The year 2000 marks two
chronological events in the Western Calendar: a new millennium and a
new century. Its celebration marks the global
dominance of Western culture in the 20th century. The millennium is
4398 in Chinese lunar calendar - a nonevent.
Chinese culture has its own
system of chronology. The lunar calendar that was introduced around
the ancestors of the founders of the Xia dynasty (2100-1600 BC), and
continuous use since the Han dynasty from 206 BC. A solar calendar had
adopted in 1121 BC by the ancient Zhou dynasty (1027-256 BC). The solar
calendar is generally 2 months ahead of the lunar calendar, but the
is more than merely temporal. The adoption of calendar is a tour de
gesture of a grand sovereign and a political strategy of profound
sophistication in a culture in which formal rituals reign supreme.
Wu Zetian, the only female
sovereign in Chinese history, revived the ancient Zhou solar calendar
7th century. She exploited the political support of anti-Confucian
and the reform-minded litterati to institute political reforms that
toward the ancient Zhou dynasty, the model period in Chinese history
Confucius (551-479 B.C.) himself had declared as ideal.
manipulations would survive to modern time in Chinese politics, the
inevitably co-opting the previously denounced policies of the
losers, only with a passion in excess of that of their former enemies.
It is a
very Daoist behavior pattern. Such paradox tends to occur especially
ideology has been the pretext for power struggle, and the quest for
been rationalized by presumed ideological orthodoxy. The re-adoption of
ancient Zhou solar calendar itself tends to weaken the in-place
conditioning since attached to customary Confucian rites that have
over the centuries under the Xia lunar calendar.
The new solar calendar makes
these obscure rituals seem less natural in the date-regulated habits of
populace, who for hundreds of generations have become accustomed to the
calendar. Over centuries, the Chinese people have unquestioningly
ingrained but obscure Confucian rituals according to the Xia lunar
even though the solar calendar of the ancient Zhou dynasty (1027-256
been considered more historically orthodox by Confucian scholars. Now a
reversal, in the name of reverence for Confucian orthodoxy, would in
liberate the public from obscure and obsolete Confucian ritual
More than a millennium later,
Otto von Bismark (1815-1898) employed a similar strategy, albeit for a
purpose. Bismark instituted sweeping social reforms to defuse radical
socialist pressure, and at the same time, to utilize the resultant
growth to promote Prussian conservative objectives of German
A later example in history
than that of Wu Zetian, of calendar reform as political strategy, was
anti-clerical French Revolutionary Calendar, adopted on October 3, 1793
by radical populist Hebertists in their
de-Christianization movement. It designated September 22, 1792, the
founding date of the Republic, as Vendemiaire 1,
Year I of the Republic of France,
the first day of the new
The French Revolutionary
Calendar changed the names of the months to remove all reminders of
traditions, such as August, named after Roman Emperor Augustus; July,
after Julius Caesar and March (Mars in French), named after the Roman
War. It would make all months 30 days equally to emphasize equality and
rationality. The remaining 5 days of the year, called sans-culottides,
the name given to the members of the lower classes not wearing fancy culottes
(breeches), would be feast days for the laboring class, called: Virtue,
Labor, Reason and Rewards.
The new names for the months in
the new calendar was
invented by revolutionary dramatist Philippe Fabre d'Eglantine
Danton's talented secretary who wwas tragically guillotined in the
prime age of
39, a mere 5 years after the storming of the Bastille, the popular
which launched the French Revolution.
The French Revolutionary
Calendar would reject the year of the birth of Christ as the 1st year
Domini (year of our Lord). It would replace the 7-day week, viewed by
revolutionary zealots as an obsolete Christian relic, with the metric
decade, unwittingly causing a counterrevolutionary, regressive
reduction in the
number of days of rest for the working populace from 4 to 3 in a month.
overall purpose would be to remove from the cultural consciousness all
Christian events such as Christmas, Easter, All Saints Day, the
as part of a program to replace Christianity with a Cult of Reason.
The French Revolutionary
Calendar would remain in effect until the Thermidorian Reaction, a
political revisionism, of vulgar extravagance in social manners, of
scandal and of merveilleuses: women known for their underdressed
in public. The Thermidorian Reaction would be marked with growth of
inflationary speculation and manipulative profiteering, suspension of
economic regulations, topped with a wholesale repeal of
The Thermidorian Reaction is
so named because it came after the coup d'etat of 9 Thermidor, Year III
Republic (July 27, 1794). It brought down Maximilien Robespierre
ending the reign of Terror, and brought to power a convenient coalition
conservative old bourgeoisie and the boisterous parvenus and nouveaux
which would deliver the nation, another 5 years later, to a military
in the person of Napoleon.
The adoption of calendars,
systems of reckoning the passage of time for historical, civil and
purposes, is an indispensable prerequisite for human civilization.
From ancient time, man has
organized his activities by the rhythm of day and night (the solar
practiced his religious observances by the cyclical phases of the moon
lunar month) and scheduled his agricultural efforts by the seasons (the
These 3 fundamental cycles of
chronology are: The solar day: the time it takes for the earth to
on its axis, the cycle of individual functions such as meals and sleep;
lunar month: the time it takes to bring the moon again into the same
around the earth with relation to the sun, also known as the synodic
cycles for spiritual cognition; and The tropical year: the time it
the earth to circle the sun once, the cycle for seasonal work and
These 3 cycles are
mathematically incommensurable because while the lunar month is equal
approximately 29 solar days, yielding a 354-day year, the tropical year
contains slightly less than 365 days, yielding months of 30.43 solar
ingenious methods have been adopted by human societies to reconcile
Ancient calendars had
generally been based primarily on lunar months that were fixed
with 29 or 30 solar days, as required, to keep in step with the lunar
and to avoid the introduction of fractional days. The lunar months were
reconciled with the tropical year by the use of intercalation, the
insertion of an additional day or month to keep the calendar in accord
cycle of the seasons. A modern version of intercalation would be the
of February 29 on leap years.
As civilization became more
complex and man's temporal perspective lengthened, calendars departed
from the pre-historic practice of adherence to lunar months. The
then emerged as the fundamental basis of chronological reckoning and
was retained only as a convenient subdivision.
The modern calendar in common
use in most parts of the world, a broadly accepted convention no less
than other calendars, has its roots in Egypt. The Egyptian year was
divided into 3 seasons of 4
months: Flood season, Seed season and Harvest season, as was natural to
geo-culture. As time went on, the Egyptian calendar year, shorter than
tropical year by a fraction of a day, gradually became out of sync with
seasons. The ancient Egyptians observed, however, that the flooding of
consistently occurred at the time of the year when Sirius, the
in the sky, rose in the east at sunrise.
Modern astronomy would
identify Sirius as a double-star system 8.7 light years from the sun,
constellation Canis Major. The ancient Egyptians were able to keep a
the discrepancy between the calendar year and the seasons by observing
shifting of the date in their calendar of Sirius' heliacal rising,
which is its
first rising after invisibility due to conjunction with the sun.
Ancient Egyptians were quite
accustomed to the shifting of the seasons with respect to the calendar
modern Christians would be about the arrival of Easter. The Egyptian
the only ancient one reckoned by fixed rule, rather than by observation
local ordinance, was particularly suitable for dating historical
records. It was used by Ptolemy, the celebrated Greco-Egyptian
mathematician-astronomer, around 150 A.D, and preferred by Western
until the 16th Century.
The Babylonian and Greek
calendars were similarly lunar based, with an intercalary month
irregular intervals in order to keep the calendar attuned to the cycle
of the seasons.
It is difficult and sometimes impossible to translate Babylonian dates
modern calendar because the observation of the first crescent of the
affected by local factors that does not relate to astronomical
Babylonian records of intercalation were incomplete.
The Roman calendar was lunar
at first with the pontifex maximus
enjoying the power to proclaim
intercalation. Julius Caesar (102-44 BC), by whose time the calendar
so abused by the repeated use of intercalation for political purposes
January was falling in autumn, decided to reform Roman calendar on
the 1st-Century-B.C. Alexandrian astronomer, Sosigenes. To make up for
deficiencies, Caesar extended the length of the year 46 BC to 445 days,
sizable addition of 90 days to its normal 355-day-year. This caused
occur in March after 45 BC instead of the 1st month of the year as in
time. Thereafter, the Julian calendar stipulated common years of 365
an intercalary day added to February every 4th year.
Names were given to the 1st,
5th, 7th, 13th and 15th days of the month. Shakespeare would make
ides of March (the 15th day) in his play: Julius Caesar, in which a
warns the unheeding Caesar to be beware of the ides of March on which
would meet with demise. An ambiguous expression in Caesar's edict on
reform led to the adding of an intercalary day every 3rd year until the
was discovered by Augustus (63 BC - 14 AD). Augustus then decreed all
years to be omitted between 8 BC and 7 AD. to compensate for the error,
which the normal sequence was resumed uninterrupted until the Gregorian
The 7-day week is a
Judea-Christian religious rhythm that was superimposed on the Julian
after Constantine (288-337) adopted Christianity for the Roman Empire.
In the Middle Ages, time, calendar and history were
reckoned by the Christian scheme. Creation of the world was dated 4,484
before 753 BC, the year of the founding of Rome by Romulus, and modern
history from the birth of Christ.
Historical events thereafter were chronicled by papal reigns, beginning
Peter's, which was fixed at 42-67 AD. Current events were recorded in
to religious holidays and saints' days. The year began in March - the
according to Chaucer (1340-1400), "in which the world began, when God
first made man."
Ecclesiastically, it began at
Easter, the day of the resurrection of Christ, and because this was a
feast falling everywhere within a period of 30 days, historical dating
imprecise. Hours of the day were named for the hours of prayer: matins
around midnight; lauds around 3 a.m.;
prime the first hour of daylight, at sunrise or about 6 a.m.; vespers
at 6 in the evening and compline at bedtime.
The true length of the tropical year is 365.2422 days, or slightly less
the value adopted in the Julian calendar.
By the beginning of the 16th
century, this discrepancy had caused the spring equinox to fall on
instead of March 21, the date assumed in the ecclesiastical tables from
the date of Easter, the paramount Christian religious date, was
Christian Ecclesiastical Calendar, with its shifting feasts, traces
back to its
reconciliation of the 7-day week tradition with the Roman calendar. The
resurrection of Jesus allegedly took place on a Sunday, which had been
first day of the religious week rather than the last day of the weekend
The Bible places the Passion
with relation to the Jewish Passover which falls on the evening of the
Nisan, the 7th month of the ecclesiastical year in the Jewish calendar.
The New Year in the Jewish
calendar is the first day of Tishri, falling between September and
the Gregorian Calendar. Hence, Easter must fall on a Sunday nearest to
Nisan. In 325, the first Council of Nicaea determined that Easter
on the Sunday following the full moon next after the vernal equinox
considered by the Church to fall on March 21.
In the 6th Century in England, a protracted dispute developed among
Christians who had derived their rites from the Celts, and other
had been converted as a result of the mission of St Augustine. The
dispute focused on the Celts' having retained a
computation for Easter based on a lunar cycle of 84 years while the St
Augustine Christians had based theirs on a Roman cycle of 532 years
Finally, the synod of Whitby in 663 under King Oswy of Northumbria, one
of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy (7-kingdom
confederacy) in England, held in an abby founded by St. Hilda in 657,
the dispute in favor of the Roman system. Whitby, a seaport at the
mouth of the Esk in Yorkshire, North England, is where Captain James
Cook (1728-1779) served as a
shipbuilder's apprentice and where his ship, Resolution, was built.
explorer of the Antarctic Ocean and discoverer of New Caledonia, was
killed in 1779 by natives on the Hawaii Islands.
In 1582, to restore the
agreement between the civil and the Christian ecclesiastical calendars,
Gregory XIII issued a papal bull in which he ordained that the day
Thursday, October 4 of that year be called Friday, October 15, making
5-14, 1582 nonexistent in Western history, and that ensuing leap years
omitted when they fall on centennial years not divisible by 400.
The Gregorian calendar would
be adopted thereafter in all Catholic countries while the Protestant
territories, including her American colonies, would adopt it only in
then, the difference between the 2 calendars had increased to 11 days
1700 being not a Gregorian leap year. Hence the British would
change by calling the day following September 2, September 14, thus
rendering September 3-13, 1752 nonexistent in British
Washington's birthday which
falls on February 11, 1731 O.S. (for Old Style or Julian), becomes
1732 N.S. (for New
Style or Gregorian), since, in addition to the 11-day gap, the Old
Style New Year's Day occurs usually
on March 25 and the New
Style New Year's Day
occurs on January 1. Gradually, the use of N.S. would become
unnecessary as the
Gregorian calendar becomes universal. In the 20th century, the Julian
would be 13 days behind the Gregorian, because 1800 and 1900 were not
years in the latter. In modern time, the Gregorian calendar would be in
official use for civil purposes throughout the world.
A vestige of the Roman
calendar is the name September which in Latin means the 7th month but
is the name of the 9th month in the Gregorian calendar.
China adopted the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1912 after the
founding of the Republic of China while the
then newly-formed Soviet Union would adopt it on February 14, 1918
after the October Revolution. The Chinese lunar New Year's Day usually
between January 10 and February 19 of the Gregorian calendar.
The Chinese ancient Zhou
dynasty (1027-256 B.C.) solar calendar (Zhou Li) has been devised to
cycles each having 60 days. The 60-day cycle is divided into 6 periods
10 days each, with 3 such periods making a month, yielding an even 30
month and a 360-day nominal year. The xun (10-day period) is the basic
unit in the
Chinese calendar. A month is divided into upper period (shang xun),
period (zhong xun) and lower period (xia xun).
By 5th Century BC, Chinese
astronomers had calculated the solar year to be 365.2444 days (off by
days) and the solar month at 29.53059 days. The years are arranged in
cycles of 60 years within which there are 12 minor cycles of 5 years
solar day is divided into 12 shichen periods each lasting 2 hours. An
known as a xiaoshi (minor shichen). The word wine (jiu) in Chinese is
by combining the root sign of water (shui) with the sign for the 10th
(you) which falls between 5-7 p.m. In other words, wine is the beverage
drunk during the cocktail hours.
Calendar dates determine the
rhythm and importance of social, religious and political rituals. As
traditional dates in the lunar calendar are revised to fit the newly
solar calendar, many of the elaborate rituals assocated with the old
dates are de-emphasized or eliminated, freeing society to adopt new
rituals that are designed
to reinforce the legitimacy and the reformed social values of the new
political order. Through
calendar reform, the social and political purposes of the reform agenda
female ruler are enhanced.
The Chinese tradition of
adopting the reign of an Emperor as the beginning of an era is not
human societies. The Athenians identified an era by its archon (chief
magistrate) and the Romans identified it by its consul. The Japanese,
adopted the Chinese custom in the 6th Century, continue to date an era
reign of their Heaven Emperor (Tianhuang).
In chronology, an era is a
period reckoned from an artificially fixed point in time, as before or
the birth of Christ: BC for Before Christ and AD for anno Domini (year
Lord). The best known points in Western historical time, beside the
Christ, are: The alleged creation of the world in Jewish mythical
is equivalent to 3761 BC; and in Byzantine history, 5508 BC; The
the city of Rome in 753 BC, the year marked AUD for ad urbe condita
founding of the city); The hijira, the migration of the Mohammed to
Mecca in 622 AD, abbreviate A.H. and the founding of the Olympic games
Greece in 776 BC: time in Olympiads.
Chinese eras are marked by
the name of reigns of individual sovereign in political dynasties. Many
sovereigns adopt more than one reign, the beginning year of which being
The Republic of China continued this practice in 1912.
Since years are of different
lengths in different calendars and do not begin on the same day,
confusion and inaccurate calculations, there are frequent anomalies in
in history. The most famous anomaly is the late setting of the
beginning of the
Christian era by the Roman monk-scholar Dionysius Exiguous (dc 545),
putting the historical birth of Christ at 4 BC, 4 years before the
birth year of Christ.
Chinese history generally
accepts the reign of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi 2700-2600 BC) as its
point but the ancient reign falls in the category of legend. The Xia
(2100-1600 B.C.) was reportedly founded in 2205 BC but even while it
period in which a calendar was reportedly adopted, its chronological
authenticity has resisted efforts of exact verification.
Records from the Bamboo
Annals (Zhushu Jinian), a set of records carved in bamboo strips
281 AD, yielded the earliest verifiable, detailed date in Chinese
841 BC, although orthodox chronology generally dates the founding of
dynasty to 1766 BC.
It should be pointed out that
difficulties in accurately determining the exact dates on which
events took place do not necessarily cast doubt on their having
example, the inaccurate dating of the birth of Christ do not imply that
did not exist, at least as a man.
What power is greater than
the power to order the division of time, that fluid dimension of all
that continuous stream of human consciousness, that mysterious aspect
physics, the understanding of which promises solutions to the riddle of
Before the beginning of time, the 4th dimension, there was nothingness,
distinguishable from void, no movement, no space and no identifiable
The 4th dimension of time is
as necessary for describing the location of heavenly bodies as are the
dimensions of space. Moreover, the dimension of time is necessary for
appreciation of movement, the fundamental criteria of life. Without the
of time, there would be no process, no history and no life. Space and
not separate. They are an inextricable union: the space-time continuum,
concept basic to the General Theory of Relativity.
Relativity Theory eliminates
from physics the idea of absolute values for space and time. It states
motion is relative. A body moves only when measured in space to another
different velocity or direction. The measure of mass, length and time
on the relative motion of the measuring instrument, as compared to the
being measured. Albert Einstein (1897-1955) theorized that as matter
the acceleration of light, mass increases until it becomes infinite,
diminishes in the direction of travel until it approaches zero and time
slow until it stops. At that speed, matter would become pure energy.
If and when physicists manage
to reconcile the theories of relativity which govern the behavior of
bodies, with those of quantum mechanics which govern the behavior of
particles, they will have yielded a unified theory of the universe, and
further human understanding of the mystery of its beginning.
He who controls time,
controls all else. Caesar understood it, Pope Gregory understood it,
Zetian understood it, as the French Hebertists would a full century
Asians will do well to
understand that the year 2000 is a good time to reject Western cultural
imperialism and to look for a true revival of their own rich heritage.
first step is to recognize that the concept of the new millennium has
no meaning in Asian culture.