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Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches in Chinese Calendar

The earliest Chinese dating system is the one having no direct connection with the movements of sun and moon. It is sexagenery cycle. It rests on two parellel sequences: a series of ten characters known as “stems” or “heavenly stems” and another sequence of twelve characters known as “branches” or “earthly branches”.

It is believed that this sexagenery cycle was first used to date days but not years. Until the end of Former Han, it began to use for dating both years and days. Besides, with the development of the five elements in late Chou, the ten “stem” became correlated with the five elements. At some earlier time, the correlations between the twelve “branches” and the twelve lunar months also began, but it was with its eleventh month. It is because

that the Winter Solstice always occurs in the eleventh month. As a result, the months are often referred to by the names of the correlated ‘branches’ as well as by number. ‘Earthly branches’ are always expressed by 12 animal names, but the ten ‘heavenly stems’ that always be expressed by 10 Chinese numbers (1-10) can also be expressed by the ‘five elements’, like:

Since there are only five components in the ‘five element’, the Chinese add Ying Yang into it. So, we can also use the ‘Yang wood ‘ to express ‘Jia’; ‘Ying Wood’ to express ‘Yi’………… although their title is different, it is both under the same meaning. Usually Yin-Yang means:
Yin-Yang 

  • Ying = 2,4,6,8,………even numbers/female 
  • Yang = 1,3,5,7,………odd numbers/male 

It is a symbol of Chinese habit to think events from positive and negative

The Sexagenery Cycle
By combining each of the ten “stems” with each of the twelve “branches” in pairs, beginning with jia-zi(1 and 1 of each series) and yichou(2 and 2); thereafter continuing through gui-you(10 and 10), jia-xu(1 and 11), yi-hai(2 and 12), bing-zi(3 and 1 again); and thus continuing in the same manner, sixty nameable combinations are achieved before jia-zi, the first pair, reappear. “The Chinese sexagesimal cycle can be thought of in the image of two enmeshed cogwheels, one having twelve and the other have ten teeth, so that not until sixty combinations have been made will the cycle reappear.”

Each successive time period will have a new stem and branch, until going through the stems 6 times and the branches 5 times, to give 60 unique combinations. In the case of years and dates, this gives a continuous cycle for thousands of years. This is similar for months, but in the case of a leap month, it is assigned its previous month’s branch/stem combination with the leap designation added. This is why the combination is so easily calculated for years and days, but requires tables or complicated astronomical calculations to find months

4698th or 4699th?
The beginning of the sexagenary circle is 2687B.C.which is the beginning by the Yellow King (Huang-di). 2001 is the 4698th or 4699th year of using this Stem-Branch system. I said that because the calendar of Yellow King used the winter solstice day as the first day of the year. So the first winter solstice was on around December 23rd. 2698 B.C. Today’s January 1st means nothing to Yellow King. If we count that extra eight days in 2698 B.C. for a year, then year 2001 is the 4698th Chinese year. As a result, before the winter solstice, it is the 4698th year, and after the winter solstice it should be the 4699th year.

Calculation: 
Unlike a leap year, where you simple divide the year with 4, 100, or 400 to test whether or not a year is a leap year, to calculate the Chinese branch, you must first subtract 3 from the year before dividing by 12 to find out which animal is associated with the year:

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Mallikarjuna

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