MathModern Mythology

Modern Mythology: “Ancient” Chinese Gender Charts

Numerology makes its way into modern mythology in so many ways that you almost don’t even see it anymore until you start looking. Mathemagical claims are in everything from personality tests to weird coincidences to Ancient Chinese Gender Charts.

These gender charts are EVERYWHERE in the Googlesphere, so take your pick. Most claim that the chart was discovered in an ancient tomb or some other archaeological site that somehow verifies its authenticity to people who believe older cultures were by definition wiser, particularly when it comes to mystical powers (even though predictions are more likely related to math and science, numbers and pattern seeking, than to anything paranormal). Another version of the chart includes the claim that the chart now resides at the Beijing Institute of Science, another way to give it an air of legitimacy and imply that it’s scientifically based or at least of scientific interest.

According to these charts, the mother’s age combined with the month of conception can predict the gender of the child. So you look at the chart, find your age (or your mom’s age or whatever), and the month the baby is due (or, retroactively, your birth month). Of course, there’s a roughly 50% chance that the chart will be correct, so no doubt, to many people, the accuracy seems astonishing. Some charts will even claim “93% accurate” or similar, so even if the chart is wrong, you can always rationalize that this instance falls into that 7%.

None of these charts explain what the mother’s age has to do with gender, not only as far as the age itself but considering the father determines gender (mothers provide the X, and fathers provide an X or a Y).

And somehow, I don’t think the ancient Chinese used the Gregorian calendar, yet these charts with few exceptions rely on just that. Even if adapted from the Chinese calendar to the Gregorian, the predictions wouldn’t fall so neatly into Gregorian months. Not to mention the fact that the ancient Chinese calendars differed from each other, to the point where they actually had to distinguish which calendar they were referring to (the Yin calendar? the Lu calendar? the Royal calendar?).

So without even getting into the math claims, we can quickly see that these gender charts are a myth. Even when the predictions are accurate, it’s hardly earth-shattering. Just guessing will give us a correct prediction about 50% of the time on average, and just by chance, some of us will guess correctly more often than that (while others will be wrong more than 50% of the time).

So, these ancient Chinese gender charts are not likely ancient or Chinese, and they don’t predict gender any more accurately than guessing. But they are charts. So there’s that.

Previous post

Teen Skepchick's Reality Checks 6.4

Next post

Teen Skepchick's Reality Checks 6.5

Melanie Mallon

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer who just moved to a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband and two young kids. When not counting how often the words "pride," "liberty," and "freedom" are used in local business, road, and pet names, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and raising her two kids to be critical thinkers. She is the managing editor of Skepchick Events, a Grounded Parents admin, and a Skepchick contributor. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Google+

2 Comments

  1. June 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm —

    Just one little nitpick… X or Y is one of the main factors that determines biological sex, but it does not determine gender.
    Aside from that, great article.

  2. June 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm —

    Oh, of course! You’re absolutely right. That’s an important distinction. Thank you.

Leave a reply