Cultures Clash and Converge of topic of the Moon


The accent ideas of the moon as being indicative of political power, holy beings and individual destiny still affect the Chinese and Jewish cultures today, a similarity between two seemingly unrelated cultures.

The Confucius Institute Lecture Series held a lecture on Jewish and Chinese lunar calendars in the University of Tennessee Lindsay Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 7. It featured presentations from UT two religious studies professors, Megan Bryson, who studies east Asian religions, and Jacob Love, who studies biblical Hebrew and Judaism at UT.

Bryson and Love individually explained that lunar calendars tend to display the unique qualities of the respective cultures while also touching on similarities between the Chinese and Jewish calendars during their lectures. One similarity is that the Chinese and Jewish calendars are lunisolar, meaning they incorporate both sun and moon patterns.

Bryson said the Chinese intertwined the divine and the earth in their perception of time. Bryson compared the calendar to a tree composed of heavenly stems and earthly branches with the stems corresponding to factors such as colors, elements and human body parts. Bryson illustrated that the calendar was engrained in everyday aspects of Chinese culture. The earthly branches relate to the 12 zodiac animals.


The Chinese calendar also represented power. Natural phenomenon such as a solar eclipse or hurricane reflected badly on the rulers of the time.

“Time is power, and controlling the calendar is a kind of power. Owning or establishing a calendar was asserting your dynasty’s authority,” Bryson said.

A Chinese matchmaker would assess the year, month, day and hour of birth for two potential spouses to determine their compatibility. “They are pretty literally star-crossed lovers,” Bryson said.

The Jewish calendar embodies the love and power of God in Hebrew culture. In his presentation, Love addressed the Jewish practice of celebrating after a new moon, as written in Numbers 10:10 and Numbers 28:11-15. In the verses, a new moon resulted in sacrifices and praises to God.

“These verses are basically a recipe for a Biblical-style barbecue, with wine instead of beer,” Love said.

In popular Jewish music, the moon can take a central role such as in Debbie Friedman’s “Seasons of the Moon.”

Chinese and Jewish cultures both believe calendars are a connection to the divine and provide an insight into human life.

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