For work, I occasionally have to translate foreign language documents. I've been running into a lot of Chinese (simplified) documents that have a date listed as YYY/MM/DD.

Why is the year only 3 digits? Is this just a typo?

  • 1
    Could you provide an example and some more context? – Drunken Master Apr 6 '16 at 16:21
  • Here's an example of the format: 102年03月01日 I recognize that it's in Japanese, but the rest of the document is listed as Chinese (simplified). – user49175 Apr 6 '16 at 16:27
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    Are these documents from Taiwan, by any chance? In that case the calendar system is that of the Chinese Republic (Starting with 1912 as base year). – Drunken Master Apr 6 '16 at 16:35
  • 1
    Though, you say they are in Simplified Chinese... – Drunken Master Apr 6 '16 at 16:36
  • Well, Google translate detects Chinese and then translates it correctly to English from there. But yes, it is a document from a Taiwan-based company. How do I determine what the year is on these documents, given this calendar system? – user49175 Apr 6 '16 at 16:52
up vote 14 down vote accepted

By now you have figured out, why the years are represented as YYY, but just to make this post not look like many of those stubs on this site, here's a more detailed answer to anyone stumbling upon this page in the future.

Taiwan (officially styled the Republic of China) still uses the Republican calendar (or Minguo calendar), alongside the international calendar system of Western origin. This is known as 民國紀元 (民国纪元 in simplified Chinese, though not used in Mainland China). It follows the dynastic/feudal time keeping of numbering years consecutively after the ascension to throne of the current emperor, with the exception that there is no sort of emperor or king in the Republican era (although, Yuan Shi-kai made a faint attempt, and resigned from his throne almost exactly 100 years ago). A similar system is still in place in Japan, used parallel to the Western calendar, and probably even more extensively used, with era names, etc. than the Republican calendar in modern day Taiwan.

The practical way to work with it is not that difficult. Here's the formula:

Republican calendar Year = Western calendar Year - 1911

So this year is 105年. For those who can work with Tradional characters, here's a sophisticated online calculator. Here's the output for this month:

enter image description here

(The bold face digits are the days according to the Western calendar, the smaller digits show the month/day in the Chinese calendar, in this case the lunar calendar is used, which is the basis of observing Chinese New Year, etc.)

This elaborate system of Chinese time keeping and age reckoning have their many intricacies, but the above is probably enough for you to get the gist.

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