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Calendars of Ancient Civilizations III

In the region we now know as Mexico (and other neighboring places), the Mayan people called the Yucatan area their home. They constructed elaborate temples and pyramids, and possessed an impressive understanding of astronomy. In this article, you will learn more about Mayan calendars, as well as ancient Chinese calendars.

Mayan Calendar

In studying the remains of the culture, which had already declined when invaders from Spain stepped foot on their territory in the 16th century. The remains of the culture showed that the Maya followed the Haab (also known as the civil calendar), which was comprised of 18 months made up of 20 days each. At the end of the year, five extra days were added. This was referred to as Uayeb, which made it a year with 365 days.

The Mayans also built a time pyramid in Chichen, Itza, Mexico around 1050. The pyramid had four stairways , each with 91 steps and one platform. The total of steps equaled 365 , th e same number of days in a year. The stairways were divided into nine terraced found on each side of the pyramid, which added up to 18 segments that stood for the 18 months of the Mayan calendar.
The names and meanings of the 18 Mayan months are Pop (mat), Uo (black conjunction), Zip (red conjunction), Zotz (bat), Tzec (watering time), Xul (dog), Yaxkin (new sun), Mol (water), Chen (black storm), Yax (green storm), Zac (white storm), Ceh (red storm), Mac (enclosed), Kankin (yellow sun), Muan (owl), Pax (planting time), Kayab (turtle), and Cumku (granary). The ‘five unlucky days’ was referred to as Wayab.

Chinese Calendar

Even though the Gregorian calendar is used in present-day China for everyday use, traditional festivals (such as the Chinese New Year) are still observed using the ancient Chinese calendar. Many believe that the Chinese calendar has a history that started during the reign of Emperor Huangdi in 2637 BC. The calendar was modeled to relate to the positions of the Sun and the Moon.

The ancient calendar follows a 60-year cycle that incorporated heavenly and earthly elements that are represented by a zodiac creature. The first year of the cycle is known as jia-xu, and has specific names all the way to the 60th year. After the 60th year, the cycle starts all over again. Each one of the earthly branches are thought to have a connection to certain qualities. The animals that correspond to the 12 months are tiger, hare dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, and rabbit.

Besides the Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival), other traditional holidays observed on the ancient calendar include Lantern Festival (held on the 1st lunar month), Shangsi Festival or Women’s Day (held on 2nd day of 3rd lunar month), and Tomb Sweeping Day or Mourning Day (held on around April 5th , 104 days after the winter solstice).