Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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TRADITION OF CHINA

Chinese Calendar -- A Lunisolar Calendar

 

Nowadays, Chinese Calendar is still widely used in China, on which traditional festivals and agricultural activities are based. Many Chinese people still celebrate their Chinese Calendar's birthdays. 

 

BUT, Chinese Calendar is a Lunisolar Calendar, which include 12 months and 24 Solar Terms, and was counted using Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches system. 

Observing of the Moon — 12 Months

 

Thousands of years ago, the ancient people found that the movement of the moon was periodic, so they started to note dates and months that correspond to the moon.

 

This was named the Yin or Lunar Calendar, in which every month is represented by a kind of Lucky Flower with special cultural meaning.

 

However, they realized that the movements of the moon and the sun are slightly different: 12 times of the Wax and Wane is around 350 days, while The Earth Revolution Around The Sun is around 365 days. 

 

This disparity is a big flaw which makes the Yin or Lunar Calendar inaccurate to guide agricultural activities.

 

Movement of the Sun — 24 Solar Terms

 

The Sun is significantly important and influential in agricultural society; therefore, learning of the movement of the sun is of great importance. 

 

Around 3000 years ago, Ji Dan, younger brother of the King Ji Fa, was trying to determine the actual center of their kingdom by measuring the length of shadows cast by the sun.

 

Based on his discovery, the Winter Solstice (with the longest shadow) was firstly documented, soon followed by the Summer Solstice. 

 

Centuries later, the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes were recorded, when the day and night are of equal length. The four clear seasons were documented then. 

 

Until the year 104 B. C., there were 24 Solar Terms that were clearly documented and widely applied in the Chinese calendar, till today. 

 

The 24 Solar Terms in Chinese Calendar correspond to the sun’s position in ecliptic; every 15° apart along the ecliptic, there is a solar term which represents season, temperature, agricultural and natural phenomena.  

 

It was a perfect guide for agricultural and fishery activities in The Central Plains of China. 

 

Every Solar Term has an exact date, with precision to second, and a poetic name. Read More

Combination of Solar - Lunar Calendars

 

In Chinese Calendar, there are 12 Lunar Months and 24 Solar Terms in each year.

 

Therefore, generally, there are 2 Solar Terms in every Lunar Month. 

 

However, because of the different movement period of the moon and the sun, sometimes there is only 1 Solar Term in a Lunar Month.

 

When this situation happened, a Leap Month will be added to that year. 

 

Within this system, there are approximately 7 Leap Months in every 19 years in the Chinese Calendar. 

 

This way, the movements of the sun and the moon are all recorded and harmonized in one calendar, which can both note dates clearly and guide agricultural activities efficiently. 

Record and Count System of Chinese Calendar

 

Around 4000 to 5000 years ago, the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches had been used to count and record numbers. 

 

In oracle inscriptions of the Shang Dynasty (1600 B. C. — 1046 B. C.), this 60 cycle system was clearly documented.

 

But why 60?

 

Ten Heavenly Stems: 

 

Except for the sun and the moon, there are five planets that were discovered and documented very early: Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn. 

 

These five extremely bright stars move toward and away from the earth periodically, with different influences and power; the approaching earth phase is the Yang, while the apart one is the Yin

 

Five planets, each with two phases, together, they composed the Ten Heavenly Stems. 

 

甲(jiǎ)、乙(yǐ)、丙(bǐng)、丁(dīng)、戊(wù)、己(jǐ)、庚(gēng)、辛(xīn)、壬(rén)、癸(guǐ)

 

Twelve Earthly Branches:

 

Since the Ecliptic is divided into 12 sections, and there are 12 months in a year; the 12 Earthly Branches became obvious. 

 

子(zǐ)、丑(chǒu)、寅(yín)、卯(mǎo)、辰(chén)、巳(sì)、午(wǔ)、未(wèi)、申(shēn)、酉(yǒu)、戌(xū)、亥(hài)

 

Based on the different meanings, 6 of them are Yin and other 6 are Yang.

 

Combination: A Heavenly Stem and an Earthly Branch (both are Yin or Yang) can compose a symbol, which can be used to note year, month, date and hour. 

 

According to this system, there are 60 combinations that can consist a cycle. 

In conclusion, Chinese Calendar includes movements of the sun and the moon, which clearly record the dates and guide agricultural activities, and is documented using the 60 cycle Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches.

Traditional Chinese Festival

Traditional Festivals in China are all based on the Chinese Calendar, each of them has special holiday food and activities. 

 

They are non religious festivals; ancient sacrifice ceremonies, ancestor worship, agricultural related activities and mythology are main origins of Traditional Chinese Festivals. 

 

Besides the majority Han People, 55 of minorities in China has their own traditional festivals too. 

 

See Origin, History, Food and Customs of Traditional Chinese Festivals

 

Chinese Etiquette 

 

Traditional Chinese Etiquette includes two sections: the civilian and national ones. 

 

National Etiquette:

 

They are in respect to grand ceremonies that were held by the ruling class, to worship heaven, earth, ancestor or immortal, and to pray for their blessing.

 

After the last feudal dynasty ended in the year 1911, those big sacrifice ceremonies were gradually abolished. Read More

However, the traditional etiquettes in the civilian world that are in regard to people’s daily lives, though, have changed over time, they are still kept and applied widely nowadays.

 

Birth Celebration: 

 

Starting from being conceived, to a baby's one year old birthday, there are a series activities and ceremonies to celebrate the newborn. Read More

 

Coming of Age Ceremony:

 

An important, grand rite to show the world that a child has become an adult, who is able to take certain responsibilities and start a family. Read More

 

Wedding Ceremony:

 

From the engagement to the second day after the wedding, lots of interesting rites will be followed by the new couple and their families. Read More

 

Daily Etiquette:

 

Based on traditions of China, walking, sitting, eating, and drinking all have certain protocols that Chinese people have been kept and followed, though some of which are not as strict as before. Read More

 

Feng Shui

 

Feng Shui has been an important tradition of China for thousands of years.

 

Nowadays, some people consider it as superstitious, while others believe it as a scientific, aesthetic subject that is widely used in Chinese architecture. 

 

The main concept of Feng Shui is that the nature is powerful and influential, hence, people should respect and make best use of it. 

 

In Chinese culture, it is believed that good Feng Shui could bring people fortune, while bad ones might bring negative influences.

 

Till today, many concepts of Feng Shui are still respected and followed by Chinese people. Read More