Notes on the Chinese Calendar.
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
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
Each solar month begins around the 4th or the 8th of
the corresponding western month:
- The 1st Chinese Month = February (2nd Western
- The 2nd Chinese Month = March (3rd Western
- The 11th Chinese Month = December (12th Western
- The 12th Chinese Month = January (1st Western
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.
- 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).
Examples of New Year
In a Lunar calendar context, we say 'Moons'.
In a Solar calendar context, we say 'Solar Months'.
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.
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 +
- - Mao is Yin Wood.
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
The notions of Clashes and Harmonies, of favourable or
unfavourable periods, of lucky periods must be
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
||[11pm 01 am[
||[01 am 03 am[
||[03 am 05 am[
||[05 am 07 am[
||[07 am 09 am[
||[09 am 11 am[
||[11 am 01 pm[
||[01 pm 03 pm[
||[03 pm 05 pm[
||[05 pm 07 pm[
||[07 pm 09 pm[
||[09 pm 11 pm[
Calculation of the Local Solar Hour:
- Start from the legal hour.
For instance, let us examine the two following
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
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
- Add the longitude (measured in hours) .
Or subtract it if this takes place at the West of
==> 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
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
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
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]
The 60 Binomials.
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
| 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
 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