There are two Chinese Calendars, one based on the sun cycle and the other based on the moon cycle. Together they are sometimes called the Lunisolar Calendar! Also since the sun is yang and the moon yin, it is often referred to as the YinYang Calendars.
The Chinese Solar Calendar is also known as the Xia (Hsia) Calendar and has a history that dates back more than 4000 years. Since the Xia (Hsia) calendar is closely related and used to regulate agriculture, it is also called the Farmer’ Calendar.
The earth makes one rotation around the sun every 365 and a quarter day. Four of these quarter days make one extra day and this is why there is a leap year of 366 days every four years in the Western calendar that we use today.
Of the two Chinese Calendars, the Chinese Solar Calendar is most similar to the Western calendar except that instead of starting on the 1st of January, the Chinese solar year begins on the 1st day of Spring that falls on or around the 4th Feb. The exact starting date wobbles a little bit to account for the extra day that is accumulated every four years.
The Chinese Calendars and Seasons
There are four seasons in a year namely Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This is sufficient for most people but for the purpose of agriculture (and Chinese metaphysics study), each season is further divided into 6 sub-seasons giving a total of 24 sub-seasons. These sub-seasons have descriptive names like rain water, insects awaken, corn rain, corn sprouting etc which gives clear hints to the farmers on the right time for planting and harvesting!
The Chinese Lunar Calendar on the other hand is based on the moon’s rotation around the earth which is approximately 29.5 days. Unfortunately the Lunar cycles do not match the Solar cycles. For example 12 lunar cycles (12 x 28.5) do not quite add up to 365 days. To synchronize the Lunar Calendar with the Solar Calendar, the Chinese added an extra month in seven (7) out of every nineteen (19) years. The extra month in certain years are known as leap month.
We can convert between the Chinese Calendars, both Solar and Lunar, and Western dates using a text reference known as The Ten Thousand Years Calendar. Do not be fooled by the name. Most books available in the market contains not more than 150 years of data.
You can also find the Chinese Solar and Lunar equivalent dates of any Western date by using this Chinese Calendars converter.
The Chinese New year festival celebrated by Chinese all over the world marks the first day of the Chinese Lunar year. Unlike the Chinese Solar new year which falls on or around the 4th Feb every year, the Chinese Lunar new year falls on a different date between January and February every year!
This is the Chinese Calendars for you.