about The Illustrated Almanac

THE ILLUSTRATED ALMANAC interprets ecological and anthropogenic events in the Illawarra (New South Wales, Australia) and beyond over 1 calendar year. Observations of phenological occurrences, weather statistics, astronomical information,  and relevant materials pertaining to the local biomes including human activities will be collected between September 2011 and August 2012.  Interpretation, exposition, speculation or reflection on the collected data will be posted on this site once every 5 days. The project uses the temporal structure of the Chinese almanac.

This almanac invites subscribers and contributors to participate in this project by responding to posts, providing comments, or sending in data or any relevant information from their own locations. Both subscribers and contributors play an important role in the creation of this almanac.

At the end of each month, selected statistical, textual and graphical data will be collated to form the basis of a print edition. The designs will to be printed with Big Fag Press. The project completes with 12 print editions each charting 1 month over a one-year cycle in September 2012.

 {The Solar terms} 節氣

THE ILLUSTRATED ALMANAC adopts the structure of the Chinese almanac where a year is divided into 24 solar terms. The solar terms correspond to the apparent positions of the Sun as viewed from the Earth. From our perspective the sun follows an imaginary path, the ecliptic, as we make one complete revolution around it (i.e. 1 Earth year). The ecliptic is parallel to the Earth’s orbital plane. A position on the ecliptic is measured in degrees (°). The 24 solar terms correspond to 24 positions of the sun on the ecliptic 15° apart.

The celestial axis extends the Earth’s rotational axis, currently tilting at 23.44° to its orbital plane, with the celestial equator at its perpendicular. The celestial equator is, therefore, at a 23.44°’ angle to the ecliptic and where the two intersect are two equinoctial points. The equinoctial point where the sun passes from south to north is the northern vernal equinox / southern autumnal equinox (or the March equinox) and it marks the ecliptic meridian (i.e. 0°). The ecliptic longitude increases from east to west (i.e. anticlockwise). The diametrically opposite equinoctial point at 180° is the northern autumnal equinox/ the southern vernal equinox (or the September equinox) . The northern summer solstice/ southern winter solstice (June Solstice) is situated at 90° while the northern winter solstice/ southern summer solstice (December Solstice) is at 270°. The Babyloian Roman-Greco 12 zodiacs or constellations share the same basis of celestial measurement using apparent solar positions.

The Chinese Almanac marks the start of seasons on cross-quarter days: summer at 45°, autumn at 135°, winter at 255°, and spring at 315° on the ecliptic. It names the remaining solar terms using descriptions of generalised weather conditions, agricultural activities, and animal behaviours as observed in ancient China. Each solar term is further divided into 3 pentads 候 (5-day period) and their names are also derived from general observations of ecological, climatic, agricultural or animal activities. Notably Japan, Korea, and Vietnam have all adopted this almanac retaining the names of the solar terms but altering the pentads to better describe their local conditions.

I previously used the structure of the Chinese Almanac in 2 projects: The Autumn Almanac of Tokyo and The Seasonal Almanac of Austinmer. Initially inspired by Liza Dalby’s use of the Almanac in her East wind melts the ice: a memoir through the seasons, the two previous almanacs intentionally contrast dominant perceptions of seasons shaped by geographically specific climates (namely, northern hemisphere’s mid to high latitudes temperate climates) and cultural precepts. The Autumn Almanac of Tokyo uses the Japanese version of the ancient almanac as a structure for creating a living calendar, highlighting the culturally embedded notions of the seasons with the experience of contemporary Tokyo. The Seasonal Almanac uses the same structure converted to the southern hemisphere’s readings to draw attention to the discrepancies between assumed climate models and the actual experience of our surroundings. THE ILLUSTRATED ALMANAC extends this by actively mapping human experience in relation to these changes with the aim to building different perceptual models of our climate.

{To subscribe or contribute}

Phenology is the study of cyclical biological occurrences in nature and can provide important data for gauging seasonal variations and long-term climate change.  As a ‘citizen science’ it enjoys wide public participation. In the same spirit, THE ILLUSTRATED ALMANAC invites you to take part in charting the changes in our environments over time.

There are 2 ways to subscribe:

  1. in a reader: you will be able to read summaries of  new entries using your nominated reader (e.g. Google, Yahoo, AOL etc.) ; click here to subscribe to THE ILLUSTRATED ALMANAC in a reader; or click ‘Subscribe in a reader’ under ‘Subscribe’ on the side bar to the right.
  2. via email: you will receive email updates when new entries are added to the Almanac; enter your email address and click ‘subscribe’ under ‘Subscribe via email’ form on the side bar to the right.

If you would like to become a contributor, please register here (or click ‘Register’ listed uner ‘Site’ on the sidebar to the right) and I will contact you via email.

You can download a Solar terms calendar converted for the Southern hemisphere here and a blank Solar terms calendar here.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.