149th shì (HYSN 0630-0101, 2577 BC) and marked the year with the reign title from the Jiǎchénnián of the 2156th shì (HYSN 0630-0811, 2357 BC, Tángyáo 1, traditional Chinese: 唐堯元年; simplified Chinese: 唐尧元年). According to this timing system, 2014-1-31 is HYSN/YR 0712-1001/0101.

The table below shows the kinds of year number system along with correspondences to the Western (Gregorian) calendar. Alternatively, see this larger table of the full 60-year cycle.

Year in cycle s,b Gānzhī (干支) Year of the... CE[1] AR[1] HYSN[2] AH[3] Begins
277,3gēngyín (庚寅)Metal Tiger2010990712-09274707February 14
288,4xīnmǎo (辛卯)Metal Rabbit20111000712-09284708February 3
299,5rénchén (壬辰)Water Dragon20121010712-09294709January 23
3010,6guǐsì (癸巳)Water Snake20131020712-09304710February 10
311,7jiǎwǔ (甲午)Wood Horse20141030712-10014711January 31
322,8yǐwèi (乙未)Wood Goat20151040712-10024712February 19
333,9bǐngshēn (丙申)Fire Monkey20161050712-10034713February 8
344,10dīngyǒu (丁酉)Fire Rooster20171060712-10044714January 28
355,11wùxū (戊戌)Earth Dog20181070712-10054715February 16
366,12jǐhài (己亥)Earth Pig20191080712-10064716February 5

1 As of the beginning of the year. AR=Anno the Republic of China
2 Timestamp according to Huángjíjīngshì, as a format of Huìyùn-Shìnián.
3 Huángdì era, using an epoch (year 1) of 2697 BC. Subtract 60 if using an epoch of 2637 BC. Add 1 if using an epoch of 2698 BC.


The plum rains season is the rainy season during the late spring and early summer. The plum rains season starts on the first Bǐngrì after the Corn on Ear, and ends on the first Wèirì after the Moderate Heat.
The Sanfu days are the three sections from the first Gēng-day after the summer solstice. The first section is 10 days long, and named the fore fu (Chinese: 初伏; pinyin: chūfú). The second section is 10 or 20 days long, and named the mid fu (Chinese: 中伏; pinyin: zhōngfú). The last section is 10 days long from the first Gēng-day after autumn commences, and named the last fu (Chinese: 末伏; pinyin: mòfú).
The Shujiu cold days are the nine sections from the winter solstice. Each section is 9 days long. The shǔjǐu are the coldest days, and named with an ordinal number, such as Sìjǐu (Chinese: 四九).
The forecast of drought (traditional Chinese: 分龍; simplified Chinese: 分龙) is the key day which forecast if it's a drought year. the day is the first Chénrì after the Summer Solstice.


In the Sinosphere, the traditional festivals are upon the Chinese calendar (or local version of the Chinese calendar).

Preliminary Eve (Chinese: 小年) is Làyuè 23 or 24. The following preliminary eve is at 2016-02-01 in north China, and at 2016-02-02 in south China.
New Year's Eve (Chinese: 除夕) is the last day of the year, Làyuè 29 or 30. The following New Year's Eve is at 2016-02-07, which is a statutory holiday.
New Year's Day (traditional Chinese: 春節; simplified Chinese: 春节) is Zhēngyuè 1.The following New Year's Day is at 2016-02-08, which is a statutory holiday.
Yuanxiao (Chinese: 元宵) is Zhēngyuè 15. The following Yuanxiao is at 2015-03-05
Shangsi (Chinese: 上巳) is Sānyuè 3. The following Shangsi is at 2015-04-21
Buddha's Birthday (traditional Chinese: 佛誕; simplified Chinese: 佛诞) is Sìyuè 8. The following Buddha's Birthday is at 2015-05-25
Duanwu (Chinese: 端午) is Wǔyuè 5. The following Duanwu is at 2015-06-20, which is a statutory holiday.
Qixi (Chinese: 七夕) is Qīyuè 7. The following Qixi is at 2015-08-20
Zhongyuan (Chinese: 中元) is Qīyuè 15. The following Zhongyuan is at 2015-08-28
Mid-autumn (Chinese: 中秋) is Bāyuè 15. The following Mid-autumn is at 2015-09-27, which is a statutory holiday.
Dual-yang (traditional Chinese: 重陽; simplified Chinese: 重阳) is Jiǔyuè 9. The following Dual-yang is at 2015-10-21
Xiayuan (Chinese: 下元) is Shíyuè 15. The following Xiayuan is at 2015-11-26
The Laba Festival (traditional Chinese: 臘八節; simplified Chinese: 腊八节) is Làyuè 8. The following Laba Festival is at 2016-01-17
Hanshi (Chinese: 寒食) is 105 days after the Winter Solstice. The following Hanshi is April 4 or Éryuè 16, 2015
The Qingming Festival (Chinese: 清明) is just on the day of the Bright and Clear. The following Qingming Festival is April 5 or Éryuè 17, 2015, which is a statutory holiday.
The Winter Solstice (Chinese: 冬至) is just on the day of the Winter Solstice. The following Winter Solstice is December 22 or Shíyīyuè 12, 2015.
The Vernal/Autumn Sacrifice (Chinese: 春社/秋社) is the fifth Wùrì after Vernal/Autumn Commences.
In the old days, merchants used to open their stores from Zhēngyuè 5, and host a prayer service on that day. Zhēngyuè 5 is called God of Wealth's Day, and the prayer service is called God of Wealth is Welcome.
In the Fujian and Taiwan areas, businesses host a year-end dinner for employees at Làyuè 16. Làyuè 16 is called Weiya (Chinese: 尾牙).


Earlier Chinese calendars

Before the Zhou Dynasty, the Chinese calendars were solar calendars.

The History of Chinese Calendar

According to literature, the first version was the five-phases calendar (traditional Chinese: 五行曆; simplified Chinese: 五行历), which came from the tying knots culture. In the five-phases calendar, a year was divided into five phases which were expressed by five ropes. Each rope was folded into halves, and the day in the corner was the capital day(traditional Chinese: 行禦; simplified Chinese: 行御). There're three sections in each halves, and the Chinese Character of phase is the pictograph of the rope of the tying knots. The ten half-ropes were arranged into a row, and a man shape was engraved by the ropes. The part of man shape derived into 10 heaven stems. The days in each sections were recorded with 12 earthly branches. So, in five-phases calendar, a year is fives phases or ten months, and a phase is six sections or 73 days. The remainder of each phases are marked in the Hetu, which is found in Song Dynasty.

The second version is the four-seasons calendar (traditional Chinese: 四時八節曆; simplified Chinese: 四时八节历). In the four-seasons calendar, the days were counting by ten, and three ten-days weeks were built into a month. There were 12 months in a year, and a week were intercalated in the hot month. In the age of four-seasons calendar, the 10 heaven stems and 12 earthly branches were used to mark days synchronously.

The third version is the balanced calendaralendar (traditional Chinese: 調曆; simplified Chinese: 调历) is In the balanced calendar, a year was defined into 365.25 days, and the month was defined into 29.5 days. And after each 16 months, a half-month was intercalated. There half-months were merged into months later, and the archetype of the Chinese calendar was brought out in the Spring and Autumn ages.

The oracle bone records indicate that the calendar of Shang Dynasty were a balanced calendar, and the 12, 13, even 14 months were packed into a year roughly. Generally, the month after the winter solstice was named as the capital month(Chinese: 正月).[10]

Ancient Chinese calendars

Pre-Qin dynasty calendars

In Zhou dynasty, the authority issued the official calendar, which is a primitive lunisolar calendar. The year beginning of Zhou's calendar (traditional Chinese: 周曆; simplified Chinese: 周历) is the day with dark moon before the winter solstice, and the epoch is the Winter Solstice of a Dīngyǒu year.

Some remote vassal states issued their own calendars upon the rule of Zhou's calendar, such as:

The epoch of the Lu's calendar (traditional Chinese: 魯曆; simplified Chinese: 鲁历) is the winter solstice of a Gēngzǐ year.

During the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period, Some vassal states got out of control of Zhou, and issues their own official calendar, such as:

Jin issued the Xia's calendar (traditional Chinese: 夏曆; simplified Chinese: 夏历), with an year beginning of the day with the nearest darkmoon to the Vernal Commences. The epoch of Xia's calendar is the Vernal Commences of a Bǐngyíng year.
Qin issued the Zhuanxu's calendar (traditional Chinese: 顓頊曆; simplified Chinese: 颛顼历), with an year beginning of the day with the nearest darkmoon to the Winter Commences. The epoch of Zhuanxu's calendar is the Winter Commences of a Yǐmǎo year.
Song resumed the Yin's calendar (traditional Chinese: 殷曆; simplified Chinese: 殷历), with an year beginning of the day with the darkmoon after the Winter Solstice. The epoch of Yin's calendar is the Winter Solstice of a Jiǎyíng year.

These six calendars are called as the six ancient calendars (traditional Chinese: 古六曆; simplified Chinese: 古六历), and are the quarter remainder calendars (traditional Chinese: 四分曆; simplified Chinese: 四分历; pinyin: sìfēnlì). The months of these calendars begin on the day with the darkmoon, and there are 12 or 13 month within a year. The intercalary month is placed at the end of the year, and called as 13th month.

Calendar of the Qin and early Han dynasties

After Qin Shi Huang unified China under the Qin dynasty, the Qin's calendar (traditional Chinese: 秦曆; simplified Chinese: 秦历) was released. The Qin's calendar follows the rules of Zhuanxu's calendar, but the months order follows the Xia calendar. The months in the year are from the 10th month to the 9th month, and the intercalary month is called as the second Jiuyue (traditional Chinese: 後九月; simplified Chinese: 后九月). In the early Han dynasty, the Qin calendar continued to be used.

Taichu calendar and the calendars from the Han to Ming dynasties.

Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty introduced reforms in the halfway of his administration. His Taichu or Grand Inception Calendar (traditional Chinese: 太初曆; simplified Chinese: 太初历) introduced 24 solar terms which decides the month names. The solar year was defined as 365 385/1539 days, and divided into 24 solar terms. Each couples of solar terms are associated into 12 climate terms. The lunar month was defined as 29 43/81 days and named according to the closest climate term. The mid-climate in the month decides the month name, and a month without mid-climate is an intercalary.

The Taichu calendar established the frame of the Chinese calendar, Ever since then, there are over 100 official calendars in Chinese which are consecutive and follow the structure of Tàichū calendar both. There're several innovation in calendar calculation in the history of over 2100 years, such as:

In the Dàmíng Calendar released in Tiānjiān 9 (Chinese: 天监九年, 510) of the Liang dynasty, Zhu Chongzhi introduced the equation of equinoxes.
Actual syzygy method was adopted to decide the month from the Wùyín Yuán Calendar, which was released in Wǔdé 2 (Chinese: 武德二年, 619) of the Tang dynasty.
The real measured data was used in calendar calculation from Shòushí Calendar, which was released in Zhìyuán 18 (Chinese: 至元十八年, 1281) of the Yuan dynasty. And the tropical year is fixed at 365.2425 days, the same as the Gregorian calendar established in 1582.,[11] and derived spherical trigonometry.[12][13][14]

Modern Chinese calendars

Shíxiàn calendar

Main article: Shixian calendar

In the late Ming dynasty, Xu Guangqi and his colleagues worked out the new calendar upon the western astronomical arithmetic. But, the new calendar is not released before the end of the Ming dynasty. In the early Qing dynasty, Johann Adam Schall von Bell submitted the calendar to the Shunzhi Emperor. The Qing government released the calendar with a name, the Shíxiàn calendar, which means seasonal charter. In the Shíxiàn calendar, the solar terms each correspond to 15° along the ecliptic. It makes the Chinese calendar develop into an astronomical calendar. However, the length of the climate term near the perihelion is shorter than 30 days and there may be two mid-climate terms. The rule of the mid-climate terms decides the months, which is used for thousands years, lose its validity. The Shíxiàn calendar changed the rule to "decides the month in sequence, except the intercalary month".

Current Chinese calendar

The version of traditional Chinese calendar currently being used follows the rules of the Shíxiàn calendar, except that:

Changed the baseline from Beijing local time to Chinese Standard Time.
Adopted the real astronomical data against the theoretical calculation.

Proposals to optimize the Chinese calendar

To optimize the Chinese calendar, astronomers and astrophiles released many proposals. A typical proposal was released by Gao Pingzi (Chinese: 高平子; 1888-1970), a Chinese astronomer who was one of the founders of Purple Mountain Observatory. In his proposal, the month numbers are calculated before the dark moons and the solar terms were rounded to day. Upon his proposal, the month numbers are the same for the Chinese calendar upon different time zones.

As intercalary month is determined by the first month without mid-climate and the exact time when each mid-climate happen would vary according to time zone, countries that have adopted the calendar but calculate with their own time could vary from the one used in China because of this. For instance, the 2012 FTG happened in UTC May 20 15:15, which would translate to May 20 23:15 in UTC+8, making FTG the mid-climate for the fourth month of that traditional Chinese year [April 21 ~ May 20 in Gregorian calendar], but in Korea it happen in May 21 00:15 in UTC+9, and as new moon take place in May 21 in that month, therefore the month before that would only consist of the SC solar term, lacking mid-climate. As a result, the month starting at April 21 would be an intercalary month in Korean calendar, but not in Chinese Calendar, and the intercalary month in Chinese calendar would start in the month after, in the fifth month starting from May 21, which would only consist of the solar term STG, while the month in Korean Calendar would have both FTG and STG solar term in it.

Other practices

Among the ethnic groups inhabiting the mountain and plateau of southwestern China, and those living in the grasslands of northern China, the civil calendars shows a diversity of practice upon the characteristic phenology and culture, but they are based on the algorithm of the Chinese calendar of different periods, especially those of the Tang dynasty and pre-Qin dynasty period. For example, the Thai, Tibetan and Mongolian calendar is based on the algorithm of the Tang dynasty, while the Miao and Yi calendar is based on the algorithm of the pre-Qin dynasty period.

See also


  1. The 4th-century date, according to the Cihai encyclopedia, is due to a reference to Fan Ning (範寧/范宁), an astrologer of the Jin Dynasty.
  2. The renewed adoption from Manichaeans in the 8th century (Tang Dynasty) is documented with the writings of the Chinese Buddhist monk Yi Jing and the Ceylonese Buddhist monk Bu Kong.
  3. For instance the 19th year in Wùyín Yuán Calendar was expected to have 4 consecutive long month if the real synodic method is used, which made people at the time feel strange, and thus they revert to use cycling method to determine month length that year.


  1. The traditional Chinese calendar is cultural/religious calendar against the farming calendar. The traditional Chinese calendar was first called as "農曆" by the newspapers of the mainland of China at January 1st of 1968. 1968 is a year of the fiery years of "Smash all the old ideas, culture, customs, and habits which caused by the exploiting classes and poison people over thousands of years", and the traditional Chinese calendar was labelled with "農" and regarded as backward culture just as rural area by the ruling "working" class. The suitable traslation of "農曆" is the rural calendar, for the coverage of the traditional Chinese calendar is mostly in the rural area today(except the Chinese New Year). On the other hand, the Gregorian calendar is more convenient for farming than the traditional Chinese calendar.
  2. The Chinese encyclopaedia Cihai (辞海) under the entry for "seven luminaries calendar" (七曜历/七曜曆, qī yào lì) has: "method of recording days according to the seven luminaries [七曜 qī yào]. China normally observes the following order: Sun, Mon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. Seven days make one week, which is repeated in a cycle. Originated in ancient Babylon (or ancient Egypt according to one theory). Used by the Romans at the time of the 1st century AD, later transmitted to other countries. This method existed in China in the 4th century. It was also transmitted to China by Manichaeans in the 8th century from the country of Kang (康) in Central Asia." (translation after Bathrobe's Days of the Week in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese, plus Mongolian and Buryat (
  3. 海上 (2005). 《中國人的歲時文化》. 岳麓書社. p. 195. ISBN 7-80665-620-0.
  4. Mathematics of the Chinese calendar, pp. 29–30.
  5. The birthday is the day in each year that have the same date as the one on which someone was born. It's easy to confirm the birthday in the Chinese calendar for most people. But, if someone was born on the 30th of a month, his birthday is the last day of that month, and if someone is born in an intercalary month, his birthday is the day with the same date in the common month of the intercalary month.
  6. The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, and the birthday in the Chinese calendar is not same as in the Gregorian calendar always. so, there's a bias of +/-1 between the actual age in the Chinese calendar and in the Gregorian calendar. Thus, the nominal age in the Chinese calendar is 0~3 older than the actual age in the Gregorian calendar.
  7. 《辽宁大学学报:哲社版》,2004/06,43~50页
  8. Aslaksen, p.38.
  9. Cohen (2012), p. 1, 4.
  11. Asiapac Editorial. (2004). Origins of Chinese Science and Technology. Translated by Yang Liping and Y.N. Han. Singapore: Asiapac Books Pte. Ltd. ISBN 981-229-376-0, p.132.
  12. Needham, Joseph. (1959). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 3, Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth. Cambridge University Press., reprinted Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.(1986), pp. 109–110.
  13. Ho, Peng Yoke. (2000). Li, Qi, and Shu: An Introduction to Science and Civilization in China. Mineola: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-41445-0. p. 105.
  14. Restivo, Sal. (1992). Mathematics in Society and History: Sociological Inquiries. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 1-4020-0039-1. p. 32.

Further reading

External links


Calendar conversion


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