Chinese New Year Date Calculation

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Fireworks over the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong; fireworks and firecrackers are a traditional element of Chinese New Year celebrations.

The lunisolar Chinese calendar determines the date of the Chinese New Year. The calendar is also used in countries that have been influenced by or have relations with, China – such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, though occasionally the date celebrated may differ by one day or even one moon cycle due to using a meridian based on a different capital city in a different time zone or different placements of intercalary months.

The lunisolar Chinese calendar determines the date of the Chinese New Year. The Chinese calendar defines the lunar month containing the Winter Solstice as the eleventh month, which means that Chinese New Year usually falls on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice (rarely the third if an intercalary month intervenes).

In more than 96 percent of the years, Chinese New Year’s Day is the closest date to a New Moon to Lichun (Chinese: 立春; “start of spring”) when Sun reaches 315 of ecliptic longitude. The date typically falls on February 3rd or 4th each year, and the first New Moon after Dahan (Chinese: 大寒; “major cold”), and marks the time when all Feng Shui adjustments should be in place to properly benefit from the transitional energy of the new year.

In the Chinese calendar, the night of the New Moon conjunction is regarded as the first day of the month. Regardless of what time the New Moon occurred, the beginning of that day marks the start of the month. For example, if the New Moon occurs at 8 pm, the entire day is the first day of the new month.

It has been found that Chinese New Year moves back by either 10, 11, or 12 days in some years. If it falls before January 21st, then it moves forward in the next year by either 18, 19, or 20th day. In the Gregorian calendar, the Chinese New Year begins at the New Moon that falls between January 21st and February 20th. To determine whether a year has an intercalary month, one only needs to check whether Chinese New Year is within the month of January.

Although the Chinese calendar traditionally does not use continuously numbered years, outside China its years are sometimes numbered from the reign of the “Huangdi” Yellow Emperor – Xuānyuán (Hsüan-yüan; 軒轅), born 2711 BCE, died 2598 BCE at age 113, in the 27th century BCE.

During their Jesuit missions in China in the seventeenth century, the Jesuits tried to determine what year should be considered the epoch of the Chinese calendar. In his Sinicae historiae decas prima (first published in Munich in 1658), Martino Martini (1614–1661) dated the royal ascension of Huangdi to 2697 BCE but started the Chinese calendar with the reign of Fuxi, which he claimed started in 2952 BCE. Philippe Couplet‘s (1623–1693) “Chronological table of Chinese monarchs” (Tabula chronologica monarchiae sinicae; 1686) also gave the same date for the Yellow Emperor. The Jesuits’ dates provoked great interest in Europe, where they were used for comparisons with Biblical chronology. Modern Chinese chronology has generally accepted Martini’s dates, except that it usually places the reign of Huangdi in 2698 BCE and omits Huangdi’s predecessors Fuxi and Shennong, who are considered “too legendary to include.”

When Sun Yat-sen declared the foundation of the Republic of China on January 2, 1912, he decreed that this was the 12th day of the 11th month of year 4609 (epoch: 2698 BCE).

The Reign of the Yellow Emperor 2698 – 2598 BCE

However, there are at least three different years numbered 1 are now used by various modern scholars, making the Chinese year beginning in early CE 2021 the Year of the Metal Ox, either 4718, 4719, or 4658.

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