heavenly stem



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A calque of Chinese 天干 ‎(tiāngān).


heavenly stem ‎(plural heavenly stems)

  1. One of the ten terms used in East Asian cultures to represent
    1. (historical or astrology) A day of the traditional ten-day week.
    2. (mythology) One of the ten suns thought to appear in succession on its appointed day of the traditional week.
    3. (historical religion) The ancestor venerated with a ritual on the appointed day of the traditional week.
    4. (formal) An ordinal, used in similar contexts to Roman numerals in English numbering and outlining.

Usage notesEdit

For a list of the heavenly stems, see the Chinese entry for 天干.

The heavenly stems are also used as the first component of each of the sixty terms of the Chinese sexagenary cycle (干支), used in ancient China to record dates and in traditional contexts in modern China to order years. They appear in this context as early as the Shang-era oracle bones.


See alsoEdit