The traditional Chinese calendar is a
The Chinese calendar governs traditional activities in China and in overseas-Chinese communities. It depicts and lists the dates of traditional Chinese holidays, and guides Chinese people in selecting the most auspicious days for weddings, funerals, moving, or beginning a
In the Chinese calendar the days begin and end at midnight. The months begin on the day with the
The currently used traditional Chinese calendar represents the end result of centuries of evolution. Ancient scientists added many astronomical and seasonal factors, and people can reckon the timing of natural phenomena such as the moon phase and tides based on 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.
Korea, Vietnam, and the Ryukyu Islands adopted the Chinese calendar completely - it evolved into
The official calendar in China is the
Although the solar term governs the month sequences of the traditional Chinese calendar, it is not an agricultural calendar.
In ancient China the calendars marked the name/stem – branch of the year, month names, month length flags (大/小=Long/Short), the stems of 1/11/21 (1/11/21 of each month are same in stem, use a character), the branches of 1/11/21, and the date/stem-branch/time of the solar terms in the month.
The concepts in the Chinese, Hindu, and Hebrew calendars:
The movements of the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are the key references for calendar calculations. These are known as the seven luminaries.
The Big Dipper is regarded as the compass in the sky, and the handle's direction decides the season and solar month.
The stars are divided into 3 enclosures and 28 mansions according to the location in the sky. The mansions are named with 28 characters according to the shape.
The moon moves about 1 mansion per day. Therefore, the 28 mansions are used to count days too. In the Tang Dynasty, Yuan Tiangang (袁天罡) matched the 28 mansions, 7 luminaries and animal signs, such as horn-wood-flood dragon (角木蛟).
Several coding systems are used for some special circumstances in order to avoid ambiguity, such as continuous day or year count.
|Stem-branches||Heaven stems||Earthly branches|
In Modern China, people use the Western hour-minute-second system to divide time. In Ancient China, people used the shi-ke system to divide the time during the day and the geng-dian system to divide the time during the night.. For example:
In the Chinese calendar, the day begins at midnight and ends at the next midnight, but people tend to regard the days as beginning at dawn.
sss initial, sss 1 ke,..., sss 8 ke, such as wush 3 ke (the third ke after wush)
a.sss initial, a.sss 1 ke,..., a.sss 4 ke, p.sss initial, p.sss 1 ke,..., p.sss 4 ke, such as a.wush 3 ke (the third ke of wush), p.yinsh 4 ke (the fourth ke after yinsh)
ggg, ggg 1 point,..., ggg 5 point, such as sang 2 point (the second point after sang).
The Chinese appear 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
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 (旬; xún) with the date in the month.
The law during the
Months were almost three weeks long (alternating 29 and 30 days to keep in line with the
Markets in Japan followed the Chinese jun (旬) system; see
In winter, there is also a 9-day cycle counting start from the winter solstice, which would last for 9 cycles until 81 days later when it is deemed as the end of winter. 
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.
In different ages, the calendar use different major cycle, which contains several 15-months-cycles and 17-months-cycle. The synodic month of
In 7th century, the Wùyín Yuán Calendar of
Because astronomical observation is used to determine month length, date of the Chinese calendar corresponds to the moon phase.
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
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
Different version of traditional Chinese calendar might have different average year length. For instance, one solar year of Taichu calendar, which were implemented in
Couples of solar terms are climate terms (solar months). The first of each couples is "pre-climate" (節氣; 节气; Jiéqì), and the second of the each couple is "mid-climate" (中氣; 中气; Zhōngqì).
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 queue, to be 11. The intercalary follows the queue number before by rule.
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 (正月, capital month) and Làyuè (臘月; 腊月, sacrificial month), and the other month is called according to the queue number (except that the 0th month is Shi'eryue, if the Layue is a leap month).
There are 12 or 13 months in each year. The years with 12 months, or 353~355 days, are common years. The years with 13 months, or 383~385 days, are long years.
Years were numbered after the reign title in Ancient China, but the reign title was no longer used after the founding of PRC in 1949. People use the stem-branches to demarcate the years. For example, the year from February 8, 2016 to January 27, 2017 is a Bǐngshēnnían, 13 months or 384 days long.
To Encode the date in the Chinese calendar, the flag of the intercalary month should be considered. For example, Run Liuyue 6, Dingyounian: 408-6i-06 (Timestamp: 40806106)
In Tang Dynasty, the earthly branches are used to mark the months for about 150 days (Dec, 761~May, 762). [e] At that time, the year starts from the month with Winter Solstice, and the month from Zhengyue to Layue are named as: Yinyue, Maoyue, Chenyue, Siyue, Wuyue, Weiyue, Shenyue Youyue, Xuyue, Haiyue, Ziyue, and Chouyue.
A typical graphical representation of the Chinese calendar is the vernal cattle diagram (春牛圖; 春牛图), which help people calculate the date. In the vernal cattle diagram:
In China, age for official use is based on the Gregorian calendar. For traditional use, age is based on the Chinese calendar. For the first year from the birthday, the child is considered one year old. After each New Year's Eve, add one year. "Ring out the old age and ring in the new one (辭舊迎新; 辞旧迎新; 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 is that the age sequence is "1 month old, 2 months old, ... 10 months old, 2 years old, 3 years old...".
After the actual age (實歲; 实岁) was introduced into China, the Chinese traditional age was referred to as the nominal age (虛歲; 虚岁). Divided the year into two halves by the birthday in the Chinese calendar, [f] 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 (前半年前虛兩歲，後半年虛一歲; 前半年前虚两岁，后半年虚一岁). [g]
Just as it is awkward to define the birthday of someone born on the 29th of February in the Gregorian calendar, special rules are used for birthdays or other anniversaries during the intercalary month or on the 30th day.
In the Ancient China, years were numbered from 1, beginning when a new emperor ascended the throne or the current emperor announced a new era name. The first reign title was Jiànyuán (建元; "era establishment", from 140 BCE), and the last reign title was Xuāntǒng (宣統; 宣统, from 1908 CE). The era system was abolished in 1912 CE, after which the Current Era or
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 (嵗星; 岁星; suìxīng), and the 1/12 Jupiter orbital period was called as the age (嵗; 岁; 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 (太嵗; 太岁; 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 (超辰; 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 
No reference date is universally accepted.
On January 2, 1912,
In the 17th century, the
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
Starting in 1903, radical publications started using the projected date of birth of the
There is an epoch for each version of the Chinese calendar, which is called Lìyuán (曆元; 历元). The epoch is the optimal origin of the calendar, and it is a Jiǎzǐrì, the first day of a lunar month, and the dark moon and solstice are just at the midnight (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 (
In his time system, 1 yuán (元), which contains 12'9600 years, is a lifecycle of the world. Each yuán is divided into 12 huì (會; 会). Each huì is divided into 30 yùn (運; 运), and each yùn is divided into 12 shì (世). 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
The table below shows the kinds of year number system along with correspondences to the Western (Gregorian) calendar. Alternatively, see
|Year in cycle||s,b||Gānzhī (干支)||Year of the...||CE||
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.
In the Sinosphere, the traditional festivals are calculated using the date or solar terms, and are considered auspicious.
|Festival||English||Define||Original Define (Han Dynasty)||Date of the following...||Remark|
|Major traditional festivals on fixed date|
||Làyuè 8||The third Xuri (戌) after the Winter Solstice||2017-01-05|
|the cleanup day before New Year's Week|
||the last day of the year, Làyuè 29 or 30||2017-01-27||a statutory holiday|
||The first day of the year, Zhēngyuè 1||2017-01-28||a statutory holiday|
||Zhēngyuè 15||The first full moon of the year||2017-02-11||Also called as Yuanxiao (the night of the first full moon), an annual carnival in ancient China|
||Sānyuè 3||The first Siri (巳) of Sanyue||2017-03-30||a version of Qingmin Festival, The origin of Thailand water splashing festival|
||Sìyuè 8||2017-05-03||a statutory holiday in Hong Kong SAR|
||Wǔyuè 5||The First Wuri (午) of Wuyue||2017-05-30||a statutory holiday|
||Qīyuè 7||2017-08-28||Ingenuity Maiden's Day|
||Qīyuè 15||The full moon at the mid-year||2017-09-05||the worship of ancestors|
||Bāyuè 15||The full moon at the mid-autumn||2017-10-04||Reunion Day, a statutory holiday|
||Jiǔyuè 9||2017-10-28||Regarded as Elder's Day in China
a statutory holiday in Hong Kong SAR
|Shíyuè 1||The New Year's Day of Qin Calendar||2017-11-18||Issue Royal calendar (almanac) for the following year.|
|Shíyuè 15||The first full moon in Qin calendar||2017-12-02||the worship of worthy|
|Major traditional festivals on solar term|
|Beginning of Spring||The day that Spring commences
about February 4
|The day of the Stimulation of Agriculture|
||the 105th day after the Winter Solstice
about April 4
|Sānyuè 7, 2017
|The fast before the worship of ancestors at Qingming Festival.|
||The day of the solar term of Bright and Clear
about April 5
|Sānyuè 8, 2017
|The day of the worship of ancestors, a statutory holiday|
||The day of the Winter Solstice
about December 21
|Shíyīyuè 5, 2017
|The node of the solar years|
|Spring/Autumn Pray||the fifth Wùrì (戊) after Spring/Autumn Commences||March 21
|a version of Spring/Autumn equinox|
|The traditional business festivals|
|Zhēngyuè 5||In the old days, merchants used to open their stores from Zhēngyuè 5, and host a prayer service on that day. God of Wealth's Day, which the prayer service is called God of Wealth is Welcome.|
Touya & Weiya
|Èryuè 2 / Làyuè 16||In the Ancient China, business owners hosted the Yaji rites (