The Planets & Days of the Week in Chinese

Have you ever thought to yourself that the naming scheme for the days of the week in Chinese was boring? Well, even if not, the next time you’re at a party and meet some other Chinese speaking foreigners you can use this the blow their minds.

Solar System

But before we start talking about the days of the week in Chinese, you first need to know the word for “week”, which there are two ways to express:

星期(星期)

Pinyin: xīng qí
English: week

禮拜(礼拜)

Pinyin: lǐ bài
English: week

Originally the days were named after the visible objects in the night sky, namely the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. This is similar to English and other European languages, for example Saturn -> Saturday and the Moon -> Monday. Some of the days however don’t come from the Latin but from Old English and so in English we get Thursday or “Thor’s day” and the French get “Jeudi” aka Jupiter.

Anyway!

Pinyin:
English: the Sun

Pinyin: yuè
English: the Moon

Pinyin: huǒ
English: Mars

Pinyin: shuǐ
English: Mercury

Pinyin:
English: Jupiter

Pinyin: jīn
English: Venus

Pinyin:
English: Saturn

From Wikipedia “The five planets are named after the five elements in traditional East Asian philosophy: Fire (Mars), Water (Mercury), Wood (Jupiter), Metal (Venus), and Earth (Saturn)”

Therefore to say the planet Mars, we simply add the word for star, 星, and we get 火星, Venus would be 金星 and so on. Isn’t this easy?

To make things even easier, in 1911 the Republic of China renamed the days of the week from Monday through Saturday using the numbers one to six, with only Sunday or 星期日 retaining it’s original name. And so, we get the following, which is what is in use today.

  • 星期一 / 禮拜一
  • 星期二 / 禮拜二
  • 星期三 / 禮拜三
  • 星期四 / 禮拜四
  • 星期五 / 禮拜五
  • 星期六 / 禮拜六
  • 星期日 / 禮拜日 (星期天 / 禮拜天 is also commonly used)

Further Reading

For more information on the subject check out the Wikipedia articles on Wu Xing and East Asian Week-day names.

One response to “The Planets & Days of the Week in Chinese

  1. Japanese and Korean still use the day names derived from the planets, but I always wondered when Chinese made the switch. Very interesting!

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