[2016,009,000] FIRE MONKEY’S NEW YEAR

2016, FEBRUARY 08.


The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar which reckons years, months and days according to astronomical phenomena. It is used for traditional activities in China and overseas Chinese communities. It determines the dates of traditional Chinese holidays, and guides Chinese people in selecting the luckiest days for weddings, funerals, moving, or beginning a business.

In the Chinese calendar, the days begin and end at midnight. The months begin on the day with the dark (new) moon. The years begin with the dark moon near the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox. The solar terms are the important components of the Chinese calendar. There are one to three solar terms within a month.

The present Chinese calendar is the product of centuries of evolution. Many astronomical and seasonal factors were added by ancient scientists, and people can reckon the date of natural phenomena such as the moon phase and tide upon 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. In Korea, Vietnam, and the Ryukyu Islands, the Chinese calendar was adopted completely. In Japan, the Chinese calendar was used before the Edo period, and the later Japanese calendar used the algorithm of the Chinese calendar.

The official calendar in China is the Gregorian calendar, but the traditional Chinese calendar plays an important role there. The Chinese calendar is known officially as the Agrarian Calendar (traditional Chinese: 農曆; simplified Chinese: 农历; pinyin: Nónglì), but is often referred to by other names, such as the Former Calendar (traditional Chinese: 舊曆; simplified Chinese: 旧历; pinyin: Jiùlì), the Old Calendar (traditional Chinese: 老曆; simplified Chinese: 老历; pinyin: Lǎolì), or the Yin or Lunar Calendar (traditional Chinese: 陰曆;simplified Chinese: 阴历; pinyin: Yīnlì).


A lunar calendar is a calendar that is based on cycles of the lunar phases. This can be contrasted with the Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar based on the revolution of the Earth around the sun. Because there are slightly more than twelve lunations (synodic months) in a solar year, the period of 12 lunar months (354.37 days) is sometimes referred to as a lunar year.

A common purely lunar calendar is the Islamic (or Hijri Qamari) calendar. A feature of the Islamic calendar is that a year is always 12 months, so the months are not linked with the seasons and drift each solar year by 11 to 12 days. It comes back to the position it had in relation to the solar year approximately every 33 Islamic years. It is used mainly for religious purposes, but in Saudi Arabia it is the official calendar. Other lunar calendars often include extra months added occasionally to synchronize it with the solar calendar.

The oldest known lunar calendar was found in Scotland at Warren Field and dates back to around 8,000 BC. Alexander Marshack, in a controversial reading, believed that marks on a bone baton (c. 25,000 BCE) represented a lunar calendar. Similarly, Michael Rappenglueck believes that marks on a 17,000-year-old cave painting in Lascaux represent a lunar calendar.

2016-01-28 Asia Times (Hong Kong on line newspaper) interview

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