Tag Archives: Chinese lunar calendar

The Chinese Lunar Calendar

In addition to the Xia or Chinese Solar Calendar the Chinese have a Chinese Lunar Calendar. It is based on the moon’s rotation around the earth which takes approximately 29.53059days.

The ancient Chinese felt the need to synchronize the Chinese lunar calendar with the Chinese solar calendar. Unfortunately this is not an easy task. Twelve lunar months add up to 354.36708 days and is not equal to one solar year of 365.242199 days!

To solve this problem, the Chinese added an addition month in 7 out of every 19 years. The additional month takes the name of the month before and is known as a leap month. Due to this addition month, the 1st day of the 1st month (also known as Chinese New Year) varies from year to year between the months of January and February. This can be very confusing but it works.

The first lunar month is not called January. Instead it is simply called the 1st Month. The second month is called the 2nd Month and so on until the 12th Month!


Each lunar month can have either 29 or 30 days. When the month has 29 days, it is considered to be small and when it has 30 days it is considered to be big.

Hence a lunar 1st Month that has 30 days is called 1st Month Big while a 6th Month that has 29 days is called 6th Month Small.

The lunar year is name after the 12 Earthly Branches with names like Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao and so on. To make it easy for the general population, they associate an animal with each of the Branch. For example Zi is Rat, Chou is Ox, Yin is Tiger, Mao is rabbit etc. This cycle is repeated every 12 years. For example 1960 is the year of Zi or the Rat and so is 1972, 1984, 1996 and so on.

To find out the Chinese lunar calendar equivalent of any western date you can use this conversion calendar.

Most traditional Chinese festivals such a the Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, All Souls Day, Mid-Autumn (Moon Cake) festival are based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

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The Chinese Calendars

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.

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