Chinese Four Pillars of Destiny

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<<The following will appear in the next issue of the Jan/Feb 2014 NCGR Memberletter and a shortened version can be found at the link here in the Indigo Sun Magazine on page 8. Many thanks to Ronnie and Ginger and of course, Jerry King and Dr. Lily Chung! And I cannot forget, many thanks to my wife, family, friends and all of those who have supported me in this work! Also, check the Archive page above for more on the Chinese Four Pillars, example charts and Western astrology as well. Thank you, Thadd:::SignsInLife>>


Revised & Expanded for the Jan/Feb 2014 NCGR Memberletter (and many, many thanks to NCGR, Ronnie and Linda for the honorarium!)

All images are from The Imperial Astrologer by Alabe

Celebrity data is taken from Solar Fire Celebrity data files


One major method of the Chinese astrological tradition is known simply in Chinese as “eight characters” or Ba Zi. Another more popular term in the West for this system is simply, The Four Pillars of Destiny; they all refer to the same technique which utilizes the 5 elements and 12 Chinese animal signs. You probably already have been using one major component of this system without realizing it and that is the animal year and its element (a.k.a. branch and stem). For example, we are leaving the year of the Water Snake and transitioning into the year of the Wood Horse. For the Wood Horse, the Wood is the stem and the animal is the branch. Many of us were first exposed to the animal signs and their characteristics through the paper placemats found at many Chinese restaurants throughout North America.

 Understanding the Five Element Theory, 12 animal sign interactions, determining cosmic flow and the Ten Gods (among several other important concepts) are key to the effective use of the Four Pillars. The 5 Chinese elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water; the animals from first to last are the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Each animal contains certain specific elements that make it a unique animal. Ex., the Monkey contains Metal, Earth and Water and represents the beginning of autumn in the Chinese calendar when Metal predominates. In addition, the animals represent a specific polarity, Yin and Yang. Moving through the 12 animal list the order is Yang followed by Yin all of the way through, beginning with the Rat as a Yang animal, followed by the Ox as Yin and so on. We end up with the Pig as a Yin animal. The elements sitting on top of each animal are Yin or Yang corresponding with the polarity of each animal.

 There are 60 different kinds of animals possible in all and each animal “pillar” could be one of the animals in your Four Pillars chart. What does a Four Pillars chart look like? From left to right, we will have a stem and branch pair representing the Hour, Day, Month and Year of one’s birth. The Chinese animal hour is actually a “double-hour” taking up two hours of time since each animal-stem pair or pillar takes two hours to pass, with 12 animals going through a 24 hour day. We must use true local time or sundial time for the calculation of the correct animal hour as standard time will most likely be inaccurate. In addition, we often times find that an accurate birth time is not possible to find as many do not have their birth certificates or family records, What’s worse is when a birth time was never recorded at all. In China and indeed in the rest of the Asian world, three pillars are often used and this is acceptable and accurate results are certainly obtained. The hour pillar represents the least influence to the self element or Daymaster, which I will cover next. We will, though, whenever possible, try our best to include the hour pillar into the analysis of the chart in question.

 For the Day Pillar, the day always begins at true local midnight of the hour of the Rat, which is roughly 12am, even though the hour of the Rat starts at 11pm and goes through to 1am of the next day. The stem of this pillar is such a significant key to the life of the person in question as it literally represents the “self.” It is known as simply the “self,” “self element” or “Daymaster.” The relationship between the self element and the rest of the elements and animals in the Four Pillars system is a deep and intense study, however it may be understood and applied at a beginning level.

 The Month Pillar is the next pillar and will normally be in effect from one new moon until the next, however, sometimes there are “double-months” in the Chinese Lunar Calendar from time to time. This pillar (remember stem and branch combination) is of utmost importance to the self and  usually is a good indicator which represents specific energies between the parents and the self and how the person is nurtured. The month branch animal is considered the most influential symbol to the self, followed by the stem or element on top of that animal. For example if the person is a yin earth self and the month animal (branch) is the Snake, then that person’s self is directly supported by the Yang Fire in the Snake, since fire generates earth.

 The Year Pillar is determined by the first New Moon closest in time to what we would recognize as 15 degrees of the Western sign of Aquarius or Lin Shun to the Chinese (Feb 4 of each year) the beginning of the Chinese solar spring. This New Year always starts with the month of the Tiger, and this year, it begins on January 31st, 2014 with the month of the Fire Tiger on the day of the Water Tiger. There will be plenty of Fire energy on the day of the Chinese New Year. However, your own personal birth animal year pillar will be different than the Wood Horse, unless of course, you are turning 60 this year, in which case you are having a very special birthday year.

 Animals can clash, transform and/or support one another. Sometimes, having two of the same animal in the chart can indicate certain characteristics like stubbornness (two Pigs) or brashness (two Dragons or two Horses). Elements in the stems of the pillars can transform as well. For example, Yang Wood and yin earth will transform into more Earth under the right conditions or through the seasonal or luck cycle. Sometimes the self element will transform! And sometimes alliances can be broken up by clashes, such as a directional alliance of the Snake/Horse/Sheep being dispersed by the Rat. While the aforementioned Fire directional alliance is strong, it is the weakest of all of the alliances. The Rat, which is pure, cardinal yin water, clashes with the Horse and breaks up the alliance. The Rat would have a harder time breaking up a complete Fire trinity of the Tiger/Horse/Dog, however.

 Charts roughly fall into four categories: Dominant, Strong, Weak and Feeble self elements (again, the self element is the element in the day stem, a.k.a. Daymaster). The rules are different for the different types of chart classification, but there are special charts as well as I will illustrate below. There are also “follow” type charts, in which the person can be either weak or feeble and follow an output, wealth or controlling element and sometimes, the universe will flow in different directions causing someone who is strong to become dominant, someone who is weak to become strong and someone who is weak to become feeble. Sometimes there is no flow at all. There are so many examples and instances of changing luck in the Four Pillars system that the possibilities are mind boggling. Learning this system has been a truly daunting task but worth the effort. It takes time to wrap one’s mind around the many factors involved in determining the flow of a Four Pillars chart.

 Let’s take a look at a famous example Four Pillars chart. Enrique “Ricky” Martin Morales (Ricky Martin) is a world famous pop singer, actor and author who has been in the mainstream media since 1984. Martin was born in the Metal Monkey hour, water Sheep day, Metal Rat month and metal Pig year (December 24th, 1971, 5pm, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, Rodden Rating AA). In Martin’s Four Pillars chart we find rare system, a trinity of near perfect balanced elements, metal, water and wood. Martin is a strong yin water self, surrounded by two Yang Metals (direct resources). In addition, Martin possesses a half water alliance with the Monkey in the hour branch and the Rat in the Month branch. Since we are in the height of lunar winter with the month of the Rat, the self is further supported by this alliance. The Sheep and Pig combine to form a powerful half wood alliance and since wood is in the growing stage in the winter, this alliance is supported. While Martin’s yin water self is supported by the resource element of metal and self element of water, he finds expression for these talents and gifts through the wood element that compels him to be great in his career and philanthropic work. Many great singers often possess strong metal or water self elements. Martin’s Four Pillars system is unique in that it represents a type of  “bridge” developed through the metal providing to the water and the water to the wood. The wood in turn is “wealth” to the metal. His chart is below:

 Ricky Martin

Uma Thurman’s Four Pillars system is similar to Martin’s. Thurman was born in the metal Sheep hour, earth Rabbit day, Metal Dragon month and Metal Dog year (April 29th, 1970, 1:51pm, Boston, MA, Rodden Rating AA). She is a yin earth self, supported by wet earth in the month pillar from the Dragon and the hour pillar with the Sheep. The Rabbit and Dog combine under Six Combinations to form Fire supporting the yin earth self. Fire is weakened during the Earth months, however, since the Dragon month is the transition between the spring when fire is growing and the summer when fire is dominant, this combination is supported. Her output element, metal is present in all three remaining stems. Again, we have a type of harmonious bridge system here with earth, fire and metal, and since Thurman is in the middle, being a yin earth self, she can support the dynamic interaction between the metal and fire. She also possesses two commanding pillars, the Metal Dragon and Metal Dog, which give her a “no holds barred” attitude to what she wants out of life and expects from others. The Goat is the key rival to the yin earth self, which presents challenges. Her yin earth self seems to stand alone, victorious, though. As we can see through the Kill Bill series of films, Thurman enjoys playing a triumphant character, even waiting a decade to film Kill Bill Vol. III. Heavy presence of output elements in the above two examples show how dynamic the outcome of a person’s efforts can be, especially when the self is supported by the talents and intelligence bestowed by the resource element. Thurman’s chart is below:

 Uma Thurman


Harrison Ford is a dominant yin fire self. Ford was born in the wood Snake hour, fire Rabbit day, fire Sheep month and Water Horse year (July 13th, 1942, 11:41am, Chicago, IL, Rodden Rating AA). Ford’s yin fire self is dominant as wood and fire overtake his Four Pillars chart. The rules for dominance are relatively simple. As long as the self element and resource elements are almost or are the only elements present, consuming the entire Four Pillars system, then the chart is most likely dominant. According to Jerry King, author of the Four Pillars of Destiny series, one element that is either the output element, controlling or wealth element may be allowed in the system but no more than that. Ford’s Four Pillars system is an interesting example in that the Rabbit in the day branch and the Horse in the year branch are both seeking to combine with the Sheep, yielding either more wood through a half alliance with the Rabbit or Sun/Moon Fire with the Horse or both (a.k.a. “fight to combine”)! In addition, he has a complete directional Fire alliance with the Snake/Horse&Sheep, further solidifying fire. Also, the fire and Water in the stems above the Sheep and Horse may transform into more wood thus feeding his fire self, however this is not even necessary as the Water is a welcome element, cooling the chart. Certain luck or seasonal cycles (or both) may cause the this transformation in the stems to occur, though, but the wood is moving from a weakening cycle from the summer to a void cycle in the autumn, as the Sheep represents that transition point. Ford also possesses a sibling rivalry with the yin fire stem of the Sheep, making him a competitive person, at least professionally. Ford’s chart is likely to remain dominant throughout the rest of his life. It seems as though he will win at every turn. Ford’s chart is directly below:


 Harrison Ford


Oprah Winfrey’s self element represent’s either a weak or feeble self, although we would all have to agree that she is following the dominant flow which is the controlling element of metal to her yin wood self. Winfrey was born in the Earth Tiger hour, wood Rooster day, wood Ox month and water Snake year (January 29th, 1954, 4:30am, Kosciusko, MS, Rodden Rating A). The Ox, Rooster and Snake form together into a full metal alliance, thus making metal the leading flow, although yin water is present in the Snake pillar, as well as Yang Earth, Wood and Fire in the Tiger and Yang Earth in the hour stem. The Tiger does contain Yang Earth in the branch and this Earth in the Tiger and in the stem can help a bit to support the already overpowering metal alliance, as the earth element generates metal (the Snake contains Yang Earth and Yang Metal as well, further emphasizing the metal support). See her chart below:

 Opran Winfrey Rodden A


In all reality, the trinity is the most powerful combination possible, while the half alliance is the second most powerful (e.g. Horse/Tiger-half fire alliance). But what is Winfrey following? It is metal and the Ten God personality is either the Direct or Indirect Officer. The controlling element to the self provides the impulse to conduct one’s self in a disciplined way and represents power and control. The Indirect Officer specifically (a.k.a. “Seven Killings”) has a way of turning around out of control situations, or negatively, disrupting the natural order of things. If the Indirect Officer is favorable, as is most likely the possibility with Winfrey’s Four Pillars chart, then she could be seen as the superhero, savior, and/or overwhelming personality. She has certainly been and continues to be a self-help guru for millions. What is fascinating about Winfrey’s luck cycle is that from the years 1993 through 2013 she has been in the most supportive cycles to metal starting with the 10 year metal Rooster followed by the Metal Monkey. The metal Rooster is pure yin Metal which would reinforce the Indirect Officer mentioned earlier.


 The interaction of the 5 elements and 12 animals within the system of The Four Pillars show relevant and meaningful clues to the essential nature of the person in question. Relationship analysis is another way that the Four Pillars can be used, as the elemental interactions between two people are easily seen. In addition, ones elements may support or contradict the flow of another’s Four Pillar system. The examples are endless as elements may “transform” into other elements and animals can combine or clash in various ways, thus dramatically changing the flow of the chart through the yearly, seasonal and luck cycles. Each Four Pillars system is simultaneously a mystery and a puzzle all at the same time.

Thank You,