This may be one of the last articles of the basic introductory articles on Chinese astrology at SignsInLife–at least for a short while (This also depends on interest and conversation generated, however…). I am looking at spending less time on teaching basic concepts from scratch and more time getting in depth into examples of people, places and things as well as current events, among other topics, using various astrological techniques. One of the few reasons that I started with the website is that I had prepared and gave a couple of presentations on Chinese astrology a little over two years ago. The presentations left many topics untouched and many questions unanswered by those who attended them, myself included. I found that there is a greater interest in Chinese methods among the astrology community in general, however, not much of it is understood. This created the need to develop a series of articles on Chinese astrology, which I hope that you have enjoyed. My presentation on The Five Elements at UAC in New Orleans earlier this year was truly an honor—and the ability to make this site and articles a reality goes hand in hand with my need to share my passion for astrology as a whole.
Before I begin this article I would like to stress that the Four Pillars in general are not very well understood by Westerners as a whole. I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 titles on Chinese/Asian astrology and the vast majority of those are simply fragments of a popularized Chinese astrology using the Chinese animals–they are marginally helpful at best. Many of the books on relationships go something like this, “The Horse will fight with the Rat and they are not compatible.” To complicate matters, there is generally a strain of truth in that statement. We have the same thing with Western astrology and Sun signs. Rob Hand uses the example (and I’m paraphrasing), “Aries are fun-loving, energetic, passionate, head-strong, etc.” On the other hand there are a handful of Western astrologers that can “squeeze blood from a turnip” and give us some pretty good details on Sun signs and Sun sign forecasts alone. Many of us began our journey into astrology under the assumption that we could get some quick and easy answers to our most pressing issues or problems of the day. “What is the birthday of so and so? Let’s look them up. See, it says here that we are perfect for each other.” These are usually the famous last words before someone completely writes off all remaining interest in astrology as a serious topic of investigation and study. One of the primary purposes of why I am writing about this topic in particular is to change that sentiment with the Chinese/Asian art of the Four Pillars.
There are just a few books that I can recommend at this time on serious study of the Four Pillars and they are written by Lily Chung and Jerry King. David Twicken wrote his book in 2000 (Classical Chinese Five Element Astrology Made Easy ) and it is a really quick introduction to the Four Pillars. There are a few more but they are short and take a decidedly pop view of the topic. In 1997 Llewellyn published Lily Chung’s The Path to Good Fortune: The Meng, and this was a breakthrough. What she revealed was the idea of Cosmic Flow…this is an all important factor in how the ancient Chinese Four Pillar practitioners looked at charts. Recently, Jerry King (presumably one of Lily Chung’s students) published a couple of books of his own on the Four Pillars: Four Pillars of Destiny: A Guide To Relationships (2011) and Four Pillars of Destiny: Potential, Career and Wealth (2012). So far, the works of Chung and King are the definitive serious published titles on the Four Pillars that we have in English. About halfway through finishing King’s books, I wondered how much more information could there possibly be on this topic. However as King explains it, what he has written so far is simply scratching the surface. His two books are dense and packed full of new information from the classical Chinese texts of the Four Pillars but not impossible to finish. I recommend starting with Chung’s books and getting the basics there first. You can read some of the other titles, like the one by Twicken mentioned above. I still recommend Twicken’s book as a great intro but it is simply not enough on it’s own.
According to Chung and King, a Four Pillar chart’s strength ranges anywhere from Dominant, Strong, Weak and Feeble (depending on their Flow) and at times altering between depending on the Luck and seasonal/yearly cycles. King show’s this concept as if it were on a scale with the Dominant chart far to the left and Feeble far to the right. In the last article I introduced a “hybrid method” of calculating the strength of the Daymaster, aka, day stem or simply “the self.” I think that one may be able to glean something from this, without getting to in depth into the Four Pillars (I showed this in my Four Pillars presentation earlier this year). The full method of this kind calculation of the Daymaster is shown in Twicken’s book (as well as Peter Shen’s Chinese Fortune Telling). This involves taking into account each element in the chart and determining its stage and then calculating its strength from there (this method does not take into account transformations and combinations). But that is simply just one way. Chung and King present the “Flow” method in their books which is considerably more difficult to comprehend at first. Each author uses many examples in their books detailing at great lengths how the cosmic flow works in the charts of real people. Some charts are straightforward while others are incredibly nuanced.
Determining Cosmic Flow, or just simply “flow,” in order to determine strength, involves the full and complete use of the theories of stem transformations, branch combinations, seasonal interactions Luck/Annual/Seasonal Cycles and most importantly and critically, how the Five Elements work. Also, a thorough grasp and understanding of The Useful God or Gods, The Ten Gods and the special “Stars” and Pillars are significant, all important theories which are covered in King’s books more fully. I introduced most of the combinations in the Chinese Animal signs article as well as some that Chung and King have not discussed as of yet in their books. I feel now that some of the combinations previously mentioned may possibly be from other traditions. For example, King cites the “punishments” as Four Pillar charts containing the three Earth signs of the Ox/Dog/Sheep. The Tiger/Snake/Monkey form the another punishment. In addition, I briefly touched on the Ten Gods in the last Four Pillars article; this was by way through Twicken’s descriptions, for example, parent, sibling, grandchild, etc. This is another way of describing the traditional description of the Ten Gods or relationships to the self element: Friend/Rob Wealth, Eating God/Hurting Officer, Direct Wealth/Indirect Wealth, Direct Officer/Seven Killings and Indirect Resources/Direct Resources. As far as getting to the heart of personalities go, like in the way that the Western astrologer is more familiar, the Ten Gods fulfill that need to describe personality and what motivates people. We will have to reserve another article or essay about these the Ten Gods for the future.
Briefly, here are the combinations between the branches/animal signs from strongest to weakest outlined in Chung and King’s books: Three Harmonious Combination (Trio), Six Harmony Combination and Directional Combination being the weakest. With the Three Harmonious Combination or Trio for short, we could have the Rat, Dragon and Monkey as three of the branches in a chart. This would present a powerful flow of water with the Rat leading the flow. A “half combination” of any of the two is strong as well, this is known also as a “half alliance.” When animals combine they lose much of their original elemental quality, giving way to the combined element. The remaining Trios are the Rabbit/Goat/Pig forming Wood, Horse/Dog/Tiger forming Fire and Rooster/Ox/Snake forming Metal, (again, the Rat/Dragon/Monkey form Water). Each of the remaining eight animals, aside from the cardinal leaders of their element which are the Rat, Rabbit, Horse and Rooster, contain hidden in their branches some of the element of their respective cardinal leader. You can go back to Four Pillars part II to see what those are. But what about the Earth element? Earth is a bit tricky to decipher. One may have an Earth dominated or Earth strong chart.
The following are the Six Harmony Combinations (which are the next most powerful after the Trios): Rat/Ox=Earth, Tiger/Pig=Wood, Rabbit/Dog=Fire, Dragon/Rooster=Metal, Snake/Monkey=Water and Horse/Goat=Sun/Moon Fire. With the Directional Combination, all three animals in a particular direction must be present for the transformation to take place, according to King (Chung allows for a directional half alliance). They are: Pig/Rat/Ox=Water (North), Tiger/Rabbit/Dragon=Wood (East), Snake/Horse/Goat=Fire (South) and Monkey/Rooster/Dog=Metal (West). Both Chung and King write that these combinations are the weakest because they are the least stable. For example, with a directional combo, an animal may be “clashed away” or kicked out by the animal opposite to it coming from the luck or annual cycle. The Dog may clash with the Dragon disrupting a Tiger/Rabbit/Dragon Wood directional alliance. Here’s another example. Seasonal support would strengthen a directional alliance as well; in the month of the Rat, a Tiger in the hour branch, Rabbit in the day branch and Dragon in the year would remain stable as Wood is growing in strength in the winter/water season of the Rat.
The stems transform as well as mentioned above. Sometimes stems will not transform depending on the elements below in the branches and at times stems will transform for better or worse, strengthening or weakening the flow of a chart. The stem transformations are as follows: Yang Wood/yin earth=Earth, yin wood/Yang Metal=Metal, Yang Fire/yin metal=Water, yin fire/Yang Water=Wood and Yang Earth/yin water=Fire. Stem transformations can occur through the Luck/annual/seasonal cycles as well as between people. King writes that the more combinations and transformations that there are between two charts, the more “bonded” the two are. If the stem and branch both combine, for example two day pillars as the Yang Wood Horse and a Yin Wood Goat, then there is even more of a connection. By the way, according to King, more focus should be placed on the day and year pillars for compatibility analysis, with the hour pillar having the weakest influence of the four.
Bruce Lee, Four Pillars chart
We took a brief look at the chart of Bruce Lee in the last article. The reason why I chose Bruce Lee is that he truly is a legendary figure in modern history and a cultural icon–a nearly unstoppable force in the American/Asian cultural subconscious. He was an actor, martial artist, teacher, philosopher and a person that we can all look up to. He died an untimely death, that to this day is still somewhat controversial. Born Lee Jun-Fan on November 27th, 1940 in in San Francisco and raised in China, he later returned to the U.S. as a young man in search of himself. One of Lee’s famous quotes is, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” I think that this sums up Lee’s essential spirit which is reflected through his Four Pillars chart.
There are not transformations or combinations in Lee’s chart as far as I can tell, although there is a clash between the Dog and Dragons, which is not necessarily negative. Hidden in the branch of the Dragon are yang earth, yin wood and yin water. The Dog contains yang earth, yin metal and yin fire and the Pig contains yang wood and yang water. Lee’s Yang Wood self seems to stand alone in this picture with a chart with plenty of Earth. But the Earth is “wealth” to the Wood and there is water in the Dragons which is supported by the winter month of the Pig. The yang metal (Seven Killings) in the year stem is “rooted” in the earth of the Dragon, being moist Earth this supports the metal although it is in the weakening stage of winter. Every element is represented somewhere in Bruce Lee’s chart, eliminating the chance of Lee being dominant or feeble as there is too much water from the Pig and Dragons to support the yang wood self. Chung and Lee both have mentioned the possibility of taking a chart and imagining it as a “landscape.” One might imagine Lee’s chart as three mountains (two Dragons and the Dog), with a mighty river running between them (Pig) and a slight sunrise in the background reflecting on the river (yin fire in the stem) during the winter time. Lee’s self would be a mighty solitary tree on one of the mountains, the Dog mountain being taller than the other two with less vegetation and dry earth, high above the other two mountains.
I think his chart lies somewhere between the strong and weak category with a possibility of Earth leading the flow in a borderline way. The winter season and the water there is what stops the Earth from completely dominating. All of the yang earth is “Indirect Wealth” to the Lee’s yang wood self; Lee did come from a wealthy family and did inherit some wealth. The yin fire in the month stem and yin fire hidden in the Dog are described as the “Hurting Officer” which King describes as the following: “The Hurting Officer possesses much more drive and determination to succeed. They demand results while setting aggressive targets for themselves and the people around them. Those utilizing the Hurting Officer in their birth chart wold not take the traditional approach.”
He goes on to write that the Hurting Officer, “[...] operates like a dictator taking matters into their own hands.” No one can argue that Lee let matters get away from him. He seemed to be constantly fighting his way through life. He was bright (yin fire) as well and was surrounded by both powerful friends and rivals (yang wood in the Pig and yin wood in the Dragons). The Indirect Resources found in the Pig as yang water, which is the most powerful influence to his yang wood self, shows how Lee was a researcher and possessed unconventional intelligence. King describes these types as inventors. Lee invented his own unorthodox brand of martial arts, “Jeet Kune Do.” King writes that, “[a]lthough people with an overwhelming amount of Indirect Resources can become isolated and live in their own world, they can also separate themselves from the pack and come up with special ideas. They do not conform to traditional rules or stick to old customs. Indirect Resources can make a person think form a different angle and that is what makes them different from others. [...] [T[heir unique products and inventions would create a demand where only they would be the only ones in the markets with their products.” Lee, being a Yang Wood self, certainly used that part of his chart to the hilt. He created his own personal style: from his own school of martial arts, to martial arts movies and even his own way of body strengthening techniques and nutritional advice.
Part IV of Four Pillars will have to include information about the events in Lee’s life–seeing where the flow of the cosmos takes him in the luck and annual cycles. We can go over how to calculate the luck cycles there. I look forward to completing the next installment more sooner rather than later and if I have genuinely confused you with all of the additional information piled on in this article–well then I have to apologize for that. But that is exactly the way that I have been feeling about the Four Pillars over the last several months! It has been simply overwhelming but great to learn nonetheless. I hope that you have enjoyed reading as much as I have had writing this third installment of the Four Pillars. More to come soon. Thadd:::SignsInLife