The Chinese Calendars

The Chinese Solar and Lunar Calendars

Am I a Horse or a Goat? This is very popular question encountered especially during the Chinese New Year talks on the luck of the various Chinese zodiac animals.

Why? The calendar that we use today is known as the Gregorian or Western calendar. This is the one where the new year starts on the 1st Jan. Chinese astrology obviously do not make use of this calendar. Instead it uses the Chinese calendar. Unfortunately for us, there are two Chinese Calendars. One is called the Chinese Solar Calendar (this is tied closely to the rotation of the Earth around the Sun) while the other is the Chinese Lunar Calendar (this is based on the moon cycle).

The Chinese Solar calendar is also known as the Farmer’s Calendar as it was first developed during the Xia Dynasty to regulate farming. The solar starts at the beginning of spring (also known as Li Cun) and falls on either the 4th or 5th of February each year.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the moon’s cycle. The starting date for each year can vary between late January and Late February, The Chinese New Year celebration is based on the calendar and this explain why the festival is celebrated on different days in Jan or Feb every year.

Pure lunar calendars like the ones use in Islamic countries using the moon solely for timekeeping. Unfortunately 12 months of moon cycles (29.53059 to be exact) do not equate to 365 days (time it takes for the earth to circle around the sun). Thus a moon year is shorter than a solar year.

This can be terribly confusing and the ancient Chinese choose to synchonize the Chinese Solar Salendar with the Chinese Solar Calendar by throwing in an extra “moon” or month now and then in to the Chinese Lunar Calendar. This is why we have and extra leap month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

Back to the question on zodiac signs.

In 2015, the Chinese Solar year of the Goat starts on the 4th of Feb while the Chinese Lunar year of the Goat starts on the 19th of Feb.

Obviously if you are born after the year starts you are a Goat. If born before you are a Horse.

But which calendar do you use?

Most Chinese Astrology Systems including the 12 Zodiac Animals and Zi Wei Dou Shu uses the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

BaZi on the other hand uses the Chinese Solar Calendar. Most most Feng Shui and Date Selection systems however uses the Chinese Solar Calendar.

So the next time someone ask you whether you are a Horse or a Goat (or any two consecutive zodiac signs) you can answer more intelligently by asking him what system he is using.

Now a word about the Chinese hour. Luckily for us it is quite straight forward.

In the Gregorian Calendar, each day is made of 24 hours of 60 minutes each. In both the Chinese Calendar system, each day is made up of 12 hours of 120 minutes called “Shi Shen”. For example the “first Chinese hour” called “Zi Shi” runs between 11 PM and 1 AM. The second called “Chou Shi” runs from 1 AM to 3 AM and so on.

Since most Chinese astrology systems uses the same Chinese hour, a person born between 11 PM and 1 AM is considered born during the “Zi Shi”, regardless of the system that we are using!

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