An epic guide to months, days of the week, and years in Chinese
Thinking about scheduling your first meeting in Chinese, or perhaps making weekend plans with your new Chinese friends? Then you’ll need to know how to talk about dates in Chinese!
Speaking Chinese will open up your calendar to a whole host of events. Not only is it the second most spoken language in the world, but it’s also one of the best languages to learn for business. With over a billion speakers in China and tens of millions around the world, you’ll surely fill up your calendar quite easily as you start building new meaningful relationships.
However, before you do that, you need to make sure you can actually schedule the first date or meeting. That’s why knowing how to talk about dates in Chinese will enhance your general experience with the Chinese language so significantly. Now, you’ll be able to make plans with your coworkers, classmates, and new friends. Once you’ve established relationships with Chinese speakers, you’ll be able to drastically increase the amount of time you spend practicing outside of class!
Plus, as anyone who’s been learning Chinese for any amount of time will know, studying this amazing language can help us see the world from a different perspective. For example, you’re probably used to writing dates in the month-day-year format if you’re a native English speaker. However, in Chinese, dates are written in the year-month-day format. In other words, they go from largest to smallest units!
Besides that, talking about dates in Chinese isn’t that different from English. All you need is some Chinese calendar vocabulary words, and a few more tips, and you’ll be set. One hugely important prerequisite skill, though, is knowing how to count in Chinese. If you’re not there yet, then we strongly recommend you take a pause and check out our helpful beginner’s guide to counting Chinese numbers.
So, if you’ve got your numbers down and are ready to start making appointments, let’s get right into the key vocabulary.
Key vocabulary: How to say months, years, and days
Let’s start by covering the building blocks of dates in Chinese: years, months, and days. As you’ll see later on, there are multiple ways to talk about days, but, for now, let’s focus on the essentials:
How to talk about years in Chinese
One of the biggest differences between talking about years in Chinese and English is that you always have to include the word 年 (year) when mentioning a specific year. English usually omits the word year except for ambiguous circumstances, like “the year 2000” or “the year 32 BCE.” In Chinese, you must add the word year (年) every single time.
Next, different languages use different systems for reading out years. English breaks down four-digit years into two two-digit numbers: 1987 becomes 19-87 (nineteen eighty-seven). Languages like Spanish and French opt to simply read out the full number. Chinese, however, reads each number individually. That makes 1987 simply one-nine-eight-seven. And, of course, we can’t forget the (年) at the end, so that makes it 一九八七年 (one-nine-eight-seven-nián). It’s that easy!
Here are a few more examples of how to read Chinese years:
|一七四五年||yī qī sì wǔ nián||1745||i chi syh wuu nian|
|一九七一年||yī jiǔ qī yī nián||1971||i jeou chi i nian|
|一九九九年||yī jiǔ jiǔ jiǔ nián||1999||i jeou jeou jeou nian|
|二零零一年||èr líng líng yī nián||2001||ell ling ling i nian|
|二零一七年||èr líng yī qī nián||2017||ell ling i chi nian|
|二零二三年||èr líng èr sān nián||2023||ell ling ell san nian|
|二零三八年||èr líng sān bā nián||2038||ell ling san ba nian|
|三零二三年||sān líng èr sān nián||3023||san ling ell san nian|
How to talk about months in Chinese
Most of our everyday conversations generally revolve around the present and the immediate past or future. As such, we don’t always need to mention the year when we’re talking about our plans for the summer or what we’ve been up to. You can simply mention the month by itself if the context makes it clear that you’re talking about a specific month.
The months in Chinese are extremely easy to learn. The names of the months in English come from the Gregorian Calendar, and each represents a different Roman leader, god, festival, or number. Chinese, however, uses simple arithmetic to come up with the names for the months. All you need to do is add the word for month, 月 (yuè) immediately after a number 1-to-12. As a fun fact, the word 月 (yuè) used to mean “moon,” making it even easier to remember the word for months if you learn that association! Doesn’t the character look like a waxing crescent moon?
So, January is simply 一月 (yī yuè), which translates directly into “month one.” If you’re wondering how to talk about numbers in terms of quantity, you can do that easily with the Chinese measure word 个 (ge). So, if you want to say that something took you three months to complete, you can say 三个月 (sān ge yuè).
Here are the twelve months of the year in Chinese:
|一月||yī yuè||January||i yueh|
|二月||èr yuè||February||ell yueh|
|三月||sān yuè||March||san yueh|
|四月||sì yuè||April||syh yueh|
|五月||wǔ yuè||May||wuu yueh|
|六月||liù yuè||June||liow yueh|
|七月||qī yuè||July||chi yueh|
|八月||bā yuè||August||ba yueh|
|九月||jiǔ yuè||September||jeou yueh|
|十月||shí yuè||October||shyr yueh|
|十一月||shí yī yuè||November||shyr i yueh|
|十二月||shí èr yuè||December||shyr ell yueh|
How to talk about days in Chinese
Chinese uses three different words to talk about days: 日 (rì), 号 (hào), and 天 (tiān). Only the first two are used when talking about dates, so let’s focus on those for now. Similarly to the months in Chinese, you just have to add the character for day (or, in this case, one of the two) after a number to turn it into a specific day. For example, 十二日 is the 12th day of the month. While English uses ordinal numbers (first, second, third) for days of the month, Chinese always uses cardinal numbers (one, two, three).
So, how do you know whether to use 日 (rì) or 号 (hào) when talking about days in Chinese? In general, 日 (rì) is more formal than 号 (hào). As such, you’ll tend to see 日 (rì) in written Chinese and 号 (hào) in most spoken interactions, except for formal ones.
Finally, 天 (tiān) is used as a quantifier of days. Use this when you want to talk about a time period in terms of days, such as 三天后见 (sān tiān hòu jiàn), “see you in three days.” You can also use 天 (tiān) to talk about today, tomorrow, and yesterday, though we’ll cover that in the following section.
Here’s how to talk about the 31 days of the month in Chinese.
|一号 / 一日||yī hào / yī rì||1st||i haw / i ryh|
|二号 / 二日||èr hào / èr rì||2nd||ell haw / ell ryh|
|三号 / 三日||sān hào / sān rì||3rd||san haw / san ryh|
|四号 / 四日||sì hào / sì rì||4th||syh haw / syh ryh|
|五号 / 五日||wǔ hào / wǔ rì||5th||wuu haw / wuu ryh|
|六号 / 六日||liù hào / liù rì||6th||liow haw / liow ryh|
|七号 / 七日||qī hào / qī rì||7th||chi haw / chi ryh|
|八号 / 八日||bā hào / bā rì||8th||ba haw / ba ryh|
|九号 / 九日||jiǔ hào / jiǔ rì||9th||jeou haw / jeou ryh|
|十号 / 十日||shí hào / shí rì||10th||shyr haw / shyr ryh|
|十一号 / 十一日||shí yī hào / shí yī rì||11th||shyr i haw / shyr i ryh|
|十二号 / 十二日||shí èr hào / shí èr rì||12th||shyr ell haw / shyr ell ryh|
|十三号 / 十三日||shí sān hào / shí sān rì||13th||shyr san haw / shyr san ryh|
|十四号 / 十四日||shí sì hào / shí sì rì||14th||shyr syh haw / shyr syh ryh|
|十五号 / 十五日||shí wǔ hào / shí wǔ rì||15th||shyr wuu haw / shyr wuu ryh|
|十六号 / 十六日||shí liù hào / shí liù rì||16th||shyr liow haw / shyr liow ryh|
|十七号 / 十七日||shí qī hào / shí qī rì||17th||shyr chi haw / shyr chi ryh|
|十八号 / 十八日||shí bā hào / shí bā rì||18th||shyr ba haw / shyr ba ryh|
|十九号 / 十九日||shí jiǔ hào / shí jiǔ rì||19th||shyr jeou haw / shyr jeou ryh|
|二十号 / 二十日||èr shí hào / èr shí rì||20th||ell shyr haw / ell shyr ryh|
|二十一号 / 二十一日||èr shí yī hào / èr shí yī rì||21st||ell shyr i haw / ell shyr i ryh|
|二十二号 / 二十二日||èr shí èr hào / èr shí èr rì||22nd||ell shyr ell haw / ell shyr ell ryh|
|二十三号 / 二十三日||èr shí sān hào / èr shí sān rì||23rd||ell shyr san haw / ell shyr san ryh|
|二十四号 / 二十四日||èr shí sì hào / èr shí sì rì||24th||ell shyr syh haw / ell shyr syh ryh|
|二十五号 / 二十五日||èr shí wǔ hào / èr shí wǔ rì||25th||ell shyr wuu haw / ell shyr wuu ryh|
|二十六号 / 二十六日||èr shí liù hào / èr shí liù rì||26th||ell shyr liow haw / ell shyr liow ryh|
|二十七号 / 二十七日||èr shí qī hào / èr shí qī rì||27th||ell shyr chi haw / ell shyr chi ryh|
|二十八号 / 二十八日||èr shí bā hào / èr shí bā rì||28th||ell shyr ba haw / ell shyr ba ryh|
|二十九号 / 二十九日||èr shí jiǔ hào / èr shí jiǔ rì||29th||ell shyr jeou haw / ell shyr jeou ryh|
|三十号 / 三十日||sān shí hào / sān shí rì||30th||san shyr haw / san shyr ryh|
|三十一号 / 三十一日||sān shí yī hào / sān shí yī rì||31st||san shyr i haw / san shyr i ryh|
Days of the week in Chinese
Next, we have the days of the week in Chinese. Though these aren’t included when talking about dates, they’re still very useful ways of making plans for the immediate future. There are three ways of talking about the days of the week in Chinese: 周 (zhōu), 星期 (xīng qī), and 礼拜 (lǐ bài). Of the three, 周 (zhōu) and 星期 (xīng qī) are the most common, being suitable for both formal and informal conversations. On the other hand, 礼拜 (lǐ bài) is informal and much less common, often used in spoken language.
Unlike years, months, and days, the days of the week have the number placed after the word for the day of the week. So, simply follow these formulas when you want to use any of the three ways to talk about the days of the week in Chinese:
Just replace the X with the number of the corresponding day of the week, with one being Monday, two being Tuesday, and so on. The only exception to this rule is Sunday, which uses either 日 (rì) or 天 (tiān) instead of the corresponding seven, such as 星期天 (xīng qī tiān).
Here are all the different ways to say the days of the week in Chinese:
|周一||zhōu yī||Monday||jou i|
|星期一||xīng qī yī||Monday||shing chi i|
|礼拜一||lǐ bài yī||Monday||lii bay i|
|周二||zhōu èr||Tuesday||jou ell|
|星期二||xīng qī èr||Tuesday||xīng qī èr|
|礼拜二||lǐ bài èr||Tuesday||lii bay ell|
|周三||zhōu sān||Wednesday||jou san|
|星期三||xīng qī sān||Wednesday||shing chi san|
|礼拜三||lǐ bài sān||Wednesday||lii bay san|
|周四||zhōu sì||Thursday||jou syh|
|星期四||xīng qī sì||Thursday||shing chi syh|
|礼拜四||lǐ bài sì||Thursday||lii bay syh|
|周五||zhōu wǔ||Friday||jou wuu|
|星期五||xīng qī wǔ||Friday||shing chi wuu|
|礼拜五||lǐ bài wǔ||Friday||lii bay wuu|
|周六||zhōu liù||Saturday||jou liow|
|星期六||xīng qī liù||Saturday||shing chi liow|
|礼拜六||lǐ bài liù||Saturday||lii bay liow|
|周日||zhōu rì||Sunday||jou ryh|
|周天||zhōu tiān||Sunday||jou tian|
|星期日||xīng qī rì||Sunday||xīng qī rì|
|星期天||xīng qī tiān||Sunday||shing chi tian|
|礼拜天||lǐ bài tiān||Sunday||lii bay tian|
|礼拜日||lǐ bài rì||Sunday||lii bay ryh|
Other words related to dates in Chinese
Finally, there are many other auxiliary words that help us easily navigate the calendar in everyday conversations. Most of the time, we don’t really need to know the exact date for a particular event. For example, when asking a coworker out for coffee, a simple “Does tomorrow work?” should do the trick. Here are some helpful words related to date in Chinese.
|今天||jīn tiān||Today||jin tian|
|昨天||míng tiān||Tomorrow||ming tian|
|明天||zuó tiān||Yesterday||tzwo tian|
|前天||qián tiān||The day before yesterday||chyan tian|
|后天||hòu tiān||The day after tomorrow||how tian|
|这个星期||zhè ge xīng qī||This week||jeh geh shing chi|
|这个月||zhè ge yuè||This month||jeh geh yueh|
|今年||jīn nián||This year||jin nian|
|上个星期||shàng ge xīng qī||Last week||shanq geh shing chi|
|上个月||shàng ge yuè||Last month||shanq geh yueh|
|去年||qù nián||Last year||chiuh nian|
|下个星期||xià ge xīng qī||Next week||shiah geh shing chi|
|下个月||xià ge yuè||Next month||shiah geh yueh|
|明年||míng nián||Next year||ming nian|
|前年||qián nián||The year before last||chyan nian|
|后年||hòu nián||The year after next||how nian|
|早上||zǎo shànɡ||Early morning||tzao shann|
|上午||shànɡ wǔ||Morning||shann wuu|
|中午||zhōnɡ wǔ||Noon||jong wuu|
|下午||xià wǔ||Afternoon||shiah wuu|
|晚上||wǎn shànɡ||Evening or night||woan shann|
|半夜||bàn yè||Midnight||bann yeh|
|日历||rì lì||Calendar||ryh lih|
|阴历||yīn lì||Chinese / lunar calendar||in lih|
|生日||shēng rì||Birthday||sheng ryh|
|节日||jié rì||Holiday/Festival||jye ryh|
Important holidays in Chinese
As you likely already know, Chinese culture has many unique festivals and holidays. What’s special about them is that they rely on the Chinese calendar, which means that their actual dates on the Gregorian calendar vary year by year. For example, the Western New Year always falls on January 1st, but the Chinese New Year falls somewhere between late January and mid-February.
Here are some of the most common Chinese and Western holidays in Chinese. For the Chinese holidays that use the Chinese calendar, we’ve entered their corresponding dates for 2023.
|元旦||yuán dàn||January 1st||New Year’s Day||yuan dann|
|除夕||chú xì||January 21st||Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve||chwu shih|
|新年||xīn nián||January 22nd||Chinese Lunar New Year's Day||shin nian|
|春节||chūn jié||January 22nd||Spring Festival||chuen jye|
|元宵节||yuán xiāo jié||February 5th||Lantern Festival||yuan shiau jye|
|情人节||qíng rén jié||February 14th||Valentine’s Day||chyng ren jye|
|愚人节||yú rén jié||April 1st||April Fool’s Day||yuh ren jye|
|清明节||qīng míng jié||April 5th||Tomb Sweeping Day||ching ming jye|
|复活节||fù huó jié||Varies||Easter||fuh hwo jye|
|劳动节||láo dòng jié||May 1st||Labor Day||lau donq jye|
|五二零||wǔ èr líng||May 20th||Chinese Valentine’s Day||wuu ell ling|
|儿童节||ér tóng jié||June 1st||Children's Day||erl torng jye|
|端午节||duān wǔ jié||June 22nd||Dragon Boat Festival||duan wuu jye|
|建军节||jiàn jūn jié||August 1st||People's Liberation Army Day||jiann jiun jye|
|父亲节||fù qīn jié||August 8th||Chinese Fathers' Day||fuh chin jye|
|七夕节||qī xì jié||August 22nd||Double Seventh Festival|
Chinese Valentine's Day
|chi shih jye|
|中元节||zhōng yuán jié||August 30th||Ghost Festival||jong yuan jye|
|中秋节||zhōng qiū jié||September 29th||Mid-Autumn Festival||jong chiou jye|
|国庆日||guó qìng rì||October 1st||National Day||gwo chinq ryh|
|重阳节||chóng yáng jié||October 23rd||Double Ninth Festival||chorng yang jye|
|万圣节||wàn shèng jié||October 31st||Halloween||wann shenq jye|
|光棍节||guāng gùn jié||November 11||Singles' Day||guang guenn jye|
|感恩节||gǎn’ēn jié||Varies||Thanksgiving||gaan en jye|
|平安夜||píng ān yè||December 24||Christmas Eve||pyng an yeh|
|圣诞节||shèng dàn jié||December 25||Christmas day||henq dann jye|
Fun facts about the Chinese calendar
What is the zodiac Chinese calendar?
The Chinese zodiac is made up of a cycle of 12 zodiacs that are represented by a different animal. Each year becomes the year of an animal, such as “the year of the rabbit.” Everyone born during this year will become that zodiac, as opposed to the West where zodiacs vary from month to month.
The 12 animals of the zodiac are:
- 鼠 (shǔ) - Rat
- 牛 (niú) - Ox
- 虎 (hǔ) - Tiger
- 兔 (tù) - Rabbit
- 龙 (lóng) - Dragon
- 蛇 (shé) - Snake
- 马 (mǎ) - Horse
- 羊 (yáng) - Goat
- 猴 (hóu) - Monkey
- 鸡 (jī) - Rooster
- 狗 (gǒu) - Dog
- 猪 (zhū) - Pig
Each of the twelve zodiacs, or animals, interact differently with each other. So, once you know your Chinese zodiac, you’ll want to check every year how your sign interacts with the current year. For example, the year of the rabbit will have a different impact on horse and dragon signs. In general, your zodiac year brings nothing but bad news and poor fortune, so watch out around your 12th, 24th, 36th, etc. birthdays!
What is the biggest holiday in China?
Chinese New Year is by far the largest holiday in China, with hundreds of millions of people traveling across the country to be with their families. In fact, it’s such a massive holiday that the travel rush period has its own name — 春运 (chūn yùn). In 2019, over 421 million passengers traveled by rail, air, and road in mainland China alone for Chinese New Year, showing just how important this holiday is in China.
How to calculate Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year is calculated according to the Chinese calendar. As opposed to the Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar, the Chinese calendar uses the moon to calculate the days and months of the year. This means that a new month begins the day a new moon rises.
To keep track of when the Chinese New Year is in a given year, you’ll have to keep track of the lunar cycle for a long period of time. That’s because Chinese years have anywhere from 353 to 385 days, depending on moon cycles and whether or not you’re dealing with a leap year.
The easiest way to check for the date of the Chinese New Year is to simply look it up. Here are the dates for the following ten years:
- 2024: February 10
- 2025: January 29
- 2026: February 17
- 2027: February 6
- 2028: January 26
- 2029: February 13
- 2030: February 3
- 2031: January 23
- 2032: February 11
- 2033: January 31
The Legend of Nian
If you’re wondering about the origins of the Chinese New Year, you’ll surely want to listen to the Legend of Nian. According to this legend, there used to be a giant monster with fangs that came out of the bottom of the sea at the end of the year to hunt for food and people. The terrified villagers called this beast Nian and escaped to the tops of mountains every New Year to avoid its deadly attacks.
All that changed when a strange old man showed up right when the entire village was getting ready to flee to the mountains. An old lady tried to convince the old man to flee with them, but he refused. In fact, the old man asked to be allowed to stay in this old lady’s house for the night. In exchange, he would expel Nian from the town.
The old lady wasn’t convinced, but, seeing that she wasn’t going to change the old man’s mind, reluctantly agreed to let him stay while she fled for the mountains. Later that night, Nian made its way into town and found complete darkness as the town was devoid of villagers — except for one house. Nian went to the one house with the lights on and found that every wall and door in the house was covered in red paper.
By this point, Nian was getting more and more frightened as it started seeing more red paper and candles inside the house. Suddenly, a large noise went off that startled Nian, and at that exact moment, the old man jumped out roaring in a red gown. This finally scared Nian enough to flee back into the ocean, leaving the town fully intact.
The next morning, the villagers came back to find that their town was in pristine condition. The old lady was happily surprised that the old man had kept his promise and, better yet, that they now had a way to defend themselves from Nian. Thanks to the wisdom of this strange old man, the villagers now knew that bright lights, the color red, and loud noises could scare Nian away.
That’s why Chinese new year celebrations today involve firecrackers, countless iterations of the color red, and no shortage of bright lights and loud noises. There’s even a demonstration of Nian chasing through the villagers and running away in sheer terror as the firecrackers start to go off!
Time to get booked and busy thanks to this Chinese calendar vocab
There you have it! Now you know 121 words related to dates in Chinese that will allow you to book important meetings and fun soirees with your friends and colleagues. Now you’ve got no excuse to take your Chinese to the next level by making plans to chat outside of the classroom and practice even when you’re not studying.
If you enjoyed this elementary Mandarin Chinese guide, make sure to check out the rest of our free content in our Mandarin Chinese blog. We regularly upload easy-to-digest and beginner-friendly guides to help you casually improve your Chinese language skills. For example, check out our guide to all 214 Chinese radicals and our beginner’s guide to pinyin!