Chinese calendar

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A single page of the Chinese calendar of Jiǎwǔnián, which contains the Tibetan and Islamic date

Chinese calendar may refer to any of the official and civil calendars used in China and some neighbouring countries in different periods of history; however, the phrase is generally synonymous with Han calendar.

The official calendar in China today is the Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar. It is used for public and business affairs.

The civil calendar in much of China is the Han calendar, which is a lunisolar calendar. It is used for selecting the day of a wedding or funeral, for opening a venture, or a relocation. A similar calendar is used in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam for these purposes. Muslims living in Xinjiang, Ningxia and other parts of northern China use the Islamic calendar, which is a mean moon lunar calendar, as their civil calendar. The civil calendar for Tibet is the Tibetan calendar, which is a lunisolar calendar. The civil calendar for Miao is the Miao calendar, which is a solar calendar.

In China, some public holidays relate to the Gregorian calendar, such as Labor Day and National Day while others relate to the Chinese Calendar, such as Chinese New Year, Duanwu Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival. In specified provinces(Autonomous~) of China, some extra public holidays related to Islamic calendar or Tibetan calendar, such as Islamic New Year and the Major Festival in Ningxia and Xinjiang, Tibetan New Year and Summer Assembly in Tibet.

The Han calendar is a lunisolar calendar, which indicates both the moon phases and the solar terms. In Han calendar, a year usually begins on the second dark moon after the winter solstice but occasionally on the third dark moon after the winter solstice.

The year from January 31, 2014 to February 18, 2015 is a Wǔnián or Mǎnián (Year of the Horse).

An example of a Gregorian calendar and Chinese lunisolar calendar below it
A combination calendar, with Gregorian system below and a Chinese zodiac chart above.

Early Chinese calendars[edit]

It is found on the oracle bones of the Shang Dynasty (late 2nd millennium BC), which seem to describe a lunisolar year of 12 months, with a possible intercalary 13th, or even 14th, added empirically to prevent calendar drift. The Sexagenary cycle for recording days was already in use. Tradition holds that, in that era, the year began on the first new moon after the winter solstice.

Early Eastern Zhou texts, such as the Spring and Autumn Annals, provide better understanding of the calendars used in the Zhou dynasty. One year usually had 12 months, which were alternately 29 and 30 days long (with an additional day added from time to time, to catch up with "drifts" between the calendar and the actual moon cycle), and intercalary months were added in an arbitrary fashion at the end of the year.

These arbitrary rules on day and month intercalation caused the calendars of each state to be slightly different, at times. Thus, texts like the Annals will often state whether the calendar they use (the calendar of Lu) is in phase with the Royal calendar (used by the Zhou kings).

Although tradition holds that in the Zhou, the year began on the new moon which preceded the winter solstice, the Spring and Autumn Annals seem to indicate that (in Lu at least) the Yin calendar (the calendar used in Shang dynasty, with years beginning on the first new moon after the winter solstice) was in use until the middle of the 7th century, and that the beginning of the year was shifted back one month around 650 BC.

By the beginning of the Warring States, progress in astronomy and mathematics allowed the creation of calculated calendars (where intercalary months and days are set by a rule, and not arbitrarily). The quarter remainder calendar(traditional Chinese: 四分曆; simplified Chinese: 四分历; pinyin: sìfēnlì), which began about 484 BC, was the first calculated Chinese calendar, so named because it used a solar year of 365¼ days (the same as the 1st-century BC Julian Calendar of Rome), along with a 19-year (235-month) Rule Cycle (Chinese: ; pinyin: zhāng) , known in the West as the Metonic cycle.[1] The year began on the new moon preceding the winter solstice, and intercalary months were inserted at the end of the year.

In 256 BC, as the last Zhou king ceded his territory to Qin, a new calendar (the Qin calendar) began to be used. It followed the same principles as the Sifen calendar, except that the year began at Shíyuè 1(Chinese: 十月朔; pinyin: shíyuèshuò, the closest new moon of the winter beginning). The Qin calendar was used during the Qin dynasty, and in the beginning of the Western Han dynasty. According to the Han Records(traditional Chinese: 漢書; simplified Chinese: 汉书; pinyin: Hànshū)21a, 973, for the moment of unification the Middle kingdoms had 6 different calendars: those of the mythological progenitors Yellow Emperor (traditional Chinese: 黃帝曆; simplified Chinese: 黄帝历) and Zhuanxu(traditional Chinese: 顓頊曆; simplified Chinese: 颛顼历); of the dynasties Xia (traditional Chinese: 夏曆; simplified Chinese: 夏历), Yin (traditional Chinese: 殷曆; simplified Chinese: 殷历), and Zhou (traditional Chinese: 周曆; simplified Chinese: 周历), and Lu state (traditional Chinese: 魯曆; simplified Chinese: 鲁历)of the Zhou Dynasty . Of those, the second was taken to substitute the rest. The Han imperial library is said to contain 82 volumes of descriptions of all those systems (Han Shu 30, 1765-6), now mostly lost.[2]

The two oldest printed Chinese calendars are dated 877 and 882; they were found at the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Dunhuang; Patricia Ebrey writes that it is no surprise that some of the earliest printed items were calendars, since the Chinese found it necessary to calculate and mark which days were auspicious and which were not.[3][4]

Ancient Han calendar[edit]

Emperor Wu of Han dynasty introduced reforms in the halfway of his administration. His Grand Inception Calendar(traditional Chinese: 太初曆; simplified Chinese: 太初历; pinyin: Tàichū Lì) introduced 24 solar terms which decides the month names. The solar year was defined as 365 \tfrac{385}{1539} days, and divided into 24 equal solar terms. The lunar month was defined as 29 \tfrac{43}{81} days. When a month enters a principal solar term, it has a name decided by the principal solar term; when a month doesn't enter a principal solar term, it's regarded as an intercalary month.

Ever since then, there're over 100 official calendars in Chinese which are consecutive and follow the structure of Tàichū calendar both. In the Dàmíng Calendar released in Tiānjiān 9(Chinese: 天监九年, 510) of Liáng Dynasty, Zhǔ Chōngzhī introduced the equation of equinoxes. Actual syzygy method was adopted to decide the month from the Wùyín Yuán Calendar, which released in Wǔdé 2(Chinese: 武德二年, 619) of Táng Dynasty. The calendar calculation use measured data completely from Shòushí Calendar, which released in Zhìyuán 18(Chinese: 至元十八年,1281) of Yuán Dynasty.

Modern Han Calendar[edit]

In the Book of Time Conformity(traditional Chinese: 時憲書; simplified Chinese: 时宪书; pinyin: Shíxiàn Shū), the ecliptic longitude is introduced and adopted to determine the solar term. The Shíxiàn calendar was developed by the Jesuit scholars Johann Schreck and Johann Adam Schall von Bell from 1624 to 1644, and released in Shùnzhì 2(1645) of Qīng Dynasty. The calendar was used from the early Qing period continued into the modern era.

Before 1929, the Han calendar was calculated by the Central Observatory (formerly the Imperial Observatory) in Beijing using Beijing local time(UTC+7:45:40). From 1929 to 1949 it was calculated by the Institute of Astronomy in Nanjing and since 1949 by the Purple Mountain Observatory outside of Nanjing using Chinese standard time(UTC+8). But, most public calendars relied on the old Long-term Calendar(traditional Chinese: 萬年書; simplified Chinese: 万年书; pinyin: Wànnián Shū) last published in 1910 using Beijing time until they were forced to adopt the official traditional calendar after 1953 in mainland of China, after 1978 in Hong Kong, and after 1989 in Taiwan.

After 1912, the Georgian Calendar became official calendar, and no authority gave a name for Han calendar. People called Han calendar as the former calendar(traditional Chinese: 舊曆; simplified Chinese: 旧历; pinyin: Jìulì), the traditional calendar(traditional Chinese: 老曆; simplified Chinese: 老历; pinyin: Lǎolì), the lunar calendar(traditional Chinese: 陰曆; simplified Chinese: 阴历; pinyin: Yīnlì), etc. In the public media, the Han calendar is always called as the rural calendar(traditional Chinese: 農曆; simplified Chinese: 农历; pinyin: Nónglì). In addition, some people appeal to called it as Xià Calendar(traditional Chinese: 夏曆; simplified Chinese: 夏历), for it adopt the nearest new moon to the Vernal Commences as the year beginning as Xià Dynasty.

In January 1, 1912, nascent Republic of China adopted the Gregorian calendar for official business as Japan did during Meiji Restoration. But, the Gregorian calendar wasn't completely official until 1929 for incessant fighting between warlords. The People's Republic of China adopt the Gregorian calendar include year number since 1949.

In modern day life, the original practical relevance to Han calendar has largely disappeared(especially in metropolis), for the Gregorian calendar is much easier to reckon and more widely used in intercultural communications. And, the 24 solar terms are much easier to reckon in the Gregorian calendar, which were important to farm works.

But, the moon phases, and tidal phenomena is much easier to reckon in the Han calendar, such as spring and neap tides, fall on approximately the same day in each lunar month, and the times of high and low water and the tidal streams experienced in a certain location on a certain day of the lunar month are likely to be similar to those for the same place and lunar day in any month. For many years, therefore, mariners in East and South-East Asia have related their tidal observations to the Chinese calendar, so as to be able to provide quick, rule-of-thumb approximations of tides and tidal conditions from memory, based on the day of the Lunar month, without needing to refer to tide tables. Certain inshore passages on the China coast, for example, where there are strong tidal streams associated with spring tides, were regarded by mariners to be passable on certain days of the lunar month, and impassable on others.

The Han calendar remains culturally essential today. For example, most of the traditional festivals, such as Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival, occur on new moons or full moons. The Han calendar, as an element of traditional culture, has much cultural and nationalistic sentiment invested in it. The Han calendar is still used in the more traditional Chinese households around the world to pick 'auspicious dates' for important events such as weddings, funerals, and business deals. A special calendar is used for this purpose, called the Imperial Calendar(traditional Chinese: 皇曆; simplified Chinese: 皇历; pinyin: huánglì), which contains auspicious activities, times, and directions for each day. The calendar follows the Gregorian dates but has the corresponding Chinese dates. Every date would have a comprehensive listing of astrological measurements and fortune elements.

Other traditional East Asian calendars are very similar to if not identical to the Han calendar. Japan adopt her own tradition calendar which follows the algorithm of Táng dynasty; Korea and Vietnam adopts the Han calendar except that Vietnam substitutes the cat for the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac.


In China, Korea, Vietnam, there're many traditional festival is base on the Han calendar, such as New Year's Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, etc.; and there're some traditional festival basing on the solar terms, such as Winter Solstice Festival.

DateEnglishChinese; Vietnamese; Korean20082009201020112012201320142015
Zhēngyuè 1stNew Year's Daytraditional Chinese: 春節; simplified Chinese: 春节
Vietnamese: Tết Nguyên Đán節元旦;Hangul: 설날 or 구정; hanja: 舊正
Zhēngyuè 15thLantern Festivaltraditional Chinese: 元宵節; simplified Chinese: 元宵节
Vietnamese: Tết Nguyên Tiêu節元宵;Hangul: 대보름; hanja: 大보름
Sānyuè 3rdShangsi Festivaltraditional Chinese: 上巳節; simplified Chinese: 上巳节
Hangul: 삼짇
Sìyuè 8thBuddha's Birthdaytraditional Chinese: 佛誕日; simplified Chinese: 佛诞日
Hangul: 석가탄신일; hanja: 釋迦誕辰日
Sìyuè 15thVietnamese: Lễ Phật đản日佛诞05-1905-0905-2805-1705-0505-2405-1305-01
Wǔyuè 5thDragon Boat Festivaltraditional Chinese: 端午節; simplified Chinese: 端午节
Vietnamese: Tết Đoan ngọ節端午;Hangul: 단오; hanja: 端午
Qīyuè 7thNight of SevensChinese: 七夕;Vietnamese: Thất tịch七夕;Hangul: 칠석; hanja: 七夕08-0708-2608-1608-0608-2308-1308-0208-20
Qīyuè 15thGhost Festivaltraditional Chinese: 中元節; simplified Chinese: 中元节
Vietnamese: Tết Trung Nguyên節中元
Vietnamese: Lễ Vu Lan禮盂兰; Hangul: 백중; hanja: 百種
Bāyuè 15thMid-Autumn Festivaltraditional Chinese: 中秋節; simplified Chinese: 中秋节
Vietnamese: Tết Trung thu節中秋;Hangul: 한가위 or 추석; hanja: 秋夕
Jǐuyuè 9thDouble Ninth Festivaltraditional Chinese: 重陽節; simplified Chinese: 重阳节
Vietnamese: Tết Trùng Cửu節重九;Hangul: 중양절; hanja: 重陽節
Shíyuè 15thSpirit Festivaltraditional Chinese: 下元節; simplified Chinese: 下元节
Vietnamese: Tết Hạ Nguyên節下元
Làyuè 8thLaba Festivaltraditional Chinese: 臘八節; simplified Chinese: 腊八节2009-
Làyuè 23rdPreliminary EveChinese: (北方)小年
Vietnamese: Tết Táo Quân節竈君
Làyuè 24thChinese: (南方)小年2009-
the last day in LàyuèNew Year's EveChinese: 除夕
Vietnamese: Đêm trừ tịch夜除夕;Hangul: 대회일; hanja: 大晦日
the fifth Wùrì after
Vernal Commence
Vernal SacrificeChinese: 春社03-1903-2403-1903-2403-1803-2303-1803-23
105th day after
Winter Solstice
Cold Food Festivaltraditional Chinese: 寒食節; simplified Chinese: 寒食节
Vietnamese: Tết Hàn Thực節寒食;Hangul: 한식; hanja: 寒食
April 4 or 5Qingming Festivaltraditional Chinese: 清明節; simplified Chinese: 清明节
Vietnamese: Tết Thanh Minh節清明
the fifth Wùrì after
Autumn Commence
Autumn SacrificeChinese: 秋社09-2509-2009-2509-2009-2409-1909-2409-19
December 21 or 22Winter SolsticeChinese: 冬至
Vietnamese: Lễ hội Đông Chí禮會冬至;Hangul: 동지; hanja: 冬至

Structure of Han calendar[edit]

Day (Chinese: ; pinyin: )[edit]

A day in the Chinese calendar runs from midnight to midnight, as in the Gregorian calendar. Currently, midnight is based on Chinese Standard Time, the mean solar time at longitude 120° east (equivalent to UTC+08).

Subdivisions of a day[edit]

In modern Chinese, the day is divided according to the Western hour-minute-second system, but the older standards are still used in some instances.

True solar time of shí - kè and gēng - diǎn (am=ante median, pm=post median)
1 kè am05:02:2407:12:0009:07:1211:02:2413:12:0015:07:1217:02:2419:12(1 gēng)21:07:1223:02:2401:12(3 gēng 3 diǎn)03:07:12
2 kè am05:16:4807:26:2409:21:3611:16:4813:26:2415:21:3617:16:4819:26:2421:21:3623:16:4801:26:2403:21:36
3 kè am05:31:1207:40:4809:36:0011:31:1213:40:4815:36:0017:31:1219:40:4821:36(2 gēng)23:31:1201:40:4803:36(4 gēng 3 diǎn)
4 kè am05:45:3607:55:1209:50:2411:45:3613:55:1215:50:2417:45:3619:55:1221:50:2423:45:3601:55:1203:50:24
0 kè pm06:00:0008:00:0010:00:0012:00:0014:00:0016:00:0018:00:0020:00:0022:00:0000:00(3 gēng)02:00:0004:00:00
1 kè pm06:14:2408:09:3610:04:4812:14:2414:09:3616:04:4818:14:2420:09:3622:04:4800:14:2402:09:3604:04:48
2 kè pm06:28:4808:24:0010:19:1212:28:4814:24:0016:19:1218:28:4820:24(1 gēng 3 diǎn)22:19:1200:28:4802:24(4 gēng)04:19:12
3 kè pm06:43:1208:38:2410:33:3612:43:1214:38:2416:33:3618:43:1220:38:2422:33:3600:43:1202:38:2404:33:36
4 kè pm06:57:3608:52:4810:48:0012:57:3614:52:4816:48:0018:57:3620:52:4822:48(2 gēng 3 diǎn)00:57:3602:52:4804:48(5 gēng)

In ancient, the sundial is used to show time. At first, there're 69 scales on the sundial, which are included in 68% circumference. The circumference was divided into 12 parts later, which are named with 12 Earthly Branches. The time which the shadow of the stile sweep over a part is a shí. So, a shí is 2 hours.

The halfway point of each shí is mid-shí(traditional Chinese: 正時; simplified Chinese: 正时; pinyin: zhèngshí), for example, midday is mid-wǔshí(traditional Chinese: 正午時; simplified Chinese: 正午时; pinyin: zhèngwǔshí). The first hour of each shí is ante mid-shí(traditional Chinese: 時初; simplified Chinese: 时初; pinyin: shíchū); and the second hour of each shí is post mid-shí(traditional Chinese: 時正; simplified Chinese: 时正; pinyin: shízhèng).

For the purposes of calculating the calendar, a day starts at midnight or mid-zǐshí(traditional Chinese: 正子時; simplified Chinese: 正子时; pinyin: zhèngzǐshí), but people tend to regard a day as starting at from dawn (during yínshí).

In the other hand, the water clock was introduced to show time. There're 100 scales(Chinese: ; pinyin: ) on the rule to measure the water level. So, the time between 2 scales is a centiday(Chinese: ; pinyin: ) or 14.4 minutes. A centiday is 60 mils(Chinese: ; pinyin: fēn). Currently, the word is used to denote a quarter of an hour.

The sundial and water clock shows shí and together. So, people always described the time with shí and together, for example, in Section 2, Calendar Records, Yuán History(traditional Chinese: 元史·曆誌二; simplified Chinese: 元史·历志二)

A solar eclipse occurred at Sānyuè 1st, Chúnyòu 3(1243). And the sun eclipsed at the 2 kè am, Sìshí(09:22). According to the Shòushí calendar, the sun eclipsed at the 1 kè am, Sìshí(09:07). According to the Dàmíng Calendar, the sun eclipsed at the 0 kè am, Sìshí(09:00). The Shòushí calendar matched at the second level, and the Dàmíng Calendar matched at the third level.(traditional Chinese: 淳祐三年癸卯,三月丁丑朔食,巳初二刻甚。《授時曆》,食甚巳初一刻。《大明曆》,食甚巳初初刻。右《授時》親,《大明》次親; simplified Chinese: 淳祐三年癸卯,三月丁丑朔食,巳初二刻甚。《授时历》,食甚巳初一刻。《大明历》,食甚巳初初刻。右《授时》亲,《大明》次亲)

The shí - kè system is exact timing system in ancient.

In pre-qin, there're 10 key points within a day, which were name with Heavenly Stems from the sunset. The key points were signaled with drum. The 5 key points in the night were signaled by the night watchman with gong later. And, the key points were named with ordinal number correspondingly, such as, 1 gēng, 2 gēng, 3 gēng, 4 gēng, 5 gēng.

There're 60 points within a day, which were signaled with bell tone. The point is called as diǎn. The time between two diǎns is 24 minutes, which is called as diǎn too. A diǎn is 100 fēn(mils). Currently, the word diǎn is used to denote o'clock.

The authorities release time signal with bell and drum till the end of Qīng dynasty. So, people always described the time in night with gēng and diǎn together, for example, in Section 4, Military Records, Yuán History (traditional Chinese: 元史·兵誌四; simplified Chinese: 元史·兵志四)

The curfew rule: after 1 gēng 3 diǎn(20:24) when the bell tone stopped, walking is forbidden; after 5 gēng 3 diǎn (06:00) when the bell tone rang, walking is allowed. (traditional Chinese: 其夜禁之法,一更三點,鐘声絶,禁人行;五更三點,鐘声動,聼人行; simplified Chinese: 其夜禁之法,一更三点,钟声绝,禁人行;五更三点,钟声动,听人行)

The gēng - diǎn system is rough timing system in ancient.

In Sòng dynasty, Sū Sòng built a water powered armillary sphere and celestial globe tower. There's a composite timing device in the tower. The device releases each shí and kè signal at the top floor, and shows the shí - kè at the second and third floor. And, the device releases each gēng and diǎn signal at the fourth floor, and shows the gēng - diǎn at the fifth floor.


Days are grouped within several kinds of weeks.

The days are grouped within a 7-days week, which is called a Luminary week. The name of the weekdays are Sun-day (Chinese: 日曜; pinyin: Rìyào), Moon-day (Chinese: 月曜; pinyin: Yuèyào), Mars-day(Chinese: 火曜; pinyin: Huǒyào), Mercury-day(Chinese: 水曜; pinyin: Shuǐyào), Jupiter-day (Chinese: 木曜; pinyin: Mùyào), Venus-day (Chinese: 金曜; pinyin: Jīnyào), and Saturn-day (Chinese: 土曜; pinyin: Tǔyào).

In modern China, the names are identified by ordinal numbers, such as: First-day(Chinese: 星期一; pinyin: Xīngqīyī), Second-day(Chinese: 星期二; pinyin: Xīngqīèr), Third-day(Chinese: 星期三; pinyin: Xīngqīsān), Fourth-day(Chinese: 星期四; pinyin: Xīngqīsì), Fifth-day(Chinese: 星期五; pinyin: Xīngqīwǔ), Sixth-day(Chinese: 星期六; pinyin: Xīngqīlìu). The exception is Sunday, which is known as Sunday(Chinese: 星期日; pinyin: Xīngqīrì).

31 January 2013 is Xīngqīsì (Thursday).

Each 4 weeks are grouped within a 28-days week. the week days of a 28-days week are marked with Twenty-eight mansions(Chinese: 二十八宿; pinyin: Èrshíbāxìu). For example, 31 January 2014 is Níujīnníu (牛金牛).

       Jiǎomùjiāo角木蛟 | Kàngjīnlóng亢金龙 |  Dǐtǔhé   氐土貉 | Fángrìtù 房日兔 |   Xīnyuèhú 心月狐 | Wěihuǒhǔ 尾火虎 |   Jīshuǐbào 箕水豹        Dǒumùxiè 斗木獬 |  Níujīnníu 牛金牛 |  Nǚtǔfú   女土蝠 |   Xūrìshǔ虚日鼠 |   Wēiyuèyàn危月燕 | Shìhuǒzhū室火猪 |   Bìshuǐyǔ  壁水貐        Kuímùláng奎木狼 |  Lóujīngǒu 娄金狗 | Wèitǔzhì  胃土雉 |  Ángrìjī 昴日鸡 |    Bìyuèwū 毕月乌 |  Zīhuǒhóu觜火猴 | Shēnshuǐyuán参水猿        Jǐngmùhān 井木犴 |  Guǐjīnyáng鬼金羊 | Lǐutǔzhāng柳土獐 | Xīngrìmǎ 星日马 | Zhāngyuèlù 张月鹿 |  Yìhuǒshé翼火蛇 | Zhěnshuǐyǐn 轸水蚓 

The days are grouped within a 10-days week, and is called Heavenly stems. The names of the weekdays are Jiǎrì, Yǐrì, Bǐngrì, Dīngrì, Wùrì, Jǐrì, Gēngrì, Xīnrì, Rénrì, and Guìrì.

31 January 2013 is Dīngrì.

Some tradition holiday is established according to Heavenly Stems week. Such as the Vernal/Autumn Sacrifice(Chinese: 春社/秋社; pinyin: Chūnshè/Qīushè) is the fifth Wùrì after the Vernal/Autumn Commence.

The days are grouped within a 12-days week, which are called Earthly Branches. The names of the weekdays are Zǐrì, Chǒurì, Yínrì, Mǎorì, Chénrì, Sìrì, Wǔrì, Wèirì, Shēnrì, Yǒurì, Xūrì, and Hàirì.

31 January 2013 is Yǒurì.

Some traditional holidays are established according to Earthly Branches week at first. Such as the Shàngsì Festival is the first Sìrì in Sānyuè, and the Duānwǔ Festival is the first Wǔrì in Wǔyuè at first. These festivals are moved to the fixed calendar later. The Shàngsì Festival is fixed to Sānyuè 3rd, and the Duānwǔ Festival is fixed to Wǔyuè 5th.


The Heavenly stems and Earthly Branches run together and, when combined, make a 60-day week which is called stem-branches week.

31 January 2013 is Dīngyǒurì.

The earliest evidence of stem-branches week was found on oracle bones dated c. 1350 BC in the Shang Dynasty. The stem-branches week continues to this day, and can still be found on Chinese calendars today.

Although the stem-branches week cannot decide the actual date alone in historical events, it can locate the accurate date along with context and other statement about time, and the difference between versions of the calendar may be neglected. For this reason, the stem-branches week is always used to mark date in the annals. Such as:

Chronicle of Pope Rén, Sòng History (traditional Chinese: 宋史·仁宗本紀; simplified Chinese: 宋史·仁宗本纪)

In the Bǐngyínrì of vernal Zhēngyuè in the first year of Tiānshèng, which is the first day of the month, changed the era name; ...(traditional Chinese: 天聖元年春正月丙寅朔,改元; simplified Chinese: 天圣元年春正月丙寅朔,改元)

In the Wùxūrì of Èryuè, accepted the rule of Gusiluo's annual tribute; in Dīngsìrì, established the portrait of Grand Chris and Grand Pope at Hóngqìng Palace of the Southern Capital (Suiyang); lunched the Monopolizing-Tea-Discount Law at the 13 tea plantations of Huáinán (traditional Chinese: 二月戊戌,許唃厮啰歲一入貢;丁巳,奉安太祖、太宗禦容於南京鴻慶宫;行淮南十三山場貼射茶法; simplified Chinese: 二月戊戌,许唃厮啰岁一入贡;丁巳,奉安太祖、太宗御容于南京鸿庆宫;行淮南十三山场贴射茶法)

In the Jiǎxūrì of Sānyuè, established the portrait of Pope Zhēn at Yìngtiān Temple of the Western Capital (Loyang); ...; in the Xīnmǎorì, the Imperial Astronomer present the Chóngtiān Calendar for the approval to issue; ...(traditional Chinese: 三月甲戌,奉安真宗禦容于西京應天院;……;辛卯,司天监上崇天曆; ……; simplified Chinese: 三月甲戌,奉安真宗御容于西京应天院;……;辛卯,司天监上崇天历; ……)

Lunar phase and lunar month (Chinese: ; pinyin: Yuè)[edit]

Lunar phase refers to the shape of the illuminated (sunlit) portion of the Moon as seen by an observer on Earth. The lunar phases corresponds to the celestial longitude difference of the moon and sun. The celestial longitude difference is cyclic variation from 0° to 360°. The principal lunar phases are new moon (0° celestial longitude difference), first quarter moon (90° celestial longitude difference), full moon (180° celestial longitude difference) and last quarter moon (270° celestial longitude difference).

In Han calendar, A lunar month corresponds to a variation cycle (0°-360°) of the celestial longitude difference. So, the month in Han calendar starts on the day of a new moon (i.e. the astronomical new moon, not the crescent new moon) and ends the day before the next one.

          Synodic month(29.48 days)  2013-01-12 03:43:36     ~     2013-02-10 15:20:06        + New moon day               2013-01-12 00:00:00     ~     2013-01-13 00:00:00        - Next new moon day          2013-02-10 00:00:00     ~     2013-02-11 00:00:00      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------          The month(29 days)         2013-01-12 00:00:00     ~     2013-02-10 00:00:00 
          Synodic month(29.52 days)  2013-02-10 15:20:06     ~     2013-03-12 03:51:00        + New moon day               2013-02-10 00:00:00     ~     2013-02-11 00:00:00        - Next new moon day          2013-03-12 00:00:00     ~     2013-03-13 00:00:00      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------          The month(30 days)         2013-02-10 00:00:00     ~     2013-03-12 00:00:00 

The days in the month are called with two characters, such as:

      Chūyī(初一)  Chūèr(初二)  Chūsān(初三)  Chūsì(初四)  Chūwǔ(初五)  Chūlìu(初六)  Chūqī(初七)  Chūbā(初八)  Chūjǐu(初九)  Chūshí(初十)      Shíyī(十一)  Shíèr(十二)  Shísān(十三)  Shísì(十四)  Shíwǔ(十五)  Shílìu(十六)  Shíqī(十七)  Shíbā(十八)  Shíjǐu(十九)   Èrshí(二十)     Niànyī(廿一) Niànèr(廿二) Niànsān(廿三) Niànsì(廿四) Niànwǔ(廿五) Niànlìu(廿六) Niànqī(廿七) Niànbā(廿八) Niànjǐu(廿九)  Sānshí(三十) 

In the late Qīng Dynasty, selected yùnmù (韵目, the representative character of the rhymes) are on behalf of the two date characters for telegram use. It was applied into the date in the Gregorian calendar later.

The yùnmù on behalf of date is used to mark the key historical events too. Such as:

Yàndiàn (traditional Chinese: 艷電; simplified Chinese: 艳电) is a telegram issued by Chao-ming Chi-hsin Wang (Wang Ching-wei, VP of Kuomintang) on December 29, 1938 and Yàn (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ) is on behalf of 29th.

Wénxī Fire (Chinese: 文夕大火) is a conflagration on the eve of 1938-11-12 (Evening of 1938-11-12, Chángshā was going to be occupied by the enemy, municipality burnt and fielded the city), Wén (Chinese: ) is on behalf of 12th and (Chinese: ) is on behalf of evening.

Solar year (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: suì) and solar term[edit]

The ecliptic position of each solar term
Solar termDateLongitudeZodiac
WS, Winter SolsticeDec 22270°Capricornus 270-300°
MC, Moderate ColdJan 6285°
GC, Great ColdJan 20300°Aquarius 300-330°
VC, Vernal CommencesFeb 4315°
VS, Vernal ShowersFeb 19330°Pisces 330-360°
IA, Insects WakenMar 5345°
VE, Vernal EquinoxMar 20360°/0°Aries 0-30°
BC, Bright and ClearApr 515°
CR, Corn RainApr 2030°Taurus 30-60°
SC, Summer CommencesMay 645°
CF, Corn FormsMay 2160°Gemini 60-90°
CE, Corn on EarJun 675°
SS, Summer SolsticeJun 2190°Cancer 90-120°
MH, Moderate HeatJul 7105°
GH, Great HeatJul 23120°Leo 120-150°
AC, Autumn CommencesAug 7135°
EH, End of HeatAug 23150°Virgo 150-180°
WD, White DewSep 8165°
AE, Autumnal EquinoxSep 23180°Libra 180-210°
CD, Cold DewOct 8195°
FF, First FrostOct 23210°Scorpio 210-240°
WC,Winter CommencesNov 7225°
LS, Light SnowNov 22240°Sagitarius 240-270°
HS, Heavy SnowDec 7255°

The solar year in Han calendar is the period between two winter solstices.

In the late Spring and Autumn Period (722–481 BC), the former Sìfēn calendar was established, and set the tropical year at 365.25 days, the same length as the Julian calendar which was introduced in 46 BC.[1] The Taichu calendar of 104 BC under Emperor Wu of Han rendered the solar year at roughly the same ( 365\tfrac{385}{1539}).[1]

Many other calendars were established between then and the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), including those established by Li Chunfeng (602–670) and Yi Xing (683–727).[1] In 1281, the Yuan astronomer Guo Shoujing (1233–1316) fixed the calendar at 365.2425 days, the same as the Gregorian calendar established in 1582; this calendar, the Shoushi calendar, would be used in China for the next 363 years.[1][5] Guo Shoujing established the new calendar with the aid of his own achievements in spherical trigonometry, which he derived largely from the work of Shen Kuo (1031–1095) who established trigonometry in China.[6][7][8]

A solar year is divided into 24 solar terms, which are the seasonal term guiding farm works. Each term corresponds to 15° along the ecliptic; a couple of terms corresponds quite closely to the Western zodiac divisions.

In ancient astronomy records, the solar position is defined with 28 mansions. such as: In the winter solstice, the sun stays at the 5 degree of the Jī-mansion (Chinese: 冬至日, 日在箕五度).

A couple of terms are associated into a climate term. The start point of the first solar term called as node of climate(traditional Chinese: 節氣; simplified Chinese: 节气; pinyin: Jiéqì) is the beginning of the solar term. The start point of second term called as center of the climate(traditional Chinese: 中氣; simplified Chinese: 中气; pinyin: Zhōngqì). Usually, we use the 12 earthly branches to mark the 12 climate terms. Shěn Kuò (Chinese: 沈括, 1031-1095) designed a 12-climates calendar(traditional Chinese: 12氣曆; simplified Chinese: 12气历).

An astronomical year is approximately 365¼ days, a period between 12 and 13 lunar months. So, to keep the pace with the astronomical year in a long term, common years(a year with 12 months) and leap years(a year with 13 months) are interleaved. Generally, in each 19 years, there're 7 leap years and 12 common years.

In Han calendar, the month name corresponds to the climate term. The closest climate to the moon decides the name. And, the center of the climate in the month is regarded as key point to choose the closest climate. Generally,the month entering the Vernal Showers term is Zhēngyuè, the month entering the Vernal Equinox term is Èryuè, the month entering the Corn Rain term is Sānyuè, the month entering the Corn Forms term is Sìyuè, the month entering the Summer Solstice term is Wǔyuè, the month entering the Moderate Heat term is Lìuyuè, the month entering the End of Heat term is Qīyuè, the month entering the Autumnal Equinox term is Bāyuè, the month entering the First Frost term is Jǐuyuè, the month entering the Light Snow term is Shíyuè, the month entering the Winter Solstice term is Shíyīyuè, the month with the Great Cold term is Làyuè, and the month without a mid-climate is an intercalary month(Rùnyuè). For example, the table below show the information of 2014.

                   Month Date                mid-Climate     Month name(Ordinal)           A    2014-01-31 ~ 2014-02-28    VC: 2014-02-19    Zhēngyuè(1st)           B    2014-03-01 ~ 2014-03-30    VE: 2014-03-21       Èryuè(2nd)           C    2014-03-31 ~ 2014-04-28    CR: 2014-04-20      Sānyuè(3rd)           D    2014-04-29 ~ 2014-05-28    CF: 2014-05-21       Sìyuè(4th)           E    2014-05-29 ~ 2014-06-26    SS: 2014-06-21       Wǔyuè(5th)           F    2014-06-27 ~ 2014-07-26    GH: 2014-07-23      Lìuyuè(6th)           G    2014-07-27 ~ 2014-08-24    EH: 2014-08-23       Qīyuè(7th)           H    2014-08-25 ~ 2014-09-23    AE: 2014-09-23       Bāyuè(8th)           I    2014-09-24 ~ 2014-10-23    FD: 2014-10-23      Jǐuyuè(9th)           J    2014-10-24 ~ 2014-11-21    N/A                 Rùnyuè(leap over)           K    2014-11-22 ~ 2014-12-21    LS: 2014-11-22      Shíyuè(10th)           L    2014-12-22 ~ 2015-01-19    WS: 2014-12-22    Shíyīyuè(11th)           M    2015-01-20 ~ 2015-02-18    GC: 2015-01-20       Làyuè(12th) 

From Shùnzhì 2 (traditional Chinese: 順治二年; simplified Chinese: 顺治二年, 1645), the solar term are calculated with the true sun position, and the length of the solar terms are 14.7-15.7 days against 15.2 days. So, There's a possibility of 0.3% that two mid-climates enters the same month.

For this reason, the month name is arranged in orderly row from the month with the winter solstice, except the intercalary month. And, when There're 12 month between contiguous winter solstice months, the first month without a mid-climate is an intercalary month.For example, the table below shows the information of 2032-2035.

    Month Date            mid-Climate               Month name  A 2032/12/03~12/31    WS: 2032/12/21          0   Shíyīyuè(11th)  B 2033/01/01~01/30    GC: 2033/01/20          1      Làyuè(12th)  C 2033/01/31~02/28    RW: 2033/02/18          2   Zhēngyuè( 1st)  D 2033/03/01~03/30    VE: 2033/03/20          3      Èryuè( 2nd)  E 2033/03/31~04/28    GR: 2033/04/20          4     Sānyuè( 3rd)  F 2033/04/29~05/27    GF: 2033/05/21          5      Sìyuè( 4th)  G 2033/05/28~06/26    SS: 2033/06/21          6      Wǔyuè( 5th)  H 2033/06/27~07/25    GH: 2033/07/22          7     Lìuyuè( 6th)  I 2033/07/26~08/24    LH: 2033/08/23          8      Qīyuè( 7th)  J 2033/08/25~09/22    N/A                     9      Bāyuè( 8th)  K 2033/09/23~10/22    AE: 2033/09/23         10     Jǐuyuè( 9th)  L 2033/10/23~11/21    FD: 2033/10/23         11     Shíyuè(10th)  M 2033/11/22~12/21    LS: 11/22 / WS: 12/21   0   Shíyīyuè(11th)  N 2033/12/22~01/19    N/A                     1     Rùnyuè(11th, Intercalary)  O 2033/01/20~02/18    GC: 01/20 / RW: 02/18   2      Làyuè(12th)  P 2034/02/19~03/19    N/A                     3   Zhēngyuè( 1st)  Q 2034/03/20~04/18    VE: 2034/03/20          4      Èryuè( 2nd)  R 2034/04/19~05/17    GR: 2034/04/20          5     Sānyuè( 3rd)  S 2034/05/18~06/15    GF: 2034/05/21          6      Sìyuè( 4th)  T 2034/06/16~07/15    SS: 2034/06/21          7      Wǔyuè( 5th)  U 2034/07/16~08/13    GH: 2034/07/23          8     Lìuyuè( 6th)  V 2034/08/14~09/12    LH: 2034/08/23          9      Qīyuè( 7th)  W 2034/09/13~10/11    AE: 2034/09/23         10      Bāyuè( 8th)  X 2034/10/12~11/10    FD: 2034/10/23         11     Jǐuyuè( 9th)  Y 2034/11/10~12/10    LS: 2034/11/22         12     Shíyuè(10th)  Z 2034/12/11~01/08    WS: 2034/12/22          0   Shíyīyuè(11th) 

Ping-Tse Kao (Chinese: 高平子; pinyin: Gāo, Píngzǐ; 1888-1970, one of the founders of Purple Mountain Observatory) mentioned the calendric intercalary rule. In his the calendric intercalary rule, the month name and intercalary are decided before rounding the month start to day. For example:

                  Synodic Month               mid-Climate         Month name    Civil Month  A 2032-12-03 04:52:26 ~ 01-01 18:16:36   WS:12-21 15:55:29   0   Shíyīyuè  2032-12-03 ~ 12-31   B 2033-01-01 18:16:36 ~ 01-31 05:59:26   GC:01-20 02:32:20   1      Làyuè  2033-01-01 ~ 01-30   C 2033-01-31 05:59:26 ~ 03-01 16:23:05   VS:02-18 16:33:22   2   Zhēngyuè  2033-01-31 ~ 02-28   D 2033-03-01 16:23:05 ~ 03-31 01:51:12   VE:03-20 15:22:17   3      Èryuè  2033-03-01 ~ 03-30   E 2033-03-31 01:51:12 ~ 04-29 10:45:45   CR:04-20 02:12:40   4     Sānyuè  2033-03-31 ~ 04-28   F 2033-04-29 10:45:45 ~ 05-28 19:36:06   CF:05-21 01:10:30   5      Sìyuè  2033-04-29 ~ 05-27   G 2033-05-28 19:36:06 ~ 06-27 05:06:36   SS:06-21 09:00:40   6      Wǔyuè  2033-05-28 ~ 06-26   H 2033-06-27 05:06:36 ~ 07-26 16:12:07   GH:07-22 19:52:21   7     Lìuyuè  2033-06-27 ~ 07-25   I 2033-07-26 16:12:07 ~ 08-25 05:39:21   EH:08-23 03:01:22   8      Qīyuè  2033-07-26 ~ 08-24   J 2033-08-25 05:39:21 ~ 09-23 21:39:19   AE:09-23 00:51:12   9      Bāyuè  2033-08-25 ~ 09-22   K 2033-09-23 21:39:19 ~ 10-23 15:27:58   FF:10-23 10:27:08  10     Jǐuyuè  2033-09-23 ~ 10-22   L 2033-10-23 15:27:58 ~ 11-22 09:38:40   LS:11-22 08:15:42  11     Shíyuè  2033-10-23 ~ 11-21   M 2033-11-22 09:38:40 ~ 12-22 02:46:01   WS:12-21 21:45:32   0   Shíyīyuè  2033-11-22 ~ 12-21   N 2033-12-22 02:46:01 ~ 01-20 18:01:05   GC:01-20 08:26:49   1      Làyuè  2033-12-22 ~ 01-19   O 2034-01-20 18:01:05 ~ 02-19 07:09:47   VS:02-18 22:29:43   2   Zhēngyuè  2034-01-20 ~ 02-18   P 2034-02-19 07:09:47 ~ 03-20 18:14:06                       3     Rùnyuè  2034-02-19 ~ 03-19   Q 2034-03-20 18:14:06 ~ 04-19 03:25:25   VE:03-20 21:17:01   4      Èryuè  2034-03-20 ~ 04-18   R 2034-04-19 03:25:25 ~ 05-18 11:12:07   CR:04-20 08:03:14   5     Sānyuè  2034-04-19 ~ 05-17   S 2034-05-18 11:12:07 ~ 06-16 18:25:28   CF:05-21 06:56:24   6      Sìyuè  2034-05-18 ~ 06-15   T 2034-06-16 18:25:28 ~ 07-16 02:14:47   SS:06-21 14:43:42   7      Wǔyuè  2034-06-16 ~ 07-15   U 2034-07-16 02:14:47 ~ 08-14 11:52:35   GH:07-23 01:35:51   8     Lìuyuè  2034-07-16 ~ 08-13   V 2034-08-14 11:52:35 ~ 09-13 00:13:20   EH:08-23 08:47:16   9      Qīyuè  2034-08-14 ~ 09-12  W 2034-09-13 00:13:20 ~ 10-12 15:32:10   AE:09-23 06:39:04  10      Bāyuè  2034-09-13 ~ 10-11   X 2034-10-12 15:32:10 ~ 11-11 09:15:45   FF:10-23 16:15:57  11     Jǐuyuè  2034-10-12 ~ 11-10   Y 2034-11-11 09:15:45 ~ 12-11 04:13:56   LS:11-22 14:04:28  12     Shíyuè  2034-11-11 ~ 12-10   Z 2034-12-11 04:13:56 ~ 01-09 23:02:37   SS:12-22 03:33:30   0   Shíyīyuè  2034-12-11 ~ 01-08  

the calendric intercalary rule reduced the possibility that two mid-climate enters the same month to 0.06%. And, the intercalary is the same using different standard time.

Year (Chinese: ; pinyin: nián)[edit]

A year starts on Zhēngyuè 1st, and always ends on the last day of Làyuè (if there is an intercalary month after Làyuè, the year will end on the last day of Rùnyuè).

There are 12 or 13 months in a year. If there are 12 months in year, there are 353, 354 or 355 days in this year. If there are 13 months in a year, there are 383, 384 or 385 days in this year. For example, the current year starts at 2012-1-23 and ends at 2013-02-09. There are 13 months or 384 days.

The year with 13 month is a leap year. the intercalary month of the leap year between 1893 and 2101 is list as below:

Metonic cycle1893~1912~1931~1950~1969~1988~2007~2026~2045~2064~2083~
leap 51895519145193351952519715199052009520285204752066520855
leap 3 or 41898319172193631955319744199332012420313205032069420884
leap 7 or 8 or 919008191971938719578197681995820149203311205282071820908
leap 5 or 61903519225194161960619796199852017620366205562074620936
leap 41906419254194441963419824200142020420395205842077420964
leap 2 or 319092192821947219663198410200432023220422206132080320992
leap 6 or 71911619306194971968719876200672025620447206372082721017

A representative sequence of common and leap years is cclcclclcclcclcclcl, which is the classic nineteen-year Metonic cycle. Han calendar follows the rule in general.

In China, the age recognition for official use is base on the Gregorian calendar. But, for traditional use, it is based on Han calendar. From birthday to the end of the year, it's one year old. And, add one year old after each New Year Eve. Such as, if one's birthday is Làyuè 29th 2013, he is 2 years old at Zhēngyuè 1st 2014.

The years are named with the era name (which is a name of several years) and ordinal number generally. But, the first year of each era is called as Yuánnián (Chinese: 元年).

For the eras ante Emperor Wǔ of Hàn Dynasty, the regnal names are regard as the era names. such as Yǐngōng 1(traditional Chinese: 隱公元年; simplified Chinese: 隐公元年; pinyin: Yǐngōng Yuánnián, The first year of Duke Yǐn of Lǔ State, 722 BC).

113 BC, Emperor Wǔ of Hàn Dynasty issued the first era name, Jiànyuán (Chinese: 建元), and 140 BC is marked as Jiànyuán 1(Chinese: 建元元年; pinyin: Jiànyuán Yuánnián,140 BC).

In China, the first official era name is Jiànyuán, the last official era name is Xuāntǒng(traditional Chinese: 宣統; simplified Chinese: 宣统).

In Japan, the first era name is Taika (大化), the last era name for Han calendar is Keiō (慶応). The first era name for the Gregorian calendar is Meiji (明治). Current era name is Heisei (平成).

After Xuāntǒng Sānnián, the republic authority adopted the Gregorian calendar and establish the next year as the first year. The country name(traditional Chinese: 民國; simplified Chinese: 民国; pinyin: Mínguǒ) is regard as the era name. The time system is used in Taiwan and some overseas Chinese societies still.

Since 1949, in mainland China, the authority abolished the era name of the ROC, and specified the Chinese of Christ Era as common era (Chinese: 公元; pinyin: Gōngyuán). So, the Gōngyuán is regard as the current era name. In some Chinese society, the Western Era (Chinese: 西元; pinyin: Xīyuán) takes the place of Gōngyuán

Continuous year numbering system[edit]

There's not a widely recognized "epoch" for Han calendar. So, there is not a widely recognized continuous year numbering system.

Shao Yong (Chinese: 邵雍, 1011–1077, Courtesy name: Yáofū, Posthumous title: Kāngjié, a philosopher, cosmologist, poet and historian who greatly influenced the development of Non-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 round (Chinese: ; pinyin: yuán), which contains 12'9600 years, is a lifecycle of the world. Each yuán (round) is divided into 12 assembly(traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: huì), which are named with Earthly Branches.

The Hài, , and Chǒu are the Remote Ages(Chinese: 太古; pinyin: Tàigǔ),which is the opening of the world (Chinese: 天地之分) just as the winter. The Yín, Mǎo, and Chén are the Early Ages(Chinese: 上古; pinyin: Shànggǔ), which is the evolution of the world (Chinese: 天地之化) just as the spring. The , , and Wèi are the Middle Ages(Chinese: 中古; pinyin: Zhōnggǔ), which is the climax of the world (traditional Chinese: 天地之關; simplified Chinese: 天地之关) just as the summer. The Shēn, Yǒu, and are the Late Ages(Chinese: 下古; pinyin: Xiàgǔ, ), which is the closing of the world (天地之合) just as the autumn.

Each assembly is divided into 30 run(traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: yùn), and each run is divided into 12 generation(Chinese: ; pinyin: shì). So, each generation is equivalent to 30 years.

The Yuán-Huì-Yùn-Shì is corresponded with Nián-Yuè-Rì-Shí. So the Yuán-Huì-Yùn-Shì is called as the major tend or the numbers of the heaven, and the Nián-Yuè-Rì-Shí is called as the minor tend or the numbers of the earth.

The major tend or the numbers of the heaven is far away from people seemingly, but the minor tend or the numbers of the earth is close to people. So the minor tend or the numbers of the earth is adapted by people for predicting destiny or fate. The numbers of Nián-Yuè-Rì-Shí is marked with stem-branches. So the minor tend of the numbers of the earth is show a form of Bāzì, and the four terms are be called as Four Pillars of Destiny

For example, the eight characters of the birth of Emperor Qiánlóng is Xīnmǎo-Dīngyǒu-Gēngwǔ-Bǐngzǐ (辛卯、丁酉、庚午、丙子).

Shào's Huángjíjīngshì recorded the history with stem-branches cycle from the first year of the 180th run or 2149th generation (ARGY 6-30-1-1, 2577 BC) and marked the year with reign title from the Jiǎchénnián of the 2156th generation (ARGY 6-30-8-11, 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 ARG/YMD 7-12-10/1-1-1.

In the 17th century, the Jesuits tried to determine what year should be considered the epoch of Han calendar. In his Sinicae historiae decas prima (first published in Munich in 1658), Martino Martini (1614–1661) dated the royal ascension of Huangdi to 2697 BC, but started the Chinese calendar with the reign of Fu Xi, which he claimed started in 2952 BC. 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 Huangdi in 2698 BC and omits Huangdi's predecessors Fu Xi 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 Han calendar. Different newspapers and magazines proposed different dates. Jiangsu, for example, counted 1905 as year 4396 (use an epoch of 2491 BC), whereas the Minbao (traditional Chinese: 明報; simplified Chinese: 明报, the organ of the Tongmenghui) reckoned 1905 as 4603 (use an epoch of 2698 BC). Liu Shipei (劉師培; 1884–1919) claimed that the 1900 international expedition sent by eight foreign powers to suppress the Boxer Uprising entered Beijing in the 4611th year of the Yellow Emperor. Liu's calendar started with the birth of the Yellow Emperor, which was determined to be 2711 BC.

At January 2, 1912, Sun Yat-sen declared that the Republic of China adopt the Gregorian calendar, and establish Shíyīyuè 13th 4609 of Huángdì Era as the new year's day of the first year of the Republic of China (traditional Chinese: 中華民國改用陽曆,以黄帝紀元四千六百零九年十一月十三日爲中華民國元年元旦; simplified Chinese: 中华民国改用阳历,以黄帝纪元四千六百零九年十一月十三日为中华民国元年元旦). Sun Yat-sen's choice, which implied an epoch of 2698 BC, was adopted by many overseas Chinese communities outside Southeast Asia such as San Francisco's Chinatown.[9]

             Sun Yat-sen's version             years before 2698 BC  Not mentioned            years before 1 AD     HE=2699-CE            years  after 1 BC     HE=2698+CE  such as 1912+2698=4610, the year after spring festival of 1912 CE is 4610 HE 

In the earlier 20th century, kinds of year marking system is released. Except Huángdì era, the following system are well-known,

  Confucius Era (traditional Chinese: 孔子紀年; simplified Chinese: 孔子纪年), Based on the birth or dead year of Confucius  Yáo's Era     (traditional Chinese: 帝堯紀年; simplified Chinese: 帝尧纪年), Based on the regnal of Emperor Yao  Xià's Era     (traditional Chinese: 夏禹紀年; simplified Chinese: 夏禹纪年), Based on the regnal of Yu of Xia  Qín's Era  (traditional Chinese: 秦統一紀年; simplified Chinese: 秦统一纪年), Based on the year when Qin Unified China  Yuán's Era   (traditional Chinese: 亡国紀年; simplified Chinese: 亡国纪年),  Based on the year when Song lost China completely  Gònghé's Era (traditional Chinese: 共和紀年; simplified Chinese: 共和纪年),  Based on Gònghé 1 

But in any case, no reference date can be recognized as an epoch of Han calendar without the official recognition.

The frame is established at Tàichū 1 (Chinese: 太初元年, 105 BC - 103 BC), and the calendars with this frame is used all the way. And, the first winter solstice of Tàichū Yuánnián which is a winter solstice at jiǎzǐrì with dark moon (Chinese: 朔旦冬至得甲子), is a node. In the historic book, for modern Chinese, the date after then is idiomatic and the date before then is unidiomatic (Such as: the Zhēngyuè is not always the first month in spring; the years starts at Shíyuè, etc.). So, the first winter solstice of Tàichū Yuánnián is a key reference date for Han calendar. It should be regarded as the epoch of Han calendar. And it's clear that it will be a neutral epoch.

           the years before 105 BC,      105-Gōngyuán, such as: 2698 BC is -1594th year(1594th year before the Calendar)           the year of 105 BC,           105-Gōngyuán,           105 BC is     0th year           the years form 104 BC to 1 BC, 105-Gōngyuán, Such as:   87 BC is    18th year           the years after 1 BC,         Gōngyuán+104, such as: 2013   is  2117th year 

Cycle of years[edit]

The years are grouped within a 10-year cycle which is called the 10 Celestial Stems (or called as 10 Heavenly Stems). The names of each year are: Jiǎnián, Yǐnián, Bǐngnián, Dīngnián, Wùnián, Jǐnián, Gēngnián, Xīnnián, Rénnián and Guìnián.

The current year (2014-1-31~2015-2-18) is Jiǎnián.

Each year corresponds to an element in Wǔxíng. Jiǎnián and Yǐnián is Wood(Chinese: ; pinyin: ), Bǐngnián and Dīngnián is Fire(Chinese: ; pinyin: Huǒ), Wùnián and Jǐnián is Earth(Chinese: ; pinyin: ), Gēngnián and Xīnnián is Metal(Chinese: ; pinyin: Jīn), Rénnián and Guìnián is Water(Chinese: ; pinyin: Shuǐ).

Therefore the current year is a Mùnián.

The years are grouped within a 12-year cycle which is called the 12 Earthly Branches. The names of they years are: Zǐnián, Chǒunián, Yínnián, Mǎonián, Chénnián, Sìnián, Wǔnián, Wèinián, Shēnnián, Yǒunián, Xūnián, and Hàinián.

The current year is Wǔnián.

Each cycle year is corresponds to an animal of the Chinese zodiac. Zǐnián to Rat(Chinese: ; pinyin: Shǔ), Chǒunián to Ox(Chinese: ; pinyin: Níu), Yínnián to Tiger(Chinese: ; pinyin: ), Mǎonián to Rabbit(Chinese: ; pinyin: ), Chénnián to Dragon(traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: Lóng), Sìnián to Snake(Chinese: ; pinyin: Shé), Wǔnián to Horse(traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: ), Wèinián to Goat(Chinese: ; pinyin: Yáng), Shēnnián to Monkey(Chinese: ; pinyin: Hóu), Yǒunián to Rooster(traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: ), Xūnián to Dog(Chinese: ; pinyin: Gǒu) and Hàinián to Pig(Chinese: ; pinyin: Zhū).

The seal characters of the earthly branches show the figure of the animals. For example, shows the figure of the horse face.

Therefore the current year is Mǎnián (Horse).

Main article: Chinese zodiac
Stem-branch of recent years
Jiǎzǐ[1]Stem, branchGānzhī(干支)Year of the...Continuous[2]Gregorian date
79:2607,03Gēngyínnián (庚寅年)Metal Tiger4708Feb 14, 2010-Feb 2, 2011
79:2708,04Xīnmǎonián (辛卯年)Metal Rabbit4709Feb 3, 2011-Jan 22, 2012
79:2809,05Rénchénnián (壬辰年)Water Dragon4710Jan 23, 2012-Feb 9, 2013
79:2910,06Guǐsìnián (癸巳年)Water Snake4711Feb 10, 2013-Jan 30, 2014
79:3001,07Jiǎwǔnián (甲午年)Wood Horse4712Jan 31, 2014-Feb 18, 2015
79:3102,08Yǐwèinián (乙未年)Wood Goat4713Feb 19, 2015-Feb 7, 2016
79:3203,09Bǐngshēnnián (丙申年)Fire Monkey4714Feb 8, 2016-Jan 27, 2017
79:3304,10Dīngyǒunián (丁酉年)Fire Rooster4715Jan 28, 2017-Feb 15, 2018
79:3405,11Wùxūnián (戊戌年)Earth Dog4716Feb 16, 2018-Feb 4, 2019
79:3506,12Jǐhàinián (己亥年)Earth Pig4717Feb 5, 2019-Jan 24, 2020

The Heavenly stems cycle and Earthly Branches cycle runs together, and become a 60-year cycle which is called the stem-branches cycle.

The current year is Jiǎwǔnián, also called as Mùmǎnián (Wood Horse).

Around the Han Dynasty, the stem-branches cycle was introduced. In Míng Dynasty and Qīng Dynasty, the stem-branches cycle was used along with the year mark in the Oration to Yellow Emperor. Such as:

Oration to Yellow Emperor at the first year of Wànlì

That, at the first year of Wànlì, which is Guìyǒunián, at Sìyuè started at Gēngxūrì, at 16th day which is Yǐchǒurì, the Emperor sent... (traditional Chinese: 萬歷元年,嵗次癸酉,四月庚戌朔,越十六日乙丑,皇帝遣……; simplified Chinese: 万历元年,岁次癸酉,四月庚戌朔,越十六日乙丑,皇帝遣……)

The table right shows the stem/branch year names, correspondences to the Western (Gregorian) calendar, and other related information for the current decade.[10] Alternatively, see this larger table of the full 60-year cycle.


1 Regard 2697 BC as 01:00.

2 Regard 2698 BC as the first year.

Tibetan calendar[edit]

Main article: Tibetan calendar

A solar day is the time round the clock. In Tibetan calendar, a solar day is start at dawn, and end at the next.

A lunar month is the time between two identical moon phases (new moons or full moons). In Tibetan calendar, a lunar month is start at a full month, and end at the next.

A lunar month is divided into 30 lunar days. Each lunar day corresponds to a 12° variance of celestial longitude difference of the moon and sun.

A lunar month is divided into two half, too. The first half is called as the waning half, and the second half is called as the waxing half.

The 15 phases in the waning half is the 16th to 30th phase, and the 15 phases in the waxing half is the first to 15th phase. So, the i th phase corresponds to i×12° celestial longitude difference of the moon and sun.

The phase number decides the date. If there're two phases within a solar day, the number of the first phase number decides the date; and if there's no phase number within a solar day, the following phase number decides the date. For example,

         the first phase is at the 2nd point of day A;            Day A is 1st of the month         the second phase is at the 57th point of day A;                   2nd of the month is vacancy         the third phase is at the 53rd point of day B;           Day B is 3rd of the month                       ...         the 10th phase is at the 55th point of day C;            Day C is 10th of the month                                    no phase in day D;            Day D is 11th of the month         the 11th phase is at the 4th point of day E;             Day E is repeated 11th of the month 

The difference of the date rules between Tibetan and Chinese calendar is moon phase against solar day. And the difference leads the bias of date sometimes, but the bias is within 1.

A solar year is the length of time that the Sun takes to return to the same position in the cycle of seasons.

In Tibetan calendar, a solar year is divided into 12 solar months (zodiac) equally. If a lunar month entered a zodiac, the zodiac decides the month mark; if a lunar month didn't enter a zodiac, the month is an intercalary month. Such as:

          month A entered the Taurus at 30th,          Month A is the third month of the year          month B did not enter a zodiac,              Month B is an intercalary month          month C entered the Gemini at 2nd,           Month C is the fourth month of the year 

The 12 solar months is corresponding to the 24 solar terms (mean solar terms) in Chinese calendar. So, the difference of the month rules between Tibetan and Chinese calendar is mean solar against true solar. And the difference leads the bias of month sequence sometimes, but the bias is within 1.

Considering the date and month rule, the bias between Tibetan and Chinese calendar is no bias, a bias of a day, a bias of a month, or a bias of a month and a day. Such as:

       Feb 28, 1987 is Dangpo 1st, Fire rabbit year  or    Èryuè 1st, Dīngmǎonián   with a bias of a month        Feb 18, 1988 is Dangpo 1st, Earth dragon year or Zhēngyuè 2nd, Wùchénnián    with a bias of a day        Feb 27, 1990 is Dangpo 1st, Iron horse year   or Zhēngyuè 1st, Gēngwǔnián    with a bias of a month and a day        Feb 15, 1991 is Dangpo 1st, Iron goat year    or Zhēngyuè 1st, Xīngwèinián   without bias 

Miao calendar[edit]

The Miao calendar is a solar calendar. The Miao calendar is used from ten-thousands years ago, and retired at Guāngxù 33 (traditional Chinese: 光緒三十三年; simplified Chinese: 光绪三十三年, 1907). The New Year's Day in Miao calendar is the winter solstice.

A year in Miao calendar contains 12 months, which are the unfixed month (traditional Chinese: 動月; simplified Chinese: 动月), the 0th month (Chinese: 偏月), the 1st month (Chinese: 正月), the 2nd month, the 3rd month, the 4th month, the 5th month, the 6th month, the 7th month, the 8th month, the 9th month, the 10th month.

The length of the 0th, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th month is 30 days. The length of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th month is 31 days.

The length of the unfixed month is decided by the winter solstice. If the winter solstice comes after dusk, the length of the unfixed month is 31 days, otherwise the length is 30 days.

The 28 mansions and the 12 earthly branches runs together, and works out 84 mansion-branches. The 84 mansion-branches are used to count the day and year continuously, just as 60 stem-branches do.

Ancient Yi calendars[edit]

In Yi areas, a 10-months calendar is found in the early 1980s. It's a solar calendar, which contains 10 months of 36 days, and 2/3 transition days before the winter solstice(The minor year) and summer solstice(The major year).The 36 days is named with 12 earthly branches(from tiger to ox) for 3 times.

The 10 months is named with 10 animals(Tiger, Otter, Crocodile, Boa, Pangolin, Muntjac, Bharal, Ape, Panther, and Lizard).The 10 months is divided into 5 seasons, which named with 5 elements(earth, bronze, water, wood, fire).

In Yi areas, a 18-months calendar is found in the late 1950s. It's a solar calendar, which contains 18 months of 20 days, and 2/3 transition days before the winter solstice and summer solstice.

The 18 months are named as: wind month, twitter month, sprout month, bloom month, fruit month, drought month, rainy month, freshet month, sunny month, withered month, fallen month, frost month, and celebrate month.

Chinese-Uighur calendar[edit]

In 1258, when both North China and the Islamic world were part of the Mongol Empire, Hulagu Khan established an observatory in Maragheh for the astronomer Nasir al-Din al-Tusi at which a few Chinese astronomers were present, resulting in the Chinese-Uighur calendar that al-Tusi describes in his Zij-i Ilkhani.[11] The 12 year cycle, including Turkic/Mongolian translations of the animal names (known as sanawat-e turki سنوات ترکی,) remained in use for chronology, historiography, and bureaucratic purposes in the Persian and Turkic speaking world from Asia Minor to India and Mongolia throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods. In Iran it remained common in agricultural records and tax assessments until a 1925 law deprecated its use.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Deng, Yingke. (2005). Ancient Chinese Inventions. Translated by Wang Pingxing. Beijing: China Intercontinental Press (五洲传播出版社). ISBN 7-5085-0837-8. Page 67.
  2. ^ Cullen, Atronomy and Methematics in Ancient China. Cambridge, 1996.
  3. ^ Needham, Joseph. (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 6, Missiles and Sieges. Cambridge University Press., reprinted Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.(1986). Page 151.
  4. ^ Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (1999). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-66991-X (paperback). Pages 124–125.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Restivo, Sal. (1992). Mathematics in Society and History: Sociological Inquiries. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 1-4020-0039-1. p. 32.
  9. ^ Aslaksen, p. 38.
  10. ^ The following link provides conversion of Chinese calendar dates to Western calendar dates: [1]
  11. ^ Benno van Dalen, E.S. Kennedy, Mustafa K. Saiyid, "The Chinese-Uighur Calendar in Tusi's Zij-i Ilkhani", Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften 11 (1997) 111–151.


iPhone app

External links[edit]

Calendar conversion