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Many traditional festivals are observed on a given date on the Chinese (lunar) calendar(Actually, the Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar). For example, the Spring Festival falls on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar. Besides, some peole celebrate their birthdays based on this calendar.

So, how can one express a date from the Chinese calendar? An answer with multiple examples and details would be helpful.

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2 Answers 2

  1. You can say "农历"(formal name) or "阴历"(or even "夏历",which is less common) at the begining of the date to express that date is from the Chinese calendar.
  2. The name of the months:

    正(zhēng)月(the first month),二月,三月,四月,五月,六月,七月,八月,九月,十月,十一月,十二月
    Note: You could say "冬月" for "十一月" and "腊(là)月" for "十二月". Both of them are common to see.

  3. In the Chinese calendar,there is a concept of "leap month"(I wouldn't like to explain how it comes,because it's related to much Astronomy knowledge,hard for me to explain it in English),so one Chinese year may have 13 months,including an extra leap month. We use "闰(rùn)" before the name of a month when it's a leap month.I.e, this year,2012, the year of dragon, has a leap month, called "闰四月", so we have two "四月" this year: a normal "四月" and a "闰四月" after it.

    Note: the chance of which month having a leap month is not uniform.I haven't met a leap "正月","十一月" or "十二月" (they are very very rare), but I think the corresponding leap months are "闰正月","闰冬月" and "闰腊月",based on some materials I read on this topic.
  4. For days, we say "初一","初二",...,"初九" for the first day, the second day,...,the ninth day; "十一","十二",...,"二十","二十一",...,"三十" for the eleventh day, the twelfth day,...,the twentieth day, the twenty-first day,...the thirtieth day. It's very easy if you can count number in Chinese.
    Note: In calendar, you will see "廿(niàn)一", “廿二",...,"廿九", instead of "二十一","二十二",...,"二十九", but in speaking, I think you would prefer "二十一" to "廿一". "廿" is a classic character to refer to "二十".
    Please see the image below to get a feel of the calendar commonly used in China, written in both Gregorian(Arabic numerals) and Chinese(chinese characters) calendar.
enter image description here

OK, too much stuff. Now it's the time to show some examples:

正月初三
正月十四
正月二十五(=正月廿五 in calendar)
闰四月十三
闰五月初五
冬月三十
腊月初八
Q: 你的农历生日是哪一天? What's your birthday in Chinese calendar
A: 四月十五
Q: 今年哪一天是四月十五? What's the day of "四月十五" this year?(here,the speaker wants to know what day in the Gregorian calendar is "四月十五" in Chinese calendar?)
A: 五月五号 the fifth, May
Q: 嘿,今年闰四月!你过哪一个生日? Hey, this year has a leap "四月"! Which "四月十五" will you observe?

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You add "农历" (means old/lunar calendar) add the beginning, and the first month is called "正(zhēng)月". The last month is called "腊(là)月". Leap month (a whole month is added) is prefixed with "闰(rùn)". Other months are read just as in the calender used now. The 1st to the 10th day is prefixed with "初". Other date is read out just as you read out a number. "号" "日" or any other characters is never added after the date. When "正月" "初" is used, "农历" can be omitted.

E.g.: The Spring Festival is on (农历)正月初一

1.10 : (农历)正月初十

8.15 : 农历八月十五

For leap month: 闰四月初六

The last day of a year can be called "大年三十" or "年三十" (or sometimes simply "三十". This can be used no matter the month has 30 days or not). The first day of the year can be called "大年初一".

I'm not quite sure what will be used when a leap month is added after the first month. I would prefer "闰一月" instead of "闰正月", but not sure about the common practice. Also, it is unknown to me how to read the leap month added after the 12th month. It is rare, and the we don't often used the lunar calender now.

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