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Chinese months follow the phases of the moon. The solar-based agricultural calendar is made up of twenty-four points called jieqi. They are essentially seasonal markers to help farmers decide when to plant or harvest crops, as the lunisolar calendar is for obvious reasons unreliable in this respect.

The term Jiéqì is usually translated as "Solar Terms" (lit. Nodes of Weather). Each is the instant when the sun reaches one of twenty-four equally spaced points along the ecliptic, including the solstices and equinoxes, positioned at fifteen degree intervals. In the table below, these measures are given in the standard astronomical convention of ecliptic longitude, zero degrees being positioned at the vernal equinox point. Because the calculation is solar-based, these jiéqì fall around the same date every year in solar calendars such as the Gregorian Calendar, but do not form any obvious pattern in the Chinese calendar. The dates below are approximate and may vary slightly from year to year due to the intercalary rules of the Gregorian calendar. Jiéqì are published each year in farmers' almanacs. Chinese New Year is usually the new moon day closest to lìchūn. Each calendar month under the heading "M" contains the designated jiéqì called a principle term, which is an entry into a sign of the zodiac, also known as a cusp. Here term has the archaic meaning of a limit, not a duration. In Chinese astronomy, seasons are centered on the solstices and equinoxes, whereas in the standard Western definition, they begin at the solstices and equinoxes. Thus the term Beginning of Spring and the related Spring Festival fall in February, when it is still very chilly in temperate latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.

M Ecliptic
Chinese Name Gregorian
Date (approx.)
  315° lichun 4 February start of spring spring starts here according to the Chinese definition of a season
1 330° yushui 19 February rain water starting at this point, the temperature makes rain more likely than snow
  345° qizhe 5 March awakening of insects when [hibernating] insects awake
2 chunfen 21 March vernal equinox lit. the central divide of spring (referring to the Chinese seasonal definition)
  15° qingming 5 April clear and bright a Chinese festival where traditionally, ancestral graves are tended
3 30° guyu 20 April grain rains rain helps grain grow
  45° lixia 6 May start of summer refers to the Chinese seasonal definition
4 60° xiaoman 21 May grain full grains are plump
  75° mangzhong 6 June grain in ear lit. awns (beard of grain) grow
5 90° xiazhi 21 June summer solstice lit. summer extreme (of sun's height)
  105° xiaoshu 7 July minor heat when heat starts to get unbearable
6 120° dashu 23 July major heat the hottest time of the year
  135° liqiu 7 August start of autumn uses the Chinese seasonal definition
7 150° chushu 23 August limit of heat lit. dwell in heat
  165° bailu 8 September white dew condensed moisture makes dew white; a sign of autumn
8 180° qiufen 23 September autumnal equinox lit. central divide of autumn (refers to the Chinese seasonal definition)
  195° hanlu 8 October cold dew dew starts turning into frost
9 210° shuangjiang 23 October descent of frost appearance of frost and descent of temperature
  225° lidong 7 November start of winter refers to the Chinese seasonal definition
10 240° xiaoxue 22 November minor snow snow starts falling
  255° daxue 7 December major snow season of snowstorms in full swing
11 270° dongzhi 22 December winter solstice lit. winter extreme (of sun's height)
  285° xiaohan 6 January minor cold cold starts to become unbearable
12 300° dahan 20 January major cold coldest time of year

Note: The third jieqi was originally called (qizhe) but renamed to (jingzhe) in the era of the Emperor Jing of Han (hanjingdi) to avoid writing his given name qi.

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