The four pillars are the cornerstones of Chinese astrology. Each year, month, day, and 2-hour period of each day is assigned a combination of one of the 12 animal signs (branches) and one of the 5 elements (stems).
Ba Zi means "eight words" or "eight characters," and denotes the one element and one animal sign in each of the four "pillars." Two characters (one of the five elements placed on top of one of the 12 animal signs) times four pillars or positions (one for your birth year, one for your birth month, one for your birth day, and one for your birth hour) equal the eight words.
These eight words (four elements and four animal signs) comprise what is called the four pillars of destiny, or Ba Zi. Here's an example:
Eight Characters, Four Pillars Ba Zi is a system of astrology invented by Li Xu Zhong in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). The system was later revised and updated by Xu Zi Ping of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). The most authoritative work is the San Ming Tong Hui by Wan Yu Wu of the Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644 AD).
As with each of the many forms of Chinese divination, the four pillars began with a hypothesis, which was then supplemented by and confirmed through observations and experimentation until a formula was found that returned reliable and consistent results. The ancient Chinese developed the art of four pillars of destiny as a method for understanding and enhancing our life experiences.
The Wu Xing (Chinese: 五行; pinyin: Wǔ Xíng), also known as the Five Elements, Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, Five Processes, and the Five Steps/Stages, is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicinal drugs.
The five elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.
Below is an equivalence of the states of matter found in physics and chemistry:
These five types of qi (life force) also have their yin and yang attributes. Each element is expressed once in its negative, feminine yin form, and once in it's positive, masculine yang form. Yin is more subtle, and Yang is more active.
Each element is produced and subsequently destroyed by another element in a delicate yet perfectly balanced cycle:
The producing, enhancing cycle:
Water > Wood > Fire > Earth > Metal
The controlling cycle:
Water > Fire > Metal > Wood > Earth
The weakening cycle:
Water > Metal > Earth > Fire > Wood
Memory jogs, which help to remind in what order the phases are:
The five elements in their yin and yang expressions create 10 types of element qi, or the "10 heavenly stems." The 12 animal signs, alternating between yin and yang, are called the "12 earthly branches."
Each energy interacts in a specific way with the others, just as we do with different people.
Yang Wood Jia is like a tall tree, sturdy and growing upward.
Yin Wood Yi is like a shrub, grass, or graceful plant.
Yang Fire Bing is like a forest fire-hot, raging, and quick.
Yin Fire Ding is like a candle flame, flickering and burning slowly.
Yang Earth Wu is the tallest mountain, crusty soil, and parched desert.
Yin Earth Ji is akin to garden soil, loamy and rich in nutrients.
Yang Metal Geng is like a sharp sword, piercing and strong.
Yin Metal Xin is like intricate jewelry that clasps and creates structure.
Yang Water Ren is like the deep ocean with its tempests and waves.
Yin Water Gui is like a lake or pool, calm on the surface.
Life qi also comes in combinations of the 12 earthly branches or animal signs. The 12 animal branches are: Rat (Zi), Ox (Chou), Tiger (Yin), Rabbit (Mao), Dragon (Chen), Snake (Si,) Horse (Wu), Goat (Wei), Monkey (Shen), Rooster (You), Dog (Xu), and Pig (Hai).
This earliest of Chinese divination systems uses the five element placements in an individual's birth chart, especially the element of the birth day, or daymaster, to examine and compare each pillar to the others.
Forecasting is accomplished by comparing your birth chart to any given time, date, or person. The individual pillars are examined for harmony and conflict, balance and imbalance.
Through these basic interactions and distinct patterns, each person can view his or her potential and determine his/her best days, months, years, and companions.