The Chinese calendar incorporates the elements of both lunar and solar calendar and is therefore, luni-solar. This type of calendar is followed by many other cultures of Asia. However, it is often branded as the Chinese calendar for the reason that it was perfected by the Chinese people. While the Gregorian calendar is used in most of East Asia today, for day to day activities, the Chinese calendar still dictates traditional Asian holidays, such as the Chinese New Year, the Duan Wu festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Besides, wedding dates in China are still decided in accordance with their luni-solar calendar. Read on to know more about the history of the Chinese calendar.
Interesting & Amazing Information On Origin & Background Of Chinese Calendar
The origin of Chinese calendar can be traced to the oracle bones of the Shang dynasty, during late second millennium BCE. These oracle bones are believed to have described a lunisolar year, comprising of twelve months. Possibly, an intercalary thirteenth or fourteenth month was also added empirically to the calendar, to avoid drifts between calendars. In those times, the Sexagenary cycle for recording days was already being used in China and the year commenced on the first new moon, after the winter solstice. In the Zhou dynasty era, one year had twelve months (alternately 29 and 30 days long). Occasionally, one more day was added to the months to prevent ‘drifts’ with other calendars.
The intercalary months or days, added arbitrarily in the end of the year, accounted for differences in the calendars of each dynasty rule. However, with the beginning of the era of Warring states (the period beginning from 46 BCE and spanning to the unification of China in 221 BCE), advancements made in astronomy and mathematics facilitated the creation of calculated calendars. The Sifen calendar is credited to be the first calculated Chinese calendar, which began in 484 BC. The year had 365¼ days and began on the new moon, prior to winter solstice. At the closing of the year, intercalary months were also added.
The last Zhou king conceded his territory to Qin in 256 BCE, and the new calendar that came in use, followed almost the same principles as that of the Sifen calendar. The Qin calendar was used in the beginning years of the Western Han dynasty. Emperor Wu introduced a new Taichu calendar in 104 BCE, which had a year with the winter solstice in the eleventh month, designated as intercalary any calendar month. The sun did not pass a principal term during this intercalary month, and it could occur after any month of the year. The Taichu calendar allotted 365 days to the tropical year and 29 days to the lunar month.
The Taichu calendar was followed by the Shixian calendar, which was heavily inspired by the European astronomy. Though the fledgling Republic of China adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1912, the Chinese were still using the traditional calendar. During 1916 to 1921, when China was ruled by many competing warlords, the status of the Gregorian calendar remained ambiguous. However, the Kuomintang government controlling Southern China used the Gregorian calendar, which was officially adopted when it reconstituted the Republic of China in 1928. The regime was overtaken by the People’s Republic of China in 1949, which continued to use the same calendar.