Nowadays, most of countries adopt 24-hour timekeeping convention, dividing a day into 24 hours. Do you know how to say time in Mandarin? Please check our Lesson, https://member.newconceptmandarin.com/survival-mandarin-video-course/play/item:153
However, in ancient China, people divided a day into twelve 2-hour periods, and they called each 2-hour period “时辰 shí chén”.
At first, the naming of 12 时辰 is closely related to natural phenomenon and Chinese people’s daily life. For example, ancient Chinese often ate their breakfast during 7am-9am. Then the 时辰 from 7am-9am is named as “食时 shí shí”, which literally means “the time to eat” (as “时shí” means “time” and “食shí” means “food” as a noun or “to eat” as a verb). You can find the time period and name of each 时辰 from the chart below:
|Name of 时辰||Period of the Day||Meaning of the Name|
|夜半 yè bàn||11pm-1am||Midnight|
|鸡鸣 jī míng||1am-3am||Cockcrow|
|平旦 píng dàn||3am-5am||Dawn|
|日出 rì chū||5am-7am||Sunrise|
|食时 shí shí||7am-9am||Meal time|
|隅中 yú zhōng||9am-11am||Mid-morning|
|日中 rì zhōng||11am-1pm||Midday|
|日昳 rì yì||1pm-3pm||Sun-decline|
|晡时 bū shí||3pm-5pm||Dinner time|
|日入 rì rù||5pm-7pm||Sunset|
|昏时 hūn shí||7pm-9pm||Dusk|
|人定 rén dìng||9pm-11pm||People still|
Ancient Chinese Twelve 时辰 (shí chén) Details
In Song Dynasty, each时辰 was further divided into two 1-hour slots. The first slot is called “初chū”, and the second slot is called ”正zhèng”. People then called the new half as “小时”, which literally means ”small hour” to differentiate with 时辰.
Each 小时 indicates 1 hour, and until present days, we still use “小时” to mean “hour”. Therefore, if you hear Chinese people say “一个小时” , they mean “one hour”. If you hear “两个小时”, they mean “two hours”. Do you know what does "半小时" mean? Ask your teacher and comment below!