The old Chinese calendar was devised to have six 60-day cycles, each cycle having 10-day periods and three such periods going to make up a month. By the 5th cent. B.C. the solar year was calculated at 365.2444 solar days and the solar month at 29.53059 days. The difference between solar time and the cycles was adjusted by intercalary months and shorter intercalary periods. The years were arranged in major cycles of 60 years with minor cycles of 5 years each. An interesting calendar is that of the Maya, who used a year of 365 days divided into 18 20-day periods, with a 5-day period at the end. A cycle of 260 days was used to name days. These two recurrent cycles resulted in a great cycle of 52 years. This calendar was carefully calibrated, but the year was never readjusted to the error in its length; instead, the feasts and dates were adjusted to the calendar. The Aztec calendar was very similar. Many attempts have been made to devise new calendars, adjusting the months more regularly to the solar year, discarding the week, making the months equal in length, and the like, but they have never been widely adopted. The most celebrated is the French Revolutionary calendar.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.