The Chinese Calendar

Explaination of the Chinese calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar, animal signs and some personality traits.

Rat, ox, horse, snake and tiger, animals or calendar designations? Actually, they are both. The Chinese calendar can be traced as far back as 14 B.C. but legend has it that the Emperor Huangdi in or about 2637 B.C began the calendar!

It was originally designed to have major cycles every sixty years, with each year having a specific name. These names are made up of two parts. The first part is called the "Celestial Stemm" while the second part is the most commonly know aspects of the Chinese calendar, the "Terrestrial Branch"

The Celestial Stemm is broken down into ten components, which make up the first half of the Chinese year name. These are:

1. Jia

2.Yi

3.Bing

4.Ding

5.Wu

6.Ji

7.Geng

8.Xin

9.Ren

10.Gui

While these names have no true English translation, the Terrestrial Branch is divided up into twelve "animal" names similar to the "Zodiac" calendar.

1. Rat (zi)

2. Ox (chou)

3. Tiger (yin)

4. Rabbit (mao)

5. Dragon (chen)

6. Snake (si)

7. Horse (wu)

8. Sheep (wei)

9. Monkey (shen)

10. Rooster (you)

11. Dog (xu)

12. Pig (hai)

As such the first year of a new Celestial cycle would be called "Jia-zi." The first sixty-year cycle was begun in 2637 B.C. and the present sixty-year cycle began on the Chinese New Year that occurred on February 2, 1984. Technically speaking, each new celestial cycle would have the same name or date as the last time the sixty-year cycle began. In other words, the Chinese calendar doesn't have an infinite number of years to add upon as the Gregorian (Christian) calendar does.

Unlike the Gregorian New Year, January 1st, the Chinese New Year is based upon solar/lunar calculations as are each of the following months. The first day of a given month in the Chinese calendar would begin whatever day the "new moon" occurred.

The current Gregorian versus Chinese year designations are as follows.

January 24, 2001 = Chinese year 4699 and is considered to be the year of the snake.

February 12, 2002 = 4700 and is the year of the horse.

February 1, 2003 = 4701 Sheep

January 22, 2004 = 4702 Monkey

February 9, 2005 = 4703 Rooster

January 29, 2006 = 4704 Dog

February 18, 2007 = 4705 Pig/boar

February 7, 2008 = 4706 Rat

January 26, 2009 = 4707 Ox

February 10, 2010 = 4708 Tiger

February 3, 2011 = 4709 Rabbit

January 23, 2012 = 4710 Dragon

The Gregorian year 2013 or Chinese year 4711 begins the cycle again at the year of the snake.

While these conversions from Gregorian to Chinese calendar may seem confusing, especially since the New Year starts on no particular or set "date," the calendar is actually very accurate. The Chinese New Year is determined by the time of the second new moon that occurs after the winter solstice or sometime between the Gregorian, January 21 and February 19th. Much as the Gregorian calendar has "Leap years" so does the Chinese calendar.

"Thirty days has September, April, June and November" is a rhyme most schoolchildren know by heart. In it, these months have thirty days while "all the rest have thirty-one, save February which stands alone." February in the Gregorian calendar has of course twenty-eight days except during the four-year rotation of the leap years.

The Chinese calendar or "lunar year" as stated is normally divided into twelve months. Each of these months has twenty-nine or thirty days. On the Chinese calendar's leap year, there are additional months added as needed to account for the differences in the days of the year and the actual length of the solar year. These additional months aren't just thrown in; they occur at regular intervals and have been so for thousands of years.

It is amazing (at least to the author) that thousands of years ago, before the advent of computers, telescopes and "modern day science," man could perfect such a system that is still in use today. There is another aspect of the Chinese calendar that is often surprising in its accuracy.



Just as the astrological zodiac has specific traits that are commonly found in people born under a particular "sign," the people born during specific years of the Chinese calendar also show many specific personality traits. The following is a very brief summary of the year and the personality traits as that is an article all of its own.

The Rat:

Rat people are notorious for being quick witted. They usually are slow to make true, lasting friendships but once they do, they guard them closely. Rats are normally very loyal, loving and charming. They can hide an aggressive streak as well as a stubbornness hard to match.

The Ox:

Ox people often make the best of friends. They are known to be patient, loyal and very caring. They can often live up to the old fashioned saying of, "Stubborn as an ox." Normally quiet homebodies, they often make excellent spouses.

The Tiger:

Tigers are known to be born leaders, not followers. They can show great depths of love or jealousy. Charismatic, they are usually courageous, fearless fighters but also warm-hearted.

The Rabbit:

Rabbit people usually hate confrontations or arguments. They are normally sweet natured people that are hard to provoke.

The Dragon:

Dragons are often very self-assured, gifted and natural leaders. In fact they often can loose their tempers when their "orders" are not followed.

The Snake:

Snakes have magnetic personalities. They usually have a good sense of humor but can be jealous and overly possessive.

The Horse:

Horse people are said to love travel. They are energetic, intelligent and ambitious. They can also impatient, hotheaded and egotistical.

The Sheep/goat:

The sheep is often the most creative and artistic of people. They are charming, well mannered but can at times be lazy.

The Monkey:

Monkeys are clever, creative and often the center of attention. They are curious sometimes to a fault but have a heightened sense of problem solving ability.

The Rooster:

Roosters are usually forthright people who have no desire to hide their likes or dislikes. They often like flashy clothes, cars and company.

The Dog:

Dog people are intelligent, caring and loyal. They are usually honorable, faithful people but can be both a worrier and a nag.

The Pig:

The pig is often the trustworthiest, loving and caring of all the signs. While these are admirable traits, it often sets the pig up to be taken advantage of because of their sweet tempers and naiveté.

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