Climate Zangskar

By the People & For the People

WHEN Do We Work?

WHEN -top hoto

The Climate Z project will run from 2021- 2022, with most of our participatory research and fieldwork conducted in the spring, summer, and fall months when we can best document the ways that agrarian activities and resource management practices have shifted in response to climate change. Climate Z adapts to local Zangskari concepts of time, which incorporate the Tibetan calendar, agrarian cycles, and ritual activities.

Three ways of conceptualizing time in Zangskar:


Agrarian Time

This graphic illustrates the agrarian activities that dominate a Zangskari year according to the 12 Tibetan months and four seasons, yet does not include many tasks such as feeding livestock or taking them to water. Wintertime has the fewest tasks, while spring and Autumn are intense times of labor with multiple and overlapping tasks. Every single task on this chart is still performed by hand without aid of mechanical equipment in most Zangskari villages, although mechanical threshers are being adopted in Padum and other villages in the central valley.

gregorian-tibetan time

Tibetan & Seasonal Time

The Buddhists of Zangskar use the Tibetan calendar, which is found across the HImalayan region in societies that had historic relations with Tibet (Zangskar, Ladakh, Dolpo, Mustang, Sikkhim, & Bhutan). Adapted from the Chinese calendar in the 7th century, the Tibetan calendar is a lunisolar calendar that typically includes 12 months of roughly 30 days.

Each month begins and ends with the new moon, and the full moon always falls on or near the 15th of each month. Because a lunar month lasts only 28.5 days, most Tibetan months of 30 days drop a day or two each month, yet days can also be repeated if the moonrise and moonset occurs over two solar days. Since 12 lunar months do not precisely coincide with a solar year of 365 days, the calendar adds an intercalary or 13th month every few years, so that the Tibetan New Year, called Losar (lo gsar), always falls before spring equinox.

The calendar is adjusted to the four seasons, with the fifth Tibetan month commencing roughly around summer solstice, the 8th month beginning around autumn equinox, and the 11th Tibetan month falling shortly after winter solstice. Within Ladakh, a local ritual almanac adapts the Tibetan calendar by specifying the astrological significance of every day and even hour, in order to predict the most auspicious timings for ritual, life-cycle, and agricultural activities.

Copyright Mika Hirai

Tibetan Years & Astrology

Each year in the Tibetan calendar has an animal and element sign, which are used in Tibetan astrology to signify the characteristics of that year and people born within that year. Since the 7th century, the Tibetan calendar uses the 12 animal signs and five elements used in the Chinese and Mongolian calendars. A complete cycle of twelve years paired with five different elements lasts sixty years, as illustrated in the graphic above (1936-2011).

Find out ways to be involved with us! Climate Z received a National Geographic Award for fieldwork to begin in 2021...