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9th November 2009


Anatomy of a Chinese Calendar Almanac

How to Read the Calendar Page of the Chinese Tong Sheng


Over the weekend I bought a copy of next year's Chinese Almanac for 2010, aka Tong Shu 通書 or Tong Sheng 通勝 and it is the thin version (about 80 pages) instead of the standard thick version. The key difference between the two is that thin version only has the calendar section and it constitutes 20% of the standard thick version. So in this article, I shall take the opportunity to briefly introduce the calendar section of a typical Chinese Almanac and point out what information is available in it.

The copy of Alamanc I usually buy is published in Hong Kong and sample pages (figure 4 and 5) are shown below. There are also Tong Sheng 通勝 publised in Taiwan, whose layout may differ from the one shown here but basically the information is more or less the same. Most standard Almanac, published yearly, are usually quite thick and 80% of the information are the same for each year. The first few pages, consisting of the "Spring Ox Diagram" (Chun Niu Tu 春牛圖) in figure 1, "Annual Stars Directions" (Shen Sha 神煞) in figure 2 and "Heavenly God Bestowing Luck" (Tian Guan Si Fu 天官賜福) in figure 3 are unique to each year while the last 20% of the Almanac, which consists of the calendar section, is also different for each year. The 80% portion, which is repeated every year, contains topics ranging from face reading 面相, bazi 八字, dong gong date selection 董公擇日, talismans, various fortune telling systems, year charts, etc. This is why Tong Sheng is commonly known as the Chinese Almanac in English.


Figure 1 - Chun Niu Tu (Spring Ox Diagram) for year 2010 shown above

The Chun Niu Tu 春牛圖 page basically document some important metaphysical statistics for the year such as tai sui 太歲, element of the heavenly stem 天干五行, element of the earthly branches 地支五行, nayin element 納音五行 of the year, and the general conditions of the year. The left section shows the lunar start date of the 24 solar terms 二十四節氣.



Figure 2 - Annual Shen Sha (Stars) direction for year 2010 shown above

This page shows the various locations/directions of the shen sha 神煞 associated with the year for each of the 24 mountains 二十四山. The more important ones that people usually take note are the San Sha 三煞, 5 Yellow star 五黃 and the direction facing the Tai Sui 歲破.



Figure 3 - Tian Guan Ci Fu chart shown above

This page shows the shen sha 神煞 associated with each of the 12 palaces of the earthly branches. Most Chinese masters and practitioners of feng shui refer to this page to publish or make predictions for the 12 Chinese animal zodiac signs. These predictions are solely based on the presence of the good stars 吉星 and bad stars 凶星 in these palaces. For example if you are born in the year of the horse , you will refer the the Wu palace and see what good or bad stars are in it. Moreover, you also need to refer to the opposite palace (Zi palace) and the matrix palaces 三方四正 (Yin and Xu palaces) to make a general assessment of all these stars affecting you for the year.



Figure 4 - Calendar Section: The first page of the first lunar month for 2010 is shown above.

The right half of the page shows information pertaining to the lunar month as a whole while the left half of the page show the specific information pertaining to each day, starting from the first lunar day, arranged into columns.



Figure 5 - Calendar Section: The second page of the first lunar month for 2010 is shown above.

The remaining information for each day of the lunar month are listed in subsequent pages. For the page above it show the 4th lunar day (17th Feburary 2010) from the right column to the twenty-first lunar day (6th March 2010) at the left column.


The following information below are the main focus for this article, which is to point out what the various sections of the calendar page means.

Figure 6 - Calendar Section: The various parts of the page.


A – Gregorian Date 陽曆, divided into columns, one column for each day.

B – Monthly Chart showing monthly shen sha and their directions, the birthdays of the gods.

C – Lunar Date 農曆

D – Day Pillar in Jia-Zi 甲子

E – Nayin of the Day Pillar 納音

F – 28 Lunar Mansion of the Day 十二八星宿

G – 12 Officers of the Day 建除十二神

H – Suitable activities for the Day

I – Unsuitable activities for the Day

J – Name of the Door God on duty for the Day

K – Location of the Fetus/Conception God 胎神 for the Day

L – Good 吉, Bad 凶 and Average 中 Hours of the Day, red for good and average and black for bad

M – Good Shen Sha 神煞 for the Day

The information in the calendar section of the Alamanc is usually compiled from a classical encyclopedic Chinese Alamanc known as Xie Ji Bian Feng 協記辯方. In the old original format, this book consists of 4 volumes in Traditional Chinese, but it is also avaliable in a single volume format printed using modern typeset font. Mainland China published ones are in Simplified Chinese and the tables and charts are neatly compiled but sometimes they contains errors in translation. Therefore instead of referring to the hard to read encyclopedic Xie Ji Bian Feng 協記辯, people just simply buy the Tong Sheng for convenience.

I hope this article is both useful and informative to help you under the Chinese Almanac better, when you are using it to find auspicious dates.

By Cyril Quah

"The Feng Shui Connoisseur"

November 9, 2009

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