Whether Daoist, CCT, Buddhist, or Confucian, all Chinese have historically acknowledged the same overall reckoning of time. Official Confucian and CIT events were traditionally set by a Board of Astrology and promulgated by a Ministry of Rites. In overall structure, the Chinese lunar calendar consists of twelve months of twenty-nine or thirty days, since the time between new moons is about twenty-nine and a half days. The lunar year dovetails with the solar, with the intercalation of an extra month approximately every six years or when five additional days per year total thirty. Reckoning began around 2637 B.C.E., so that the year 2000 marked the year 4637. Each of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac is associated with a particular quality or event and gives its name to every twelfth year, beginning with the Rat (industry and prosperity) and proceeding in order through Ox (spring planting), Tiger (valor), Hare (longevity), Dragon (power and good fortune), Snake (cunning), Horse (perseverance), Sheep (filial piety) or Goat, Monkey (health), Rooster (protection), Dog (fidelity), and Pig (home and family). The year 2000 was the Year of the Dragon, 2001 that of the Snake, 2002 that of the Horse, and so on. Five full cycles, each named after one of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) equals sixty years, an important interval for ritual purposes. Major annual markers are the winter (maximum Yin) and summer (maximum Yang) solstices and vernal and autumnal equinoxes when Yin and Yang are in balance. During each month, the most important times are the moments of new and full moon.
Each of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac is associated with a particular quality or event and gives its name to every twelfth year.