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Time in Japan: Year Dates Ancient and Modern

 
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 7:01 pm    Post subject: Time in Japan: Year Dates Ancient and Modern Reply with quote
Welcome to the second thread of the Calendar Class. I hope many of you will participate, or at least read. A general introduction to the class and URL's to other threads can be found in the sticky:
http://forums.samurai-archives.com/viewtopic.php?t=4883

Before working on the nengô 年号 (or gengô 元号) system, the principle method for year dates in Japan, I thought it would be interesting to look at other ways of dating years. What I write is based on things I have picked up from good sources, but I have not made a systematic study of it--if I wait for that, I will never get started, but at least you can get an idea of some of the varieties of dating.
At the end I will ask for some cases of different types of year dating, so if anyone knows some interesting examples, I hope you will describe them.

Year Names

Writing probably began towards the end of the 4th millennium, in Mesopotamia. We have administrative texts written on clay tablets from the period. Egyptian writing probably began early in the 3rd millennium.

The earliest year dates that we have, and probably the earliest that existed, were year names--each year received an idiosyncratic name.

Egypt used year names for the first few dynasties (3rd millennium), like "The year of the Battle and Smiting of the Northerners" or the "Year of Smiting the Troglodytes" From the middle of the 2nd dynasty, there are often references to the biannual numeration of cattle, such as the "fourth occurrence of the numbering" in the reign of Neterimus (on the Palermo Stone).

From the end of the 3rd millennium we have many, well-understood Mesopotamian texts, especially those of the 3rd Ur dynasty (the Ur III period). For example, in an Ur III text "The year the throne of [the god] Enlil was completed" was followed by "The year Enmahgalana was installed as priestess of Nanna." Some other year names are "Simurum was destroyed for the second time" and "The temple of Drehem was built."

Some year names a few centuries later from the Middle Euphrates region refer particularly to the king of Terqa. Some examples are:
the year Isi-Sumubi the king dedicated…for Shamesh.
the year Ishi-Sumabi established a spillway (of the river)
the year Yadih-abut the king built the city of Araite
the year Yadih-abu the king renewed Annunitum of Tabatum


Q1 Does anyone know any other cultures that used year names?
Q2 For historians, year names instead of a continuing count make chronology difficult, but is there any way in which they are useful to them?

Eponymous years
In northern Mesopotamia a system of "eponymous years" also developed. This was a system of naming years, or every other years by the name of an official or officials. In Assyria normally the first year of a reign was named after the king, then after they were named after other officials.

Eponymous years could vary from city to city. In the Syrian city of Emar, 13th to early 12th cent. BC, the city administration used its own seal and its own eponymous years for its documents, separately from the seal and year names used by the royal administration.

Q3 Where were eponymous years used besides northern Mesopotamia?


Most year dates are found as dates on clay-tablet documents. What years do these represent in absolute or relative terms? If we have enough information, we can often establish at least a relative chronology. For example, there are some administrative texts that state how many months are between two dates. It seems that most of the year dates for Ur III and the first Babylonian dynasty have been at least reasonably identified by scholars. For later periods, we often have lists of eponymous years written by ancient scribes or documents like the Egyptian Palermo Stone.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:26 am    Post subject: Re: Time in Japan: Year Dates Ancient and Modern Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Q1 Does anyone know any other cultures that used year names?
Q2 For historians, year names instead of a continuing count make chronology difficult, but is there any way in which they are useful to them?


Q1-in a way, they're still being used. How many times might someone speak of "the year I got married", "the year I graduated from college", "the year of Honno-ji (well, at least Les and Domer)", "the year I turned 21", etc? Unofficial to be sure, but at least it demonstrates why 'year names' came before anything else.

Q2-if nothing else, it may help to classify different eras or information on an occurrence that may not otherwise be documented.


Bethetsu wrote:
Q3 Where were eponymous years used besides northern Mesopotamia?


Wasn't it used in ancient Rome as well?
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Athens named each year after the Archon for that year.
Rome named each year after the combined names of the two Consuls of that year.
Reign years of the RC popes were used.
Assyria named each year after the immu (high magistrate) of that year.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:53 am    Post subject: Re: Time in Japan: Year Dates Ancient and Modern Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:

Q1-in a way, they're still being used. How many times might someone speak of "the year I got married", "the year I graduated from college", "the year of Honno-ji (well, at least Les and Domer)", "the year I turned 21", etc? Unofficial to be sure, but at least it demonstrates why 'year names' came before anything else.


I have to wonder how cultures with year-naming like this kept them in order, if every year was named like this without some sort of number. Seems like after 30 or 40 of these went by, people would have a hard time keeping them straight, "Was the year of Lotsa Snow before or after the year of Little Grain, and was that before the year of Big Earthquake?".
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Kitsuno, I have a feeling that only the literati or scribes etc. would have referance lists of some sort and the hoi polloi would only be aware of the last few year names as they affected them. In fact given an average life span only a couple would need be known with memory tied in something like, " It was 5 years after Gilgamesh that we had a horrible drought" or " I remember it was about 3 years before Ormahzd that my son was born". Then again the masses were illiterate and their oral tradition may be good training to remember them, given the benefit of the doubt. John
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
True. Nowadays the amount of information you need to be able to access at a moment's notice to function in society vs. the amount readily available in your head is staggering.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank you for your responses.

Q1 Does anyone know any other cultures that used year names?

I don't, but that doesn't mean there are none. What about the pre-literate Polynesians? Does SA@O'ahu know anything about their year dating?
Tatsunoshi wrote:
-in a way, they're still being used. How many times might someone speak of "the year I got married",… Unofficial to be sure, but at least it demonstrates why 'year names' came before anything else.
You are probably right, but there is a leap to having a fixed event for every year that could be used in legal documents over a wide area.

Q2 For historians, year names instead of a continuing count make chronology difficult, but is there any way in which they are useful to them?
Tatsunoshi wrote:
Q2-if nothing else, it may help to classify different eras or information on an occurrence that may not otherwise be documented.
Yes, you can get information such as that Yadih-abu renewed Annunitum of Tabatum, and therefore must have controlled it. Also, if you find a tablet with, say a Terqan year name in a certain city, Terqa probably controlled that city. (However, as with all information, you cannot be blind. For example, a tablet with a Babylonian reign name was found in Emar in the house of someone engaged in trade with Babylonia, but Babylon can hardly have ruled Emar.)

Eponymous year dates
Q3 Where were eponymous years used besides northern Mesopotamia?

shin no sen wrote:
Athens named each year after the Archon for that year.
Rome named each year after the combined names of the two Consuls of that year.
Reign years of the RC popes were used.
Assyria named each year after the immu (high magistrate) of that year.
John

Perhaps I did not make it clear, but for eponymous year dates each year uses a different name (or sometimes like in Emar every two years), so the numbered reign years of RC popes would not be eponymous years.

Thinking about it, I realize that there are two types of eponymous years. For one type, like Assyria (in northern Mesopotamia), the eponymn rotates among different offices. (The eponymn is the lim(m)u, not immu.) In Assyria it was the king for his first year in office, then other officials or governors of provinces determined by lot or seniority.
Another type was like the Roman, where the eponym was based on a single office that lasted only one year, as the consuls. This is almost like reign years in principle. (In fact, wasn't the system chosen as a republican alternate to reign years?)
I am not sure about the Greek archons, but since there were a number of archons at any one time (I think Athens had 9), I think it was probably of the former type--that is the duties of the eponym archon were not substantially different from those of the other archons, but I am not sure.

They do have lists of the Assyrian limmu, and one refers to an eclipse of the sun in the eponymy of Bur-Sagale, which has been identified with that of June 15 763 BC. That is a cornerstone for determining much of the chronology of the Ancient Near East.

By the way, here is a quote dating the start of the Peloponnesian War: The thirty years' truce, which was entered into after the conquest of Euboea, lasted fourteen years. In the fifteenth, in the forty-eighth year of the priestessship of Chrysis at Argos, in the ephorate of Aenesias at Sparta, in the last month but two of the archonship of Pythodorus at Athens, and six months after the battle of Potidaea, just at the beginning of spring, a Theban force a little over 300 strong… about the first watch of the night, made an armed entry into Plataea, a town of Boeotia in alliance with Athens.( Thucidydes 2.2.1.)
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Reign Years

We are so used to reign years that it seems they would be a natural development, but its historical development is probably not what you would expect.

Above I mentioned that in Egypt the biannual numbering was used early as a year name. This naming came to be using increasingly, the numbering starting over with each ruler, as "the time 14 [in that reign] of the numbering of the oxen and of all small cattle" or " [the year] following time 18,". "The year of the seventh occurrence [in the current reign] of the Numbering of Gold and Lands" or "the year of the xth occurrence [of the numbering]". Apparently at some point, perhaps around the end of 6th dynasty in the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, the numberings became annual, at least in theory. From the 11th dynasty on, it is certain that the numbers were merely regnal years.

In Mesopotamia dating by reign year started to be used during the mid-2nd millennium and was standard for long after that in Asia, though Assyria continued to use eponymous names as well until its demise (they were never used in Babylonia). We also see the reign-year system in the Bible in the 1st half of the 1st millennium BC, in accounts of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel as well as during the Persian period. In China also, reign years are used in the earliest Chinese writings, the Shang oracle bones of the late 2nd millennium BC.

When a reign begins with the death of the previous ruler, a reign will hardly ever start on New Years Day, so when does the 1st year start? There are various ways this problem can be treated. For instance, in Babylonia and Assyria it was standard to call the period between the accession and the next New Year's Day the "accession year", then the next (full) year the "first year."

Q4 Can you think of other ways of theoretically handling this problem, and do you know cases where they actually were used?

Open-ended era

The use of the now standard "AD" years began in 530 AD. It takes the (assumed) date of the birth of Jesus Christ as "year 1" and goes on from there. (AD is short for "anno Domini", in the year of the Lord".) Unlike systems mentioned above, the numbering may go on until the end of the world--certainly unlike the systems discussed above it does not have a mechanism for restarting the counting. However, AD was not the first such open-ended system.

Q5 What earlier such systems were there, and who used them?
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:27 pm    Post subject: Hebrew Calendar Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Open-ended era

The use of the now standard "AD" years began in 530 AD. It takes the (assumed) date of the birth of Jesus Christ as "year 1" and goes on from there. (AD is short for "anno Domini", in the year of the Lord".) Unlike systems mentioned above, the numbering may go on until the end of the world--certainly unlike the systems discussed above it does not have a mechanism for restarting the counting. However, AD was not the first such open-ended system.

Q5 What earlier such systems were there, and who used them?


The Hebrew year 5771 (a leap year) began on 9 September 2010 and ends on 28 September 2011.

The Hebrew calendar (הלוח העברי ha'luach ha'ivri), or Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits (dates to commemorate the death of a relative), and daily Psalm reading, among many ceremonial uses. In Israel, it is an official calendar for civil purposes and provides a time frame for agriculture.

http://www.hebcal.com/hebcal/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_calendar

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Hebrew Calendar Reply with quote
Hosokawa Gracia wrote:
Q5 What earlier [open-ended] systems were there, and who used them?

The Hebrew year 5771 (a leap year) began on 9 September 2010 and ends on 28 September 2011. Carmen
The Anno Mundi (year of [the creation of] the world) system is said to have been thought up around the 2nd or 3rd cent. AD, so is indeed much earlier than the AD system. But there are some even earlier systems that are much more important for establishing chronology. Hasn't anyone studied classical history?

By the way, the Japanese calendar is also lunisolar (i.e. has leap or intercalary months), so the Jewish calendar may come up in a future thread.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Q4 Can you think of other ways of theoretically handling this problem, and do you know cases where they actually were used?


Well, in theory, you could just make an arbitrary call. Three that are obvious would be

1) the year will be known as the last year of the deceased/retired/deposed leader, with year one for the next leader beginning the next year

2) the year will be known as the first year of the new leader

3) it will be known either as the last year/first year depending on which leader was in power the longest during the year

You could even go the confusing route of letting it be known by both.

For example, the nengo years in Japan started whenever the Emperor chose (until the Meiji era) and are known as the first year of the era-but also as the last year of the previous era.

Bethetsu wrote:
Q5 What earlier such systems were there, and who used them?


Looks like there were a few. Some parts of the Roman Empire dated years from when Rome took power, the founding of Rome, or when the Romans did something notable (like the Hispania calender-modern day Spain & Portugal-dated Year One as 38 BC and predated the Christian 'AD'). Similarly, Palestine used the Pompeian calendar, which used the conquest of the area by Pompeius Magnus as year one. The Byzantine Calendar uses the year of 'creation' as year one, although it's debatable if it really predated the AD system.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The Islamic calendar. Starting at the Hiraj or someting. ie. 1400 AH, (after Hiraj) John
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank you.

Q4 Can you think of other ways of theoretically handling the problem [of when reign years began], and do you know cases where they actually were used?
Repeating, the accession-year method in which the period between the accession and the next New Year's Day was the "accession year", then the next (full) year was the "first year," was the normal one in Mesopotamia and was also used elsewhere, such as the Kingdom of Judah.

Looking at Tatsu's answers:
1) the year will be known as the last year of the deceased/retired/deposed leader, with year one for the next leader beginning the next year

This was used by the Chinese during the Qing period, at least. I wonder if it is based on the ancient Chinese usage. If I get hold of the Spring and Autumn Annals I will check it. Or does anyone have it?

2) the year will be known as the first year of the new leader

It was the one used most of the time in ancient Egypt as well as other places as the Kingdom of Israel. This is the one probably most familiar to us as the one normally used in Europe.

3) it will be known either as the last year/first year depending on which leader was in power the longest during the year

I don't know of anyone using that system.

4)You could even go the confusing route of letting it be known by both.

This is a variation on 2--was the reign name used anachronistically to indicate dates during the year the reign started?
Gardiner (Egypt of the Pharohs) seems to imply reign names were used proleptically from the beginning of the year first year, that is used earlier than historical, at least in some periods in Egypt.
Similarly, in Japan there is definitely a tendency, and in certain periods it was normal, to use Japanese nengô like "Meiji" proleptically back to the beginning of the year. For example, Wednesday I heard on the TV that Mt. Shinmoedake, which is now causing trouble in central Kyushu, had an eruption in "the 3rd month of Kyoho 1 (1716)", though Kyoho did not start till the 8th month.

I don't know of cases where year 1 starts in the middle of the year but it is normal to continue using the old name. (Of course it will take time for the news to get around and people to get used to it). For example, in Japan were dates in 1868 after 9月. 8日 referred to as Keio 4 as well as Meiji 1 or the equivalent in other nengo?


Still another method is to use full, or anniversary years. This was done at times in ancient Egypt. In the New Kingdom, the reign number was increased on the anniversary of the start of a kings reign. So if a king came to the throne on 1.iii.25 (y-m-d), then 6.iii.27 would precede 6.iii.23! "It is, accordingly, desirable to determine the exact accession days of each separate New Kingdom king." (Gardiner)

There was also apparently a Greek system in which New Year's Day changed to match the accession!
http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/archaeology/berytus-back/berytus08/74.html
Obviously, we in Japanese studies have it easy.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Q5 What earlier [open-ended] systems were there, and who used them?

Carmen mentioned the Jewish Anno Mundi (Year of [the Creation of] the World) as an example. It appears in a 2nd century AD book of chronology. However, it was not used elsewhere till the 9th century. By the 11th century it had become dominant in the European Jewish community, though. Before this Jews normally used the Seleucid Era dates (see below), and some used them until even comparatively modern times. (Encyclopedia Judaica).

As for AH, in the Islamic calendar Year 1 is 622 AD and its use started a few decades later, so it started after the use of AD. The current Islamic year is 1432 AH.

Tatsu mentioned several.
"Looks like there were a few. Some parts of the Roman Empire dated years from when Rome took power, the founding of Rome, or when the Romans did something notable (like the Hispania calender-modern day Spain & Portugal-dated Year One as 38 BC and predated the Christian 'AD'). Similarly, Palestine used the Pompeian calendar, which used the conquest of the area by Pompeius Magnus as year one. The Byzantine Calendar uses the year of 'creation' as year one, although it's debatable if it really predated the AD system."

I hadn't realized there were so many. The only one of them I have heard of is from the founding of Rome. Apparently it was not much used as a date in Rome itself, more by later historians. Most contemporary documents or citations seem to use the consular eponyms we talked about earlier.

An earlier widely used one was the Olympiad, used by Greek historians to coordinate events in various cities which used their own eponyms. We get dates like this: "year 3 of Olympiad 194." They were apparently using it several centuries BC. Such work of course was the main source of East Mediterranean history and chronology until comparatively recently.

The first system I know to number every year, as well as the earliest I know that was actually used in contemporary day-to-day documents, was the Seleucid Era, which was used throughout the Hellenistic world. Year 1 started in the spring of 311 BC. (People whose calendar started in the fall used the fall of 312 BC as the start.) This dating was actually in normal use at the time, and we get entries like this in the Babylonian Chronicles: Year 88. Seleucus (III) is the king. The Month of Nisannu: in this month, on the eighth day…(a special offering was made). The Seleucid empire disappeared in 63 BC, but the dating continued to be used centuries afterwards.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Modern Year Dates

I will now get into the Modern part of this year-dates thread, "modern" not meaning contemporary, but the modern of "modern history", which I was taught started in 1492.

BC, or other systems that went backward, were not really used until modern times. Before that, historians used the systems discussed earlier, Olympiad, eponymous years, etc. with the various calendars of their sources. Astronomers used the system found in Ptolemy's Almagest (2nd c. AD.) --the "Era of Nabonassar (king of Babylon) ", which started 26 Feb 747 BC or "Era of Philip (successor to Alexander)", which started 12 Nov 324 BC. These eras were used with the Egyptian 365-day years.

In 1583 Joseph Scaliger in order to coordinate these various systems picked a starting year (epoch) that was earlier than recorded history, 4713 BC, and counted years using the Julian calendar. This greatly aided chronological studies. Scaliger's year dates have been completely replaced by AD/BC dates, but they developed in the 19th century into what is known as Julian days, which are often referred to even now.

Q6 What are Julian Days (JD) and how are they used?

The modern BC dates became common in the 17th century, and the present AD/BC can cover all of time. But that is not the only such system. "Astronomical Dates" which use positive and negative integers, were introduced in 1740, and recently CE/BCE is often seen.

Q7 What is the difference if any in the referent year of the following three dates:
AD 1384, 1384 CE, 1384 (astronomical date)?
What is the difference if any in the referent year of the following three dates:
1384 BC, 1384 BCE, -1384 (astronomical date)?

Q What is the point of each of the latter two systems?

Q Some other systems that one sometimes comes across are:
B.P. (/A.P.?) and B.F./A.F. What are these systems and who uses them?
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Q6 What are Julian Days (JD) and how are they used?

Julian Days give you the day of the year as a number--no months. So there are 365~366 JD's each year. We used to use them for marking the date of canning for fish, and there are similar industrial uses quite prevalent today.

Q7 What is the difference if any in the referent year of the following three dates:
AD 1384, 1384 CE, 1384 (astronomical date)?
What is the difference if any in the referent year of the following three dates:
1384 BC, 1384 BCE, -1384 (astronomical date)?


All's good on [AD/+] 1384 [CE]

On the other side, you need to use -1383 for the astronomical date if you want to talk about the same actual year.

Q What is the point of each of the latter two systems?

I would guess that, besides making them more secular (some people argue CE = Christian Era, others "Common Era", so that depends on the spin used), both the CE and astronomical dating are more useful for modern computing. CE and BCE always end up after the date, so you only need to adjust the suffix, and astronomical needs no suffix at all, just a positive or negative integer.

Although, I've seen people use "AD" with the "CE" format for similar reasons (or just out of ignorance).

Q Some other systems that one sometimes comes across are:
B.P. (/A.P.?) and B.F./A.F. What are these systems and who uses them?


BP (usually I see it as lowercase "bp") means, in my experience "before present" and is most often used for paleological--usually pre-historical--works to represent dates that are over 2000 years in the past.

B.F./A.F.--not sure.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I can think of a couple of possibilities for BF/AF, but both are pretty wild guesses. Freemasonry has its own calendar and several 'target' year zero's, but none of them correspond to BF/AF. Perhaps it's just a general 'Before/After Freemasonry'.

There was also a new calender adopted in France after the revolution for a few years (with a few folks still using it, more out of tradtion and respect for history than practical matters) that used the year of the revolution as 1, so perhaps it's Before/After the French (Francaise) Revolution (doubtful, since in French it would be Revolution Francaise).
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Q6 What are Julian Days (JD) and how are they used?
JLBadgley wrote:
Julian Days give you the day of the year as a number--no months. So there are 365~366 JD's each year. We used to use them for marking the date of canning for fish, and there are similar industrial uses quite prevalent today.
I did not know of the use in canning, but I wonder if they use the full Julian Day system. How are years indicated in these industrial uses? What, for example, is the jd for today? (An approximation or an approximate formula is OK.) I have usually come across it in a completely different context.

Q7 What is the difference if any in the referent year of the following three dates:
AD 1384, 1384 CE, 1384 (astronomical date)?
What is the difference if any in the referent year of the following three dates:
1384 BC, 1384 BCE, -1384 (astronomical date)?

Quote:
All's good on [AD/+] 1384 [CE]

On the other side, you need to use -1383 for the astronomical date if you want to talk about the same actual year.
That is correct.

Q What is the point of each of the latter two systems?
Quote:
I would guess that, besides making them more secular (some people argue CE = Christian Era, others "Common Era", so that depends on the spin used), both the CE and astronomical dating are more useful for modern computing. CE and BCE always end up after the date, so you only need to adjust the suffix, and astronomical needs no suffix at all, just a positive or negative integer.
I agree that the point of CE/BCE seems to be to make dates more secular. However, I don't think the use of AD/BC versus +/- is to make the placement of the sign easier for computers--after all, the latter was started in 1740. Since you got Q7 right, you should be able to figure it out. A hint: how do you figure the cyclical year for 1384 BC?

Q Some other systems that one sometimes comes across are:
B.P. (/A.P.?) and B.F./A.F. What are these systems and who uses them?

Quote:

BP (usually I see it as lowercase "bp") means, in my experience "before present" and is most often used for paleological--usually pre-historical--works to represent dates that are over 2000 years in the past.
Yes, that is what I was thinking of.

Quote:
B.F./A.F.--not sure.
Surely there is someone on the forum with a greater knowledge of English literature than me. Smile
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Bethetsu
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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2011 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
It has been several months since I have done anything with this thread. I had better finish it off and go on with the next topic.
Several questions have yet to be discussed.

Q [8]What is the point of [astronomical dates] ?

With them you can subtract the year numbers to get how far apart they are. From 200 BC (A) to AD 200 (B) is B-A-1 = 399. (Just hope you get straight whether to add or subtract the 1. ) But in astronomical dates, -199 to 200 is just B-A. When I asked about 辛酉 in the reign of Jinmu, Tatsu would probably have gotten the answer right if he had used astronomical dates.

However, you still have to be careful with BC or negative astronomical dates, even if they do not cross the 0 point. It is still counterintuitive to me that a date like 720 BC can be described as "towards the end of the 8th century BC."
Also I came across a statement that a siege from about Dec. 589 BC to about June 587 BC lasted over two years. Do you see his problem? He would have done better to use the original text dates from "in the 9th year…in the tenth month" to "in the 11th year…in the 9th month, on the ninth day of the month".

Q6 What are Julian Days (JD) and how are they used?
Joseph Scaliger developed his Julian years (year 1 = 4713 BC) for historians, but years of uneven length are inconvenient for astronomers, who had been using the constant-length Egyptian years. So in the 19th century, astronomers came up with Julian days, which have Jan 1, 4713 BC as day 0. Today is JD 2455694. Julian days are especially useful for coordinating astronomical phenomena. The results are usually calculated and given in terms of BC/AD years of the Julian calendar (see future thread on Western solar calendars).

In order to keep a moderator from deleting this thread as irrelevant to Ancient or Heian Japan, I will hasten to add that since the Julian day-count, like the Chinese cycles, goes day-by-day without a break for anything, it is easy to find the kanshi 干支date of a Julian day. (Kanshi are the ancient Chinese 60-day cycle names. We discussed them in the previous calendar thread. See the table of contents in the sticky thread of this forum.) Julian day (JD) 11 is a 甲子 (No. 1) day. Thus, the kanshi of a given JD can be found by the formula: (JD-10) mod 60+1. (the remainder after dividing JD -10 by 60, plus 1.)
The Japanese site http://maechan.net/kanreki/ does the calculations with Julian Days and a number of calendars.

Q [9] B.F./A.F. are "before Ford," and "after Ford," but I have never heard them used in Michigan.

Supplement--Western years in Japan:
The 1610 printed translation of the classic Imitation of Christ, or Contemptus Mundi (Jp. Kontemutsusu Munji) is dated both "慶長十五年四月中旬" (Keichô 15, middle of the 4th Month) and 御救世以来千六百十年 (1610 Years since the Salvation of the World). (See the left and right sides of my date collage below).

Now, a date like 2011 is usually simply written as 2011年 (year). However,
when it is needed to specify that is it 2011 AD as opposed to some other system, especially in legal documents, it is usually specified 西暦[western calendar]2011年. When historians need to specify BC and AD they usually write something like this: 紀元前63年9月23日 – 紀元14年8月19日 (Sept. 23, 63 BC to August 19, AD 14).

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