The Chinese had both a solar and a lunar calendar.
Calendar: The Chinese created a lunar calendar based on the
cycles of the moon to help them know when to plant, harvest, and celebrate.
In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere
between late January and early February. Chinese New Year starts
with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on
the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called
the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern
displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade. The Chinese
New Year has long been the most important festival. At this time
farmers gave thanks for the earth's abundance.
The cycle of each moon is about 29.5 days, therefore the lunar
month is either 29 or 30 days long. There are 12 months in the
The calendar continues in a 12-year cycle, with each year named
for an animal. According to one myth, the Chinese god Buddha called
all the animals of China to his bedside, but only 12 animals came.
Because he wanted to honor the animals for their devotion, he
created a year for each animal. The twelve animals that appeared
were the rat, ox, tiger, hare (rabbit), dragon, snake, horse,
sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
The Chinese solar calendar is determined by the longitude of the
sun in the sky. The solar calendar is divided into 24 parts based on the
longitude of the sun in the sky. The solar calendar cycles every 60 years.
The lunar calendar is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar.
In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert
an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-year
cycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year,
which we do in the West. This is why, according to the solar calendar,
the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.
The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar (which we use)
since 1911, but the lunar calendar is still used for festive occasions
such as the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese also developed a water clock that would keep track
of the time of day.
The Chinese began making mechanical clocks which told the time
as well as showing the movements of the planets as early as 200
AD. The greatest of these was a water clock built by an official
named Su-Sung at the request of the emperor in the 11th century.
Su-Sung's clock stood 40 feet high and was powered by a special
water wheel. Buckets around its rim were filled, one at a time,
by a steady flow of water. When each bucket was heavy enough to
trip a mechanism, it fell forward -- carrying the bucket behind
it into place under the water spout. And the process repeated.
The weight of the buckets exerted enough force to activate a number
of displays. One of these displays was a bronze sphere of the
universe which showed the position of the Earth in relation to
other stars and planets in the sky.
Su-Sung's wonderful clock, which took eight years to build,
was very accurate. It looked a little like the mechanical clock
which wasn't invented for another 200 years in Europe.