The Tradition of China — Chinese Calendar, Festivals, Etiquette, and Feng Shui Culture
Chinese Calendar — A Lunisolar Calendar
Nowadays, the 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, the Chinese Calendar is a Lunisolar Calendar, which includes 12 months and 24 Solar Terms, and is counted using Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches system.
Observing 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 is 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 that 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 the movement of the sun is of great importance.
Around 3000 years ago, Ji Dan, the younger brother of 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 BC, 24 Solar Terms were clearly documented and widely applied in the Chinese calendar.
The 24 Solar Terms in the Chinese Calendar correspond to the sun’s position in the ecliptic; every 15° apart along the ecliptic, there is a solar term that represents the 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 BC — 1046 BC), this 60 cycle system was documented.
But why 60?
Ten Heavenly Stems:
Except for the sun and the moon, five planets 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.
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.
Based on the different meanings, 6 of them are Yin and the other 6 are Yang.
A Heavenly Stem and an Earthly Branch (both are Yin or Yang) can compose a symbol, which can be used to note the year, month, date, and hour.
According to this system, 60 combinations can consist of a cycle.
In conclusion, the 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.
Chinese Zodiac Signs
To present the 12 Earthly Branches in a vivid, simple way, 12 animals were used to present them, which were easier to remember by most civilians in an ancient agricultural society.
Gradually, the Chinese Zodiac Signs were formed: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.
Every person, based on their birth date, has one zodiac sign.
Correlated with Yin-Yang and Five Elements Theory, Chinese Astrology, and other ancient Mythological theories, every Chinese Zodiac Sign has good years and bad years, benefactors, and incompatible matches.
To observe and record movements of Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn, ancient Chinese divided other shinning stars into several groups: Three Enclosures in the middle section and Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions around the Ecliptic and the Equator.
Every group covers an area that is a coordinate or a mansion for the seven celestial beings to "stay" during their movements.
Meanwhile, every mansion was assigned a beautiful name, a mythical animal, and a deity guarding on.
In ancient Chinese astrology, the movement and position of the Seven Celestial Beings, brightness, and colors of stars, showing of meteors or other phenomena in certain mansions, all related to certain events or predict changes in the world on earth.
The moon moves to a different mansion every day, hence, based on birth date, every person has a Lunar Mansion, which formed a Chinese Constellation that indicates one's personality, career, love life, past life relationships with others, destiny, and so on. Read More
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 nonreligious festivals; ancient sacrifice ceremonies, ancestor worship, agricultural-related activities, and mythology are the main origins of Traditional Chinese Festivals.
Besides the major Han People, 55 minorities in China have their own traditional festivals too.
Traditional Chinese Etiquette includes two sections: the civilian and national ones.
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.
Starting from being conceived, to a baby's one-year-old birthday, there are a series of 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
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
Based on the 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 has been an important tradition of China for thousands of years.
Nowadays, some people consider it superstitious, while others believe it a scientific, aesthetic subject that is widely used in Chinese architecture.
The main concept of Feng Shui is that nature is powerful and influential, hence, people should respect and make the 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