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The ten-month solar calendar of Yi People

By Du Fang | 2013-09-02 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
Tiger dance of Yi
The Yi calendar is believed by scholars to date back to ten thousand years ago. In the Yi calendar, a year is divided into twelve months, each having thirty-six days. Every two months are called one season and therefore there are five seasons according to the Yi calendar.
The days are counted in terms of twelve animals, the tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat and ox by order. Each month consists of three cycles of all the twelve animals in turn and a year consists of ten months. After the end of the tenth month, the other five (in the non-leap year) or six days (in the leap year) are days to celebrate the New Year.
Months are counted in two ways. In one way, the month is counted by animals. The Black Tiger is for the first month, then the otter, crocodile, boa, pangolin, muntjac, blue sheep, ape, panther and lizard in turn. In the other way, the five seasons are represented by land, copper, water, wood and human in name, and for each season two opposite sexes are distinguished, the odd month is male while the even month is female.
The years are counted not in numbers or animals, but in eight directions, namely, The Year of the East, the Southeast, the South, the Southwest, the West, the Northwest, the North, and the Northeast respectively.
According to the Yi calendar, Winter Solstice arrives when the Sun “moves” to the most southern point while Summer Solstice arrives when the Sun moves to the most northern point; it is Great Heat when handle of the Dipper points right downward and it is Great Cold when it points right upward.
Du Fang is from Southwest University for Nationalities
 (Translated by Jiang Hong)