by Xinhua writers Zhou Yan, Yang Buyue
LHASA, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Tibetans will embrace the "Water
Snake Losar" on Monday, which is New Year's Day in the Tibetan
For 2013, the date falls on the second day of the Chinese Lunar
New Year and has been worked out by Tibetan experts on astrology
and calendar calculations based on 2,000 years of research.
Their findings are compiled into the Tibetan calendar each
The calendar was the first "book" Tsering Dondrup read as a
child, as his parents used to consult the calendar for weather
information and look for ideal dates for ploughing and
"We had a new booklet every year," said Tsering Dondrup, a
gray-haired Lhasa resident. "The colors of the covers varied, but
there was always a delicate painting of cattle ploughing the fields
in early spring."
As he got older, he learned that years in the Tibetan calendar
were identified with different colors including white, black,
green, yellow and red. "Yellow stands for the year of the earth,
while blue, green and red stand for water, wood and fire
respectively," he said in an interview with Xinhua.
The year 2013, for example, is the "Year of the Water Snake," so
the corresponding calendar has a blue cover.
However, the cattle ploughing scenes hold greater
He said the calendars bear a fascinating history and continuing
practical application that is often overlooked among more prominent
elements of Chinese culture.
"The colors and postures of the cattle's head, horns, mouth,
hooves and tail tell the weather conditions of different periods of
the year and help farmers decide the time for ploughing and
harvest," Tsering Dondrup explained.
When the cattle's head is painted green, it often forecasts
heavy wind in spring. Yellow legs indicate a good harvest in
valleys, whereas a blue belly suggests ample rain and potential
flooding, said the calendar enthusiastic.
According to Tsetop, deputy head of the institute of astrology
and calendar calculation, a research body of the Lhasa-based
Hospital of Tibetan Medicine, a Tibetan calendar often has an
overview of the year's climate, astrological phenomena and
potential calamities. It also has a detailed list of dos and don'ts
for each day and month.
"It provides an important timeline for Tibetans to figure out
when to grow crops and harvest and what diseases may attack at
different times of the year," he said
Many people also consult the calendar to choose auspicious dates
for important events such as weddings, inauguration of new homes or
funerals, said Tsetop.
Elderly people like to hang all the used calendars at home as a
mascot to ward off evil, he said.
The compilation of the Tibetan calendar was a presentation of
astrological research and calculations, says Kunga Rigzin, one of
the institute's top researchers.
At 71, Kunga Rigzin has been working on calendar calculations
for six decades.
Tibetan calendar calculations, a 2,000-year-old discipline, work
out weather conditions on the basis of planetary movements, using
the 12 zodiac houses and the five planets of Mars, Mercury,
Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. The Calendar has 12 months in a year and
every 60 years make a full cycle. The first Tibetan calendar is
thought to have been produced in 1206.
"The calendar is derived from the Indian calendar tradition, but
has taken in elements from China's interior regions, too, such as
the five elements of water, wood, fire, earth and metal," said
He and his predecessors have given precise forecasts of solar
and lunar eclipses, blizzards and earthquakes and their
calculations have been praised by the Chinese Academy of Social
Kunga Rigzin and his colleagues are invited to Tibet's regional
meteorological station every March and September for medium and
long-term weather forecasts.
Weather reports based on their astrological calculations have
been broadcast daily by Tibet TV since 1993. "The program is very
popular among viewers, who rely on these reports to arrange travel
and agricultural production," said Liao Jian, head of the Tibet
Meteorological Station's video department.
Today, more than 300,000 copies of the Tibetan calendar are
printed every year. The booklets, popular in Tibet and other
Tibetan communities in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan
provinces, are also sold to Bhutan and Nepal. Enditem