CNY Confusion Ahead (but also CNY Sexiness)

Chinese New Year (CNY) is this week, and it’s bound to cause confusion. This is because we’ve basically got three systems for numbering days overlapping, and quite close together:

1. The days of the week are referred to by numbers, starting with Monday (AKA “One-day”), then Tuesday (AKA “Two-day”), etc. In Chinese they’re 星期一星期二星期三星期四星期五星期六星期天.

2. For most of the year, dates are also referred to using the Western system. So starting Tuesday (today), it’s the first (1号). (Which is also Two-day.)

3. Since it’s CNY, everyone switches over to the lunar system for just a week or so. Day one of the lunar month (初一) is Thursday (which is Four-day, and also the third).

Sound confusing?? No, not at all. I’m a big fan of Chinese New Year.

But just to make everything clearer, you might want to check out this PDF calendar (Warning: traditional characters!). Some key vocab:

大年三十: Chinese New Year’s Eve
春节: Chinese New Year
初一: the first of the lunar month (never used more than around CNY)
初二: the second of the lunar month
初三: the third of the lunar month (see a pattern here?)

OK, now for the sexy part. 2011 is the year of the rabbit. (Really, I’m going somewhere with this; be patient!) I did a little searching for images on the Chinese internet and found this creative graphic:


Also, somewhat to my surprise, my innocent 兔年 (“year of the rabbit”) search turned up some rather sexy pics. The year of the rabbit only comes around once every 12 years, so I’m pretty sure it’s the first time this particular sexied-up CNY theme has appeared in mainland China (it’s referred to as 兔年美女):


And while not all of the Playboy bunny-esque photos floating around online now are actually specifically meant for Chinese New Year, the one above is, as evidenced by the golden thing in the model’s hands, which is a 金元宝 (a gold ingot, an ancient form of money which usually makes appearances in CNY decorations).

Anyway, Happy Chinese New Year.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. “everyone switches over to the lunar system for just a week or so.”

    just a precision: from my own research around people, it seems they tend to switch to lunar calendar system until the 15th lunar day.

    • Yeah, that’s true. A lot of people seem to revert back as soon as they revert to work, though. In my eperience, students (with the longer vacation) and retired people are more likely to stay in “CNY mode” for longer.

  2. Soo… all those characters are indicative of the phases of the moon? Is that what it is representing?? For example on the 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 etc of July.. it goes “shi yi” “shi er” “shi san” “shi si” etc.. the rest of it is just a cluttered mess that I can’t really work out, except for the repeats of the same kind of patterns… then you have other weird days like 20th April, 22nd June, 23rd August etc.. I am lost.

  3. CNY… with sexy results. Good investigative journalism John ; )

  4. my suggestion at the time was that if you wanted to be consequent, the day before 初一 should be 初零…for reasons unclear to me, my proposal received more laughter than actual consideration 😉

  5. Happy New Years, rabbit speed for all your annual goals to be realized =)

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