Notes on the Chinese Calendar.

Contents:

Since 1912, China has officially adopted the Gregorian calendar.
But the old soli-lunar system (Nong Li) is still relevant.

There are in fact two Chinese Calendars:

  • - the Solar Calendar, used in Feng Shui and in the "Four Pillars of the Destiny" (Ba Zi Astrology or Zi Ping).
  • - the Lunar Calendar, maily used in the other branch of the Chinese Astrology, the Zi Wei Dou Shu .


Both calendars are dealt with in our software Izi Wai that you can download and try:
download and try Izi Wai Software



The Solar Chinese Calendar

The Solar New Year begins at the precise time when the Sun goes over the 15th degree of the Aquarius sign, Pekin time.

This corresponds to February, 4th (sometimes 5th): from 1960 till 2003, the only years beginning on the 5th are: 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980.

That date is called "Li Chun" and marks the beginning of the chinese spring.

Li Chun is one of the 24 chinese markers (Jie Qi) that regulate the year.

There are 12 Jie marking the beginning of each solar month and 12 Qi located in the middle of a solar month.

Each solar month begins around the 4th or the 8th of the corresponding western month:

  • The 1st Chinese Month = February (2nd Western Month),
  • The 2nd Chinese Month = March (3rd Western Month),
  • ...,
  • The 11th Chinese Month = December (12th Western Month),
  • The 12th Chinese Month = January (1st Western Month).

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The Lunar Chinese Calendar

The Lunar New Year is set on the winter solstice and can fall on any day between January, 21st and February 20th.

A lunar year comprises twelve moons of 29 days (short moon) or 30 days (long moon), and regularly, a thirteenth moon must be inserted to make up on the gap.

For a cycle of 19 lunar years, there are seven years with a thirteenth moon.

Examples:

  • The 26th of May 1998 is the first day of the fifth Moon of the Year Wu-Yin (Tiger of Mau in Vietnamese).
    This Moon ends 29 days later, the 23rd of June 1998. The 24th of June should thus be the first day of the sixth Moon.

    But here we have to deal with a thirteenth Moon: its fifteen first days belong to the Moon #5 and the other belong to the following Moon (which officially begins the 23rd of July).

  • Another example: in the Lunar Chinese Calendar, February 4th 1999 still belongs to the 1998 year (Wu-Yin) and not to the Ji-Mao year: it is the 19th day of the 12th Moon (the 1999 Lunar Year Ji-Mao only begins on February, 16th 1999).

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Examples of New Year

  Lunar Solar
1990 27 January 4 February
1991 15 February 4 February
1992 4 February 4 February
1993 23 January 4 February
1994 12 January 4 February
1995 31 Janvier 4 February
1996 19 February 4 February
1997 7 February 4 February
1998 28 January 4 February
1999 16 February 4 February
2000 5 February 4 February
2001 24 January 4 February
2002 12 February 4 February

Remark:
In a Lunar calendar context, we say 'Moons'.
In a Solar calendar context, we say 'Solar Months'.

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The Eight Words or Four Pillars

In both calendars, the Year, the Month (Solar or Lunar), the Day and the Hour are a combination of two chinese words:

  • - a Heavenly Stem (there are 10 of them, also called 'roots': Di Zhi),
  • - a Earthly Branch (there are 12 branches, which are the famous animals of the Chinese Zodiac).

For instance, February 4th, 1999 is the 1st day of the solar year 1999 (a Ji-Mao year, a Bing-Yin month, a Ding-Hai Day). But remember we have seen it belonged to the 12th Moon of the 1998 Year, in the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

Remark:

  • - Every Chinese Hour (period of 2 western hours), Hour Stem and Hour Branch change.
  • - Every Day, Day Stem and Day Branch change.
  • - Every Month (around the 5th of a western month), Month Stem and Month Branch change.
      (and every Moon, if we are in the Lunar Calendar, Moon Stem and Moon Branch change).
  • - Every Chinese New Year (around February 4th), Year Stem and Year Branch change.
      (and every Lunar New Year, Year Stem and Year Branch change).
  • - The Eight Words (Ba Zi) are written in columns, called "Pillars",
      each pillar containing a Stem and a Branch (of the Year, the Month, the Day and the Hour).

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    Example for the 4th of February 1999, first Chinese Hour:

    Solar Calendar:

      Hour Day Month Year
    Stem Geng Ding Bing Ji
    Branch Zi
    (Rat)
    Hai
    (Pig)
    Yin
    (Tiger)
    Mao
    (Rabbit)

    Lunar Calendar:

      Hour Day Month Year
    Stem Geng Ding Yi Wu
    Branch Zi
    (Rat)
    Hai
    (Pig)
    Chou
    (Buffalo)
    Yin
    (Tiger)

    Remark:
    in the two calendars, the Pillars of the Day and of the Hour do not change. Only the Year and Month.

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Conversion into Yin/Yang and into Elements

This can be converted into Yin/Yang and into elements:

For instance, let's have a look to the Stems we have already encountered:

  • - Geng is Yang Metal,
  • - Ding is Yin Fire,
  • - Bing is Yang Fire,
  • - Ji is Yin Earth.

And for the Branches:

  • - Zi is Yang Water,
  • - Hai is Yin Water (and some Wood),
  • - Yin is Yang Wood (and some Fire + Earth),
  • - Mao is Yin Wood.

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Interpretation (Zi Ping)

It was defined and adjusted by the well-read Zi Ping, a long time ago.

The stem of the day (called the Master Day) is the main data: it represents the subject.

Whether it is weak or strong, whether it is supported or thwarted must be determined first.

Then the symbols of wealth, authority, power are looked for.
The signs of good or bad health, the relational potential with the parents, the spouse and the children too...

The notions of Clashes and Harmonies, of favourable or unfavourable periods, of lucky periods must be particularly checked.

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Chinese Hour and Local Solar Hour

A Chinese Hour is a period of 120 minutes.

The first Chinese Hour, the Rat Hour, begins at 11pm, Local Solar Hour (LSH). Here are the twelve Chinese Hours:

Chinese Hour

Animal

Chinese Name

Interval

1st Hour Rat Zi [11pm – 01 am[
2nd Hour Buffalo Chou [01 am – 03 am[
3rd Hour Tiger Yin [03 am – 05 am[
4th Hour Rabbit Mao [05 am – 07 am[
5th Hour Dragon Chen [07 am – 09 am[
6th Hour Snake Si [09 am – 11 am[
7th Hour Horse Wu [11 am – 01 pm[
8th Hour Goat Wei [01 pm – 03 pm[
9th Hour Monkey Shen [03 pm – 05 pm[
10th Hour Rooster You [05 pm – 07 pm[
11th Hour Dog Xu [07 pm – 09 pm[
12th Hour Pig Hai [09 pm – 11 pm[


Calculation of the Local Solar Hour:

  • Start from the legal hour.
    For instance, let us examine the two following Legal Hours:
    10.25 am in Paris on the 25th of May 1999,
    10.25 am in New York on the 25th of May 1999.

  • Find the GMT hour (Universal Time).
    Subtract the time-lag towards Greenwich if this takes place at the East of Greenwich.
    Or add it if this takes place at the West of Greenwich.

    The time-lag takes into account the time zone (+1H for Paris, -5H for New York).

    And also, if necessary, the lag due to the summer hour (add one hour in each case, which leads to 2H for Paris and -4H for NewYork).

    ==> 8.25 am GMT for the first example (Paris).
  •   and 2.25 pm GMT for the second example (New York).

  • Add the longitude (measured in hours) .
    Or subtract it if this takes place at the West of Greenwich).

==> HSL = 8.25 am + 0.09 thus 8.34 am for Paris, i.e. the 5th Chinese Hour [7H - 9H]

==> HSL = 14.25pm – 4.55 thus 9.30 am for New York, i.e. the 6th Chinese Hour [9H - 11H]

==>The Chinese Hour is thus not necessarily the hour that is quickly calculated, thinking "10.25 am equals the 6th Chinese Hour".

This kind of calculation is automatically done by our other software Izi Wai.
You can download and try it:
Download and try the Chinese Astrology Software Izi Wai

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The Tong Shu or the 10000-year calendar (Wan Nian Li)

This calendar is a big almanac, going over an interval of years. It gives a lot of information: the gregorian, lunar and solar dates, but also the favourable days, the stars used in Feng Shui, the direction where some deities are positioned…

It is very popular among Chinese families, who consult it for any important decision.

More info on the chinese temporality:

There are 60 possible combinations (binomials) of Stems and Branches.

This periodicity of 60 years corresponds to a new alignment of the Earth with the Moon, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. The first observation dates back to 2637 BC which became the first year of the first cycle of 60 years.

A period of 180 years is called a Grand Cycle and corresponds to 3 cycles of 60 years (called Inferior cycle, Median cycle and Superior cycle) and thus to 9 periods of 20 years.

The current Grand cycle is the 26th one and has started on February 4th, 1864. It will last until February 3rd, 2044.

Since 2004 and until February 2024, we are in the 8th Period of the current Grand cycle.

This means, among other things, that in Feng Shui, the star associated with the number 8 is currently predominant. From February 2024, and for 20 years, it will be the 9 star.

"The sexagesimal notation, as an expression of the cyclic nature of the time, played a large part in the setting up of a divinatory algebra tied to the apparent periodicity of the days, the months and the seasons. The interpretation of the sexagesimal configurations peculiar to a situation is the feature common to many chinese divinatory techniques. "[Citation #1]

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The 60 Binomials.

N° 1 JIA-Zi S1B1
N°2 YI-Chou S2B2
N°3 BING-Yin S3B3
N°4 DING-Mao S4B4
N°5 WU-Chen S5B5
N°6 JI-Si S6B6
N°7 GENG-Wu S7B7
N°8 XIN-Wei S8B8
N°9 REN-Shen S9B9
N°10 GUI-You S10B10
N°11 JIA-Xu S1B11
N°12 YI-Hai S2B12
N°13 BING-Zi S3B1
N°14 DING-Chou S4B2
N°15 WU-Yin S5B3
N°16 JI-Mao S6B4
N°17 GENG-Chen S7B5
N°18 XIN-Si S8B6
N°19 REN-Wu S9B7
N°20 GUI-Wei S10B8
N°21 JIA-Shen S1B9
N°22 YI-You S2B10
N°23 BING-Xu S3B11
N°24 DING-Hai S4B12
N°25 WU-Zi S5B1
N°26 JI-Chou S6B2
N°27 GENG-Yin S7B3
N°28 XIN-Mao S8B4
N°29 REN-Chen S9B5
N°30 GUI-Si S10B6
N°31 JIA-Wu S1B7
N°32 YI-Wei S2B8
N°33 BING-Shen S3B9
N°34 DING-You S4B10
N°35 WU-Xu S5B11
N°36 JI-Hai S6B12
N°37 GENG-Zi S7B1
N°38 XIN-Chou S8B2
N°39 REN-Yin S9B3
N°40 GUI-Mao S10B4
N°41 JIA-Chen S1B5
N°42 YI-Si S2B6
N°43 BING-Wu S3B7
N°44 DING-Wei S4B8
N°45 WU-Shen S5B9
N°46 JI-You S6B10
N°47 GENG-Xu S7B11
N°48 XIN-Hai S8B12
N°49 REN-Zi S9B1
N°50 GUI-Chou S10B2
N°51 JIA-Yin S1B3
N°52 YI-Mao S2B4
N°53 BING-Chen S3B5
N°54 DING-Si S4B6
N°55 WU-Wu S5B7
N°56 JI-Wei S6B8
N°57 GENG-Shen S7B9
N°58 XIN-You S8B10
N°59 REN-Xu S9B11
N°60 GUI-Hai S10B12

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The 24 Jie Qi (Jalons of the Solar Calendar):

Li Chun 4 or 5 February Spring begins
Yu Shi 18,19 or 20 February Rain Water >
Jing Zhe 5 or 6 March Insect awaken
Chun Fen 20 or 21 March Spring Equinox
Qing Ming 4 or 5 April Pure Brightness
Gu Yu 19, 20 or 21 Aprim Beneficial rains
Li Xia 6 or 7 May Summer begins
Xiao Man 20,21 or 22 May Small surplus
Mang Zhong 5, 6 or 7 June Grain in ears
Xia Zhi 21 or 22 June Summer Solstice
Xiao Shu 6, 7 ou 8 July Little Heat
Da Shu 22, 23 or 24 July Great Heat
Li Qiu 8 or 9 August Fall begins
Chu Shu 22, 23 or 24 August End of the Heats
Bai Lu 7, 8 or 9 September White Dews
Qiu Fen 22 or 23 September Fall Equinox
Han Lu 8 or 9 October Cold Dew
Shuang Jiang 23 or 24 October Frosting
Li Dong 7 or 8 November Winter begins
Xiao Xue 22 or 23 November Little Snow
Da Xue 6, 7 or 8 December Great Snow
Dong Zhi 21,22 or 23 December Winter Solstice
Xiao Han 5, 6 or 7 January Little Cold
Da Han 20 or 21 January Great Cold

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[1] Marc Kalinowski
Dans "Cosmologie et Divination dans la Chine ancienne, ou le Compendium des 5 agents.
Le Wu Xing Da Yi, Vième siècle"
Ecole Française d'Extrême Orient Paris 1991

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