A popular folk method of recording years are the Twelve Animal Signs. Every year is assigned an animal name or "sign" according to a 12-year cycle used for dating the years.
Every twelve years the same animal name or "sign" would reappear.
They represent a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time. In traditional China, dating methods were cyclical, meaning that after one spring there would come a new spring, repeated time after time according to a circular pattern rather than a straight line.
In the West the years, save some anomalies, are dated from the birth of Jesus Christ. For example 'year 2000' means 2000 years after the birth of Christ. This represents a linear perception of time, with time proceeding in a straight line from the past to the present and the future.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and early February.
The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1911, but the lunar calendar is still used for festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year. Many Chinese calendars will print both the solar dates and the Chinese lunar dates.