The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar based on calculations of the positions of the Sun and Moon. Months of 29 or 30 days begin on days of astronomical New Moons, with an intercalary month begin added every two or three years. Since the calendar is based on the true positions of the Sun and Moon, the accuracy of the calendar depends on the accuracy of the astronomical theories and calculations.
Although the Gregorian calendar is used in the Peoples' Republic of China for administrative purposes, the traditional Chinese calendar is used for setting traditional festivals and for timing agricultural activities in the countryside. The Chinese calendar is also used by Chinese communities around the world.
The exact rule for determining the leap months are complicated. Chinese New Year will normally be the New Moon closest to the "Beginning of Spring". (The Beginning of Spring is halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox and usually falls on February 4.) Chinese New Year is normally the second New Moon after Winter Solstice. This can fall anywhere between 21st January and 21st February. Western cultures date the years from the birth of Jesus Christ (For example, 1994 means 1,994 years after the birth of Christ), and thus approach the progression of years from a linear point of view. In traditional China, dating methods were cyclical, meaning that the years repeat according to a pattern. The repetition pattern for the calendar is 60 years. This is made up of two cycles, known as the Stems and the Branches.
Stems ans branches
the chinese calendar has ten stems: jia, yi, bing, ding, wu, ji, geng, xin, ren and gui. There aren't english equivalents for them. The branches number twelve and they are: zi (rat), chou (ox), yin (tiger), mao (hare), chen (dragon), si (snake), wu (horse), wei (sheep), shen (monkey), you (fowl), jia (dog) and hai (pig).
60 year cycle
The 60 year cycle starts with both the Stem and Branch cycles set to one. The next year both are incremented so now stand at two. This continues until year eleven when the Stem cycle returns to one. In year thirteen the Branch cycle restarts while the Stem increments to three. This sequence continues until both cycles are back at one together. This will be year one of the next 60 year cycle. The years are named after the animals of the Branch, so the names form a twelve year cycle.
The years are only counted within the cycles, there is no count of the number of the cycle. Historical dates are defined by the name of the emperor who was reigning at the time together with the sixty year cycle number. The current cycle began on 2nd February 1984 AD.
Since the length of the lunar cycle is approximately 29.53 days, each month has either 29 or 30 days. There are twelve months in a year except when an intercalary month is added for adjustment. Months do not have names, only numbers. The normal year consists of 353, 354 or 355 days depending on when the new moon occurs. Leap years have 383, 384 or 385 days. The rules for governing when a new year starts and when a leap year is needed are complicated. The calculations for this are performed by the staff of the Purple Mountain Observatory, Academia Sinica, Nanjing, China.
In Chinese astrology the zodiac of twelve animal signs represents twelve different types of personality. The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, and there are many stories about the Origins of the Chinese Zodiac which explain why this is so (see below). The following are the twelve zodiac signs in order and their characteristics.
People born in the Year of the Rat are noted for their charm and charisma. They are perfectionists and work very hard to achieve their goals. They are very thrifty with money yet like to acquire many possessions. They get angry easily and love to gossip. They have high ambitions and are quite often very successful. They are most compatible with people born in the years of the Dragon, Monkey, and Ox.
People born in the Year of the Ox are patient, quiet yet inspire confidence in others. They are eccentric and temperamental. They speak little but when they do they are quite articulate. Mentally and physically alert, they are generally easy-going but can be very stubborn and they hate to fail or be opposed. They are most compatible with Snake, Rooster, and Rat people.
People born the Year of the Tiger are deep thinkers, very sensitive and can have great sympathy for others. They are powerful and courageous. However, they can be extremely short-tempered and don’t respond to authority, especially if it’s from older people. They are sometimes indecisive and have poor judgment. Tigers are most compatible with Horses, Dragons, and Dogs.
People born in the Year of the Rabbit are articulate, talented, and ambitious. They are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. They are admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. They are fond of gossip but are tactful and generally kind. They are clever at business and often make the correct choices. They are most compatible with those born in the years of the Sheep, Pig, and Dog.
People born in the Year of the Dragon are healthy, energetic, excitable, short-tempered, and stubborn. They are also honest, sensitive, brave, and they inspire confidence and trust in others. They are the most eccentric of any in the eastern zodiac. They never borrow money, are very straight forwarded and tend to be soft hearted which sometimes gives others an advantage over them. They are compatible with Rats, Snakes, Monkeys, and Roosters.
People born in the Year of the Snake are emotionally and spiritually deep. They say little yet possess great wisdom. Snake people are often selfish and vain yet can show tremendous sympathy for others. They tend to rely on themselves because they have serious doubts about other people’s judgment. They hate to fail and are determined in whatever they do. Appearing calm on the surface, they are intense and passionate creatures. Usually very good-looking in appearance, they sometimes have relationship problems because of it. They are most compatible with the Ox and Rooster.
People born in the Year of the Horse are very popular. They like to be entertained and like being around large crowds. They are wise, talented, and very good with their hands. They are cheerful, skillful with money, and perceptive, although they sometimes talk way too much for their own good. They are very independent and don’t listen to others advice. They are most compatible with Tigers, Dogs, and Sheep.
People born in the Year of Goat are elegant and highly accomplished in the arts. They are wise, gentle, and compassionate On the surface they appear better off than those born in the zodiac's other years but are often shy, pessimistic and often puzzled about life. They are very spiritual yet timid. They are sometimes not well spoken but are always passionate about what they do and what they believe in. Their abilities will always make them prosperous so they are able to enjoy all the comforts of a good life. They are compatible with Rabbits, Pigs, and Horses.
People born in the Year of the Monkey are the erratic geniuses of the zodiac. Clever, skillful, and flexible, they are remarkably inventive, original in thinking, and can solve the most difficult problem with ease. They are sometimes impatient and must do things immediately and if they cannot, they become discouraged and give up easily. Although good at making decisions, they tend to look down on others. Having strong common sense, they have excellent memories and a deep desire for knowledge. They are very strong willed yet do not stay angry long. They are most compatible with the Dragon and Rat
People born in the Year of the Rooster are deep thinkers, very capable and naturally talented. They are very devoted and like to keep busy but are deeply disappointed with personal failure. They can be eccentric resulting in troubled relationships with others. They always think they are right and usually are. Being loners, they sometimes give the outward impression of being adventurous but are actually timid. They can be selfish and too outspoken, but are always interesting and can be extremely brave. They are most compatible with Ox, Snake, and Dragon.
People born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature. They are great leaders, have a deep sense of loyalty, and are honest. They are very trustworthy because they can keep secrets. They can be very selfish and stubborn at times and can be emotionally cold and sometimes distant. They always have money but care very little for wealth. They are easy to criticize other and are noted for their sharp tongues. They are compatible with those born in the Years of the Horse, Tiger, and Rabbit.
People born in the Year of the Pig are gallant and always give their best effort. They have tremendous fortitude, great honesty, and are very optimistic. They have few friends but the relationships they do have are lifelong. They are extremely loyal so their friendship is very prized by others and they are very kind to love ones. They have a great thirst for knowledge and study a great deal so they are well informed. They are quick tempered yet hate to argue. They are most compatible with Rabbits and Sheep.