How to sign this coming year in artworks

Each year has a unique name in the lunar calendar, and in our previous posts you may have also found out the logic in the naming of the years, which respects a 60-year cycle. In this post let us talk about the name, and especially how to write in Chinese calligraphy the coming year of rabbit!

Happy year of rabbit!

A little revision: how do we get the 60 year cycle? We use a system called the Stem-Branches or Ganzhi, also known as the sexagenary cycle. This is an ancient and long-surviving recording system that was common in the Eastern Asia, but its application can barely be seen other than in artworks anymore. As stated in the name of this system, it repeats every 60 years, and that means the same name of the year comes back once every 60 years.

We have 10 stems and 12 branches, and we match them according to certain orders. These heavenly stems, written as 甲乙丙丁戊己庚辛壬癸, their functions are just like numbers 1-10, indicating an order; the earthly branches are animals, the same animals for the zodiacs, and they are 子丑寅卯辰巳午未申酉戌亥, each referring to an animal. It is worth noting that these character cannot be used to refer to the animal directly, they are associated with the animals only. Every other character from the top line matches with every other character from the second line, and this way we have the complete chart of exactly 60 matchings:


This coming year will be the year named “癸卯”, located in the very last column. The first character “癸”, sounds like “gui”, indicates the order, and the second character “卯”, sound “mao”, means the year of rabbit. All the new paintings created starting from around this time of year could be signed with this name.

It also happens that some people sign their artworks with characters that directly refer to the year 2023. This is really rare but exists. In this case, it will be the Chinese characters that represent these individual numbers that come in use: 二零二三, or 二0二三. My advise is for you to spend a little time and learn to sign the accurate way, which can be used for an entire year anyway, so the effort is worthwhile!

In this following video let me show you how to write each character:

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