Cyclical Signs
(2,861 words)

From the beginnings of Chinese literacy in the late 2nd millennium BCE, Chinese time-keeping has employed two sets of cyclical terms among its notational apparatus. One set consists of ten terms, and is referred to here as the 10-cycle (table 1). The second has twelve, and is referred to here as the 12-cycle (table 2). A cycle of sixty terms (here, the 60-cycle, but commonly referred to as the sexagenary or sexagesimal cycle) combines terms from the 10- and 12-cycles in pairs. Beginning with the pair jiǎzǐ 甲子 (the first terms in the 10- and 12-cycles) and repeatedly incrementing …

Cite this page
Adam SMITH, “Cyclical Signs”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 19 February 2019 <>
First published online: 2015

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