Daoism and Cct

Holidays and Regular Observances

What kind of calendar do Daoists and practitioners of CCT observe?

Firmly anchored in traditional astrological calculations, 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 extra months at certain intervals. Reckoning began around 2637 B.C.E., so that the year 2000 marks the year 4637. Each of the twelve animals of the 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 or Goat (filial piety), Monkey (health), Rooster (protection), Dog (fidelity) and Pig (home and family). The year 2000 is 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.

During each month, the most important times are the moments of new and full moon. Each month is divided into ten-day periods, six of those in turn considered a special time period, and six of those in turn equaling a full year. In addition, each year is divided into twenty-four climatic periods called breaths or nodes, described by such phrases as “full of snow” or “clear and bright.” Every year, month, day, and hour is further identified by a combination of ten heavenly “stems” and twelve earthly “branches” (the monthly or zodiacal symbols). Branches and stems are primarily numerical designators, but each also bears important symbolic connotations. If you match one stem with one branch for succeeding years and only match odd-numbered stems with odd-numbered branches and even-numbered stems with even-numbered branches (S1/B1, S2/B2 … S1/B11, S2/B12, S3/B1, and so on), you end up back at the beginning after sixty years. The result is an extremely detailed system of pinpointing certain times according to a host of definitive characteristics. Each event occurring on Earth has its heavenly parallel. For every conceivable type of human behavior there is an auspicious moment. Thus, the calendar has been not merely a way of keeping track of times for religious observances, but a kind of temporal map for negotiating the cosmos as well.


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