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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Society Traditions >> Chinese Zodiac Astrology

Chinese Lunar Calendar

Prior to their adoption of the Western solar calendar system, the Chinese almost wholly followed their own lunar calendar for working out the times of planting and harvesting and festival days. Though people in China today use the Western calendar for almost all business, governmental and practical matters of daily life, the old method still serves as the basis for determining numerous seasonal holidays. This coexistence of two calendar schemes has long been acknowledged by the people of China.

However, this does not only happen in China, it also happens in most other Eastern countries, like Thailand, and most Arabic countries.

A lunar month is determined by measuring the period of time required for the moon to finish its full cycle of 29 and a half days, a standard that makes the lunar year a full eleven days shorter than its solar counterpart. This disparity is corrected every 19 years by the addition of seven lunar months.

The 12 lunar months are further divided into 24 solar divisions characterized by the four seasons and times of heat and cold, all of which bear a close relationship to the yearly cycle of agricultural work.

The Chinese calendar - very much like the Hebrew calendar- is a mixture of the solar and lunar calendars in that it strives to have its years concur with the tropical year and its months coincide with the synodic months. It is not surprising that a few similarities exist between the Chinese and the Hebrew calendar.

For instance, an average year has 12 months, a leap year has 13 months. An ordinary year has 353, 354, or 355 days, a leap year has 383, 384, or 385 days. When determining what a Chinese year will be like, one must make a number of astronomical calculations.

First of all, you have to determine the dates for the new moons. In these instances, a new Moon is the completely black Moon (that is to say, when the Moon is in conjunction with the Sun), not the first visible crescent, as is used by the Islamic and Hebrew calendars. The date of a new moon is then the first day of a new month.

The reason why the majority of countries which had their own calendars had to dump them in favor of the Western, Gregorian calendar that we use today, is business. First the British and then the Americans ran international business and they used the Gregorian calendar. Anyone who sought to work with them had to follow suit. This is why national policy often differs from local custom in Third World countries.

The government wants to deal on the International markets, but the normal family in the country can not. So, the government took up the Gregorian calendar but the people only pay lip service to it. I live in Thailand and people here do not even use the 24 hour day divided into two halves. Their day has four sections of six hours each and the first part starts at 6AM, not midnight. Therefore, they have four 4 o'clock a day, for instance but no 7 o'clock. They are also 543 years ahead of us, although this is more common, for example in Muslim countries.

About the Author: 

Owen Jones, the author of this article, writes on many subjects, but is currently involved with researching Franklin planner pages. If you have an interest in calendars, organizers or promotional calendars, please go over to our website now at Promotional Desk Calendars