The traditional Chinese calendar is known as the Agricultural Calendar (Nongli in Chinese), as the calendar divides the year into seasons for agriculture, which is the principal economy of the country in the ancient China. Even today, it still has the great significance to many Chinese people.
And according to the agricultural calendar culture, Chinese people have their unique way of daily life. They created the 24 solar terms system to remark the activities in agriculture. From the names of these solar terms, farmers can immediately know what should do during this period.
They also divided years into 12 kinds based on the 12 Animal Cycle. It is said that the culture in notion is the culture in the world. The unique 12 Animal Cycle is applied not only to the Chinese but also to the people all over the world. Every one can find his or her animal mascot based on the year they came to the world.
Chinese Lunar Calendar
The Agricultural Calendar is an integrated lunar-solar calendar as it embraces the movement of the moon as well as that of the Sun. In ancient time, observation of moon phases is a convenient way to count the days. For example, new moon goes to first quarter and then to the full moon and last quarter, next it returns to the new moon. Months in the Agricultural Calendar start with a new moon, which occurs when the moon and the Sun move to the same longitude on the ecliptic.
Chinese lunar calendar
Although Chinese authority firstly adopted the Western calendar in 1912, Chinese Lunar Calendar, as one of the most important carrier of Chinese culture, is still widely used among Chinese people. The dates of most of traditional festivals base on Chinese Lunar Calendar. Some countries belonging to Chinese-character cultural circle, such as Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam also celebrate the traditional festivals, such as Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-autumn Festival, and so on.
24 Solar Terms
For ancient China is a agriculture society, farming work needs to strictly depend on the movement of the sun, therefore, the 24 solar terms are added to periodicity of the sun.The 24 solar terms is a gross name of the system that consists of 12 major solar terms and 12 minor solar terms.
Starting from ‘vernal equinox’, the 12 major solar terms are ‘vernal equinox’, ‘corn rain’, ‘corn forms’, ‘summer solstice’, ‘great heat’, ‘end of heat’, ‘autumnal equinox’, ‘frost’, ‘light snow’, ‘winter solstice’, ‘severe cold’ and ‘spring showers’.
The minor solar term after ‘vernal equinox’ is ‘bright and clear’, and then in turn ‘summer commences’, ‘corn on ear’, ‘moderate heat’, ‘autumn commences’, ‘white dew’, ‘cold dew’, ‘winter commences’, ‘heavy snow’, ‘moderate cold’, ‘spring commences’ and ‘insects waken’.
At ‘vernal equinox’ and ‘autumnal equinox’, the length of daylight and the night are equal. The period of daylight is the longest at ‘summer solstice’ and the shortest at ‘winter solstice’ in northern hemisphere. These were the earliest solar terms determined in ancient time. Then it came the four solar terms ‘spring commences’, ‘summer commences’, ‘autumn commences’ and ‘winter commences’.
Chinese 24 solar terms
Other solar terms were named later according to the weather and agricultural activities prevalent at the respective times of the seasons. The ‘24 solar terms’ reflects to some extent the climate over central China in ancient time. They represent the early wisdom of Chinese people.
Here is an overview of the 24 solar terms in Chinese agricultural calendar
Spring commences (1st solar term)
Corn Rain (2nd solar term)
Insects waken (3rd solar term)
The Vernal Equinox (4th solar term)
Bright and clear (5th solar term)
Grain Rain (6th solar term)
Summer commences (7th solar term)
Corn Forms (8th solar term)
Corn on ear (9th solar term)
Summer Solstice (10th solar term)
Moderate heat (11th solar term)
Great Heat (12th solar term)
Autumn commences (13th solar term)
End of Heat (14th solar term)
White Dew (15th solar term)
Autumnal equinox (16th solar term)
Cold Dew (17th solar term)
Frost (18th solar term)
Winter commences (19th solar term)
Light Snow (20th solar term)
Heavy snow (21th solar term)
Winter Solstice (22th solar term)
Moderate cold (23th solar term)
Greater Cold (24th solar term)