Hursley is a culturally as well as a technically diverse place, so we’ve got some great opportunities to learn from each other. This lunchtime I popped along to one of the events organised by the lab’s Chinese Connect team, which was all about Understanding the Chinese Calendar (the title of the post refers to a significant date this week in that calendar, September 23rd).
Previous talks in the Chinese Culture series, which is organised by Hursley’s Jenny He, have covered subjects such as the evolution of the Chinese languages, how to understand Chinese names, and Chinese music and instruments. I’m embarrassed to say that this is the first of the talks I’ve been to, despite working here for some time… I really should take more advantage of the range of activities and opportunities that Hursley has to offer!
Today’s talk was delivered by Darren Beard, who was particularly interested in the astronomical background to the Chinese calendar (having published a paper on the same topic several years ago). Darren covered the scientific background of this lunisolar calendar, and the changes that have taken place to it historically over the ~3500 years it has been around – particularly interesting to me, since I’m a historian by background. It’s a complicated system which takes account of 19 year lunar cycles, requires things like leap months, and has a set of rules which specify how it works… but it is certainly more comprehensible once you understand those aspects. It was interesting to realise just how much my own perceptions of time are based on the calendar system I’ve grown up with!