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Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions of the Southern Nationalities in China

Chen Jiujin (Institute for the History of Natural Sciences)

In recent years, we have investigated calendars employed by minority nationalities in China. As a result, we found that among the southern nationalities, there existed a system of 28 lunar mansions which were named after animals (See Figure 1). The names are listed as follows: jiao (舒, flood dragon), long (窺, dragon), he (誼, racoon dog), tu (涓, rabbit), hu (�, fox), hu (夐, tiger), bao (争, leopard), xie zhi (狘), niu (�, ox), bian fu (确刘, bat), shu (撈, mouse), yan (韅, swallow), ya yu (抠�), zhu (样, pig), lang (傞, wolf), gou (瓌, dog), zhi (幡, pheasant), ji (�, rooster), wu (傛, bird), hou (猴, monkey), yuan (势, ape), bi an (�荻), yang (隋, sheep), zhang (寿, river deer), ma (刚, horse), lu (鸟, deer), she (帐, snake), qiu yin (挂伫, earthworm)

Obviously, this naming system are totally different from the traditional Chinese lunar mansions.

In 1942, Cen Jiawu (葶饞敘) found records about this system in a book of the Shui Nationality in the region where the people of Shui Nationality lived in Sandu 劫诀) of Guizhou. In the end of 1970s, Wang Lianguang �钵和) discovered these names in Nandan (慨孜) County of Guangxi. In 1995 and 1997, we found them in Kaili (娲�) and Huangping (缲��) of Guizhou respectively. In 1997, figures of the animals which represent 28 lunar mansions were included in Luo Jia Tui Suan Tong Shu published by Xingning (�撙) County of Guangdong Province. Therefore, it can be seen that this system was used not only by people of the Shui and Miao Nationality but also by the southern Han people.

This system still circulated among the southern people in modern times, because they believed that when the moon traveled through the constellations named after animals, omen of the people's activities could be shown. Therefore, this system was the basis of boding ill or well. Among people of the Miao and Shui Nationality, the days are not designated by Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches. Instead, these 28 animal names are joined with another 12 animals which symbolize the year when a person was born to form a cycle of 84 to designate days. This numbering cycle of 84, which was in common use among the southern minority nationalities, was called ga jin (憤锴) by people of the Miao Nationality, while it was called miao jia ji (捲�釦l) by the Han people.

Twenty-eight animal names of constellations' joining with their figures firstly appeared in the General Book of the 6th year of Emperor Yong Zheng's reign period in the Qing Dynasty. The twenty-eight animal names of constellations can also be found in Qin Xing Yi Jian (碾沌�恐) by Chi Benli (馭�知z) and some other book on fang shu (弄抡) in the Ming Dynasty. It seems that these names have close relationship with those appearing in San Shi Liu Qin of Wu Xin Da Yi (�催吹緬) by Xiao Ji (�賁) in the Sui Dynasty. Because Chi Benli and Xiao Ji were both southern people, they were able to have the opportunity of recording these 28 animal names of constellations in their books.

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