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This use of the cycle for days is attested throughout the Zhou dynasty and remained common into the Han period for all documentary purposes that required dates specified to the day.

Almost all the dates in the Spring and Autumn Annals, a chronological list of events from 722 to 481 BC, use this system in combination with regnal years and months (lunations) to record dates.

For example, the ji-chou ), which occurs near February 4.) In Japan, according to Nihon shoki, the calendar was transmitted to Japan in 553.It appears as a means of recording days in the first Chinese written texts, the Shang oracle bones of the late second millennium BC.Its use to record years began around the middle of the 3rd century BC.Each term in the sexagenary cycle consists of two Chinese characters, the first being one of the ten Heavenly Stems of the Shang-era week and the second being one of the twelve Earthly Branches representing the years of Jupiter's duodecennial orbital cycle.The first term jiǎzǐ ()—unused; this is traditionally explained by reference to pairing the stems and branches according to their yin and yang properties.

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