The Chinese Four Pillars of Destiny is a very old astrological technique. It has been in continuous use in China for nearly 1,400 years and has developed throughout the ages, specifically the Tang, Song and later Ming imperial dynasties. According to Derek Walters, Chinese astrologer and author of numerous Chinese astrology books (and Shelly Wu, a Chinese astrologer and Chinese astrology author) the most authoritative work on the technique is the San Ming Tong Hui written by Wan Yu Wu of the Ming dynasty. This work contained instructions for face reading and other means of divination as well, as explained by Walters. The technique that we recognize today as the Chinese Four Pillars was developed prior to this, however, in the Song Dynasty by the famous Xu Zi Ping or Tzu Ping after which the Four Pillars are sometimes named after, i.e., “Tzu Ping Astrology.”


“Five Fates” or Wu Ming were employed by Chinese astrologers in the Song Dynasty according to Walters. Two pillars for the conception, (the hour and month) and three for the hour, day and month of birth. Perhaps an even older method only used three pillars or “Three Fates” also known as San Ming and this was probably the day, month and year of birth. Walters writes that San Ming may have also refered to a Han Dynasty expression, “San Ming She” or three kinds of fate: one’s behavior or justice, natural calamities and the “First Fate, Heaven’s Mandate or Destiny.” Walters goes on to write that this was “Fate in the narrowest sense of the word.” These concepts of Fate are an important concept to grasp if one is to continue with the Chinese way of seeing the world through this system of astrological divination.

It should also be mentioned here that the term “Ba Zi” is another widely recognized name for this technique and this is perhaps more correct than the term “Four Pillars.” (“Tzu Ping Astrology” is another term and astrologers who practice this system are also known as “Tzu Ping Astrologers.”) Ba Zi is translated simply as “Eight Characters” or “Eight Words” from the Chinese . From here on out I will refer to the technique as Four Pillars or Four Pillar Analysis. But what are the Four Pillars? Below I will simply outline a basic definition so that we can better grasp what we are looking at. Once the layout of the Four Pillars are understood, a Four Pillar chart can be drawn up in just a few minutes.

The following are some bullet points that will get us through the basics so that we can get a more complete understanding of Four Pillars:

  • Within the Four Pillars there are eight characters or four stem and branch combinations. Each Pillar = 1 stem and 1 branch.
  • The Four Pillars of Destiny or Ba Zi use a combination of 60 sets of stem and branch combinations (aka binomial) over the Four Pillars.
  • The Stems and Branches (Animals) are the Five elements and the 12 Branches or Chinese Animals. The Heavenly Stems or Elements are on top with the Branches on the bottom. (5 Elements) X (12 Branches) = 60 branches possible.
  • The Chinese Solar year is defined in our Western Terms as literally 15 degrees Tropical Aquarius, around February 4th each year and lasts until this time next year. We will use Solar years for our calculations.
  • The Chinese Solar months start with the month of the Tiger with each sign following around throughout the year, starting and ending at the halfway points of the Western Tropical signs.
  • We can use Lunar Years and Months as well, as some Four Pillar astrologers do, which, will at times, give different results for the pillars.
  • The Next Day Begins at 12am local time, the middle of the Hour of the Rat. (Malvin Artley writes that the day begins at 11pm, at the beginning of the Hour of the Rat.)

*****The following is an excerpt from*****

The Zi (Rat) Hour is from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. It seems that the day begins at 11:00 p.m. However, please refer to the page from [Yuan Hai Zi Ping]. The annotation on top of the page says, “If one is born on the first day of the first month of a year during the upper four quarters of the Zi (Rat) Hour, then he is considered born on the previous day (the last day of the previous year). If he is born in the lower four quarters of the Zi (Rat) Hour, then he is considered born on the first day of the year. This shows that Xu Zi Ping was actually considering the day to begin at Twelve Midnight.

It is also obvious that Xu Zi Ping considered “Coming of Spring” as the beginning of a year. Some astrologers advocate that Winter Solstice is to be considered the beginning of a year. I explain why this is not true in my Four Pillars Correspondence Course. It is too complicated to elaborate here.

  • The Hour of the Rat is the first hour, from 11pm of the previous day to 1am of the next day, thus this hour stradles two days. All Chinese hours are “double hours,” or two normal hours, 12 in each day. If one lives in the center of their time zone, then they will experience this every day during Standard Time through Local Apparent Time or Sundial Time. Local mean time or standard time may also be used but again, like with the Lunar months and years with different results.
  • A “Minute Pillar” can be determined, giving us a Fifth Pillar. When we divide the double hour by 60 we get a new branch every two minutes.
  • Each element is repeated twice through the entire cycle of time in Years, Months, Days and Hours. For example, the Year of the Earth Horse is always followed by the Earth Sheep. The animals travel in pairs with each “double element” in the following way: Rat/Ox, Tiger/Rabbit, Dragon/Snake, Horse/Sheep, Monkey/Rooster and Dog/Pig. If one can memorize these pairs, they will never get lost with determining what element for the stem of the pillar will come next, be it an hour, day, month or year pillar.

Here is an example of a Four Pillar Chart for 4/22/12 at 1:30pm Local Apparant Time in Ft. Worth, TX. The hour pillar is the Earth Horse and would simply be called just that. For the day pillar we have the Water Ox and for the month we have the Wood Snake. The year pillar is the Water Dragon. It is understood that the polarity of the animal determines the polarity of the “stem” element, either Yin or Yang. The following chart is from the astrology software, The Imperial Astrologer. (Disregard the row at the bottom with the combined elements for now.) Also, here is a link for an excellent two-part article with one of the authors of the Imperial Astrologer, Malvin Artley.


From here we will continue to learn about the Four Pillars through more articles without necessarily going through the entire previous lessons on the animal signs/branches or the five elements again. But this will be difficult for those wanting to explore the technique any further, in any depth, if they have not fully read and understood the previous articles. One may decide to stop here and get the basic introduction to the twelve animals and five elements by clicking on the hyperlinks above.

The rewards for learning the above concepts are more than the sum of their parts; even for those who decide to just learn the twelve animals and five elements alone for the purposes of understanding the Chinese years. Western astrologers can still be satisfied with this basic knowledge that will undoubtedly aid them in their astrological analysis. Chinese astrology can be fun as well and bring much joy and understanding to the astrologer and client. Receiving the enlightenment that this system brings can endow the client with a sense of relief and even confirm what other astrological systems have been giving all along, which is another great purpose. Thank you for your time and there is more to come on the Four Pillars, at least three articles in all. I look forward to writing the follow ups to this engaging and fascinating astrological divination system from the East. Thadd:::SignsInLife

62 thoughts on “Chinese Four Pillar Analysis Part I

    • Seandhowze,

      Normally, I would be very happy to a free interpretation for you and I still may, however, I have been extremely busy lately. Perhaps we could work something out. If you have a brief question I can get that answered pretty fast, if you are specific. If it is a full chart interpretation for a person, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 to 4 hours of intense concentration…astrology is serious work and I do charge for full readings. Contact me through the “contact” page at the top. I will need your birth location as well and any specific problems/concerns that you may have. If all is well and we both agree, we may put something on the site about your particular issues and how they are related to astrology. Thanks, Thadd

  1. Could you please interpret my chart? I understand you are already very busy, so I will be specific – I am interested in my love life and what to do to make it better.

    • Suki, you have to give your birth data: time, date and place of birth. I will see what I can do, thanks for checking out the site, Thadd

      • 21st November 1991, 04:55 PM, Belgrade, Serbia.
        Thank you so much! I have tried learning more about Bazi and reading about it so I can read my own chart, but where I live there’s no much books on it… Thank you, and all the best!

        • OK, I will take a look this week. You can download Jerry King’s books on Amazon as well. Thanks for getting back with a response

          • No, thank you. :)
            Yeah, I’ll look that book up, definitely. Thank you for recommendation. All the best!

          • You have a chart with all yin pillars. Starting with the hour: wood rooster, wood sheep (day), earth pig (month) and metal sheep for the year. There are two half wood alliances here with the two sheep and pig. These combinations are supported by the month of the pig as well. The Sheep is what you identify with the best with as the day and year branches are the most powerful indicators of personality. There is some metal and earth in your chart. The earth would act as something that would slow you down but this may not be an impediment at all in the long run. As for the metal it is the controller of wood. Earth strengthens the metal but it cannot get too strong since it is in the weakening cycle in the month of the pig (winter) and near two hard earths (sheep). I’m going to say that you have a strong chart able to withstand most of the slings and arrows that life has to offer. But strong in an adaptable way. You may like to be near actual fire as it is the element that you lack most but there is hidden yin fire in the sheep. There are two guard stars with the yin woods and the month of the pig (this is good considering that you have a strong chart). As far as the sheep are concerned, they could be trouble with relationships, perhaps even “double trouble.” Take the advice of the people that you trust in regard to relationship advice.

          • Thadd, thank you very much for this detailed and fast response. You are quite right about the adaptable part! The only thing that I didn’t quite understand is the “double trouble” part. Did you mean that the sheep will cause it (me), or people I get in contact with?

          • It’s actually both but perhaps not at all. It’s simply a potential for relationship troubles but being two red light pillars as they are and being branches in the day and year pillars, they are more of a possibility. It’s critical that you read King’s books on the topic but this is daunting in itself as well. There is so much new information about the real classical techniques of BaZi in his books that interested readers will literally be blown away at the sheer volume of new information on the subject that King presents. If you look at your Western chart there are some clues there with a nighttime Mercury in the 7th house in it’s own term (an angular ruler of the first in the 7th). But Mercury can get you into trouble just as fast as it can get you out. And a grand trine with Venus in Libra, the ascendant and the Midheaven as well adds to the “relationship” themed picture, whatever that entails. With that said, I don’t know you, where you grew up, culture that you are a part of, etc. In China (again, according to King) astrologers get to know their clients and ask many questions in order to fully understand how the cycles of time reflect in their clients’ lives. They are not expected to be fortune tellers or psychic in any way. I agree with this style of doing things, although many “online astrologers” do not as they are ready to go out on a limb, making predictions and such, without any real practical knowledge of how the client is., So, I have to be as conservative as possible with any readings in this way. Let me know if you have any more questions or comments, Thadd

          • You pretty much answered what I wanted to know, so it is fine. Yes, I agree, I think person should get to know their client as well, not only give predictions… In my opinion, people are more than just time when they were born, more than the aligment of stars in the sky… Again, thank you so so much for making time to read all of this and explain it to me. I am working right now on getting the book, so it shouldn’t be long now. :) If, however, I still have some questions after reading the book, I’ll come back again.
            Thank you and all the best

          • You’re welcome. Today I had a thought along the lines of doing a free reading page. I’ll still respond to comments on other posts of course. It could be a once a month or twice a month page, also I could put a picture of the chart on the page so that everyone could more easily follow along and learn. Let me know what you think. Thadd

          • I think it is a great idea! You get to “polish up” your skills and help other people, offer your guidence, at the same time. Only thing you should consider though, is time. I mean, make sure you leave enough time and space for your personal life, not only do charts for people. :)
            And if you start that project, please send me a msg, I would like to keep following your work! Send me a mail, if you can, or contact me somehow ( if that’s not too much to ask).

            I can’t wait to see that page! :)

  2. Hi there :) I was wondering if you could possibly interpret my chart for me? My birth data is: March 2nd 1988 6:20PM, San Francisco, CA, USA. I want to find out the significance of being born during the year of the dragon and on a supposed dragon, “day,” as well. Thanks in advance.

  3. Hi,

    Would you be able to explain better to me my son’s chart,
    please? Somebody already gave me the chart but there is a lot of metal and no fire etc and I’m a bit concerned.

    07/03/2011 11.57pm. Perth, WA Australia.

    Thanks in advance.

    Kind Regards


    • Milly,

      I will see what I can do but it may take a short while. Also, please go to the Free Reading Page above, near the top, and read all of that so that you can better understand how this works. You can contact me through the contact page above as well or perhaps schedule a consultation. Thank you for getting in touch with the site and I will get back to you soon. Thadd

  4. Hi! Thank you so much for your posts, I really enjoy them! I would be so grateful if you could interrupt my chart for me. My family often asks me why I’m so different from them, and so guarded even though I haven’t had any experiences that would cause me to be this way. I know that my chart doesn’t control my actions, personality and thoughts, but it can help shed some light. Thank you so much for reading this, Valery.
    My Birth Data is as follows: At 9:42 AM on August 18, 1994 in Atlanta, GA, USA.

    • Futhark, I will need your birth date and place of birth as well. Why? The hour of birth is based on true local time or sundial time. From there, we can determine the minute pillar through the Imperial Astrology software. The minute pillar will change every two minutes, going through the entire 60 stem and branch combinations in one Chinese double hour.

  5. would it be at all possible to have advice on a planned move away from the Eastern US (PA) to Canada in this year (2014), leaving a dead-end job in education (guaranteed for only one more year) for -well–no prospects in the Pacific NW (BC). Born May 20th 1977 7:10PM in Brasov Romania. Thank you so much in advance. V

    • V,

      I would be glad to help but I have had to limit my intake of free readings per the free consult page above. I can most likely do a free reading for you in the near future, perhaps next month, if you are willing to wait. You could also schedule a paid for reading with me if you would like and in that case I will be able to help asap. As of now, I’m maxed out on free consultations/readings for January. Let me know what you would like to do and Thank You for writing in


      • Thank you so much for the prompt reply. I have a bit of time to make my decision, and since I am budgeting for this anticipated change in circumstances, I will wait for the free reading–which is truly appreciated. I will send a separate message through the contact page quoting this exchange and including my email address. Again, many thanks.

        • vv, either I never received your email or it has been deleted. go ahead and contact me again through the contact page and we will figure out where you want to go with the reading. Or, I could just respond back here through Disqus (based on what you have given us here thus far)–whichever you prefer. And please read the free consult page again and make sure that you are ok with this. I will not use your real name for anything online or in writing, but I may need to use your chart and details as an example in the future, so I hope that you are ok with this possibility. I need to know your gender too. Thanks, Thadd

          • V,

            I have started to work on your chart, but again, unfortunately, I have still yet to receive an email from you. Make sure that you fill in all of the info on the contact page including a valid email address. Maybe it’s filtering you out someway, I don’t know. Where did you move to from Romania in the US, to what city? And to which city are you planning a move to in Canada? Canada is a big place so I need more specifics.

            Since around 2010 have you felt drained? You moved in to the ox cycle that year and this combined with the snake and rooster in your chart forming more metal and draining the self. You will move into a Yang Metal cycle after that and that will be in 2015.

            Also, having a snake in the year and day pillar is interesting in that in general, you will highly identify with this animal and it’s friendly years and it is highly significant for you relationships as well. Let me know what you think. Thadd

          • Hi Thadd,

            Thank you for this first answer: YES– the past 4 years have been possibly the worst in my life, at least as far as I can remember. There have been moments when things looked that they might turn but ultimately never did. It is largely because of this overall dissatisfaction with how things have been going that I decided that make this radical change: move to another country and quit my job in academia –and will possibly have to change my field of work as a consequence.

            At some level I blamed the negativity in my life on the energy of the place I’ve been in (in the Mid-Atlantic area), but if I’m reading you right it might have actually been because of the timing — the metal resulting from the conjecture of the ox-cycle with the snake in my chart. You also said there’s a rooster in my chart — but that I don’t see; also the snake I thought was in my year and month (not day) pillars –at least from the charts generated for me on (can’t copy it here unfortunately).
            So is there hope of a positive change in 2015 with the commencing Yang metal cycle or, as it’s another metal cycle, will it be a further drain on my self (is the self the day master? yin fire/bing in my case?)

            Finally to recap my info:
            male, May 20th 1977, 7:10PM
            move West to the North-Eastern US 2000 — 10 mixed but overall good years
            move (south) to PA 2010 — 3 1/2 mostly bad years going
            planned move to Pacific NorthWest (in Canada) by June

            I will include this info both in a message through the contact page (don’t know why those keep not coming through — every field is filled out, including a valid email); and through the comments.

            thanks so much again!


  6. Hello there,
    I would be really happy if you could interpret my chart too. I was born on 14.06.1987 at 21.25 in west germany.
    Many thanks!

    • Thalia,

      I am maxed out on free readings for January and it looks as though Feb is booking up for those as well. I simply do the free readings as I get small spaces of time to do them. As of now, It looks as though Feb will be booked up if “V” below agrees to a free consult/reading. Of course, you can always book a paid for reading and I will schedule you in as soon as possible. And if you just have a question about astrology in general, then that is different, as I can answer those relatively quickly. As the site gets more and more known, I’m getting free consult/reading requests all of the time but most don’t want to wait or pay for a reading. They want a free reading right now! And I understand that however there are limitations. Let me know what you would like to do.


    • Yes, it is very significant. It is important this animal of yours to “like” the company of other animals of the same kind. In most cases the elements of this animal is prevalent and you should follow it.

    • Yes, I agree with Stinger Wan generally. But what if they are the horse or pig or dragon? Sometimes these animals fight and are known to be incredibly stubborn. So would you follow stubbornness and strife? Or what if a definite flow is not there, even though you have the same animals as you mention? You would need all of the stems to be in the right flow as well. Keep in mind that a pillar is a branch and stem combination and the animal is just the branch. Really, we would need your birth data in order to see specifically what kind of Four Pillars chart we are dealing with. Thank you for writing. Thadd

      • My birth data are: Hour 01; Day 14; Month December; Year 1951; time zone Eastern Standard (US). I’ve included a screenshot of my calculated pillars. Thank you kindly for any knowledge you share.

        • Yes, I’m very sure that you are a feeble self following the water flow and if your chart above is correct, then this is beneficial. That is if the hour pillar is correct. What I need is an exact time and location (city/state) as the hour pillar is dependent on Local Apparent Time or Sundial Time–and 1am is the end of the rat and the beginning of the ox. If you are east of the time zone, then your hour pillar might be in the ox hour, giving you a metal ox and then are the rats fighting to combine with the ox to form more earth strengthening the self? Maybe, your chart would have to be tested. However, if you are loyal to the water flow, then you are loyal to wealth. Having the metal produces more water, making more wealth but you might lose it easily. What has this year been like for you so far? What were your best years and months? Thadd

          • If you manage to follow the prevalent element you will be blessed and will not be feeble. As @signsinlife mentioned, it is very important to know the correct hour pillar. If you are really born after 01 o’clock there will be a competitor animal (Ox) for the wealth that you should follow.
            As I understand from the chart that you share you are woman, right?

            P.P. There is a application that could help you get real solar time of your birth:

          • Thank you, Singer Wan, for your insight. I am a woman. My birth longitude was 84.5W, and time 1:35AM (Eastern Standard time).
            What doest it mean to “follow the prevalent element”? Again, thank you kindly.

          • Stinger Wan: Feeble is a classification, weaker than a weak self which allows the self to “follow” any other element than the self and resource element. If they followed the self and resource element then they would be considered Dominant or Strong. Yes, she will be blessed if she can stick with the water flow. So far, she has a follow type chart, following the wealth. Thanks for your input. Thadd

          • Thadd: Thank You for the good explanation. What books do you read? I am asking because a good book is hard to find and also masters in the field are missing in my region…

          • Stinger Wan, there are several titles in English that outline the flow method (lunar calendar). They are written by Lily Chung and her student Jerry King. There are others, but they are brief and without examples, using symbol counting to determine strength and the solar calendar. I reference those in my first three Four Pillar Analysis articles that you can read in the Archive on this site. Lily Chung’s books are great beginners books, she even co-wrote a new book released a few months ago titled: Four Pillars of Destiny: Discover Your Code to Success. The other author of this book is Dr. Jin Peh. Jerry Kings Four Pillars of Destiny series (volumes one through four) are more advanced in scope, outlining the finer points of the system. I have also used the principles of the flow method in my other Four Pillars Q&A series as well on this site. I do understand what you are saying about the lack of teachers. I’m doing what I can to build a group here in Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX and I will be hosting a Four Pillars workshop here on Sat, March 1st. Thanks for the input and if you wish, offer some of your insights and examples as well. I can put what you write into an article format and share it with others giving you credit as a guest author. Where are you from?

          • Thank you for your profound answer Thadd,

            “Four Pillars of Destiny: Discover Your Code to Success” is my favorite book in the field. I was one of the first to order it from the Internet. It changed the way I see this system completely. I have reached Dr. Jin Peh through Facebook. He is interesting person. He also direct me to Jerry King’s books.

            I am from Sofia, Bulgaria. 4P is not very popular here but there is some people that helped me to build a solid ground for my Ba Zi and Qi Gong learning.

            Best Regards,

          • Bojidar,

            That’s great that you have some support and that you have found the right books already. It has been difficult to build solid support here and I have been working on it for about four years now, so I understand how it is. Perhaps it is better to just build an online Four Pillars coalition instead of trying so hard at the local level. If people only knew the power that the Four Pillars have in determining the energy of cosmic flow then they would be more than happy to learn at least a few things about the system. By the way, I have started recently with Qi Gong as well, so that’s interesting that you mentioned that. Bulgaria–that’s a place with lot’s of history and tradition, sounds like an amazing place to visit. Keep in touch and thanks again for writing. Thadd

          • Thank you for your reply, Thadd. I was born at 1:35am in Lansing, MI (longitude 84.5W). I have had a year (2013) of increased wealth through inheritance of real estate, but old debts are threatening to attach, if not take, it from me. Aug 1996-Dec 1998 were good. Dec. 2005-Apr. 2006 were good. I have a long pattern of good earning power, but difficulty hanging on to wealth.

            Thank you so much for your input; I am optimistic about learning ways to cope in a capitalistic society, with my crazy ups and downs of income!

          • MINtreble. I’m getting 1:02am, Local Apparent Time (LAT). This means that your hour pillar is the water ox, that is if that is your correct time of birth. The flow should attest to that. But there is a possibility that you were born in the rat hour as you are only 2 minutes away. Many births are recorded later than the actual birth. Then there is the question of the soul incarnating the body and whether or not this occurs the minute the baby emerges or not. Some say that it is when the baby takes it’s first breath and is able to cry–then that is the moment of birth. Your chart will have to be tested to confirm what the flow is. I will see what I can do but I cannot promise you anything now as things are crazy, I have so much going on in the astrology world right now. and I’m behind on many things. I will do what I can to get back to you soon. Thadd

          • You’ve been quite generous with your time already, thank you! I will await patiently for whenever you are able to do further analysis.

  7. Hello…I am wondering if you can help interpret this birth chart? What are the high and lows? Much apprciated.

    • Kate, I believe that I have your email that you sent earlier today, I will contact you as soon as I can. Thanks for posting! Thadd

  8. Hi!

    I was wondering if you could provide me with my life chart as well.
    Jan 30, 1981 born London, Ontario Canada.
    I went to go see a Bazi reader and want to see if what he said would be the same as what you would see.

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    • Dorothy, please take a look at the Free Consult page guidelines, as I’m currently backed up with other work. Free readings always have to go to the bottom of the stack. Well, that and I’ve had to adjust my policy at least twice since many of these mini readings were given for free. I do look forward to hearing from you again and I apologize for the long delay in response. If you are interested in paid for client services then please see the Services page above. Thank you–Thadd

  9. hello there, what an amazing site, so generous and helpful. would it be too much to ask for my chart too? born march 12 1959 at 12:55 a.m. (just after midnight), in alert bay, british columbia, canada. i have been fascinated by the zi ping for many years and never had the opportunity to have my birthdate interpreted. many thanks in advance. tracy

    • Tracy–we’re pretty much looking at the same response as I just gave Dorothy above and many apologies for this. There are some options that you may consider when you are finished reading the Free Consult page above. For example, I received some graphic design work for an astrology reading last month. I have had just very little free time as of late and more and more clients are coming in aside from my regular teaching schedule. Now if you just have one or two general questions about the articles then that is, of course, free. Thanks for reading and the kind words–Thadd

  10. Hi there,
    I have been trying to interpret my four pillars without much luck, if any. I understand that you are busy, but I am curious if you know where I can get an accurate interpretation online? My main questions are about love life and career path.

    • Melissa, no problem. I am busy but I can help. Unfortunately the system is a bit beyond the capability of a computer at this time (although symbol counting can be done in this way, it’s not what I practice). The flow method is what is preferred. Post your birth info here and we will see what we can do. Day, Month, Year, time and location of your birth. I don’t know how far I can go with your questions but I will take a look. Thadd

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