A month is 25 days. The first day of the month is named after the same aspect of the cycle as the month. The name of days then proceed according to the cycle, through two full revolutions, and then end on the same aspect of the cycle with which the month began. So, the Month of the Tiger begins with the First Day of the Tiger (called the Day of the Early Tiger), then the First Day of the Tortoise, the First Day of the Monkey, etc., until the Third Day of the Tiger (the Day of the Late Tiger). Then the month of the Tortoise starts with the First Day of the Tortoise. "Weekly" occasions will be things like "the farmer's market happens on the Day of the Magpie".
There is a Day of the Early Animal for each animal, then a Day of the Animal (for that particular month) and then a Day of the Late Animal for each animal. For the first and last months of each year, the Day of the Animal has its own name - so the first Day of the Fox in the Year of the Fox is the "Day of the Leaping Fox", and the Day of the Fox in the last month is the "Day of the Lazy Fox". The special names are:
- Bear: Waking, Slumbering
- Dog: Chasing, Sleeping
- Crane: Soaring, Diving
- Tiger: Pouncing, Crouching
- Tortoise: Moving, Waiting
- Monkey: Dancing, Dropping
- Butterfly: Floating, Settling
- Phoenix: Blazing, Ashen
- Serpent: Striking, Hidden
- Fox: Leaping, Lazy
- Spider: Grasping, Spinning
- Magpie: Flying, Nesting
Each month always falls in the same season - Bear is always at the start of winter, Butterfly at the beginning of summer. However, the formal construct known as a "year" shifts as time passes - it runs for thirteen months, from the named month to the named month again. That is, the Year of the Tortoise lasts from the First Day of the Tortoise, Month of the Tortoise, until the Third Day of the Tortoise, Second Month of the Tortoise, to be followed by the first day in the Year of the Monkey, which is the first Day of the Monkey, in the first Month of the Monkey.
Solstices and equinoxes occur in the middle of the season:
- The midwinter solstice is the Day of the Dog
- The midsummer solstice is the Day of the Phoenix
- The spring equinox is the Day of the Tortoise
- The fall equinox is the Day of the Spider
Years are usually referred to with respect to a particular milestone - "the Eleventh Year of the Crane since the formation of the Regency Council" uses a traditional milestone that will be understood throughout the Twelve Kingdoms, but it is common to use local milestones as well, such as "The second Year of the Crane of Ti Lao". (In cases like this, the milestone is treated as having happened on the first of the year.)
Named years are used in legal contracts and histories, but most people will informally track the time by the passing of seasons. The peasants plant rice every spring, and refer to the particularly wet spring five springs ago. Birthdays and other holidays are celebrated on the same day and month that they always fall, so they occur once every twelve months - but in the Year of the Crane, someone with a birthday in the Month of the Crane will have two birthdays in the same year. Thus, "twenty years ago" and "twenty winters ago" are not actually the same span of time (though they're in the same ballpark).
Astrologers are those most skilled in understanding the relationships between the cycles of years, and have skill in calculating time spans and the like from specific dates to other specific dates. Bureaucrats also have their own charts and tables, though for different reasons. But most people think that's too tedious to worry about and just use a reasonable local milestone to mark their dates.
At the start of the run, it is the first day of spring: the day of the Early Tiger in the month of the Tiger, in the third Year of the Fox since the crowning of Ti Lao.