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How Many Solar “NODEL” in Chinese Calendar – Gregorian Calendar


Solar sequence consisting of twenty-four “nodes” (chieh  , the analogy is with the nodes of a bamboo) spaced at approximately fifteen-day intervals through the year. The primary “nodes” were those of the two solstices and equinoxes, and, spaced evenly between solstices and equinoxes, the Chinese four beginnings of the seasons. The complete sequence follows:

The use of this solar sequence goes back at least to the late Chou and conceivably considerably earlier. Several “nodes”, notably those of the solstices, equinoxes, and seasonal beginning, are the foci for observances described in this book. With a lunar calendar that fluctuated as much as a month from one year to another, the utility to the Chinese, especially for agriculture, of having a parallel fixed solar reckoning is obvious. The twenty four “nodes” constituted, and have continued to constitute, a sort of agriculture calendar.
A striking feature of the calendar is its schematization. Sometimes this seems justified, as when Slight and Great Heat (nos. 11-12) are balanced against Slight and Great Cold (nos. 23-24), with each pair immediately following the respective solstice. Other correspondences, however, appear arbitrary, as in the balancing of Small Fullness of Grain and Grain in Beard (nos. 8-9) against Slight and Great Snow (nos. 20-21), each pair coming immediately before its respective solstice. The growth of grain during late May and early June is reasonable enough, but anyone familiar with the North China climate knows that even a little snow is unlikely to fall as early as November 22, and that “Great Snow”, if it falls at all (not too likely because of the dry North China winters), will probably do so considerably later than December 7. It would seem that the pair of snow terms has been inserted to achieve symmetry with the grain counterparts rather than for genuine meteorological reasons
Still more striking is the emplacement of the seasonal beginnings exactly midway between the solstices and equinoxes instead of, as in the West, six weeks later. In the West, August 8 is still the height of summer whereas in the Chinese calendar it marks the beginning of autumn; November 8 is still autumn in the West but in China it inaugurates winter; and so on. There is no doubt that the Western seasons are better dated than their Chinese counterparts as far as climatic actually is concerned, but from the point of view of formal symmetry their arrangement violates the harmonious balance which is so prized by the Chinese mind. (Is it not “natural” that the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, should come at the middle, and not the beginning, of the summer season?) Not infrequently, and especially in the five elements cosmology to which we shall come in the next section, the Chinese have been ready, when necessary, to sacrifice objective reality for the sake of formal symmetry.
From another point of view, however, Chinese calendar-making has enabled the Chinese to keep closer to nature than is permitted for us by our solar calendar. When Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. inaugurated the calendar bearing his name, with its non-lunar months consisting of thirty or thirty-one days each, he took a great step in the separation of man from nature — one perhaps symbolic of Western man. Like other traditional peoples the world over and unlike Western man, the Chinese have always enjoyed the aesthetic satisfaction and psychology security of knowing that the several phases of the moon will invariably fall on the same days of each month. On the other hand, they have avoided the opposite extreme, exemplified by the Arabs, of allowing their lunar calendar to drift freely without even periodic attempts to adjust it to the movements of the sun. The result, for the Arabs, is a calendar which makes a complete revolution through all four seasons of the year in the course of thirty-two solar years, thus effectively divorcing Islamic festivals from the climatic phenomena, which, in pre-Islamic days, had given them birth. To the Chinese, with their insistence on the interrelationship of man and nature, such a separation of festival life from the round of the seasons would be just as unthinkable as Caesar’s separation of the months from the phases of the moon.
So far as we know, the Chinese are the only major people who have used two parallel calendrical systems, and thereby, one might say, have enjoyed the best of both worlds, lunar and solar. Because, however, of the basic incommensurability of movement between the two heavenly bodies, the Chinese lunar and solar calendars could never be correlated with complete satisfaction. According to the lunar calendar, for example, the beginning of the year, and with it the beginning of spring, could occur anywhere between January 21 and February 20 (Gregorian reckoning), whereas according to the system of the twenty-four solar “nodes”, the day of Spring’s Beginning fell always on a fixed solar date corresponding usually to February 5. This means that the Chinese solar beginning of spring sometimes fell in the twelfth lunar month and sometimes in the first. In other words, it could either precede or follow the lunar beginning of spring. Similar discrepancies, of course, marked the other seasonal beginnings.

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