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Chinese Lunar Calendar


CHINESE LUNAR CALENDAR

The Chinese lunar calendar is the longest chronological order in history, dating from 2637 B.C. when the first cycle of the zodiac was introduced. One complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five simple cycles of twelve years each. Each lunar year is again divided into twelve months, each month having twenty-nine and half days. A unique feature of the Chinese lunar calendar is that in order to adjust the extra half day in each lunar year, half of the months are assigned 29 days, and the rest of the months are assigned 30 days in the calendar.
One extra month is added every two or three years to adjust any other differences. Therefore the Chinese calendar gets a leap year of not one extra day, but of one extra month. Despite its name the Chinese calendar is a combination of elements comprising of a lunar calendar as well as that of a solar calendar, i.e.it is lunisolar in nature. It is dependant on the positions of the sun and the moon, and solar terms are used to distinguish the seasons, while the astronomical new moons are used as the base for counting the days and the months and the start of a new year.

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Therefore many Chinese festivals are related to the moon, especially the 1st moon and 15th day moon of the lunar month.

Chinese New Year falls on the 1st day of the 1st lunar month while Moon Cake Day falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Other Chinese festivals are also dependant on particular positions of the sun and the moon.

The Chinese animal signs seen on a Chinese lunar calendar were used in naming the years. Twelve animal names were assigned to each of the twelve years. There are two different Chinese legends related to the use of animal signs on a Chinese calendar. According to one legend, Lord Buddha had invited all the animals to come for a celebration, before he departed from earth. Only twelve animals turned up, and so Lord Buddha in order to reward them, named a year after each animal, in the order they arrived. Another ancient story is that twelve animals were quarreling among themselves, as to who would head the cycle of years. The gods then decided to have a contest, and whichever animal would reach the opposite side of the river first would head the cycle of years, and accordingly the rest of the animals would be numbered according to their finish. The rat was the first to reach, then the ox, and the rest of the animals one after the other.

According to Chinese folklore horoscopes have also been developed around these animal signs. It is said that a person born in a particular year under a particular animal sign will have some of the characteristics of that animal. The animal signs also serve as a useful social function activity for finding out people’s age, instead of directly asking a person his or her age.

Although China uses the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes, the Chinese lunar calendar is used for determining all the important occasions. It is an important part of the Chinese cultural & is used to determine the dates of important Chinese events, like the Chinese New Year or (Spring festival), the Duan Wu festival and the Mid-Autumn festival as well as auspicious dates for weddings and other various cultural & religious ceremonies. This calendar is not exclusive to China, but is followed by many other Asian countries, but is still called the Chinese lunar calendar because it was first perfected by the Chinese around 500 BC.














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