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Time in Japan: Calendar Procedures

 
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:57 am    Post subject: Time in Japan: Calendar Procedures Reply with quote
How do I know today is April 13? My society tells me. My society says this is April 13, and they got it by following the rules of the Gregorian calendar for the lengths of each month, including that for leap year. This is a procedure for reckoning the days. Some calendars have even simpler procedures--as the Egyptian--12 30-day months + 5 days, or even the Meso-American 20-day "months" (which I know nothing about), while some such as the Chinese-type calendars can take pages to define.

But for many societies a fixed calendar procedure was not necessary. They used various natural events for time indicators, to tell them it was time for such and such an activity, but did not need to reckon time. "With the exception of the Andean and Mesoamerican regions…it is difficult to say [most native groups in America] had true calendrical systems. [They] had systems of naming moons according to their relationship with other seasonal and recurrent events, but they were not intended to represent a whole year…"
For many activities observation was enough: "Plant X during the waxing moon after the swallows start coming." If activities were on a village level, a general knowledge of the day plus word of mouth shortly before was enough. For activities involving several groups, a general idea of the day plus communications was probably enough as it would not matter if there was a difference of a day or so in getting together. However, there could be occasions when widely scattered groups would want to act on a specific day. What mechanism could they use?
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 5:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I would think you said it. The most accurate method for specific dates of rendezvous for disparate groups would be moon phase reckoning. John
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Lunar calendars were certainly in use, but at times even they might have been inadequate.

I grew up in bayou country, and I remember this story from my state history class half a century ago. (It was not as parochial a place as some people might think, for we had no parish history, but studied world geography in the 4th grade. We had state studies in the 8th grade; history included the French and Spanish colonial periods and so was interesting. Our teacher was from Arkansas and said we were lucky.)

In 1729, during the French colonial period, the Natchez Indians decided to rise up against the French around Ft. Rosalie (now Natchez, Miss.) because of the commandant's unreasonable demands. They decided they would all act on the same day, two moons away. Each group was given a bundle of sticks, and they were supposed to burn one a day, and the day of the last, to attack.
I think that makes sense if you do not have a real calendar procedure. Since different groups might see the new moon on different days depending on weather and topography, saying something like "five days after the second new moon" might not get you the same day. Why would they need sticks? If I had to do something 60 days from now and could not use knowledge of a calendar as "June 15," I don't think I could keep track without some kind of recording device. Giving everyone sticks would seem to be safer than just hoping no one would get confused, and perhaps the idea that everyone was burning a stick at the same time would also be symbolic or encouraging, as some people cross off days till a big event.
However, the method was not completely safe, for the story goes that a woman opposed to the uprising burned some of the sticks, so one group attacked early and the French were put on guard. But whether or not that story was true, 250 French were killed, and then in retaliation the whole Natchez tribe was almost completely wiped out.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The oldest calendar that we really know is the Sumerian-Babylonian calendar, which we know well from the end of the 3rd millennium BC through the early years of AD. It was a lunisolar calendar, which meant the months were coordinated to the moon phases but the names of the months were adjusted for the season. As the months in this calendar were irregular in length, they were clearly closely tied with observation and not schematic, but experts still do not agree exactly on what was observed, though the idea that the month started with the first visible new moon is the most common understanding. Of course, the exact procedure varied with the time and place, as Babylon, Greece, and the Egyptian temple lunar calendar. In the 4th or 3rd cent. BC, someone someone discovered how to calculate the actual, not just average, positions of celestial bodies using a combination of cycles, and we have many tablets recording lunar observations and predictions, but specialists have not yet agreed on the relation between predictions and the civil calendar.

Another factor in the calendar was intercalary months, usually inserted after the 12th or 6th months. The early ones are quite irregular, probably based on agricultural phenomena, but it is clear that they were proclaimed by the king. For example, a letter exists in which Hammurabi (18th cent. B.C.) himself directed when the intercalary month would occur. (There would be an intercalary Elulu (6th) month, so the 7th month itself would be put off, but the taxes due in the 7th month would not be!) But when we again have fairly complete records in the 8th century BC, it is clear that they are regularizing the insertion based on astronomical phenomena, in particular the equinoxes. However, it seems the king still had to proclaim them, for there are a few times when an expected intercalation was not made during a time of political turmoil. But during the 5th century BC the intercalations started to be made automatically using a 19-year pattern.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
In China, the earliest dates appear at the same time as writing, on the Shang oracle bones of about 1250 BC. They have little month or year information, mainly cyclical day information, so there is little agreement on the calendar. (I have made a resolve not to get involved with calendar studies of this period, especially as I do not know Chinese.) However, there are some bronze vessels dated in the 13th or even one in the 14th month, so it was obviously a lunisolar calendar.
During the Eastern Zhou period there was proliferation of calendars, in simultaneous use by the multiple independent states. But the
only real data we have to use to reconstructing a calendar is the Spring and Summer Annals (722 to 481 BC), which records 30+ datable eclipses. There have been various analyses of the data for over two millennia, but the one by Shinjô Shinzô suggests that the intercalary months were becoming more regular during this period, but were not completely regular. As the dates of days are given by cyclical days, not days of the month, little is known about how the start of the month was determined. However, one assumes the king was involved in the calendar. Certainly in the imperial ideology the ruler was responsible for the calendar. Also, the kanji for "intercalary" is 閏, which is the king within the gates. One interpretation is that during the time the king did not go out to do his normal business. A joke is that he was too busy trying to figure out the calendar of that month to leave the house.

However, probably around the middle of the 4th century BC, the “Warring States” period, fully calculated calendars, the quarter-day calendars 四分曆, which calculated the solar year at exactly 365¼ days, developed. Except for the 12x30+5 Egyptian calendar, this was probably the first fully calculated civil calendar procedure.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Unlike the Near Eastern calendars, the quarter-day calendars did not try to determine the actual day of new moon, but used an average (which was only about 22 seconds off), so the month frequently started one day before or after the true moon. Also, different states used calendars with different starting points, so sometimes had different days for the new moon and apparently started the year in different months.

In 104 BC the Han dynasty adopted the Taisho 太初 calendar. From then on, the official procedures, commentaries on the problems with the previous procedures, the name of the principle author of the procedure, etc. were recorded in the official Chinese histories. Between the adoption of the Taisho calendar and the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1912 there were about 50 revisions of the calendar in China, though over 100 procedures are known. Some involved major changes that really improved the accuracy, and some were revisions only in name, and some went backwards, but the procedures over the centuries came to be very close to astronomical reality. Many revisions were political in purpose, as promulgating a new calendar became the prerogative and duty of the emperor, especially when there was a change in dynasty. Besides giving the rules for finding the starts of years and months, calendar procedures came to give rules for determining things like lucky/unlucky days, length of daylight, and, especially solar and lunar eclipses. Two high points were the Indian-influenced Taien calendar 大衍暦 of 729 AD and the Mongol Period Juji Calendar授時暦 of 1281.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
What about Japan? One presume Japan early used a lunar calendar, but (despite Shibukawa Harumi) it is hardly conceivable that they had a mathematical procedure.
The following is my reconstrction. I will discuss it more on a later thread.

The Japanese learned the Chinese system for cyclical years and numbering months at least around the middle of the 5th century (sword dated 辛亥年七月中). They might have even known a system for inserting intercalary months in a 19-year cycle, which they probably could have managed if they had any record-keeping at all. But according to the Nihon Shoki, in 553 the Japanese court asked Paekche to send calendar experts and books to Japan. They probably brought the 443 Genka calendar procedure 元嘉暦of the Southern Sung used in Paekche. Presumably they made an effort to make a yearly calendar using the procedure, and a sword found two years ago dated 庚寅(570)正月六日庚寅日 suggests they managed.
http://forums.samurai-archives.com/viewtopic.php?t=5264
I think Shotoku Taishi formally introduced the next year's calendar at the end of 603. The scholars who went to Tang in that century knew that the Genka calendar was 200 years old and there had been many changes since, so at the end of the century it was decided to gradually change to the Chinese calendar then in use, which was far more complicated.
We know much more for sure after that. Subsequently three more Chinese procedures were adopted, in 764,858, and 862, but after Sugawara Michizane stopped the Tang Embassies no more were adopted, so Japan used the 622 Senmyô calendar 宣明暦 from 862 to 1684.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
It has been a while since I have posted here. Other things came up, but I will continue.

There are hardly any actual early calendars left, so we get our information about them mostly from dates in documents such a diaries, etc., especially those that give cyclical days. When these are compared with calculations according to the procedures, by far most match the calculations. Some of the ones that do not, may be the result of errors or of decisions like to avoid a New Year Day solar eclipse, but calendars certainly were not just changed at will. However, a few types of changes became standardized. For example, until the Chinese calendars of the 5th and 6th centuries, every nineteen years, 11/1 was on the Winter Solstice (the Metonic Cycle). However, under the later, more accurate calendars, this was not necessarily so, and therefore from 860 on, the Japanese court changed the calendar when necessary to make 11/1 fall on the Winter Solstice, citing a commentary of the Southern Liang dynasty (AD 502–557). However, as time went by, the necessary changes became more frequent and complicated. In 1487 the calendar department gave up adjusting, either because they saw that they were fighting a loosing battle against the heavens, or because at that period the court did not have the will to do any more than absolutely necessary.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I get weekly emails from a Yahoo J-auctions seller that touch on Japanese history-his subject this week was astronomy and the calendar.

"Today, I write about "Astronomical observation."
Astronomical observation was very important for ancient people.
About 1300 years ago, There are following documents.
“A.D. 682 , The thing similar to the flag of the color of fire appeared in the night sky , and moved north.”
This is considered to be aurora.
“A.D. 684 , The comet appeared in the northwestern night sky.”
This is considered to be Halley's comet.

The ancient person considered signs of extraordinary astronomical events to be an omen of disaster.
Comet : The omen of flood damage
Aurora : The signs of war
Solar eclipse : The signs of decline of the country by misgovernment

They did not neglect astronomical observation.

The early 1600s, Japan was in trouble about a calendar.
Those days, the Chinese lunar calendar was used.
Since this calendar was used from 800 years ago, it was inaccurate by error.
Therefore, the calendar was different regionally.
For example, since the calendar of Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo) is different.
The talk between the Emperor and a general was planned.
The general was criticized behind time.
The shogunate needed the common exact calendar.
They requested it from Shibukawa Harumi.
Shibukawa Harumi is a famous astronomer in Edo.
He began to investigate the calendar.
He thought that the calendar made 400 years ago in China was the most exact.
He did prediction of a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse, in order to verify the accuracy of a calendar.
His prediction came true mostly.
However, his prediction was wrong only once.
He thought and understood.
“The earth is round.”
He improved the calendar.
1683, He completed a calendar of Japanese origin and named his calendar the Yamatoreki.
Then, the calendar was used till 1872, being improved.
2012, a movie “Tenchimeisatu” that modeled him was released.

The end of the 19th century, it had already been explained that the earth's axis is moving.
However, it has not been explained how does it move.
1900, International joint astronomical observation started.
The astronomer of each country observed the same star at the same latitude.
The observation place in Japan is Iwate.
That is a very cold area.
Kimura Hisashi observed carefully in the cold room.
He did not use heating in order to lessen the error of observation.
It was severe observation.

The observations of countries other than Japan had the same regularity.
It was said that observations of Japan cannot be trusted.

Kimura Hisashi observed again carefully.
His observations were completely the same.
He was sure that observations are right.
He did much calculation using the abacus.
And he derived the equation.
Δφ = X cos λ + Y sin λ + Z

After that, He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1936.

1958, Jan Oort (The astronomer of the Netherlands) discovered supernova explosion in the Crab Nebula.
It was called great discovery.
He found old documents of Japan.
It was the document written by Fujiwarano Sadaie in 1054.



"Mid-April, near star of Tenkan ,The bright star appeared in east night sky."
And he discovered supernova explosion.
Japanese ancient astronomer did good work."
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank you for posting that,
Tatsu. I haven't written on this thread for a while. I had better get back to it, though I haven't been neglecting my calendar studies completely.

I looked up Fujiwara no Sadaie (Teika). He was one of the most significant men of letters of his time, one of the compilers of the Shin Kokin Waka Shuu, and a famous calligrapher. Much of his diary Meigetsuki 明月記 from 1180-1235, is extant, and it is particularly important. As I mentioned two posts above, diaries are out best knowledge of the calendars that were actually used. For example, towards the left in the above photo, information about the 10th month is given. 

The Crab Nebula explosion is known from Chinese records. Sadaie gives it in a list of "guest stars," copied from the records of the Yin-yang Bureau. It was before he was born. For more, see this English page. But the photo posted above, though it probably is from his diary, does not seem to be the passage about the nova.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Besides the Kyoto calendar, during the medieval period, major shrines and temples also calculated and published calendars, but they all used the same calendar procedure, the Senmyo calendar. The oldest may be the one published by the Mishima Jinja in Izu which certainly existed in the 14th century and may go back to near the beginning of the Kamakura shogunate. Others were published in Omiya, Aizu Suwa Jinja, and from early Edo, in Edo and by Ise Shrine. These calendars sometimes developed different customs which occasionally resulted in different intercalary months or a month starting on a different day from Kyoto or each other. Also some differences were probably just mistakes. Unfortunately, not much is known about these calendars because hardly any pre-Edo calendars of any kind are left, and we do not have many diaries using them.

As I mentioned in an earlier thread, sometimes the difference was noted, and sometimes there is a document written with a different intercalary month from the Kyoto calendar. The Kyoto calendar was not necessarily considered authoritative. For example, in the problem with the New Year of the 1583 calendar mentioned in that thread, Nobunaga tried to get the court to change its calendar to the one used by the Owari calendar makers, and in the Kanto, Hojo Ujimasa did not send to Kyoto to see what they had, but asked a good mathematician among his retainers to decide. (I think the problem here was probably a small difference in the calculation of the time of the new moon. Modern calculations agree with the court calendar.) This may have partly due to the lack of imperial authority in general, though the imperial era names were certainly recognized throughout the country, but perhaps even more to the fact that the Senmyo procedure was borrowed from China, so each publisher thought it had as much right as the court to make a calendar.
There are some existing Aizu calendars from 1634 on. Those all have the same dates as the Kyoto calendars, but it is certain they calculated their own, because the calculation sheets for some years still exist. Those are things I would definitely like to see!
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