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East Asian age reckoning is a concept and practice that originated in Chinamarker and is used in East Asian cultures. Several East Asian cultures, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolia, Taiwanese and Vietnamese, share this traditional way of counting a person's age, in which a person's age is counted starting from conception, rather than from physical birth. Newborns start at one year old, and each passing of a New Year, rather than the birthday, adds one year to the person's age; this results in people being between 1 and 2 years older in Asian reckoning than in the Western version. Today this system is commonly used in Koreans' daily lives, with the exception of the legal system and newspapers. In Eastern Outer Mongolia, age is traditionally determined based on the number of full moons since conception for girls, and the number of new moons since birth for boys. In Chinamarker and Japanmarker it is used for traditional fortune-telling or religion, and it is disappearing in daily life between peoples in the city.


In either the traditional or modern age system, the word sui ( ), meaning "years of age", is used for age counting. When a person's age is given in a publication, it is often specified whether that is his or her traditional age ( ) or modern age ( ) or shisui ( ).

In the traditional age system, a person is considered a year old at the time of birth, to account for the gestation period in the womb.


Japanese uses the word sai ( or ) as a counter word for both the traditional and modern age system.

The traditional system of age reckoning, or kazoedoshi ( ), was rendered obsolete by law in 1902 when Japanmarker officially adopted the Western system, known in Japanese as man nenrei ( ). However, the traditional system was still commonly used, so in 1950 another law was established to encourage people to use the Western system.

Today the traditional system is mainly used by the elderly. Elsewhere its use is limited to traditional ceremonies, divinations, and obituaries.


Koreansmarker generally refer to their age in units called sal (살), using Korean numerals in ordinal form. Thus, a person is one sal during the first calendar year of life, and ten sal during the tenth calendar year.

The 100th-day anniversary of a baby is called baegil (백일), which literally means "a hundred days" in Korean, and is given a special celebration, marking the survival of what was once a period of high infant mortality. The first anniversary of birth named dol (돌)) is likewise celebrated, and given even greater significance. Koreans celebrate their birthdays, even though every Korean gains one year on New Year's Day. Because the first year comes at birth and the second on New Year's Day, a child born, for example, on December 29 will reach two years of age on January 1, when they are only three days old in western reckoning.

In modern Korea, the Western age system is referred to as "man-nai" (만나이) in which "man" (만) means "full" or "actual", and "nai" meaning "age". Though, the traditional system is most often used. For example, man yeol sal means "full ten years", or "ten years old" in English. The Korean word dol means "years elapsed", identical to the English "years old", but is only used to refer to the first few birthdays. Cheotdol or simply dol refers to the first Western-equivalent birthday, dudol refers to the second, and so on.

The birthday by the lunar calendar is called eumnyeok saeng-il (음력 생일, 陰曆生日) and yangnyeok saeng-il (양력 생일, 陽曆生日) is the birthday by Gregorian calendar.

For official government uses, documents, and legal procedures, the Western age system is used. Regulations regarding age limits on alcohol and tobacco use, as well as the age of consent, are all based on the Western system (man-nai).

See also


  1. レファレンス事例詳細: 相-090002, Collaborative Reference Database. (Accessed 2009-11-11.) "なお、年齢が数えか満年齢かについては、現行法規である「年齢計算ニ関スル法律」が明治35年12月2日法律第50号として存在するが、その前に「明治六年第三十六号布告」で満年齢について規定された。 (translation: Whether one counts age the modern age system (満年齢) is described by the "Legal age calculation" law initiated Meiji 35 (1902), December 2, Act no. 50 exists prior to the "13 Years of Meiji 6 Proclamation No. 6" prescribed for the modern age system (満年齢).)"
  2. Hirofumi Hirano, July Heisei 40, 年齢の計算に関する質問主意書 (Memorandum on questions about the calculation of age), Japan House of Representatives. (Retrieved 2009-11-11) "わが国では、「年齢のとなえ方に関する法律」に基づき、昭和二十五年以降数え年による年齢計算を止め、満年齢によって年齢を計算している。 (translation: In Japan, the age laws which were originally based on the calculation by East Asian age reckoning (数え年) were replaced Twenty-five years after the Showa (1950) with the modern age system (満年齢) method of age calculation.)"
  3. Song, Jae Jung. , p. 81-82, (quote) "Koreans prefer native Korean to Sino-Korean numerals when telling their own or other people's age,...Note that the native age classifier sal must be used with native Korean numerals and the Sino-Korean age classifier sey with Sino-Korean numerals,.."
  4. DuBois , pp. 72-73
  5. Hilts and Kim, , p.228 (quote) "Koreans have a peculiar way of calculating age. When you're born, you're already one year old, and then you get another year older when New Year's Day rolls around. The result is that your hangungnai (한국나이), 'Korean age', is usually one to tow years older than your man-nai (만 나이), 'actual age'. Under-age kids sometimes try to take some advantage of this, but eligibility for drinking, obtaining license etc is determined by your actual age."


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