Monday, December 8, 2008

chinese zodiac calendar

when we lived in the kampong, every chinese household seemed to have a copy of this calendar pasted on the wooden wall. as children, we learnt about the twelve animals of the chinese zodiac by referring to this piece of paper. these days, we rarely see this calendar displayed in any home - chinese or otherwise - in singapore. i saw this on the wall of a house in malaysia.

we would recite the names of the animals in this order: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. till today, i can still recite all the 12 animals in the correct order.

in some years, there are repeat (intercalary) months in a chinese calendar, like, for example, you might have double fifth months in a year. an intercalary month has the same number of days as the preceeding regular month.

if you are able to read simple chinese characters, like i do, you will see that every month is either designated 'big' or 'small'.

a big month has thirty days whereas a small month has twenty-nine days. according to the above calendar, months 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 11 in 2007 had 29 days whereas the other six months had thirty days. a 'day' in the chinese calendar actually begins at 11 p.m., and not at midnight.

so, 2007 was the year of the pig. 2008 is the year of the rat and next year, 2009 will be the year of the ox. a chinese year has 354 days compared to the 365 days for the gregorian calendar.

the chinese calendar and the gregorian calendar often sync up every 19 years. most chinese people notice that their chinese and western birthdays often fall on the same day on their 19th, 38th, 57th and 76th birthdays.

i was also taught how to interpret the picture of the man and the ox on the left of the calendar. if the man is wearing shoes and the sun is shining, it means a year when there will be fewer wet days and more sunshine. in other words, it will be a dry year.

in addition to the 12 animals, the chinese zodiac involves 5 elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. these elements are associated with the 5 major planets venus, jupiter, mercury, mars and saturn, respectively. the combinations presented by these 5 elements and the 12 animals actually combine to create a 60-year cycle.

now i understand why the chinese celebrate the 60th birthday in a big way. if you have lived 60 years, it means that you have completed a full cycle of the 12 animals and the 5 elements. in other words, you have actually completed a full life-span. however, my age - according to the chinese way of computation - is 61, not 60. so, the celebration was one year overdue.

born in 1948 (year 4646 in the chinese calendar), i am an earth rat.


Lam Chun See said...

The other very popular old-fashion calendar is the horse racing calendar which my gas supplier still gives to us.

Andy said...

I am a rat too ! 1984. So when is my 60th birthday? =:->

peter said...

There is one part I don't understand especially for those "born in-between". For example what do they call you or classify you when you are born at the tail end of one lunar calendar year and the start of the new? Are there rules? Certainly we cannot be like "Ah Guas" rgt?

yg said...

andy, your 6oth b'day, long way off. your chinese 6oth b'day will be in 2043; it is one year before your actual 6oth b'day.

yg said...

peter, you just follow the chinese calendar. i think the gregorian year is just a guide. you can be born in the same year as i but be a different animal, especially if you are born at the beginning of the year, before the lunar new year.

PChew said...

The Chinese Zodiac Calendar is still available in Singapore in certain joss sticks shops. One can find out his age according to lunar calendar by checking his zodiac sign. Mine is the wooden pig. The calendar is up to age 60 years, so I have to use a little arithmatic to find out my age.

According to the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, your age is one year the day you are born.I believe the 9 months in your mother's stomach is taken into account. I maybe wrong.

yg said...

chun see, i just got a complimentary mini race-horse calendar from sheng siong supermarket.