The New Millennium
ÁÎ×Ó¹â HenryC.K.Liu ¹ù¤l¥ú
hliu at SPAMmindspring.com
Thu Dec 23 17:06:31 MST 1999
The New Millennium
Henry C.K. Liu
The year 2000 marks two chronological events in the Western Calendar: a
new millennium and a new century. Its celebration marks the global
dominance of Western culture in the 20th century. The millennium is
merely year 4398 in Chinese lunar calendar a nonevent.
Chinese culture has its own system of chronology. The lunar calendar
that was introduced around 2200BC by the ancestors of the founders of
the Xia dynasty (2100-1600 BC), and was in continuous use since the Han
dynasty from 206 BC. A solar calendar had been adopted in 1121 BC by
the ancient Zhou dynasty (1027-256 BC).
The solar calendar is generally 2 months ahead of the lunar calendar,
but the difference is more than merely temporal. The adoption of
calendar is a tour de force gesture of a grand sovereign and a political
strategy of profound sophistication in a culture in which formal rituals
Wu Zetian, the only female sovereign in Chinese history, revived the
ancient Zhou solar calendar in the 7th century. She exploited the
political support of anti-Confucian Buddhists and the reform-minded
litterati to institute political reforms that pointed toward the ancient
Zhou dynasty, the model period in Chinese history that Confucius
(551-479 B.C.) himself had declared as ideal.
Such paradoxical manipulations would survive to modern time in Chinese
politics, the winners inevitably co-opting the previously denounced
policies of the opposition losers, only with a passion in excess of that
of their former enemies. It is a very Daoist behavior pattern.
Such paradox tends to occur especially when ideology has been the
pretext for power struggle, and the quest for power has been
rationalized by presumed ideological orthodoxy.
The re-adoption of the ancient Zhou solar calendar itself tends to
weaken the in-place cultural conditioning since attached to customary
Confucian rites that have proliferated over the centuries under the Xia
lunar calendar. The new solar calendar makes these obscure rituals seem
less natural in the date-regulated habits of the populace, who for
hundreds of generations have become accustomed to the lunar calendar.
Over centuries, the Chinese people have unquestioningly accepted the
ingrained but obscure Confucian rituals according to the Xia lunar
calendar, even though the solar calendar of the ancient Zhou dynasty
(1027-256 B.C.) has been considered more historically orthodox by
Confucian scholars. Now a reversal, in the name of reverence for
Confucian orthodoxy, would in fact liberate the public from obscure and
obsolete Confucian ritual practices.
More than a millennium later, Otto von Bismark (1815-1898) employed a
similar strategy, albeit for a reverse purpose. Bismark instituted
sweeping social reforms to defuse radical domestic socialist pressure,
and at the same time, to utilize the resultant economic growth to
promote Prussian conservative objectives of German nationalism and
A later example in history than that of Wu Zetian, of calendar reform as
political strategy, was the anti-clerical French Revolutionary Calendar,
adopted on October 3, 1793 by radical populist Hebertists in their
de-Christianization movement. It designated September 22, 1792, the
founding date of the Republic, as Vendemiaire 1, Year I of the Republic
of France, the first day of the new Revolutionary Calendar.
The French Revolutionary Calendar changed the names of the months to
remove all reminders of despotic traditions, such as August, named after
Roman Emperor Augustus; July, named after Julius Caesar and March (Mars
in French), named after the Roman God of War. It would make all months
30 days equally to emphasize equality and rationality. The remaining 5
days of the year, called sans-culottides, after the name given to the
members of the lower classes not wearing fancy culottes (breeches),
would be feast days for the laboring class, called: Virtue, Genius,
Labor, Reason and Rewards.
The new names for the months in the new calendar was invented by
revolutionary dramatist Philippe Fabre d'Eglantine (1755-1794), Danton's
talented secretary who wwas tragically guillotined in the prime age of
39, a mere 5 years after the storming of the Bastille, the popular
uprising which launched the French Revolution.
The French Revolutionary Calendar would reject the year of the birth of
Christ as the 1st year of anno Domini (year of our Lord). It would
replace the 7-day week, viewed by revolutionary zealots as an obsolete
Christian relic, with the metric 10-day decade, unwittingly causing a
counterrevolutionary, regressive reduction in the number of days of rest
for the working populace from 4 to 3 in a month.
The overall purpose would be to remove from the cultural consciousness
all Christian events such as Christmas, Easter, All Saints Day, the
Sabbath, etc., as part of a program to replace Christianity with a Cult
The French Revolutionary Calendar would remain in effect until the
Thermidorian Reaction, a period of political revisionism, of vulgar
extravagance in social manners, of greed and scandal and of
merveilleuses: women known for their underdressed overdressing in
public. The Thermidorian Reaction would be marked with growth of
corruption, inflationary speculation and manipulative profiteering,
suspension of populist economic regulations, topped with a wholesale
repeal of de-Christianization practices.
The Thermidorian Reaction is so named because it came after the coup
d'etat of 9 Thermidor, Year III of the Republic (July 27, 1794). It
brougt down Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), ending the reign of
Terror, and brought to power a convenient coalition of the conservative
old bourgeoisie and the boisterous parvenus and nouveaux riches, which
would deliver the nation, another 5 years later, to a military dictator
in the person of Napoleon.
The adoption of calendars, systems of reckoning the passage of time for
historical, civil and religious purposes, is an indispensable
prerequisite for human civilization.
>From ancient time, man has organized his activities by the rhythm of day
and night (the solar day), practiced his religious observances by the
cyclical phases of the moon (the lunar month) and scheduled his
agricultural efforts by the seasons (the tropical year).
These 3 fundamental cycles of chronology are:
The solar day: the time it takes for the earth to rotate once on its
axis, the cycle of individual functions such as meals and sleep;
The lunar month: the time it takes to bring the moon again into the same
position around the earth with relation to the sun, also known as the
synodic month, the cycles for spiritual cognition; and
The tropical year: the time it takes for the earth to circle the sun
once, the cycle for seasonal work and record keeping.
These 3 cycles are mathematically incommensurable because while the
lunar month is equal to approximately 29 solar days, yielding a 354-day
year, the tropical year contains slightly less than 365 days, yielding
months of 30.43 solar days. Many ingenious methods have been adopted by
human societies to reconcile this incongruity.
Ancient calendars had generally been based primarily on lunar months
that were fixed alternatively with 29 or 30 solar days, as required, to
keep in step with the lunar phases and to avoid the introduction of
fractional days. The lunar months were reconciled with the tropical
year by the use of intercalation, the arbitrary insertion of an
additional day or month to keep the calendar in accord with the cycle of
the seasons. A modern version of intercalation would be the addition of
February 29 on leap years.
As civilization became more complex and man's temporal perspective
lengthened, calendars departed gradually from the pre-historic practice
of adherence to lunar months. The tropical year then emerged as the
fundamental basis of chronological reckoning and the month was retained
only as a convenient subdivision.
The modern calendar in common use in most parts of the world, a broadly
accepted convention no less arbitrary than other calendars, has its
roots in Egypt.
The Egyptian year was divided into 3 seasons of 4 months: Flood season,
Seed season and Harvest season, as was natural to its geo-culture.
As time went on, the Egyptian calendar year, shorter than the tropical
year by a fraction of a day, gradually became out of sync with the
seasons. The ancient Egyptians observed, however, that the flooding of
the Nile consistently occurred at the time of the year when Sirius, the
brightest star in the sky, rose in the east at sunrise. Modern
astronomy would identify Sirius as a double-star system 8.7 light years
from the sun, in the constellation Canis Major.
The ancient Egyptians were able to keep a record of the discrepancy
between the calendar year and the seasons by observing the shifting of
the date in their calendar of Sirius' heliacal rising, which is its
first rising after invisibility due to conjunction with the sun.
Ancient Egyptians were quite accustomed to the shifting of the seasons
with respect to the calendar year, as modern Christians would be about
the arrival of Easter.
The Egyptian calendar, the only ancient one reckoned by fixed rule,
rather than by observation or local ordinance, was particularly suitable
for dating historical astronomical records. It was used by Ptolemy, the
celebrated Greco-Egyptian mathematician-astronomer, around 150 A.D, and
preferred by Western astronomers until the 16th Century.
The Babylonian and Greek calendars were similarly lunar based, with an
intercalary month introduced at irregular intervals in order to keep the
calendar attuned to the cycle of the seasons.
It is difficult and sometimes impossible to translate Babylonian dates
into the modern calendar because the observation of the first crescent
of the moon is affected by local factors that does not relate to
astronomical reckoning and Babylonian records of intercalation were
The Roman calendar was lunar at first with the pontifex maximus enjoying
the power to proclaim intercalation.
Julius Caesar (102-44 BC), by whose time the calendar had been so abused
by the repeated use of intercalation for political purposes that January
was falling in autumn, decided to reform Roman calendar on advice from
the 1st-Century-B.C. Alexandrian astronomer, Sosigenes. To make up for
past deficiencies, Ceasar extended the length of the year 46 BC to 445
days, a sizable addition of 90 days to its normal 355-day-year.
This caused spring to occur in March after 45 BC instead of the 1st
month of the year as in ancient time.
Thereafter, the Julian calendar stipulated common years of 365 days and
an intercalary day added to February every 4th year. Names were given
to the 1st, 5th, 7th, 13th and 15th days of the month.
Shakespeare would make famous the ides of March (the 15th day) in his
play: Julius Caesar, in which a soothsayer warns the unheeding Caesar to
be beware of the ides of March on which date he would meet with demise.
An ambiguous expression in Caesar's edict on calendar reform led to the
adding of an intercalary day every 3rd year until the mistake was
discovered by Augustus (63 BC - 14 AD). Augustus then decreed all leap
years to be omitted between 8 BC and 7 AD. to compensate for the error,
after which the normal sequence was resumed uninterrupted until the
Gregorian reform of 1582.
The 7-day week is a Judea-Christian religious rhythm that was
superimposed on the Julian calendar after Constantine (288-337) adopted
Christianity for the Roman Empire.
In the Middle Ages, time, calendar and history were reckoned by the
Creation of the world was dated 4,484 years before 753 BC, the year of
the founding of Rome by Romulus, and modern history from the birth of
Historical events thereafter were chronicled by papal reigns, beginning
with St Peter's, which was fixed at 42-67 AD. Current events were
recorded in relation to religious holidays and saints' days.
The year began in March - the month, according to Chaucer (1340-1400),
"in which the world began, when God first made man." Ecclesiastically,
it began at Easter, the day of the resurrection of Christ, and because
this was a shifting feast falling everywhere within a period of 30 days,
historical dating was imprecise. Hours of the day were named for the
hours of prayer: matins around midnight; lauds around 3 a.m.; prime the
first hour of daylight, at sunrise or about 6 a.m.; vespers at 6 in the
evening and compline at bedtime.
The true length of the tropical year is 365.2422 days, or slightly less
than the value adopted in the Julian calendar.
By the beginning of the 16th century, this discrepancy had caused the
spring equinox to fall on March 11 instead of March 21, the date assumed
in the ecclesiastical tables from which the date of Easter, the
paramount Christian religious date, was computed.
The Christian Ecclesiastical Calendar, with its shifting feasts, traces
back to its reconciliation of the 7-day week tradition with the Roman
calendar. The resurrection of Jesus allegedly took place on a Sunday,
which had been the first day of the religious week rather than the last
day of the weekend as in modern time.
The Bible places the Passion with relation to the Jewish Passover which
falls on the evening of the 14th Nisan, the 7th month of the
ecclesiastical year in the Jewish calendar. The New Year in the Jewish
calendar is the first day of Tishri, falling between September and
October in the Gregorian Calendar. Hence, Easter must fall on a Sunday
nearest to the 14th Nisan. In 325, the first Council of Nicaea
determined that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the full moon
next after the vernal equinox which was considered by the Church to fall
on March 21.
In the 6th Century in England, a protracted dispute developed among
those Christians who had derived their rites from the Celts, and other
Christians who had been converted as a result of the mission of St
Augustine. The dispute focused on the Celts' having retained a
computation for Easter based on a lunar cycle of 84 years while the St
Augustine Christians had based theirs on a Roman cycle of 532 years
since the 5th Century. Finally, the synod of Whitby in 663 under King
Oswy of Northumbria, one of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy (7-kingdom
confederacy) in England, held in an abby founded by St. Hilda in 657,
settled the dispute in favor of the Roman system.
Whitby, a seaport at the mouth of the Esk in Yorkshire, North England,
is where Captain James Cook (1728-1779) served as a shipbuilder's
apprentice and where his ship, Resolution, was built. Cook, explorer of
the Antarctic Ocean and discoverer of New Caledonia, was killed in 1779
by natives on the Hawaii Islands.
In 1582, to restore the agreement between the civil and the Christian
ecclesiastical calendars, Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull in which
he ordained that the day after Thursday, October 4 of that year be
called Friday, October 15, making October 5-14, 1582 nonexistent in
Western history, and that ensuing leap years would be omitted when they
fall on centennial years not divisible by 400.
The Gregorian calendar would be adopted thereafter in all Catholic
countries while the Protestant British territories, including her
American colonies, would adopt it only in 1752. By then, the difference
between the 2 calendars had increased to 11 days because 1700 being not
a Gregorian leap year. Hence the British would accomplish the change by
calling the day following September 2, September 14, thus rendering
September 3-13, 1752 nonexistent in British history.
Washington's birthday which falls on February 11, 1731 O.S. (for Old
Style or Julian), becomes February 22, 1732 N.S. (for New Style or
Gregorian), since, in addition to the 11-day gap, the Old Style New
Year's Day occcurs usually on March 25 and the New Style New Year's Day
occurs on January 1. Gradually, the use of N.S. would become
unnecessary as the Gregorian calendar becomes universal.
In the 20th century, the Julian calendar would be 13 days behind the
Gregorian, because 1800 and 1900 were not leap years in the latter. In
modern time, the Gregorian calendar would be in official use for civil
purposes throughout the world.
A vestige of the Roman calendar is the name September which in Latin
means the 7th month but in fact is the name of the 9th month in the
China adopted the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1912 after the
founding of the Republic of China while the then newly-formed Soviet
Union would adopt it on February 14, 1918 after the October Revolution.
The Chinese lunar New Year's Day usually occurs between January 10 and
February 19 of the Gregorian calendar.
The Chinese ancient Zhou dynasty (1027-256 B.C.) solar calendar (Zhou
Li) has been devised to have 6 cycles each having 60 days. The 60-day
cycle is divided into 6 periods (xun) of 10 days each, with 3 such
periods making a month, yielding an even 30 day-day month and a 360-day
nominal year. The xun (10-day period) is the basic unit in the Chinese
calendar. A month is divided into upper period (shang xun), middle
period (zhong xun) and lower period (xia xun).
By 5th Century BC, Chinese astronomers had calculated the solar year to
be 365.2444 days (off by 0.0022 days) and the solar month at 29.53059
The years are arranged in major cycles of 60 years within which there
are 12 minor cycles of 5 years each. The solar day is divided into 12
shichen periods each lasting 2 hours. An hour is known as a xiaoshi
The word wine (jiu) in Chinese is written by combining the root sign of
water (shui) with the sign for the 10th shichen (you) which falls
between 5-7 p.m. In other words, wine is the beverage drunk during the
Calendar dates determine the rhythm and importance of social, religious
and political rituals. As traditional dates in the lunar calendar are
revised to fit the newly revived solar calendar, many of the elaborate
rituals assocated with the old calendar dates are de-emphasized or
eliminated, freeing society to adopt new rituals that are designed to
reinforce the legitimacy and the reformed social values of the new
political order. Through calendar reform, the social and political
purposes of the reform agenda of the female ruler are enhanced.
The Chinese tradition of adopting the reign of an Emperor as the
beginning of an era is not unique among human societies.
The Athenians identified an era by its archon (chief magistrate) and the
Romans identified it by its consul. The Japanese, having adopted the
Chinese custom in the 6th Century, continue to date an era by the reign
of their Heaven Emperor (Tianhuang).
In chronology, an era is a period reckoned from an artificially fixed
point in time, as before or after the birth of Christ: BC for Before
Christ and AD for anno Domini (year of the Lord).
The best known points in Western historical time, beside the birth of
The alleged creation of the world in Jewish mythical history which is
equivalent to 3761 BC; and in Byzantine history, 5508 BC;
The founding of the city of Rome in 753 BC, the year marked AUD for ad
urbe condita (from the founding of the city);
The hijira, the migration of the Mohammed to Medina from Mecca in 622
AD, abbreviate A.H. and the founding of the Olympic games in ancient
Greece in 776 BC: time in Olympiads.
Chinese eras are marked by the name of reigns of individual sovereign in
political dynasties. Many sovereigns adopt more than one reign, the
beginning year of which being year I. The Republic of China continued
this practice in 1912.
Since years are of different lengths in different calendars and do not
begin on the same day, resulting in confusion and inaccurate
calculations, there are frequent anomalies in dating in history.
The most famous anomaly is the late setting of the beginning of the
Christian era by the Roman monk-scholar Dionysius Exiguous (dc 545),
thus putting the historical birth of Christ at 4 BC, 4 years before the
calendar birth year of Christ.
Chinese history generally accepts the reign of the Yellow Emperor
(Huangdi 2700-2600 BC) as its beginning point but the ancient reign
falls in the category of legend.
The Xia dynasty (2100-1600 B.C.) was reportedly founded in 2205 BC but
even while it was a period in which a calendar was reportedly adopted,
its chronological authenticity has resisted efforts of exact
Records from the Bamboo Annals (Zhushu Jinian), a set of records carved
in bamboo strips excavated in 281 AD, yielded the earliest verifiable,
detailed date in Chinese history as 841 BC, although orthodox chronology
generally dates the founding of the Shang dynasty to 1766 BC.
It should be pointed out that difficulties in accurately determining the
exact dates on which historical events took place do not necessarily
cast doubt on their having occurred. For example, the inaccurate dating
of the birth of Christ do not imply that Christ did not exist, at least
as a man.
What power is greater than the power to order the division of time, that
fluid dimension of all existence, that continuous stream of human
consciousness, that mysterious aspect of physics, the understanding of
which promises solutions to the riddle of being?
Before the beginning of time, the 4th dimension, there was nothingness,
no mass distinguishable from void, no movement, no space and no
The 4th dimension of time is as necessary for describing the location of
heavenly bodies as are the 3 dimensions of space. Moreover, the
dimension of time is necessary for the appreciation of movement, the
fundamental criteria of life. Without the passage of time, there would
be no process, no history and no life.
Space and time are not separate. They are an inextricable union: the
space-time continuum, a concept basic to the General Theory of
Relativity Theory eliminates from physics the idea of absolute values
for space and time. It states that motion is relative. A body moves
only when measured in space to another of different velocity or
direction. The measure of mass, length and time depends on the relative
motion of the measuring instrument, as compared to the object being
Albert Einstein (1897-1955) theorized that as matter approaches the
acceleration of light, mass increases until it becomes infinite, length
diminishes in the direction of travel until it approaches zero and time
would slow until it stops. At that speed, matter would become pure
If and when physicists manage to reconcile the theories of relativity
which govern the behavior of heavenly bodies, with those of quantum
mechanics which govern the behavior of sub-atomic particles, they will
have yielded a unified theory of the universe, and pushed further human
understanding of the mystery of its beginning.
He who controls time, controls all else. Caesar understood it, Pope
Gregory understood it, and Wu Zetian understood it, as the French
Hebertists would a full century after her.
Asians will do well to understand that the year 2000 is a good time to
reject Western cultural imperialism and to look for a true revival of
their own rich heritage. The first step is to recognize that the
concept of the new millennium has no meaning in Asian culture.
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