Chinese Agricultural Calendar
China is one of the first countries in the world to invent the calendar. The appearance of the calendar has a profound impact on the development of national economy and culture. Also called Rural Calendar or Former Calendar, Lunar Calendar is the traditional calendar of China, which is an integrated lunar-solar calendar as it embraces the movement of the moon as well as that of the Sun. Lunar calendar (Yinli in Chinese) is that based on the moon’s orbit around the Earth and Solar calendar (Yangli in Chinese) is based on the positions of the Sun through the seasons.
History of Chinese Agricultural Calendar
The Babylonians devised the earliest lunisolar calendar after approximately 2500 B.C. Although not exclusive to China, the lunisolar calendar is often referred to as the “Chinese calendar” because a fairly accurate version was perfected by the Chinese around 500 B.C, which has continued to be used in China until now.
According to Chinese legend, in 2254 B.C. the Emperor Yao ordered his astronomers to define the annual cycles of changing seasons, and during the Shang dynasty a calendar was prepared annually by a board of mathematicians under the direction of a minister of the imperial government.
Each new Chinese dynasty published a new official annual calendar, and publication of an unofficial calendar could be regarded an act of treason.
The Emperor Wu of the Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.E. – 9 C.E.) introduced reforms that have governed the Chinese calendar ever since. The Calendar of 104 B.C.E. set the tropical year at 365.25016 days and the lunar month at 29.53086 days.
Rules of Chinese Agricultural Calendar
- There are 12 regular months per year, numbered sequentially (1 through 12) and given other names. There is a leap month every other year or three years which may appear after any regular month. It has the same number as the previous regular month.
- The lunar months means the first day of each month beginning at midnight which is the day of the astronomical new moon. A “day” in the Chinese calendar begins at 11 P.M. and not at midnight.
- Every other solar term of the Chinese calendar is equivalent to an entry of the sun into a sign of the tropical zodiac.
Intercalary Months of Chinese Calendar
Lunar months are numbered rather than named. Although the intercalary month receives the same number as the preceding month (plus the prefixed character rùn 闰), no festivals associated with that month are repeated. The effect of inserting the intercalary months based on the error between the lunar and the solar cycles is to provide a constant correction for the misfit between the two calendars.
Because the Chinese calendar is mainly a lunar calendar, its standard year is 354 days, whereas the astronomical year is approximately 365¼ days. Without the intercalary month, this deviation would build up over time. If the beginning of a certain month in the Chinese calendar deviates by a certain number of days from its equivalent in a solar calendar, an intercalary month needs to be inserted.
Festivals of Chinese Agricultural Calendar
Although Chinese authority firstly adopted the Western calendar in 1912, Chinese Lunar Calendar, as one of the most important carrier of Chinese culture, is still widely used among Chinese people. The dates of most of traditional festivals base on Chinese Lunar Calendar.
There are nine main festivals of Chinese Agricultural Calendar, seven determined by the lunisolar calendar, and two derived from the solar agricultural calendar. The two special holidays are the Qingming Festival and the Winter Solstice Festival.
|Date||English Name||Chinese Name||Activity|
|The first day of the first month||Spring Festival||春节||Family gathering and reunion|
|The fifth day of the first month||Lantern Festival||元宵节||Eating Tangyuan and see lanterns|
|April 4 or 5||Qingming Festival||清明节||Ancestor worshiping and spring outing|
|The fifth day of the fifth month||Dragon Boat Festival||端午节||Eating Zongzi and playing Dragon boat race|
|The seventh day of the seventh month||Double Seven Festival||七夕节||Chinese Valentine’s Day|
|The fifth day of the seventh month||Spirit Festival||中元节||Offering tributes and respect to the deceased|
|The fifth day of the eighth month||Mid-Autumn Festival||中秋节||Family gathering and eating moon cake|
|The ninth day of the ninth month||Double Ninth Festival||重阳节||Mountain climbing and showing care for the old|
|Dec 21, 22 or 23||Winter Solstice Festival||冬至||Family gathering|
Solar Terms of Chinese Agricultural Calendar
According to the agricultural calendar culture, Chinese people have their unique way of daily life. They created the 24 solar terms system to remark the activities in agriculture. From the names of these solar terms, farmers can immediately know what should do during this period.
|Approximate Gregorian Date||English Name||Chinese Name||Meaning|
|Feb. 5||Spring Begins||立春||spring begins|
|Feb 19||Rains||雨水||air will start getting humid and forming rain|
|March 5||Insects Awaken||惊蛰||hibernating insects awaken|
|March 20||Vernal Equinox||春分||sun shining on equater, day and night account up same hours on this day|
|April 5||Clear and Bright||清明||ancestral graves are tended|
|April 20||Grain Rain||谷雨||rain helps grain grow|
|May 5||Summer Begins||立夏||most palnt have staring grow|
|May 21||Grain Buds||小满||grains are plump|
|June 6||Grain in Ear||芒种||wheat mature|
|June 21||Summer Solstice||夏至||sunlight shines directly on the tropic of Cancer|
|July 7||Slight Heat||小暑||when heat starts to get unbearable|
|July 23||Great Heat||大暑||the hottest time of the year|
|August 7||Autumn Begins||立秋||autumn begins|
|August 23||Heat Stops||处暑||heat withdraws|
|September 8||White Dews||白露||condensed moisture makes dew white; a sign of autumn|
|September 23||Autumn Equinox||秋分||lit. central divide of autumn|
|October 8||Cold Dews||寒露||dew starts turning into frost|
|October 23||Hoar Frost Falls||霜降||appearance of frost and descent of temperature|
|November 7||Winter Begins||立冬||winter begins|
|November 22||Light Snow||小雪||snow starts falling|
|December 7||Great Snow||大雪||season of snowstorms in full swing|
|December 21||Winter Solstice||冬至||lit. winter extreme (of sun’s height)|
|January 6||Slight Cold||小寒||cold starts to become unbearable|
|January 21||Great Cold||大寒||coldest time of year|
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