Learning About Taiwan: AD, BC, Minguo, and Y1C

So I signed my first-ever legal contract outside of the US… a short-term lease for an office that I am now working in during the regular work-week (more on this on an upcoming post…)

But there was something really interesting about the contract I signed, and I thought that it would make a nice start to a series of posts that I’ll be putting up throughout the coming months, called “Learning About Taiwan”… a look at some of the logistical quirks and differences between Taiwan and the US.

Specifically in this case, the contract was dated 101-11-19.  Okay, so the 11-19 makes sense… November 19 (which is when I signed the lease).  But the 101?!

Well, it turns out that Taiwan (for most official documents, including business contracts) uses what is known as the Minguo Calendar, which sets the year “1″ to 1912, which is the year of the founding of the Republic of China (e.g. Taiwan).  So instead of AD (anno domini, or in the year of our Lord) and BC (before Christ)… they basically say “in the year of our Republic”.

Makes you wonder… what do they say about years prior to 1912?  Could they still use “BC”… as in… Before China?  Hardy har har…

Anyway, if you’re wondering about this whole business of 2012 vs. 101, 2013 vs. 102, etc. and think that it might be a bit confusing, well… it is.  What makes things worse is that while official business, contracts, etc. as well as many signs will use the Minguo Calendar, pop culture, media, etc. will use the regular (e.g. Gregorian) calendar that pretty much the rest of the world is accustomed to.  So people will use “2012″ and “101″ interchangeably.

But wait!  It get’s even more confusing!  Because sometimes, they shorthand the writing of dates to just the last 2 digits of the year (similar how we say ’12 instead of 2012).  So instead of the year 101, sometimes they’d just write ’01.  Which begs the question… if you see the year “01″, are they talking about the year 2012?  Or are they talking about the year 2001?

All this brings me to my favorite sentence in the wikipedia link I included above:

“The use of the ROC era system extends beyond official documents. When used to mark expiration dates on products for export, they can be misunderstood as having an expiration date 11 years earlier than intended.”

LOL… I should take and post a picture of me drinking a carton of milk with an expiration date of December 8 ’01…

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