Stars and frost

Another question from the Scrap Sack:

The passing of the years is referred to as "letting the stars and frost go by" (星霜を送る). As frost comes down once a year you could call it a sign [of a year's passage]. But the stars come out in the sky no matter what season it is. It is difficult to tell [from the stars] when one year ends and another begins. What say you?

And the (meat of the) answer:

The stars do come out in the sky all through the year, but they also move around the sky. This expression refers to the counting of these cycles [and therefore the years].

Can't argue with that. I looked up 星霜 in the Nihon kokugo daijiten and found that it is pronounced seisō (originally seizō) and does indeed mean "years." That's "years" in the general sense of "reeling in the", not the specific sense of "four more", although apparently it has been used in the latter sense in the modern era; the example they give is 二星霜 for "two years" in a 1907 sentence by Tsunashima Ryōsen 綱島梁川).

The earliest attestation they have for the word is in a poem by Liǔ Zōngyuán 柳宗元, so it was no doubt borrowed whole from Chinese.

Anyway, after explaining that the stars move, the answer goes off on a bit of a tangent (partly involving the year star) that I won't translate here. But I did learn that while most of the stars move one way, the ascending lunar node, a.k.a. "Rahu star" (羅睺星), moves the other. (Basically — see comments.) (Ketu's node gets a pass, probably because Ketu isn't evil.)

Popularity factor: 16


What?!? It isn't difficult to tell the duration of a year from the stars, in fact, that's exactly how you determine it. I am surprised to hear of such an assertion, considering the astrological basis of the Japanese timekeeping system.

BTW, the lunar nodes are not always retrograde. Occasionally they move anterograde.

Leonardo Boiko:

Perhaps the question/answer format was just a rhetorical device?


There are plenty of questions that are just "What is the meaning behind the word X?", though. The author's isolating the stars for a reason. Maybe it represents one of his own "Oh, duh!" moments, suddenly realizing what's actually obvious if you think about it properly (my blog often works the same way...)

<i>BTW, the lunar nodes are not always retrograde. Occasionally they move anterograde.</i>

Wikipedia lies?! I don't believe in nothing no more! Thanks for the correction.


”It isn't difficult to tell the duration of a year from the stars, in fact, that's exactly how you determine it. I am surprised to hear of such an assertion, considering the astrological basis of the Japanese timekeeping system."

It's not really that surprising, given that you have the whole intercalary and varying length of the Japanese lunisolar year to deal with. Solar years would be pretty easy, but even when solar months and years were written down for people, they didn't always read those right. (Michizane, for example.)

It'd be easy to tell a month's beginning and end if you were isolated with nothing but the sky to know it from, and seasons would be relatively easy (And, what, nothing on 春秋 as a year term here? Too easy to be of interest?). But you'd have a harder time stringing the months together into a twelve-sometimes-thirteen year.

And not long after Chiribukuro, you get your first evidence of people in different parts of Japan being off calendrically from others. (And two or three centuries later, you get months and even years different between eastern and western Japan. The year difference shows up when there's difference on which year the intercalary month goes in, of course.)

Leonardo Boiko:

I want a book that gives an overview of interesting calendrical systems of various civilizations and ethnic groups, for a target audience unfamiliar with astronomy. Something that does for calendars what Rogers or Sampson do for writing systems. Did someone write it yet?


Frost only falls once per year? Someone forgot to tell the pine in my front yard...


@ Leonardo Boiko: Does _Pacing the Void_ count? Or is it too China-centric for what you want?

Leonardo Boiko:

Taemin: It’s not what I was looking for but it’s certainly something I want! In fact now that I found out about Schafer I also want The Vermillion Bird and The Golden Peaches of Samarkand and Dragon Ladies And Rain Maidens—how could anyone resist these titles??


The Golden Peaches of Samarkand is wonderful; I should really investigate his other books.


@Leonardo Boiko: I don't think he's published a monograph yet, but Nakamaki Hirochika at Minpaku has been working on a comparative calendar project for a while now, what he calls 考暦学 (various articles referenced here http://goo.gl/8DKS5).

(Anyone have any thoughts on an English translation of that, by the way? The closest I could find was hemerology, but I don't think that really works, and "comparative calendariography" lacks a certain economy...)


I'm OK with "hemerology". We accept "考古学" = "archaeology", after all. It already seems to be in use to mean "(thoughts on/methods for) the construction of calendars", so maybe it'd be better to use "meta-hemerology" to mean "(thoughts on/methods for) the construction of (thoughts on/methods for) the construction of calendars". If you see what I mean.

I can't believe I'd never heard of this Schafer guy before. I have to find me a connection. Thanks Taemin! (Also, maybe I should have translated that "frost season comes once a year" rather than sticking to the literal phrasing.)


It is interesting to compare calendrical systems that ran in different eras and different parts of the world. But to know when these systems were in use, would depend on when these systems originated. So what interests me most is "archaeoastronomy." Written records of Asian calendrical systems origins are generally no longer extant so some scholars have tried to reconstruct them from archaeological artifacts with astronomical components (e.g. Stonehenge). You might be interested in the archaeoastronomical research around the Kitora kofun.



oh.. P.S. Pedantry Bonus Round:

The wikipedia description is not so much inaccurate as incomplete. Mean Lunar Nodes are always retrograde as they are calculated geocentrically. True Lunar Nodes (calculated heliocentrically) are occasionally anterograde. This is of mostly of concern in astrology, of which my personal archaeoastrological amusements have required me to learn far too much.


Depending on what sort of information you're wanting, there's a lot available. Technical work on the Chinese-style calendar by Sivin (who spearheaded a translation of the Yuan calendrical system, although he calls it mathematical astronomy), Cullen for the Han. In Japanese there's a bit on the technical details.

I find Schafer frustrating, to be honest, in much of the way I find Bernard Frank's Kata-imi et kata-tagae frustrating. Which is to say: there's an assumption of a fundamental ur-star lore that underlies all that literature and material, although Schafer's a little more careful (to my memory at least) to limit his story to the Tang. I find that people didn't necessarily understand how things related to the stars, and held divergent ideas from each other some times--and Chiribukuro shows some of that.

(As for a book, I have no idea how much it would appeal to some of the desires of people as stated here, but check back in five years and there should be some things available in English. Can't speak to the pricing, however.)


Dear Bee Tim,Sorry, there isnt any credible miaartels in English on such subjects.I wrote a post on my opinion of titled doors. Yes, it is ugly and totally unnecessary. XKDG is a closed-dooor method from Zeng Family of the 13 Family. It has NEVER left the family officially. This is a common knowledge within the Chinese CM community. Of cos, there are Taiwanese and Hong Kong masters' who claimed to know of XKDG Xie Zi Fa些子法. This is not possible as even other families within the 13 Families do not have access to this method. How could the outsiders?Personally, I wld say please judge practitioners/masters by their results and reputation as a person and as a teacher.First of all, WHAT is Xie Zi Fa 些子法 ?It is simply SPECIFIC FS. e.g. Conception of Babies and treatment of early stage chronic diseases. Facts: BOTH San Yuan and San He are capable of achieving specific FS.Secondly, Zeng Zi Nan 曾子南- the grandmaster and patriah of the Zeng family passed on in 2006 at 100 years the exact year he predicted his own death. When he was in his late 80s, he declared full retirement and went to the mountains to live peacefully with his loved ones till death. In traditional Chinese terms, he died a good' death i.e. excellent reputation as one of the best FS masters with high profile clients all over Asia, wealthy, filial children, decent and well respected disciples and students. He picked his own burial date YEARS before his death- a common practice amongst the 13 Families. He chose his own graveyard FS formation. A dignified death.Compared to his so-called Date selection arch rival' in Hong Kong, the master died lonely, almost broke with students and disciples fighting cats-and-dogs to bury him months after his death. Filial? Nope they wanted to craved a name for their own interests. These are sad facts and can be easily verified within the community. NO ONE deserves disrespect on their death bed and after death. It is indeed a disgrace to his distinguish tenure as FS master.I think it is really odd when students do not investigate such background in their learning.cheers!Zoe


zi8Wla dgyfxlljjybm

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur

LU d'R
Mail d'E

All fields optional. E-mail address will never be displayed, resold, etc. -- it's just a quick way to give me your e-mail address along with your comment, if you should feel the need. URL will be published, though, so don't enter it if it's a secret. You can use <a href>, but most other tags will be filtered out. (I'll fix it in post-production for you if it seems necessary.)