Time in China

  • Jean Debernardi
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_8897

Chinese methods of calculating time are of great antiquity. According to the Shi Ji (Book of Records), as early as 2254 BCE Emperor Yao employed astronomers to calculate solstices and equinoxes and predict seasonal change so that farmers would know when to plant crops. Oracle bones dating to ca. 1200–1181 BCE attest to the fact that Shang Dynasty Chinese calculated time using a 60‐day divinatory calendar that still is in widespread use. The early development of methods of measuring time was not entirely endogenous to China; cultures throughout the ancient world exchanged astronomical ideas and data.

Striking similarities exist between calendrical systems in widely separated regions, including parallels between the form and names of the Chinese and Maya divinatory calendars. At least as early as the first century BCE the Chinese used a luni‐solar calendar resembling the standardized Babylonian calendar developed in the fourth century BCE. The similarities suggest borrowing, and it is...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

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  • Jean Debernardi

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