months in chinese

The Complete Guide to Months in Chinese (and the Lunar Calendar)

If you’re a beginner in Chinese, you’ll want to learn how to say the months in Mandarin.

You’ll should also know how to translate dates and related phrases so you can talk about appointments and or describe when something happened.

We’ll cover these important topics, as well as the celebrations during each calendar month and the Chinese lunar calendar in this post.


The Calendar Months in Chinese

To say the months in Chinese, you only need to know how to count and say  (yuè), which means “month.”

For instance, January is literally “one month,” February is “two month” and November is “eleven month.”

一月 yī yuèJanuary
二月 èr yuèFebruary
三月 sān yuèMarch
四月 sì yuèApril
五月 wǔ yuèMay
六月 liù yuèJune
七月 qī yuèJuly
八月 bā yuèAugust
九月 jiǔ yuèSeptember
十月 shí yuèOctober
十一月 shí yī yuèNovember
十二月 shí èr yuèDecember

Here’s what the Gregorian calendar months are in Chinese, with supplementary details such as national holidays and special Chinese dates.

*National holidays based on the lunar calendar are noted with 2023 dates.

January 1 新年 xīn niánNew Year's Day
January 21* 除夕 chú xìLunar New Year's Eve
January 22* 元旦
yuán dàn
chūn jié
Lunar New Year's Day
Spring Festival/Chinese New Year
February 5* 元宵节 yuán xiāo jiéLantern Festival
(Lunar Month 1 Day 15)
April 5* 清明节 qīng míng jiéQingming Festival
Tomb Sweeping Day
May 1 劳动节 láo dòng jiéLabor Day
May 20 五二零 wǔ èr língChinese Internet Valentine's Day
June 1 六一儿童节 liù yī ér tóng jiéChildren's Day
June 22* 端午节 duān wǔ jiéDragon Boat Festival
(Lunar Month 5 Day 5)
June 21 夏至 xià zhìXiazhi Festival
Summer Solstice
August 1 建军节 jiàn jūn jiéPeople's Liberation Army Day
August 8 父亲节 fù qīn jiéChinese Fathers' Day
August 22* 七夕节 qī xì jiéQixi Festival
Double Seventh Festival
Chinese Valentine's Day
(Lunar Month 7 Day 7)
August 30* 中元节 zhōng yuán jiéZhongyuan Festival
Ghost Festival
(Lunar Month 7 Day 15)
September 29* 中秋节 zhōng qiū jiéMid-Autumn Festival
(Lunar Month 8 Day 15
October 1 国庆日 guó qìng rìNational Day
October 1-7 黄金周 huáng jīn zhōuGolden Week
October 23* 重阳节 chóng yáng jiéChongyang Festival
Double Ninth Festival
(Lunar Month 9 Day 9)
November 11 光棍节 guāng gùn jiéDouble 11
Singles' Day
Bachelors' Day
December 22* 冬至 dōng zhìDongzhi Festival
Winter Solstice
(Lunar Month 11 Day 15)

Talking About Years in Chinese

Before we get into how to form years in Chinese, here are a few time terms you’ll need to know first:

Now, to the fun stuff.

When talking about a specific year in Chinese, all you do is read out each digit and attach the word 年 to the end of it. For example:

Unlike in English though, you can’t split up the year into two parts. So while we say 2020 as “twenty-twenty,” in Chinese, it’s always 二零二零年 (èr líng èr líng nián).

But if that’s too much of a mouthful, don’t worry—there is one way you can shorten it, so long as the year is recent.

For example, instead of saying 1973 (一九七三年), you can just say ’73 (七三年).

Here’s a tricky one: try saying the year 2000 in Chinese.

What’d you get?

Well, there are two answers:

二零零零年 (èr líng líng líng nián)

两千年 (liǎng qiān nián)

The second option is shorter but it also means “2,000 years,” not just “the year 2000.” So be sure the context is clear before using it.

Telling Dates in Chinese

Forming specific dates in Chinese is just as simple as learning the months and weeks. Let’s check out the formula now:

Year Number 年 + Month Number 月 + Date Number 号 (hào)

For example:

  • 2001年8月11号 (èr líng líng yī nián bā yuè shí yī hào) — August 11, 2001
  • 1801年2月16号 (yī bā líng yī nián èr yuè shí liù hào) — February 16, 1801
  • 1989年6月9号 (yī jiǔ bā jiǔ nián liù yuè jiǔ hào) — June 9, 1989

Say something happened on a specific date in the current year. In English, you’d simply leave out the year and say it happened on X month, X date (i.e. April 20).

In Chinese, it’s the same!

Let’s say I got married on September 15, 2021, but the year is still 2021. When my friend asks, “When did you get married?”, I’d simply say, “September 15.”

In Chinese, that would be:

九月十五号 (jiǔ yuè shí wǔ hào).

Before moving on, you might’ve noticed that you only pronounce individual digits in the year, not the days.

We already learned that to say 2016, you can’t say 二十十六年 (èr shí shí liù nián).

Instead, you have to say:

二零一六年 (èr líng yī liù nián).

But when it comes to the days of the month, you should say the whole number.

For example:

八月十六(bā yuè shí liù hào). (August 16th)

Months in Chinese: Useful Phrases

What if you want to talk about nonspecific dates or ongoing events? Below are some key vocabulary for discussing appointments, past and future events, as well as recurring commitments.

上(个)月 shàng (gè) yuèLast month
上(个)月初 shàng (gè) yuè chūEarly last month
上(个)月下旬 shàng (gè) yuè xià xúnLate last month
六个月前 liù gè yuè qiánSix months ago
这(个)月 zhè (gè) yuèThis month
本月 běn yuèCurrent month
本月初 běn yuè chūEarly this month
本月晚些时候 běn yuè wǎn xiē shí hòuLater this month
下(个)月 xià (gè) yuèNext month
下(个)月初 xià (gè) yuè chūEarly next month
下(个)月下旬 xià (gè) yuè xià xúnLate next month
六个月后 liù gè yuè hòuIn 6 months
每(个)月 měi (gè) yuèEvery month
每月一次 měi yuè yī cìMonthly
双月 shuāng yuèBimonthly / Every two months / Every other month
半月刊 bàn yuè kānSemimonthly / Twice a month
每六个月一次 měi liù gè yuè yī cìOnce every six months
每月五日 / 每月五号 měi yuè wǔ rì / měi yuè wǔ hàoEvery fifth of the month
每年二月 měi nián èr yuèEvery February

For more information on how to use these phrases and many of the words in this post, you can use the FluentU program. This immersion tool lets you see words in context through Chinese videos, along with other learning tools to make sure you’re not just learning words—you’re also learning how to use them in conversation.

Differences Between the Gregorian and Chinese Lunar Calendars

Let’s talk about the different calendars that China follows:

公历 (gōng lì) — The Gregorian calendar

农历 (nóng lì) — The Chinese lunar calendar

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar most of us are familiar with and is based on Earth’s rotation and revolution around the sun. 

The lunar calendar, meanwhile, is based on the phases of the moon as well as the longitude of the sun.

You might’ve noticed that the dates of the Chinese New Year are different every year. This is because they’re set according to the lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar.

There are 12 lunar terms and 24 solar terms in one lunar year.

Note: the phrases “lunar term” and “lunar month” are used interchangeably.

Leap Year vs. Leap Month

Every four years is a leap year in the Gregorian calendar, where an additional day is included to sync up with the seasonal year.

Because a lunar term or month (29.5 days) is shorter than a Gregorian month, it also has a pattern in place where it re-synchronizes with the seasonal year.

Instead of an additional day every four years, the lunar calendar has an extra term every 32 or 33 months.

Chinese Holidays Based on the Lunar Calendar

While some more modern Chinese holidays are celebrated on the same date every year (like Chinese Father’s Day and Chinese Internet Valentine’s Day), most big national holidays follow the Chinese solar/lunar calendar.

If you’re still confused, there are calendar converters online to help you figure out the dates of past and future holidays.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar

Each lunar term or month has a modern name but can also be referred to in its traditional name (which reflects what plant is in season).

Each month is also assigned an Earthly Branch or an animal from the Chinese zodiac.

Start DateTraditional NameEarthly Branch NameModern Name
Between Jan 21 - Feb 20 陬月
(zōu yuè)
Corner Month
(yín yuè)
Tiger Month
(zhēng yuè)
1st Month
Between Feb 20 - Mar 21 杏月
(xìng yuè)
Apricot Month
(mǎo yuè)
Rabbit Month
(èr yuè)
2nd Month
Between Mar 21 - Apr 20 桃月
(táo yuè)
Peach Month
(chén yuè)
Dragon Month
(sān yuè)
3rd Month
Between Apr 20 - May 21 梅月
(méi yuè)
Plum Flower Month
(sì yuè)
Snake Month
(sì yuè)
4th Month
Between May 21 - Jun 21 榴月
(liú yuè)
Pomegranate Flower Month
(wǔ yuè)
Horse Month
(wǔ yuè)
5th Month
Between Jun 21 - Jul 23 荷月
(hé yuè)
Lotus Month
(wèi yuè)
Goat Month
(liù yuè)
6th Month
Between Jul 23 - Aug 23 兰月
(lán yuè)
Orchid Month
(shēn yuè)
Monkey Month
(qī yuè)
7th Month
Between Aug 23 - Sept 23 桂月
(guì yuè)
Osmanthus Month
(yǒu yuè)
Rooster Month
(bā yuè)
8th Month
Between Sept 23 - Oct 23 菊月
(jú yuè)
Chrysanthemum Month
(xū yuè)
Dog Month
(jiǔ yuè)
9th Month
Between Oct 23 - Nov 22 露月
(lù yuè)
Dew Month
(hài yuè)
Pig Month
(shí yuè)
10th Month
Between Nov 22 - Dec 22 冬月
(dōng yuè)
Winter Month
(zǐ yuè)
Rat Month
(shí yī yuè)
11th Month
Between Dec 22 - Jan 21 冰月
(bīng yuè)
Ice Month
(chǒu yuè)
Ox Month
(là yuè)
End-of-the-Year Month, Preserved Meat Month


Now, you should not only be able to write and talk about the date in Chinese, but also have discussions about events relative to specific months (such as Chinese holidays).

You can even talk about the basics of the Chinese lunar calendar if it ever comes up in conversation.

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