The Lunar Calendar

Counting time with 5 elements and 12 animals.

Fun facts about the lunar calendar and its naming conventions:

The Chinese built a 12-year cycle represented by twelve animals into a larger cycle of five elements:  metal, water, wood, fire, earth.  The animal changes every year, but the element changes every two years.  We are presently in the year of the Metal Rat – the first element paired with the first animal!  After this will come the year of the Metal Ox, followed by the Water Tiger, then the Water Rabbit, and so on.  The year of the Water Rat will arrive in 12 years.

12 animals x 5 elements = 60 years.

A person has to live through one complete cycle in order to acquire wisdom – the reason why the Chinese celebrate their 60th birthdays.  This means that the other surviving “metal rats” are either turning 60 or 120 years old.  Think about that! 

“Teach us to number our days that we may acquire a heart of wisdom.”
~ ancient proverb.

By the way, did you notice the use of the quinary (base 5), duodecimal (base 12) and sexagesimal (base 60) number systems here? Just because the schools teach only the decimal (base 10) system doesn’t mean that other systems don’t exist.  It’s good for your children to know that. 

Grandma taught me to recite the list of animals in Hokkien, together with its rhyme and rhythm.  If you are Chinese and know of elderly dialect speaking Chinese, get them to recite the list and record their voices.  Learn it because it’s fun, then teach it to your children and grandchildren.  That’s how we pass down the valuable tradition of counting without using numbers.

Happy Parenting!  💐

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *