Chinese Time Study #5:
Learn Year in Chinese and Chinese Year Words For Daily Needs


Do you know how to read or write “year in Chinese” and common Chinese year words for daily use? And what are the differences between cardinal numerals and ordinals when they are separately linking with the Chinese character of year “年”. Follow us to get up-to-date tips about Chinese year words and learning resources on boosting your Chinese study. Let’s begin!

Target Story Words

English Words:

Chinese Pinyin:

Standard Chinese:

Similar Chinese Words:
年字 Nián zì One character to say year in Chinese.
年份 Nián fèn A two-character word to express the year in Chinese.
年表 Nián biǎo The Chinese word to say Chronology, or known as “纪年法” (jì nián fǎ).
纪元 Jì yuán The Chinese word of Era referring to the chronology dating system.

Related Chinese Words:
“日”时间 Rì shí jiān Chinese time words to express days.
“周”时间 Zhōu shí jiān Chinese time expressions for days of the week and weeks.
“月”时间 Yuè shí jiān Chinese time expressions for months.
“季节”时间 Jì jié shí jiān Chinese time expressions for seasons.

Chinese Words Pronunciation

Chinese Pronunciation on GoogleSay “Year and Year Words” in Chinese

Core “Year” Character in Chinese


Basically,one Chinese character “ (nián)” is used to express the year in Chinese or year-related Chinese words/phrases, to help distinguish the time of year from other Chinese time words, such as days, dates, days of the week, months, seasons, etc.


The Chinese character generally contains several meanings in the context, the most common two of which imply the age or year time in Chinese. See more below.


  • (nián) – to commonly express the “year” in Chinese.
    年 – 中文里常用来表达“Year”的汉字。

    • a common Chinese character to signal the year as a unit of time in the Chinese language.
    • often appears in both written and spoken Chinese year words and expressions.
    • originally means the year’s harvest.
    • Nowadays, it also used to mean ages, such as “年龄 (age)”, “年纪 (people’s age)”, or the time periods of people’s life, such as “童年 (childhood)”, “青年 (youth)”, “老年 (old age)”, etc.

Modern: Specify A Year in Chinese With Ordinals


As similar as other countries did, China has adopted the international-general Gregorian Calendar to count and name years since 1949 although the traditional Chinese calendar is still popular and in use in China.

中国从 1949 年起开始同现代世界上大多数国家一样采用国际通行的公元纪年法来记载年份。

Nowadays, it’s common to see a four-digit ordinal number, either written in Arabic or Chinese numeral characters, binding with the core Chinese character of year “” together to specify a year in China, such as “2021年” or “二零二一年“.


In modern days, the commonly-appeared Year in Chinese =
4-digit Ordinals + 年, the Core Character for Year
四位数的序数 + “年” = 常见的中文“年份”表示法

For more details on the common year-counting of the modern Chinese era, please see below:


  • First, “A four-digit Arabic numeral + 年” is most common to see in any of Chinese life as the proper writing form to identify and specify the year in Chinese, e.g. the Year of 2022 written as “2022年” in Chinese. As to the year in Chinese heading with a four-digit numeral, just read each digit with the Chinese pronunciation from left to right, one after another, and then the Chinese pronunciation of 年, such as reading it out like “二零二二年” or fully “公元二零二二年“.
    最常见的是用“四位数的阿拉伯数字的序数字 + 年”表示中文年份,如公元元年后的年份为“2022年”。用中文读出年份时,直接从左向右依次依次每个数字,如“二零二二年”或“公元二零二二年”;
  • Secondly, it’s also popular and formal to use “A four-digit Chinese Ordinals + 年” to express the year in Chinese, e.g. “二零二二年” in Simplified Chinese or “贰零贰贰年” in Traditional Chinese. And The way to read them out in Chinese is the same as that of the first form introduced above.
    用“四位数的中文序数字 + 年”表示中文年份,如简体中文的“二零二二年”或繁体中文的“贰零贰贰年”。也是从左向右依次用中文直接读出每个数字,如“二零二二年”或“公元二零二二年”;
  • Thirdly, to turn the Year Before Common Era (BCE) into Chinese, you’d better add the equivalent Chinese word “公元前 (gōng yuán qián)” in front of the year numerals, e.g. the Year of 221 BC (or 221 BCE) written as “公元前221年” in Chinese, and read out in Chinese orderly with cautiousness (see tips below).
    公元元年以前的年份,则在数字前加上“公元前”的词语即可,如 the year 221 BC 或 221 BCE 中文写作“公元前221年”,需小心中文读法(见提示如下)。

What’s more, there are certainly other Chinese era chronologies, with the origins earliest backing to 3000~2600 BCE. Two most popular Chinese era chronologies, well-known as “The Ten Heavenly Stems and Twelve Earthly Branches 干支纪年纪年 (gān zhī jì nián)” and “Chinese 12 Zodiac Animals 十二生肖纪年 (shí èr shēng xiāo jì nián)” have been applied to the Chinese Calendar (lunisolar calendar) and passed down for years to present-time China for popular uses.


Learn Year-Counting Words Including Chinese Cardinals and Ordinals


Cardinals + 年 For Year-Counting in Chinese

To Count the Years in Chinese (numbers of years) =
Cardinal Numbers + 年, the Core Character for Year
基数词 + “年” = 表示中文里的“年数”

  • (yī nián) – One year in Chinese
  • (sān nián) – Three years in Chinese
  • (duō nián) – Many years in Chinese
  • 许多(xǔ duō nián) – Many years in Chinese
  • 好几(hǎo jǐ nián) – Several years in Chinese
  • 又一(yī nián yòu yī nián) – Year after year in Chinese

Ordinals + 年 For Year-Counting in Chinese

Order of the Year in Chinese =
Ordinal Numbers + 年, the Core Character for Year
序数词(第几) + “年” = 表达中文里的“年份排序”

To indicate the order of the year in Chinese, you can also use the “Chinese Ordinal Numerals 第几” to combine with either the single character “” or the two-character word “年头” for the year-counting, the latter requiring “” – a must-have measure word – inserted into the year expression in Chinese, as below.


  • 第一(dì yī nián) – The first year in Chinese
  • 第四(dì sì nián) – The fourth year in Chinese
  • 第五个年头(dì wǔ gè nián tóu) – The fifth year in Chinese

Next, let’s see how many Chinese words below are able to describe the second year or similars.


  • 第二(dì èr nián) – The second year in Chinese
  • (míng nián) – The next year in Chinese
  • 下一(xià yì nián) – The next year in Chinese
  • (lái nián) – The coming year in Chinese
  • (cì nián) – The ensuing year in Chinese
  • (yì nián) – The following year in Chinese

And more:


  • (shí nián) – Decade or ten years in Chinese.
  • 二十(èr shí nián) – Two decades or twenty years in Chinese.
  • (bǎi nián) – Century or a period of a hundred years in Chinese, while the century is also known as “世纪(shì jì).
  • (qiān nián) – millennium or a period of a thousand years in Chinese
  • (wàn nián) – Leap year in Chinese

Learn More Chinese Year Words And Expressions


  • (píng nián) – Common year in Chinese, referring to the year containing 365 days opposite to the concept of Leap year in Chinese.
  • (rùn nián) – Leap year in Chinese

Continue to more Chinese year words below:


  • (shǒu nián) – The initial year in Chinese
  • 最初的一(zuì chū de nián) – The initial year in Chinese
  • 头几(tóu jǐ nián) – The first few years in Chinese
  • 最初几(zuì chū jǐ nián) – Initial years in Chinese
  • 一整(yì zhěng nián) – A full/whole year in Chinese
  • (quán nián) – The entire year in Chinese
  • 年的(quán nián de) – Year-round in Chinese
  • 到头(yī nián dào tóu) – All year round in Chinese
  • (měi nián) – Every year in Chinese
  • (nián nián) – Yearly, year by year, or year after year in Chinese

Chinese “Year” Words In Chronological Order


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