一 (One) + 月 (Moon) = 一月 [literally] (One Moon); (January)
We’ll start with January, of course! To write the month in Chinese, we take the number of the month and then add the character 月 (yuè), which means “moon.” In the traditional calendar, months are measured by the phases of the moon. One lunar cycle is one month. Even though we are talking about Gregorian months here, you can remember each month as “one moon cycle,” “two moon cycles,” and, etc.…
The standard Chinese character for one 一 is a simple line.
二 (Two) + 月 (Moon) = 二月 [literally] (Two Moons); (February)
Did you know that the name “February” comes from the Latin “februum,” which means “purification”? You can find more interesting historical names for February here: http://bit.ly/1dEOkYw (including “Solmonath,“ which meant “mud month”! Hehe!)
三 (Three) + 月 (Moon) = 三月 [literally] (Three Moons); (March)
The character 三, by the way, continues the simple pattern of 1 (一) and 2 (二) by adding a third stroke. Just like the others, it also dates to the oracle-bone scripts.
四 (Four) + 月 (Moon) = 四月 [literally] (Four Moons; April)
You guys know that the characters 一, 二, and 三 are really easy to speak and even easier to write. The number 四 (four) is where things start getting interesting! If you’re struggling to remember how to draw this character, you can just think about eating pie. Doesn’t this character look a bit like the number π (Pi) inside a 口 (mouth)??
五 (Five) + 月 (Moon) = 五月 [literally] (Five Moons); (May)
六 (Six) + 月 (Moon) = 六月 [literally] (Six Moons); (June)
As for the number 六 used in 六月, its origin is rather interesting. In the oracle-bone scripts, 六 was a pictograph of a hut. It just so happens that the Chinese word for “hut,” and the word for “six” sound the same. So, to make things efficient, the same character was used for both. Eventually, the character 六 became so strongly associated with the number six, that another character had to be created to symbolize “hut.” Now, 六 is used exclusively to mean “the number six.”
In the next post, we’ll introduce you how to say July to December in Chinese together with some interesting cultural facts. Stay tuned to our post next week!