[tz] China time zones 1949 - 1980: appeal to speakers of Mandarin

Gary How hytar at outlook.com
Mon Mar 24 12:26:26 UTC 2014

Alois Treindl <alois <at> astro.ch> writes:

> This seems to be a relevant source:
> Guo, Qingsheng (2003) "Beijing Time at the Beginning of PRC", China 
> Historical Materials of Science and Technology 24(1)

Hi Alois and Paul, I purchased the journal article (finally after days of
figuring out which service allows payment from outside China). From the
points Alois raised in his recent email, I try to clarify by using that
article, quoting/paraphrasing its English translation.

> Various sources claim that this unified country-wide timezone was 
> already introduced in 1949 or early 1950

This particular source says the first meeting of the Chinese People's
Political Consultative Conference passed the resolution of "making Beiping
the capital, changing Beiping to Beijing." That was 27 September 1949. On
the same day, Beiping Xinhua Radio was renamed with Beijing at the
beginning. The next day, that station started using Beijing in its
timekeeping call. The earliest written instance of "Beijing Time" found by
the author was on 7 October 1949, through a newspaper posting from Xi'an
People's Radio. That said, the author inferred that Beijing Time was
established on 27 September 1949.

> It seems to me that the only source claiming the continuation of 5 time 
> zones for China is the International Atlas by Shanks and Pottenger. The 
> overall work of these authors is extremely valuable, but they do not 
> give a source for their China information.
> Paul Eckert says in tz/asia file:
> # From Paul Eggert (2008-06-30):
> # There seems to be a good chance China switched to a single time zone 
> in 1949
> # rather than in 1980 as Shanks & Pottenger have it, but we don't have a
> # reliable documentary source saying so yet, so for now we still go with
> # Shanks & Pottenger.

For time zones in the rest of China after that, Qing-sheng Guo has another
journal article in 2001 that discussed these in detail, entitled "A Study on
the Standard Time Changes for the Past 100 Years in China," from China
Historical Materials of Science and Technology 22(3).

Earlier I mentioned Xi'an radio station referencing Beijing Time. Another
written source for this was from the Xi'an People's Government dated 2
November 1949, announcing to stop using Longshu Time (aka Kansu-Szechuan
Time, GMT+7) and change to Beijing Time from 3 November 1949 onwards.

> 10/16/2010  by Jonathan.Hassid <at> uts.edu.au who writes:
> "The government in Chengdu (capital of Sichuan province) announced the 
> switch (from "Shulong" (Gansu/Sichuan) time) to Beijing time on 27 Dec. 
> 1949.

As for Chengdu, the date 27 December 1949 is stated in the article as "being
liberated" during the Communist Revolution. The switch to Beijing Time "was
announced ten days or so after that." The author referenced a notice from
the Chengdu Garrison Command dated 6 January 1950, to request citizens to
adjust their watches through daily sirens at noon Beijing Time. For most
other parts of China, they "have used standard time of 120° longitude around
the year 1950 to 1953." He dubbed it the "chaotic period", since no
government agency announced and enforced this rule of time, instead the
cities synced to the unified time at their pace.

In the 2003 article, Guo obtained two independent sources that verified the
Beijing Time of 1949 was using apparent/true solar time (GMT+7:56) and not
mean solar time (7:46) or standard time of 120° longitude (8:00). However,
he had doubts about that, since he thought apparent solar time is a step
back to time measurements in the early 20th century, and standard time
signals can be obtained easily from overseas stations at the time. The 1954
Chinese Astronomical Almanac mentioned that "except Xinjiang and Tibet, the
whole country uses standard time of 120° longitude." He has yet to find out
exactly when did Beijing Time switch back to GMT+8 between 1949 and 1954 in
the article. I will try to look for later articles that reference this work.

For Tibet, the standard time of 90° longitude was used prior to March 1959,
also known as Lhasa Time. After the Tibetan Uprising that month and the
Panchen Lama took over, the author surmised that the transition from Lhasa
Time to Beijing Time happened at the second half of 1959. He tried to look
for "first-hand accounts" on this, but found none so far. On the other hand,
Guo said time zone changes for Xinjiang is relatively well documented.

The Revolutionary Committee of Xinjiang and Xinjiang military notified on 9
June 1969, that starting from 1 July 1969, Beijing Time would be put into
effect for the entire Xinjiang province. On 7 April 1975, the same committee
put out a notice to be enforced on 1 May, that except military, rail-road,
civil aviation, postal and telecommunication services, the schedules for
government, factories, mines, businesses and schools would use Urumqi Time.
Due to poor implementation of this notice, they again informed on 10 June
1977 that "schedules for work, meeting etc. should only use Urumqi Time for
the whole province."

In the end, the Xinjiang People's Government decided that starting 1
February 1986, the entire province would use Urumqi Time. Whenever Beijing
Time is used, they should be stated explicitly. According to Guo, this
particular rule is more effectively put into practice. The question for tz
database is whether the switch to Urumqi Time in Xinjiang is on 1975 (when
it was first announced) or 1986 (when it was more commonly implemented).

To conclude, all of China currently is in the UTC+8:00 time zone except for
Xinjiang province, according to the articles. The central Chinese government
still did not made a law to enforce the unified time zone, although it was
widely accepted that China has one official time zone. Whether or not the
locals all around China follow that standard time, we do not know for sure.

The 2001 article by Guo also has details about Chinese time zones from the
1900s to 1949. We can start a new thread on this if necessary.

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