Chinese calendar

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The Chinese calendar was the official calendar of the Empire of China . It is mostly still known as the "farmers calendar" ( Chinese  農曆  /  农历 , Pinyin Nónglì ). Other names are “ lunar calendar ” ( 陰曆  /  阴历 , Yīnlì ), Jiùlì ( 舊曆  /  旧历  - “old calendar”) or Chuántǒnglì ( 傳統 曆  /  传统 历  - “traditional calendar”). The traditional names were Xiàlì ( 夏曆  /  夏历  - "Calendar of the Xia Dynasty ") and Huánglì ( 黃 曆  /  黄 历  - "Calendar of the Yellow Emperor") - later written with the homophonic name "Imperial Calendar" ( 皇 曆  /  皇 历 ).

The Chinese calendar is still used in the entire Chinese-speaking area for calculating traditional Chinese holidays, for example for the " Spring Festival ", the " Qingming Festival ", or the " Dragon Boat Festival ". In addition, it is used by fans of Chinese astrology or Fengshui masters as a basis for calculating the definition of "astrologically favorable" days, for example to celebrate festivals and celebrations, to start construction work or to avoid special activities on "astrologically unfavorable days" or the like. .

Set of rules

The Chinese calendar is a combination of a bound lunar calendar - lunisolar calendar , i.e. a lunar calendar with leap months - and a solar calendar . There are parallel the lunar year ( , nián ) and the solar year (  /  , suì ). The term “farmer's calendar” used to refer only to the solar calendar.

Solar calendar

The solar year sui begins on the day of the winter solstice and is - as in the Gregorian calendar - always 365 or 366 days long.

The orbit that the sun apparently travels on the ecliptic within a tropical year of 365.24 days is divided into 24 parts of 15 ° each. These are the 24 stations or annual divisions ( 節氣  /  节气 , jiéqì ). Each second station is a zhongqi ( 中氣  /  中气 , zhongqi  - "central / main years classification"), wherein the solstice and equinox four of the twelve zhongqi are. The time interval from one Zhongqi to the next is on average one twelfth of a tropical year or 30.44 days. It varies slightly due to the earth's elliptical orbit around the sun.

The 24 stations are traditionally important for Chinese agriculture and are still listed in most calendars in China. From a climatic point of view, they are more likely to apply to northern China than to southern China .

Each season has six annual divisions. But while in the western calendar, the seasons on the day of the solstice or equinox begin to be in the Chinese calendar, these days in the middle of the season. The stations are counted beginning with the beginning of spring - lichun , and in some places the beginning of spring (and not the winter solstice) is considered the beginning of the sui year.

節氣  /  节气 , Jiéqì 中 氣  /  中 气 , Zhōngqì
315 ° 立春 , Lìchūn Spring begins (February 3-5) 330 ° 雨水 , Yǔshuǐ Rain (February 18-20)
345 ° 驚蟄  /  惊蟄 , Jīngzhé 1 Insect Awakening (March 5-7) 0 ° 春分 , Chūnfēn Spring Equinox ( March 20-22)
15 ° 清明 , Qīngmíng Clear and bright (April 4-6) 30 ° 穀雨  /  谷雨 , Gǔyǔ Rain on the seeds (April 19-21)
45 ° 立夏 , Lìxià Beginning of summer (May 5-7) 60 ° 小滿  /  小满 , Xiǎomǎn Small abundance / ear formation (May 20-22)
75 ° 芒種 , Mángzhòng Grains with awns / ear time (June 5-7) 90 ° 夏至 , Xiàzhì Summer solstice ( June 21-22)
105 ° 小暑 , Xiǎoshǔ Moderate heat (July 6-8) 120 ° 大暑 , Dàshǔ Great heat (July 22-24)
135 ° 立秋 , Lìqiū Beginning of autumn (August 7th - 9th) 150 ° 處暑  /  处暑 , Chǔshǔ End of the heat (August 22-24)
165 ° 白露 , Báilù White Dew (September 7th - 9th) 180 ° 秋分 , Qiūfēn Autumn Equinox ( September 22-24)
195 ° 寒露 , Hánlù Cold dew (October 8th - 9th) 210 ° 霜降 , Shuāngjiàng Ripe (October 23-24)
225 ° 立冬 , Lìdōng Beginning of winter (November 7th - 8th) 240 ° 小雪 , Xiǎoxuě Moderate snow (November 22-23)
255 ° 大雪 , Dàxuě Big snow (December 6-8) 270 ° 冬至 , Dōngzhì Winter solstice ( December 21-23)
285 ° 小寒 , Xiǎohán Moderate cold (January 5-7) 300 ° 大寒 , Dàhán Great cold (January 20-21)
1Originally called 啟 蟄  /  启 蟄 , Qǐzhé , it was changed to its current name at the time of Han Jingdi due to a name taboo .

Hardcover lunar calendar

The lunar year nián is divided into months ( , yuè  - "moon"), each corresponding to a lunar phase cycle. A moon phase cycle (synodic month) lasts on average 29.53 days and is thus slightly shorter than the average distance between two zhongqi . A lunar year with 12 lunar months is approx. 354 days long and thus approx. 11 days shorter than the solar year. A thirteenth month ( leap month ) is inserted every two or three years . This ensures that the beginning of the lunar year ( Chinese New Year ) always falls in the same season (between January 21st and February 21st).

The current calendar has been in effect since the reform of 1645, which was carried out with the help of the Jesuits ( Adam Schall von Bell ). It can be summarized in the following five rules:

  1. The reference point is the meridian , which corresponds to the time zone of Beijing (today: 120 ° E).
  2. The day starts at midnight .
  3. The new moon always falls on the first day of the month.
  4. The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere always falls on the 11th month.
  5. If a leap month becomes necessary, this is the first month between two winter solstices on which no zhongqi falls.

The first month of the year is called Zhēngyuè ( 正月 ), the other months are numbered from 2 to 12. The 12th month is also called Làyuè ( 臘月  /  腊月 ). A leap month is given the same number as the previous month; For example, if the leap month follows the second month ( 二月 , èryuè ), then it is called “additional second month” ( 閏 二月  /  闰 二月 , rùn'èryuè ). 19 solar years correspond to almost exactly 235 lunar orbits ( Meton cycle ). Therefore, a total of 7 leap months are inserted every 19 years (19 × 12 + 7 = 235). The leap months are mainly in the summer half-year , because due to the elliptical orbit of the earth, the annual divisions are run through faster in the winter half-year.

The months have 29 days ( 小月 , xiǎo yuè  - "short month") or 30 days ( 大 月 , dà yuè  - "long month"). The days are numbered consecutively. A year of 12 months is usually 354, rarely 353 or 355 days; a year with a leap month is usually 384, rarely 383 or 385 days.

The calculation of the Chinese calendar is so complicated because it is not based on the mean values, but on the exact astronomical positions of the moon and sun. While the leap years follow a fixed rhythm in the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish lunisolar calendar and the leap days or months as well as the length of the individual months are fixed, this is not the case in the Chinese calendar. Moreover, the synodic month varies from 29.27 to 29.84 days and sometimes longer than the time interval between two Zhongqi (29.45 ... 31.45 days). Therefore, in rare cases, there are two zhongqi in a month or there are no zhongqi in one month , but it is not a leap month.

The following table shows the Gregorian date of the beginning of the month for the period 2019-2022:

Chinese month Beginning of the month in the Gregorian calendar
1st month - 正月 5th February 2019 January 25, 2020 February 12, 2021 February 1, 2022
2nd month - 二月 March 7, 2019 February 23, 2020 March 13, 2021 March 3, 2022
3rd month - 三月 5th April 2019 March 24, 2020 April 12, 2021 April 1, 2022
4th month - 四月 5th May 2019 April 23, 2020
"23. May 2020 "
May 12, 2021 May 1, 2022
5th month - 五月 3rd June 2019 June 21, 2020 June 10, 2021 May 30, 2022
6th month - 六月 3rd July 2019 July 21, 2020 July 10, 2021 June 29, 2022
7th month - 七月 August 1, 2019 19th August 2020 August 8, 2021 July 29, 2022
8th month - 八月 August 30, 2019 17th September 2020 September 7, 2021 August 27, 2022
9th month - 九月 29th September 2019 17th October 2020 October 6, 2021 September 26, 2022
10th month - 十月 October 28, 2019 November 15, 2020 November 5, 2021 October 25, 2022
11th month - 十一月 November 26, 2019 December 15, 2020 4th December 2021 November 24, 2022
12th month - 十二月 December 26, 2019 January 13, 2021 January 3, 2022 December 23, 2022

Time calculation

The lunar calendar was used to calculate the time (date, counting of the years).

Government currency (era)

The counting of the (lunar) years was based on the emperor's government. At the accession to the throne, the emperor proclaimed a government motto that traditionally consisted of two characters. Often an emperor also issued other government currencies in the course of his reign. With each government motto, a new era began with its own count of the years. The year 1 was called Yuan ( , yuán  - "origin"). The last era ( 民國  /  民国 , mínguó  - "republic") was proclaimed after the end of the imperial era and is still used today in the Republic of China on Taiwan . The attempt of the Chinese President and military ruler Yuan Shikai to establish a new era called Hongxian in 1916 failed after 83 days. On March 23, 1912, the year Hongxian 1 was declared over and renamed Minguo 5 again.

The 60 year cycle

The years follow a cycle that runs for 60 years. It consists of a cycle of the ten heavenly tribes ( 天干 , tiāngān ) and the twelve earth branches ( 地支 , dìzhī ), better known as the twelve zodiac signs. There are 60 combinations of stem and branch ( 干支 , gānzhī ) - also called jiǎzǐ , 甲子 after the first combination . This cycle was independent of the respective dynasty and therefore more reliable in the event of a dynasty change.

Chinese traditional festivals

Most traditional Chinese festivals are based on the lunar calendar. Important exceptions are the Qingming festival and the winter solstice festival.

Abbreviation Long characters Pinyin German date comment
农历 新年
nónglì xīnnián
Spring Festival
New Year Festival
1st day of the 1st month Celebration for the beginning of spring
Lantern Festival 15th day of the 1st month evening lantern show
清明节 清明節 qīngmíngjié Qingming Festival varies in the 3rd month a
(4th, 5th, rarely April 6th)
Remembrance Day
重 午 节, 重 五 节
重 午 節, 重 五 節
Dragon Boat Festival 5th day of the 5th month Memory of Qu Yuan
乞巧 节
乞巧 節
Qixi festival 7th day of the 7th month Festival of lovers - comparable to Valentine's Day
盂兰盆 节
盂蘭盆 節
Ullambana -Fest b
Zhongyuan hard c
spirits hard d
15th day of the 7th month in Japan as Obon
中秋节 中秋節 zhōngqiūjié Moon Festival (Mid-Autumn Festival ) 15th day of the 8th month in Japan as O-Tsukimi
重九 节
重九 節
Chongyang Festival
(Double Nine Festival )
9th day of the 9th month Remembrance Day
冬至 冬至 dōngzhì Winter solstice varies in the 11th month a
(21st, 22nd, rarely 23rd December)
traditionally more important than the Chinese Spring Festival
腊八 臘八 làbā Laba festival 8th day of the 12th month Awakening Siddhartha Gautamas , announcement of spring
aone of the 24 stations of the solar calendar
b Buddhist name
c Daoist name
d popular name


After the end of the Qing Dynasty , the Chinese calendar was replaced by the Gregorian calendar ( 格里 曆  /  格里 历 ) on January 1, 1912, the date the Republic of China was founded . The turmoil in the years after the founding of the republic, the Chinese civil war and the partial occupation of China by Japan initially prevented the new calendar system, the Xīlì ( 西 曆  /  西 历  - "Western calendar"), Gōnglì ( 公曆  /  公历  - " general calendar ”), Yánglì ( 陽曆  /  阳历  -“ solar calendar ”) or simply as Xīnlì ( 新 曆  /  新 历  -“ new calendar ”), prevailed throughout the country. The Kuomintang government therefore renewed the introduction of the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1929, and with the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the western calendar was used throughout China. In the People's Republic of China, the western calendar with counting from the birth of Christ was adopted, whereas in the Republic of China, Taiwan counted on official documents from the founding of the republic in 1912 (see Minguo calendar ).

Cultural influences

East asia

The Chinese calendar was adopted beyond China in the East Asian cultural area. The traditional Korean calendar, the Japanese calendar and the Vietnamese calendar are based on the Chinese one. The Korean New Year “ Seollal ” and the Vietnamese New Year “ Tết Nguyên Đán ” usually coincide with the Chinese. Only in rare cases are there shifts due to the different geographical longitude, for example when it is shortly before midnight at the time of the new moon in Vietnam, but the new day has already dawned in China.

Tibetan calendar

The traditional Tibetan calendar is based on the 1st chapter of the Indian Kālacakratantra and is therefore basically of Indian origin. It is based on the lunisolar year . Its calculation requires the knowledge of complicated astronomical calculations , such as the equations of the center of the sun and the moon, and the mastery of calculations on the Tibetan sandabacus . The New Year festival is called Losar and falls in February or March, usually 4 weeks later than in China. As for the various annual counts in use in Tibet, they contain some elements that are of Chinese origin.

Uyghur "twelve animal calendar"

In 1256 Iran became part of the Mongol Empire, in 1258 China. The Mongolian Khan Hülegü had an observatory built in Marâgheh in western Iran for the astronomer Nâsir al-Din al-Tusi , where some Chinese astronomers also worked.

The result was the Chinese-Uighur calendar, which al-Tusi describes in his work Zij-e Ilkhâni . A twelve-year cycle, with Turkish / Mongolian animal names (also known as sanawât-e turki سنوات ترکی, "Turkish Years"), was used in chronology, historiography and bureaucracy in all Turkish and Persian-speaking areas of Asia, from today's Turkey to today's India, from the early Middle Ages to the early modern age. In Iran, this calendar was used in agricultural records until it was banned in 1925.


  • Helmer Aslaksen: The Mathematics of the Chinese Calendar. Singapore 2010, online as a PDF file, accessed March 28, 2012.
  • Wilhelm Brandes: Old Japanese Clocks. Klinhardt & Biermann, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-7814-0233-9 , pp. 6-21.
  • Friedrich Karl Ginzel : Handbook of mathematical and technical chronology. Vol. 1: Calendar of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Mohammedans, Persians, Indians, Southeast Asians, Chinese, Japanese and Central Americans , Leipzig 1906 [Reprint of the original edition, University of Innsbruck, undated] - (online in Internet Archive )

See also

Web links

Commons : Earth branches  - characters of the earth branches and the 12 animals
Commons : heavenly tribes  - characters of the heavenly tribes
Commons : Seasons  - characters of the four seasons

Individual evidence

  1. Aslaksen (2010), p. 21
  2. Bernhard Peter: "Calendar and Time Calculation: When is the Chinese New Year?"
  3. Aslaksen (2010), p. 22
  4. The Chinese observe traditional and modern festivals and holidays, based both on the lunar and solar calendars. ( Memento from March 16, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  5. ^ Reingold / Dershowitz: Calendric Calculations, calendar calculator on CD
  6. Dieter Schuh: Studies on the history of the Tibetan calendar calculation . Wiesbaden 1973.
  7. van Dalen et al. 1997