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A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Calendars and Almanacs—Introduction (d)

A year ago on Round and Square (28 March 2012)—Seinfeld Ethnography: Kramer Gets a Job
Click here for the first post in the Round and Square introductory series "Calendars and Almanacs" 
[a] Good luck RF
This is one post in a multi-part introduction to the Round and Square series "Calendars and Almanacs." Click below for the other posts in the series:
CA 1          CA 2         CA 3          CA 4          CA 5  
CA 6          CA 7         CA 8          CA 9          CA 10         CA 11

Section five is the most important of all—the heart of the calendar (Illustration B).  It has seven characters that are useful in reading the sequence of time and space.  The large characters in the center are important for every reader; the red marginal characters refer to the significance of the date for those born at certain times. The first two characters (初八) indicate the lunar date, and can be translated as something such as “08.” From the first of the (lunar) month to the tenth, the character 初 reads like the zero in “01, 02, 03…08, 09,” and even “0-10”—since 十, “ten’” is just one Chinese character. 
[b] Section Five

This creates a symmetry when the numbers turn to double characters from eleven through twenty-nine or thirty, and keeps in place what might be called a “columnar aesthetic.”  It functions much as does the zero in “07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12,” and so forth, to keep double-digit columns tidy. The third and fourth characters (庚辰) constitute “number seventeen” in a sequence of sixty combinations that have been used to count time in China for millenia.  Those who have read original Chinese historical manuscripts know that this is the way time was counted in China until the last century and a half—by imperial title and the cycle of sixty.  Therefore, what readers in the West think of as “1492” was a date in the Ming dynasty that would traditionally have been reckoned in China as a cyclical character and the reign name of an emperor. 

The fifth character (金) is part of an endlessly repeating cycle of the five “phases” 五行 used in Chinese correlative thinking from early times. August eighth was a “metal” day, as was the ninth.  These “metal” days are followed, in turn, by two woods, two waters, two earths, and two fires before starting their ten-day cycle again. There are minor breaks in the pattern over the course of a year, but it is a part of a larger cosmological system of five-phase correlative thinking in China. 
[c] Undulating RF

Characters six and seven give the “personalities” of the day, and these are among the most consulted parts of the calendar. They can be seen as “cycles of personalities” that make up a set of possibilities for the day. Character six is part of a cycle of twenty-eight “lunar mansions,” each of which has taken on not only a patina of auspiciousness (or inauspiciousness), but also what can only be described as something of an individual “character.” As can be seen in Illustration B, these “personalities” range from generally lucky red characters to middling or unlucky black ones. On August eighth, the character in this slot is “ghost carriage”—one of the more inauspicious of possibilities. A traditional text has the following to say about a “ghost carriage” day—one that contrasts markedly with the numerical optimism of serial eights (8/8/08) selected for the Olympic Opening Ceremony. 

          The “Ghost Carriage” was perceived by early Chinese thinkers as the vehicle 
          used to transport ghosts, who could, it was said, be seen riding in it.  This is 
          the second smallest mansion through which the moon travels.  A box of four 
          stars in the constellation closely resemble the character 凶, “inauspicious.”   
          The constellation is regarded as presiding over departed spirits, and, by 
          extension, places where people have been killed, such as battlefields.  By 
          further extension it relates to horses, soldiers, and weapons of war.  In the 
          sense of death and loss, the constellation was regarded as the guardian 
          spirit of buried treasures hoarded in times of war, and thus jewels and 
          accumulated wealth. Not surprisingly, this constellation is regarded as being 
          generally unlucky, with its symbolism of death, demons, and ghosts being 

[d] Patterning RF

The seventh, and final character in this “heart of the calendar” is the most important of all, and is one of the places where people turn to get the most powerful “feel” for the day and its possibilities. One of my students once complained that this particular character formed at least the initial topic of conversation whenever her aunt would call from San Francisco—“Don’t let Suzy go out today”; or “The eleventh would be a good day for Suzy’s visit to the dentist.” Although several of the other parts of each day’s calendrical information factored into her aunt’s calculations (notably the “avoid” and “appropriate” sections), character number seven in section five was the most prominent. Called the jianchu cycle, in a traditional manner of giving titles by using the first two characters of a passage, it is a series of twelve endlessly repeating characters, each of which has come to take on a distinct personality— almost a life of its own.

Let's take a break and return to the "heart of the heart of the calendar" tomorrow. 
This is one post in a multi-part introduction to the Round and Square series "Calendars and Almanacs." Click below for the other posts in the series:
CA 1          CA 2         CA 3          CA 4          CA 5  
CA 6          CA 7         CA 8          CA 9          CA 10         CA 11
[e] Clustered RF
[1] Derek Walters. Chinese Astrology (Kent UK: Aquarian Press, 1987), 146.

Walters, Derek. Chinese Astrology. Kent UK: Aquarian Press, 1987.

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