The lunar calendar uses the phases of the moon to measure time, usually measuring the time from new moon to new moon as one month. The time required for the Earth to rotate around the Sun is one solar year. The solar calendar typically measures the time between vernal equinoxes.
Does China use the lunar calendar?
Who invented the Chinese lunar calendar?There’s been a lunisolar calendar in China since at least the Shang Dynasty, around the 14th century BC. Actually, legend holds that the semi-mythical Yellow Emperor invented the calendar in around 2500 BC—but he’s also said to have invented math, agriculture, boats and football, so you can take this with a pinch of salt.
When did the Chinese lunar calendar start?The beginnings of the Chinese calendar can be traced back to the 14th century B.C.E. Legend has it that the Emperor Huangdi invented the calendar in 2637 B.C.E. The Chinese calendar is based on exact astronomical observations of the longitude of the sun and the phases of the moon.
How does the Chinese lunar calendar work?
The Chinese calendar is lunisolar. It is based on exact astronomical observations of the Sun’s longitude and the Moon’s phases. It attempts to have its years coincide with the tropical year and shares some similarities with the Jewish calendar.
The arrival of a new moon determines the first day of the month. In the lunar cycle, the new moon is when the surface is entirely dark (opposite to full moon). During the month it grows from a crescent moon to full moon and back to the dark new moon.
The night of the new moon rising is regarded as the first day of the month. Regardless of what time it rises the beginning of that day marks the start of the month. Suppose the new moon rises at 8 pm, the entire day is the first day of the new month.
If you track the lunar cycle, you’ll find it shifts from month to month. That means the number of days in a month will change from year to year. It depends on watching the moon phases.
The ancient Chinese civilization observed these at the meridian line 120 degrees east to avoid conflicting results.
How long is a Chinese Year?
In both these calendars, a common year has 12 months and a leap year has 13 months; and an ordinary year has 353–355 days while a leap year has 383–385 days.
Why is the lunar calendar important?
Its origin in agriculture has significant impact on people’s everyday life in modern times.
For 3,000 years, the lunar calendar served the purpose of guiding agricultural affairs and farming activities by dividing the year into 24 solar terms. The solar terms are used to reflect the change of seasons, dividing the year into 4 seasons of exactly three months. They were extremely accurate in predicting the change of temperature and daylight, time and intensity of precipitation, maturity and harvest time of crops, and even insect activities. In 2016, Chinese 24 Solar Terms was added to UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Although agriculture is no longer a major part in the modern society, these terms continue to influence Asian people’s lifestyle habits. For example, every Asian kid has familiar with their mom’s nagging about wearing an extra layer — because “today is ‘Minor Cold’ according to the lunar calendar.” Many Asian cultures emphasize specific food on these solar terms to maintain a healthy diet. For example, “Waking of the insects ” is still one the most expensive days to buy pears in China. People believe eating pears around this time of the year can prevent cough and other cold-related symptoms as spring starts.
Major life events have to be approved by the lunar calendar.
Many Asian people celebrate their lunar birthdays instead of the date in Gregorian Calendar. In general, a person is one or two years older in the lunar calendar due to the difference in the dates. It is also because many Asian cultures, like Chinese and Koreans, count the time spent in womb towards the baby’s age.
Consulting the lunar calendar to pick an auspicious date and time for major life events is an important tradition in Asian cultures, including weddings, relocation, open of business, etc. It is fairly common for Asian American house buyers to refuse closing escrow on a specific date or time if deemed unfit according to the lunar calendar. The same goes for wedding planners, business owners, travel agents, and the list goes on. You may call it superstition, but many Asian Americans continue to follow these traditions for generations.
Major festivals are based on the lunar calendar.
Traditional holiday celebration was an essential part of harvests or prayer offerings. Therefore, most of them are calculated based on the lunar calendar: Lunar New Year, Mid-autumn Day, Lantern Festival, just to name a few. That’s why the exact date of these holidays vary every year.
For example, Lunar New Year was closely tied to annual ancestry ceremonies at the beginning of a new year. In the old farming days, this is also the only time period when farmers could rest from their work in the fields. That’s the only reason week-long celebration was possible back then. Today, many of these festivals have became national holidays where everyone get to enjoy an entire week off to celebrate, travel and be together with families.