What’s my age again? (East Asian age reckoning)

Just like a lot of Taiwanese people have 2 names (their REAL one that westerners have a rough time pronouncing and their FAKE English one to be able to deal with wai guo ren), they also seem to have 2 ages.  One is calculated by the standards westerners are used to.  After one year of life, you are 1 year old.  The other is a bit different.

Commonly known as East Asian age reckoning – I’ve discovered how the traditional Chinese determine age.  Age begins from the time one is conceived, not born, so you are already 1 year old when you come screaming into this world.  You are considered a living being from the time of conception.

I wonder if and how this affects Taiwanese view on abortions?  Hmmm…

Added to that, age is also determined by the lunar calender’s New Year.  Not your actual birthday. Here’s where it gets a bit muddy.  Ok, say you’re 25 years old.  Your birthday is on July 18.  So, you will turn 26 on July 18 right?

Not according to East Asian age reckoning.  Since the lunar calender’s NY has already passed (late Jan – early Feb), you are ALREADY 26.  On your ACTUAL birthday, you will be 27 (Combination of eastern and western.  If  you go eastern, then your birthday doesn’t matter and you will be 27 NEXT Lunar NY)

I think they do this because they know that they age more gracefully and will look younger than us!

Another thing peculiar to Taiwanese is how they state their birth year.  Again, they have 2. One is what we are used to 19…something.  The other is based on Taiwan’s age.  So the R.O.C. (Taiwan, Republic of China) was formed in 1911 – making it 102 years old this year.

If you were born in 1990, then in Taiwan years you would be 1990-1911 = 79.  You were born when Taiwan was 79 years old, so your birth year is 79 in Taiwan and 1990 in the rest of the world.

All this being very different from what I’m used to, for a while there I tried to keep track of how old I was in both systems.  This eventually got very confusing and I was telling my Taiwanese age to westerners and my western age to Taiwanese, so eventually I threw in the towel and decided to stick to the one that makes me younger – my western age.

Just another interesting fact about Taiwan.


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