Chinese Lunar Calendar
Chinese Leap Years[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Leap years have 13 months. To determine if a year is a leap year, calculate the number of new moons between the 11th month in one year (i.e., the month containing the Winter Solstice) and the 11th month in the following year. If there are 13 new moons from the start of the 11th month in the first year to the start of the 11th month in the second year, a leap month must be inserted.
In leap years, at least one month does not contain a Principal Term. The first such month is the leap month. It carries the same number as the previous month, with the additional note that it is the leap month.
How Does One Count Years?
Unlike most other calendars, the Chinese lunar calendar does not count years in an infinite sequence. Instead years have names that are repeated every 60 years.
(Historically, years used to be counted since the accession of an emperor, but this was abolished after the 1911 revolution.)
Within each 60-year cycle, each year is assigned name consisting of two components:
The first component is a Celestial Stemm. These words have no English equivalent:
The second component is a Terrestrial Branch. The names of the corresponding animals in the zodiac cycle of 12 animals are given in parentheses.
|1.||zi (rat)||7.||wu (horse)|
|2.||chou (ox)||8.||wei (sheep)|
|3.||yin (tiger)||9.||shen (monkey)|
|4.||mao (hare, rabbit)||10.||you (rooster)|
|5.||chen (dragon)||11.||xu (dog)|
|6.||si (snake)||12.||hai (pig)|
Each of the two components is used sequentially. Thus, the 1st year of the 60-year cycle becomes jia-zi, the 2nd year is yi-chou, the 3rd year is bing-yin, etc. When we reach the end of a component, we start from the beginning: The 10th year is gui-you, the 11th year is jia-xu (restarting the Celestial Stem), the 12th year is yi-hai, and the 13th year is bing-zi (restarting the Terrestrial Branch). Finally, the 60th year becomes gui-hai.
This way of naming years within a 60-year cycle goes back approximately 2000 years. A similar naming of days and months has fallen into disuse, but the date name is still listed in calendars.
It is customary to number the 60-year cycles since 2637 B.C.E., when the calendar was supposedly invented. In that year the first 60-year cycle started.
What Is the Current Year in the Chinese lunar calendar?
The current 60-year cycle started on 2 Feb 1984. That date bears the name bing-yin in the 60-day cycle, and the first month of that first year bears the name gui-chou in the 60-month cycle.
This means that the year wu-yin, the 15th year in the 78th cycle, started on 28 Jan 1998. The 20th year in the 78th cycle, started on 1 Feb 2003.
The following are dates for Chinese/Lunar New Year's day:
|Chinese year||Zodiac animal||Gregorian calendar|
|4693||Boar||January 31, 1995|
|4694||Rat||February 19, 1996|
|4695||Ox||February 7, 1997|
|4696||Tiger||January 28, 1998|
|4697||Hare/Rabbit||February 16, 1999|
|4698||Dragon||February 5, 2000|
|4699||Snake||January 24, 2001|
|4700||Horse||February 12, 2002|
|4701||Ram/Sheep||February 1, 2003|
|4702||Monkey||January 22, 2004|
|4703||Rooster||February 9, 2005|
|4704||Dog||January 29, 2006|
|4705||Boar||February 18, 2007|
|4706||Rat||February 7, 2008|
|4707||Ox||January 26, 2009|
|4708||Tiger||February 10, 2010|
|4709||Hare/Rabbit||February 3, 2011|
|4710||Dragon||January 23, 2012|
|4711||Snake||February 10, 2013|
|4712||Horse||January 31, 2014|
|4713||Ram/Sheep||February 19, 2015|
|4714||Monkey||February 9, 2016|
|4715||Rooster||January 28, 2017|
|4716||Dog||February 16, 2018|
|4717||Boar||February 5, 2019|
|4718||Rat||January 25, 2020|
What about the year 2033?
In the early 1990s, Chinese astronomers discovered that there was an error in the Chinese lunar calendar for 2033. The traditional calendar claimed that the leap month would follow the 7th month, while in fact it comes after the 11th month. It is very unusual that the 11th month has a leap month, in fact it hasn't happened since the calendar reform in 1645 (before 1645, all months had the same probability for having a leap month). But many Chinese astronomers still claim that there will never be a leap month after the 12th and 1st month. In addition, there will be a leap month after the 1st month in 2262 (in fact, it should have happened in 1651, but they got the calculations wrong!) and there will be a leap month after the 12th month in 3358. Since the Chinese lunar calendar is an astronomical calendar, predictions require delicate astronomical calculations, so my computations for 3358 should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
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Above article is based on information from an article on webexhibits, WebExhibits, Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement