Buddhist Era

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Many Buddhist publications are dated with reference to a Buddhist Era (BE). Several systems have been used for calculating the number of a given year based on important events in the life of the Buddha.

Early Buddhist Calendar

The old East Asian Buddhist calender 舊佛歷 used 1027 BCE as the date of the Buddha's death, and counted years from that date.[1] Months and days followed the lunar calendar. This system was still in use in the early 20th century.[2] Since the current Buddhist calendar uses 543 BCE as the starting date, subtract 483 from an old Buddhist year to convert into the new system.

Current Buddhist Calendar

The modern East Asian Buddhist calendar 佛歷 is calculated based on the following:

  • Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana in 543 BCE, on the last day of the 5th month.
  • Years are reckoned from this year onwards
  • The month and day follow the modern Western Gregorian system.


  1. Possibility related to the fact that 1027 BCE was one of the proposed dates for the founding of the Zhōu 周 dynasty.
  2. See Joseph Edkins, Chinese Buddhism: a volume of sketches, historical, descriptive, and critical, second edition, revised (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1893), 12.
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