2020 is the Year of the Rat

February 5, 2020

China’s Lunar New Year officially started several days ago on January 24th and ended yesterday on February 4, 2020.

Webexhibs.org reports, “The beginnings of the Chinese calendar can be traced back to the 14th century B.C.E. Legend has it that the Emperor Huangdi invented the calendar in 2637 B.C.E. The Chinese calendar is based on exact astronomical observations of the longitude of the sun and the phases of the moon.”

But centuries passed before the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) modernized the calendar and made it official. The first lunar calendar used 10 months with 36 days each, as calculated through observation of the night sky. “It didn’t take long, however, for them to make the switch to a lunisolar 12-month calendar – a system they stuck to ever since.” – Military Time Chart.com

The Han Dynasty was one of the longest of China’s major dynasties. In terms of power and prestige, the Han Dynasty in the East rivaled its almost contemporary Roman Empire in the West.

SupChina.com says, “One of the greatest joys of celebrating the new lunar year is the feast on the eve of the holiday. In Chinese culture specifically, superstitions intertwine with food to bring about special dishes intended to bring good luck. Auspicious meanings are represented by a food’s appearance or pronunciation, and common homophones include words for prosperity, success, and family togetherness. …

“A whole fish is a staple for New Year celebrations in China and is intended to welcome prosperity for the entire year. …

“Dumplings represent wealth because of their close appearance to Chinese gold ingots, which are oval, boat-shaped hunks of gold used as currency in imperial China. …

“A whole chicken is usually served to represent family togetherness. …

“Spring rolls … are also a traditional food of the Lunar New Year. … Like dumplings, spring roll filling can be made based on personal preference. …

“Exceptionally long noodles … represent a long, long life. It’s customary to slurp down the noodle without chewing so that the strands aren’t severed. …

“The star dessert is glutinous rice cake … the word for cake sounds like the word for ‘tall,’ or ‘to grow,’ so eating glutinous rice on Lunar New Year symbolizes growth, whether it be in career, income, health, or even height. …

“Following the circular concept, certain round fruits are eaten during Lunar New Year to encourage family unity. Oranges and tangerines are especially popular because their golden color is believed to attract wealth … ”


But this year, the BBC reports that Beijing has canceled Chinese New Year celebrations in some provinces to control the spread of the dangerous new coronavirus.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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According to the Ancient Chinese, I was born as a Rooster

August 14, 2019

I was born in 1945 on August 14. Each Chinese zodiac animal has personality traits assigned to it by the ancient Chinese. Chinese people believe these traits will be embodied in people, according to their zodiac sign.

The Chinese Zodiac says as a Rooster, I am observant, hardworking, and courageous.

China’s ancient calendar is based on a twelve-year lunar cycle. At one time, the Chinese calendar was confusing and complex. Buddhists have been given credit for simplifying it by replacing a complex system of numerical symbols with the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

There are several Chinese calendars, which are still in use today. Each has its own purpose. Farmers in rural China use one. There’s even a Chinese gender calendar to help conceive a boy or girl.

In addition to the lunar, numerical, astronomical, gender and agricultural calendars, each day also has a name from one of twenty-eight constellations, with a ruling spirit for the day.

In charting the sky, the Chinese divided the heavens into 28 constellations located along the Equator and the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun on the celestial sphere), each named after a star in the vicinity.

Explorable.com says (see previous link), “Unlike other cultures charting the stars at this period, astrologers were separate from astronomers and their job was to interpret occurrences and omens portended in the sky. As the astronomers began to chart regular events, such as lunar eclipses, these were removed from the realm of astrologers, who Emperors consulted before every major decision.

“As a result, the Chinese developed an extensive system of the zodiac designed to help guide the life of people on Earth. Their version of the zodiac was called the ‘yellow path’, a reference to the sun traveling along the ecliptic. As is the case with Western astrology, the Chinese had twelve houses along the yellow path, although the names they gave were different.”

2019 is the Year of the Pig according to the Chinese zodiac.

Chinese years are counted in a repeating twelve-year sequence, each year symbolized by an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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China gets to celebrate a New Year Twice

December 26, 2018

In China it’s possible to celebrate the New Year twice in the same year in different months on different days.

While the Gregorian calendar celebrates the New Year on January 1st of every year, the Chinese Lunar New Year falls on February 5th (Tuesday) 2019, and the festival will last to February 19th, about 15 days in total.

2019 is the Year of the Pig according to the Chinese zodiac.

Chinese years are counted in a repeating twelve-year sequence, each year symbolized by an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

In 2018, the Lunar New Year started on February 16th.


Chinese New Year Dragon Dance – Shanghai Disneyland – Shanghai Disney Resort

The Chinese Lunar New Year is defined as the second new moon after the winter solstice; thus it begins sometime between late January and mid-February, approximately at the beginning of Spring (which, in the Chinese calendar, starts forty-five days after the winter solstice). It is celebrated not only in China, but also in Korea, Vietnam (where it is known as Tet), and in Chinese communities around the world.

China established its calendar systems as far back as the 14th century B.C. Shang Dynasty, and over the centuries that calendar was modified and adjusted, but they were always based on calculations of the positions of sun and moon, and even the earliest records have the Chinese New Year beginning at a new moon near the winter solstice.

Since the months of the Chinese calendar are derived from the lunar cycle, which lasts 29.53 days on average, its months are either 29 or 30 days long. Like the Western calendar, the Chinese calendar’s ordinary year has 12 months, but a leap year, every two or three years, adds an extra 13th month. The ordinary year in the Chinese calendar runs between 353 and 355 days, but during a leap year it runs 383 to 385 days.


Shanghai’s New Year’s Eve on December 31, 2017

The Western calendar is a solar calendar based on the Earth’s revolution of the sun and the progression of seasons. Consequently, every month has the same number of days from year to year, except during a leap year.

The Western Gregorian calendar is a modification of the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Cesar in 45 B.C.

If you are curious how the months were named for the Gregorian calendar, here’s a hint – January through December were not based on the zodiac like China’s Lunar calendar was. Click this link to Wonderpolis.org to discover how each month for this calendar got their names. One example: July was named after Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. Previously, July was called “Quintilis,” which is Latin for “fifth.”

Was this one of the reasons why Cesar was assassinated?

With the exception of February, each month in the Western calendar has 30 or 31 days, and there are 12 months every year. That means China’s Lunar calendar has a much longer history than the West’s calendar … about 1,500 years older than the Gregorian one.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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China’s Three Gorges Damn and Space Program: Part 2 of 2

September 5, 2018

China space program took off in 1975 with the successful launch of its first recoverable satellite. China’s space program didn’t stop there. By 2003, China became the third country on the planet to put a man into space on October 15, and in 2008, Chinese astronauts completed their first spacewalk.

Space.com reported, “Tangong-1 is a single-module space station operated by the China National Space Administration. The module was launched in 2011 and hosted two crews of taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) in 2012 and 2013. …

“In 2016, Chinese flight controllers lost control of Tiangong-1, sealing the 8.5 metric ton space lab’s fate. Tiangong-1’s decaying orbit may make it fall into Earth’s atmosphere sometime between March 30 and April 2, 2018.” …

“A second space station, Tiangong-2, launched on Sept. 15, 2016, to further test out space station technologies. A crewed docking mission, Shenzhou 11, visited the space station in October and November 2016. The Chinese then tested out docking and refueling with a cargo ship, called Tianzhou-1. The cargo spacecraft made three dockings in April, June, and September in 2017. The last docking was performed in just 6.5 hours instead of two days.”

Wired reports the future of China’s space program. One of China’s nearest goals is the plan to land a rover on the dark side of the Moon in 2018. … The plan is to study the geology of the Moon’s far side.”

China also plans to capture an asteroid and put it in orbit around the Moon where they will study it.

The Chinese also want to send an orbiter, lander, and rover to the red planet by 2020. “The best and most direct method to look for evidence of life on Mars is to explore the surface. Mars will be a key focus of China’s deep space exploration in the future,” says Zheng Yongchun, an associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observatory.

Wired also reports, “Not content with sending humans to asteroids, the Moon and Mars, China also plans on building its very own space station. The first part of the Chinese large modular space station is expected to go into orbit around Earth in 2019 with the final sections in place by 2022. The station will host three crew members, unlike previous efforts which could not support any crew.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The ‘Golden Age’ of the Song Dynasty: part 4 of 4

April 27, 2018

In 1973, under the sands of a beach in the city of Quanzhou City in Fujian Province, a well-preserved boat built during the Song Dynasty was discovered.

It was the oldest, fully intact wooden boat unearthed in the world with a load capacity of 200 tons. It was not the largest boat constructed during that time. The largest had a load capacity of more than 1,000 tons.

Experts say the construction of these ships with hermetic compartments made safe navigation possible and these methods that were developed a millennia ago in China are still used today in modern ship construction.

During the Song Dynasty, the trading port of Quanzhou was considered one of the two largest in the world. Egypt’s Alexandria was the second one. As an important seaport for trade at one end of the Maritime Silk Road, Quanzhou had close ties with Korea and Japan in the east and as far as northeast Africa in the west.

There were two major kinds of trade goods, silk, and porcelain. Some scholars say porcelain should be considered the fifth great Chinese invention.

Return to Part 3, or start with Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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China’s long history with Astronomy: Part 2 of 2

January 24, 2018

Chinese astronomers named the constellations long before anyone in the west did. For instance, the Big Dipper was called The Plow. The North Star was Bei Ji. Another constellation was called the Winnowing Basket.

From the 16th century B.C. to the end of the 19th Century A.D., almost every (Chinese) dynasty appointed officials who were charged with the sole task of observing and recording the changes in the heavens.

However, the Chinese were not alone in mapping the heavens.

Ancient cultures in the West studied the skies too. The “Nebra Sky Disc”, discovered in Europe, dates to about 1,600 BC.

National Geographic says the Nebra Sky Disc is the oldest depiction of the night sky.  It is a hundred years older than the oldest images found in ancient Egypt.

The Nebra Sky Disc may be the first representation of the universe in human history.

But in China about 4,000 years ago, the oldest astronomical instrument known to man appeared. It was merely a bamboo pole planted in the ground so that the movement of the sun could be observed from the direction and length of the shadow of the pole.

The Chinese were the most persistent and accurate observers of celestial phenomena.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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China’s long history with Astronomy: Part 1 of 2

January 23, 2018

For thousands of years, Chinese astronomers have studied the stars and planets moving in their endless journey across the night sky.

Oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty recorded eclipses and as many as 90 novae (exploding stars).

For about two thousand years, the Chinese used the North Star (which stays constant). The Chinese used that star to map the location of every other star in the sky.

This method of mapping stars is called the equatorial system. The West would not use this method to map the heavens for almost two thousand years after the Chinese invented it.

In early 1980s, a tomb was found at Xi Shui Po (西水坡) in Pu Yang, Henan Province. There were some clamshells and bones forming the images of the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger and the Northern Dipper. It is believed that this tomb belongs to the Neolithic Age, about 6,000 years ago.

Star names relating to the 28 lunar mansions was found on oracle bones dating back to the Wuding Period (about 3,200 years ago).

Continued in Part 2 on January 24, 2018

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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