Korean Calendar
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Korean Calendar

The traditional Korean calendar or Dangun calendar (; ) is a lunisolar calendar. Like most traditional calendars of other East Asian countries, the Korean Calendar is mainly derived from the Chinese calendar.[1][2] Dates are calculated from Korea's meridian (135th meridian east in modern time for South Korea), and observances and festivals are based in Korean culture.

Koreans mostly use the Gregorian calendar, which was officially adopted in 1896. However, traditional holidays and age-reckoning for older generations are still based on the old calendar.[3] The biggest festivals in Korea today, which are also national holidays, are Seollal, the first day of the traditional Korean New Year, and Chuseok its harvest moon festival. Other important festivals include Daeboreum also referred to as Boreumdaal (the first full moon), Dano (spring festival) and Samjinnal (spring-opening festival). Other minor festivals include Yudu (summer festival), and Chilseok (monsoon festival).


The Korean calendar is derived from the Chinese calendar. The traditional calendar designated its years via Korean era names from 270 to 963, then Chinese era names with Korean era names were used a few times until 1894. In 1894 and 1895, the lunar calendar was used with years numbered from the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty in 1392.

The Gregorian calendar was adopted on 1 January 1896, with Korean era name "Geon-yang ( / Hanja?, "adopting solar calendar")."

From 1945 until 1961 in South Korea, Gregorian calendar years were counted from the foundation of Gojoseon in 2333 BC (regarded as year one), the date of the legendary founding of Korea by Dangun, hence these Dangi ( / Hanja?) years were 4278 to 4294. This numbering was informally used with the Korean lunar calendar before 1945 but has only been occasionally used since 1961, and mostly in North Korea prior to 1997.

Although not being an official calendar, in South Korea, the traditional Korean calendar is still maintained by the government. The current version is based on China's Shixian calendar ("shi-heon-nyeok ()" in Korean), which was in turn developed by Jesuit scholars. However, because the Korean calendar is now based on the moon's shape seen from Korea, occasionally the calendar diverges from the traditional Chinese calendar by one day, even though the underlying rule is the same. As a result, sometime the New Year's Day differ by one between the two countries, which last happened in 1997.[4]

In North Korea, the Juche calendar has been used since 1997 to number its years, based on the birth of the state's founder Kim Il-sung.


  • The Chinese zodiac of 12 Earthly Branches (animals), which were used for counting hours and years;
  • Ten Heavenly Stems, which were combined with the 12 Earthly Branches to form a sixty-year cycle;
  • Twenty-four solar terms (jeolgi / , Hanja?) in the year, spaced roughly 15 days apart;
  • Lunar months including leap months added every two or three years.


Note that traditional Korean calendar has no concept of "weekdays": the following are names of weekdays in the modern (Western) calendar.

English Hangul Hanja Transliteration Heavenly body 5 Elements

(Hanja/ Hanzi? = Korean?; Chinese: Wuxing)

Sunday il.yo.il: iryoil Sun
Monday w?l.yo.il: woryoil Moon
Tuesday hwa.yo.il: hwayoil Mars Fire
Wednesday su.yo.il: suyoil Mercury Water
Thursday mok.yo.il: mogyoil Jupiter Wood
Friday k?m.yo.il: geumyoil Venus Metal
Saturday tho.yo.il: toyoil Saturn Earth


In modern Korean language, the months of both the traditional lunisolar and Western calendars are named by prefixing Sino-Korean numerals to wol, the Sino-Korean word for "month". Traditionally, when speaking of individuals' birth months, the months of the lunisolar calendar were named by prefixing the native Korean name of the animal associated with each Earthly Branch in the Chinese zodiac to dal, the native Korean word for "month". Additionally, the first, eleventh, and twelfth months have other Korean names which are similar to traditional Chinese month names.[5] However, the other traditional Chinese month names, such as Xìngyuè ("apricot month") for the second month, are not used in Korean.

Modern name Traditional name Notes Chinese Equivalent
Translation Hangul RR Translation Hangul RR Month number Earthly Branch name Modern name Starts on Gregorian date

(annually the dates shifts due to the lunar cycle)

Month 1 1? () Ir-wol Tiger Month ? Ho-rang-i-wol 1 ; yínyuè; 'tiger month' ; zh?ngyuè; 'first month' between 21 January - 20 February
Primary Month () Jeong-wol A loanword from Chinese Zh?ngyuè
Month 2 2? () I-wol Rabbit Month To-kki-wol 2 ; m?oyuè; 'rabbit month' ; èryuè; 'second month' between 20 February - 21 March
Month 3 3? () Sam-wol Dragon Month Yong-dal 3 ; chényuè; 'dragon month' ; s?nyuè; 'third month' between 21 March - 20 April
Month 4 4? () Sa-wol Snake Month Baem-dal 4 ; sìyuè; 'snake month' ; sìyuè; 'fourth month' between 20 April - 21 May
Month 5 5? () O-wol Horse Month Mal-dal 5 ; w?yuè; 'horse month' ; w?yuè; 'fifth month' between 21 May - 21 June
Month 6 6? () Yu-wol Sheep Month Yang-dal 6 ; wèiyuè; 'goat month' ; liùyuè; 'sixth month' between 21 June - 23 July
Month 7 7? () Chir-wol Monkey Month ? Won-sung-i-dal 7 ; sh?nyuè; 'monkey month' ; q?yuè; 'seventh month' between 23 July - 23 August
Month 8 8? () Par-wol Rooster Month Dak-dal 8 ; y?uyuè; 'rooster month' ; b?yuè; 'eighth month' between 23 August - 23 September
Month 9 9? () Gu-wol Dog Month Gae-dal 9 ; x?yuè; 'dog month' ; ji?yuè; 'ninth month' between 23 September - 23 October
Month 10 10? () Shi-wol/ Si-wol Pig Month Dwae-ji-dal 10 ; hàiyuè; 'pig month' ; shíyuè; 'tenth month' between 23 October - 22 November
Month 11 11? () Shi-bir-wol/ Shib-ir-wol Rat Month Jwi-dal 11 ; z?yuè; 'rat month' ; shíy?yuè; 'eleventh month' between 22 November - 22 December
Winter Solstice Month Dong-jit-dal Compare Chinese D?ngyuè, "Winter Month"
Month 12 12? () Shib-i-wol Ox Month So-dal 12 ; ch?uyuè; 'ox month' ; ; làyuè; 'end-of-year month' between 22 December - 21 January
Seot-dal Compare Chinese Làyuè, "preservation month"


The lunar calendar is used for the observation of traditional festivals, such as Seollal, Chuseok, and Buddha's Birthday. It is also used for jesa memorial services for ancestors and the marking of birthdays by older Koreans.

Traditional holidays

Festival Significance Events Date (Lunar) Food
Seollal () Lunar New Year's Day An ancestral service is offered before the grave of the ancestors, New Year's greetings are exchanged with family, relatives and neighbors; bows to elders (sebae, , Hanja?), yut nori (). Generally from the Chinese Lunar New Year Day 1 of Month 1 rice cake soup (tteokguk, ), honey cakes (yakgwa, , Hanja?).
Daeboreum (, ) First full moon Greeting of the moon (dalmaji, ), kite-flying, burning talismans to ward off evil spirits (aengmagi taeugi, ), bonfires (daljip taeugi, ). Generally from the Chinese Lantern Festival Day 15 of Month 1 rice boiled with five grains (o-gok-bap, , Hanja: ), eating nuts, e.g. walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, chestnuts (bureom, ), wine drinking (gwibalgisul)
Meoseumnal () Festival for servants Housecleaning, coming of age ceremony, fishermen's shaman rite (yeongdeunggut, ) Day 1 of Month 2 stuffed pine-flavored rice cakes (songpyeon, )
Samjinnal () Migrant swallows return Leg fighting, fortune telling. Originate from Chinese Shangsi Festival. Day 3 of Month 3 azalea wine (dugyeonju, , Hanja: ), azalea rice cake (dugyeon hwajeon, ?, Hanja)
Hansik/ Hanshik

(, Hanja?)

Beginning of farming season Visit to ancestral grave for offering rite, and cleaning and maintenance. Generally from the Chinese Qingming Festival Day 105 after winter solstice cold food only: mugwort cake (ssuktteok, ), mugwort dumplings (ssukdanja, ), mugwort soup (ssuktang, )
Chopail (Cho-pa-il)

(, Hanja: )

or Seok-ga Tan-shin-il

(; Hanja?)

Buddha's Birthday Yeondeunghoe (Lotus Lantern festival) Day 8 of Month 4 rice cake (jjintteok, ), flower rice cake (hwajeon, , Hanja?)

(, Hanja?) or Surit-nal ()

Spring festival Washing hair with iris water, wrestling (ssireum, ), swinging, giving fans as gifts; generally from the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival Day 5 of Month 5 rice cake with herbs (surichwitteok, ?), herring soup (junchiguk, )

(, Hanja?)

Water greeting Water greeting, washing hair to wash away bad luck Day 15 of Month 6 Five coloured noodles (yudumyeon, ), cooked rice cake (sudan, , Hanja?)

(, Hanja?)

Meeting day of Gyeonwoo and Jiknyeo, in Korean folk tale Fabric weaving - generally from the Chinese Qixi Festival Day 7 of Month 7 wheat pancake (miljeonbyeong, ), steamed rice cake with red beans (sirutteok, )

(, Hanja?)

Worship to Buddha Worship to Buddha. Originate from Chinese Ghost Festival. Day 15 of Month 7 mixed rice cake (seoktanbyeong, , Hanja: )

(, Hanja?)

Harvest festival Visit to ancestral grave, ssireum, offering earliest rice grain (olbyeosinmi, ?, --), circle dance (ganggang sullae, ?) Day 15 of Month 8 pine-flavored rice cake stuffed with chestnuts, sesame or beans (songpyeon, ), taro soup (torantang, )

(, Hanja: )

Migrant sparrows leave Celebrating autumn with poetry and painting, composing poetry, enjoying nature; generally the Chinese Double Ninth Festival Day 9 of Month 9 chrysanthemum pancake (gukhwajeon, , ), fish roe (eo-ran, , Hanja?), honey citron tea (yuja-cheong, , Hanja: )

(, Hanja?)

Winter Solstice Rites to dispel bad spirits. Originate from Chinese Dongzhi Festival. Around December 22 in the solar calendar red bean porridge with rice dumplings (patjuk, )
Seot-dal Geum-eum


New Year's Eve Staying up all night long with all doors open to receive ancestral spirits - the concept is from the Chinese during Chinese Lunar New Year Last day of Month 12 mixed rice with vegetables (bibimbap, ), bean powder rice cakes (injeolmi, ), traditional biscuits (han-gwa, , Hanja?)

There are also many regional festivals celebrated according to the lunar calendar.

See also


  1. ^ Sohn, Ho-min (2006). Korean Language in Culture and Society. University of Hawaii Press. 86. ISBN 9780824826949. ...Korean calendars Calendars were adopted from China...
  2. ^ Reingold, Edward (2008). Calendrical Calculations. Cambridge University Press. 269. ISBN 9780521885409. ... Korea used the Chinese calendar for ...
  3. ^ Korean Holidays Archived 2012-07-13 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ " , ". joins.com. 1 February 2008. Archived from the original on 2 March 2018.
  5. ^ Sohn, Ho-min (2006). "Korean Terms for Calendar and Horary Signs, Holidays and Seasons". Korean Language and Culture in Society. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 91-92. ISBN 9780824826949.
  • Pyeon, Prof. M. Y. The Folkloric Study of Chopail (Buddha's Birthday). Seoul: Minsokwon, 2002.

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