Tibetan calendar

In Tibetan traditional technology, Tibetan calendar is an important achievement in ancient astronomy and also a gem in the treasure house of traditional Tibetan art.

Actually the system of animal years already started in the middle of 600 A.D. Ancient Tibetan-language documents show that the Tubo Kingdom indicated the years with symbolic animals. They used 12 animals to indicate 12 years. Thai is under the influence of the teachings of a Chinese princess who married Songtsen Gampo. Since 1027, a way of counting the years was settled which combined symbolic animals with Yin and Yang and five elements. The way, going on till today, is similar with the 60-year Jiazi cycle, or the traditional Chinese chronology. The five elements in Tibetan calendar refer to wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Combined respectively with Yin and Yang, they form 10 items, correspondingly to the 10 Heavenly Stems in traditional Chinese chronology. As Kalachakra teachings were the foundation for chronological calculations, it was decided that the official date of introduction of Kalachakra would be Year One. Year 1027 was a Fire-Rabbit year and from then a Fire-Rabbit year became the first year in Tibet calendar, while the Chinese 60 year cycle always begins with a Wood-Mouse Year.

Though similar with Chinese lunar calendar, there are still differences. Tibetan calendar prescribes there are 12 months in a year, with the big month having 30 days and small month, 29 days. One month will be added every two and a half or three years. Therefore, the Tibetan New Year sometimes coincides with Chinese New Year. Since each year is ruled by one of the five elements and one of twelve animal signs as in Chinese calendar, but they start the year on different dates and the months have different length. So it is very important not to mix Tibetan and Chinese systems together.

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