5 Interesting Facts About the Chinese Lunar Calendar

Did you know that many Chinese believe that the Chinese lunar calendar is more accurate than the Gregorian calendar? The Chinese use their calendar to determine not only when to celebrate various traditional holidays but also the best dates to plan or avoid significant occasions like weddings and make big decisions like signings contracts

Here are some interesting facts about the Chinese Lunar Calendar:

1) It follows the cycles of the moon.

low light photography of crescent moon


Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the Earth’s revolution around the Sun, the Chinese lunar calendar follows the phases of the moon. Whereas a month in the Gregorian calendar would have 28-31 days, a Chinese lunar calendar would have 29-30 days. It starts when the moon is crescent.

2) It has less days in a year.

2018 December calendar with crossout marks


Instead of having 12 months or 365 and 1/4 days, the Chinese lunar calendar has approximately 350 days. To compensate for the lost days, it uses intercalary months, which adds an additional month every 2-3 years; thus, a Chinese lunar calendar can have up to 12-13 months. 

3) Every year has its own Zodiac sign.


A year would begin with a particular zodiac sign that earned a specific position in the Great Race, a folk story that explains the Chinese zodiac signs’ order. There are 12 signs in total: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Unlike the Western zodiac signs, which depends on your birth month, the Chinese zodiac signs depends on the year you’re born. For example, those born in the year 1984 are born in the year of the rat and those born in 1985 are born in the year of the ox and so on. Each Chinese zodiac sign also has its own traits and fortune for each New Year.

4) The names of the month are based on nature. 

aerial view of mountains


Chinese people would name a month, depending on its nature. For instance, the third month of the year is called Peach Month or “桃月” since peach trees bloom during that month. 

5) The Chinese Lunar Calendar is used to determine a person’s age.

man in black and white checkered dress shirt and black cap sitting on chair


For the Chinese, a newborn’s age immediately starts from one instead of zero. Another year is added to his/her age during his/her first Chinese new year and continues as he/she grows up. For instance, if you’re 40 years old under the Gregorian calendar, you’re 41 years old according to the Chinese calendar.

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