- To explain what is Chinese Astrology
- To explain the fundamental differences and similarities between Western and Chinese Astrology
- To examine in detail the three main types of Chinese Astrology
What is Chinese Astrology
It is a type of Astrology that originated in China. Chinese Astrology is younger than Ancient Western Astrology as well as Indian Astrology aka Jyotish aka Vedic.
Chinese Astrology does not use the planets but instead uses the five elements/phases:
The 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches in Chinese Astrology
Each of them has an Yang/male and Yin/female polarity, which makes up the 10 Heavenly Stems:
Yang Wood/Jia 甲
Yin Wood/Yi 乙
Yang Fire/Bing 丙
Yin Fire/Ding 丁
Yang Earth/Wu 戊
Yin Earth/Ji 己
Yang Metal/Geng 庚
Yin Metal/Xin 辛
Yang Water/Ren 壬
The third major element is the Earthly Branches aka the Chinese images/animals. It is the most powerful. The 12 Branches are:
Tiger/Yin 寅 Rabbit/Mao 卯 Dragon/Chen 辰 = Spring*
Snake/Si 巳 Horse/Wu 午 Goat/Wei 未 = Summer
Monkey/Shen 申 Rooster/You 酉 Dog/Xu 戌 = Autumn
Pig/Hai 亥 Rat/Zi 子 Ox/Chou 丑 = Winter
*The Chinese New Year starts on Feb 4-5 according to the solar calendar. Each season starts about 90 days later. To be exact, Spring starts when the Sun is at 15 tropical Aquarius, Summer starts when it is at 15 Taurus, Autumn starts when it is at 15 Leo and Winter starts when it is at 15 Scorpio.
Each of the elements rules a season:
- Wood rules Spring
- Fire rules Summer
- Metal rules Autumn
- Water rules Winter
- Earth rules the last month of each of the seasons
Each of the 12 branches has an intrinsic nature*
- The Tiger and Rabbit are Wood
- The Snake and the Horse are Fire
- The Monkey and the Rooster are Metal
- The Pig and the Rat are Water
- The Dragon, Goat, Dog and Ox are Earth
*There are 3 types of combinations between the branches: Three Harmony, Seasonal and Six Harmony. The Three Harmony Combination can change the intrinsic nature of the branches.
Each of the 12 branches contains what are called Hidden Heavenly Stems. They are crucial in interpretation.
The 10 Heavenly Stems represent Heaven, the 12 Earthly Branches represent Earth, and the Hidden Heavenly Stems represent Man. I will touch on the enormous importance of Heaven, Man, and Earth later on.
The Production, Controlling, and Weakening cycles between the five elements
There are three major cycles between the five phases/elements: Productive, Controlling, and Weakening:
Wood produces Fire, Fire produces Earth, Earth produces Metal, Metal produces Water.
Wood controls Earth, Earth controls Water, Water controls Fire, Fire controls Metal, Metal controls Wood.
Fire weakens Wood, Earth weakens Fire, Metal weakens Earth, Water weakens Metal, Wood weakens Water.
Each of the five elements rules an emotion, viscera, five sense organ, a tissue, a season, environmental factor, sound, colour, taste, direction.
The Eight Trigrams
The other major element is called the Eight Trigrams. They are used in Chinese Metaphysics as well. The 8 trigrams are:
- Qian/Heaven – element is Yang Metal
- Kun/Earth – element is Yin Earth
- Zhen/Thunder – element is Yang Wood
- Xun/Wind – element is Yin Wood
- Kan/Water – element is Water
- Li/Fire – element is Fire
- Gen/Mountain – element is Yang Earth
- Dui/Lake – element is Yin Metal
Here is how they are represented, keeping in mind that a complete line is Yang/male, while an interrupted line is Yin/female:
Chinese Astrology does not use the fixed stars aka astronomical bodies, but instead relies on symbolic/fictional stars. Some are similar to the Lots aka Sahams. They too are very powerful and indispensable in delineation.
Differences and similarities between Chinese and Western Astrology
At first glance, Chinese Astrology seems to have nothing to do with Ancient or even Indian Astrology. This is because, unlike the familiar planets and stars in the sky used in Ancient and Indian, Chinese Astrology does not actually use astronomically visible bodies. Nevertheless, the each of the 5 planets is associated with a given element:
- Jupiter rules Wood
- Saturn rules Earth
- Mars rules Fire
- Venus rules Metal
- Mercury rules Water
Also, just as there are 12 zodiacal signs/images/zoidia in the West and in India, so it is with Chinese Astrology.
Just as each of the 5 planets rule 2 signs, namely Saturn rules Aquarius and Capricorn, Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces, Mars rules Scorpio and Aries, Venus rules Taurus and Libra and Mercury rules Virgo and Gemini, the situation is the same in Chinese Astrology. I mean 5 elements X 2 = 10.
When one adds the Sun ruling Leo and the Moon ruling Cancer, which equals the Horse + the Goat = the Sun and Moon combination, the end result is the same: 5 X 2 = 10 +1 +1 =12.
Some arrogant or ignorant astrologers criticize the validity of Chinese Astrology
Due to not knowing the above, some arrogant and/or ignorant astrologers with Babylonian, traditional or Indian Astrology, who believe that Astrology is a physical science and its power comes from the visibility of celestial bodies, claim that Chinese Astrology is not Astrology. That it is not very accurate, that it only measures the energy of the organs and the like.
Such astrologers often have fanatical views: that their Astrology is the most original, that it was used by the ancient priests, that it is the truest, that the Zodiac they use is the only true one, and so on. Such views show a gross ignorance of the subtle worlds from which the physical originates. There are many paths/systems/languages leading to the Truth. The language of the physical planets and stars, although the leading one, is one of them.
We have the language of non-physical stars in one of the types of Chinese Astrology. We have the language of the energy of nature in its other two types, which I will examine shortly. Apart from that, we have the language of numbers (Numerology). Some astrologers insist that the vibration of numbers is inextricably linked to that of the planets, which is true, but this is not true of Chinese Numerology.
So when one looks at Chinese Astrology, especially coming from another civilization, from another language, it is paramount to be open-minded. The second key thing is not to look for differences and which Astrology/system is “better”, but to look for similarities. Only when one does this and reads enough books and materials will he/she realize that Chinese Astrology is an incredibly powerful system of knowledge.
In China, Astrology could not be studied without the permission of the emperor
Here is some information from Benson Bobrick’s book – Astrology the Fated Sky:
When Marco Polo returned from the Far East in the late 13th and early 14th centuries and wrote The Voyages of Marco Polo, he recounted how there were 5,000 astrologers at the court of Kublai Khan.
In China, the imperial astrologer occupied a dangerous niche. Knowledge of the heavens was privileged, and every ruler had a monopoly interest in what an astrologer would say. In 1583, when Matteo Ricci, the famous Jesuit astronomer traveled from Beijing, he was told that without the emperor’s permission a capital crime to study mathematics used in astrological calculations.
In other words, the importance of Astrology in China was at least as great as in ancient Greece, Rome, Persia, the Arab world, Europe and so on. It is a known fact that not only in China, but also in neighboring countries there was a Bureau of Astronomy/Astrology, as well as a Palace of Divination and Rites.
The Chinese horoscope is calculated and read differently depending on gender
Gender is key in reading the horoscope in Chinese Astrology. Men’s horoscopes/Yang are read differently from women’s/Yin. In Ancient Astrology, this distinction is also made, but to a much lesser extent, and concerns mainly the topic of marriage.
Differences in philosophy and the level of predetermination
I want to note that in Chinese Astrology, like the ancient one, there is no psychology. There are descriptions of the character that are objective, that is, one can quickly know whether they are true or false. The destiny of the person is examined and how he/she can get the most out of it by learning it. This type of Astrology determines when a person will reach the top and when he/she will meet failures. Thanks to this knowledge, the client knows when to take risks and earn a lot and when to lay low and patiently wait. Thus we have a destiny of static/fixed, as well as timing/periods in life, when different parts and topics of the chart are activated with different intensity.
However, I must also say that the concept of karma is firmly entrenched in many practitioners of Chinese Metaphysics, including such practitioners of various types of Astrology, Feng Shui, Qigong, Yi Jing, Physiognomy and others. This is also due to the transfer of philosophical and spiritual currents from India to China.
Another difference with Ancient Astrology is that Chinese Astrology does not work with such a level of accuracy and predestination. Accordingly, its concepts of destiny are different. Apart from the primacy of the horoscope and how it unfolds through the cycles of destiny, the importance of the environment (Feng Shui), upbringing and knowledge (Human Luck), filial piety (Confucius) and doing good deeds and charity are also emphasized.
The three major types of Chinese Astrology
There are three main types of Chinese Astrology. I must also say that there are other types, but the Four Pillars of Destiny, Emperor Astrology and Yi Jing Astrology are the most important. Below is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Chinese Astrology chart with all three types.
I want to point out that this is Astrology, that is, a science that studies human character and destiny through a horoscope calculated according to gender, date, time and place of birth. We are not talking about divination methods to answer a specific question, such as Da Liu Ren, Qi Men Dun Jia, Mei Hua Yi Shu, Liu Yao/Wen Wang Gua.
BaZi/Four Pillars of Destiny
I have already written a lot about this method, a very detailed practical article on BaZi chart reading. This is how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s BaZi chart looks like. He was born on 30 July 1947 at 3.09 am local mean time.
The four pillars come from the year, month, day and hour of birth. The Four Pillars of Destiny, also known as the Eight characters, is the most popular method of reading destiny not only in native China, but throughout Asia. It is about 1,000 years old. BaZi reading complements the information from Ancient (or Indian) Astrology in an exceptional way. I have been studying and practicing the Four Pillars of Destiny for 7 years now and I am amazed by its accuracy. What makes this system invaluable and unique is that the Four Pillars of Destiny is the only Astrology that can be used without a time of birth.
The difficulty of BaZi lies in the fact that it seems much easier and simpler than Ancient Astrology, given how horoscope itself is and the factors it takes into account. However, when one goes deeper, it turns out that in the advanced levels of understanding, the smallest differences in the chart give dramatic differences in people’s lives.
The second stumbling block to learning Four Pillars of Destiny is the fact that in order to read the chart, its structure must first be determined. Ironically, this is the most difficult thing to do.
The “Grey area”
The third potential difficulty lies in the calendar. There is a solar and lunar calendar in China. Ancient BaZi texts say that only the solar calendar should be used, but in practice it turns out that this is definitely not the case. In most cases, the chart coincides in both calendars. However, there are cases (according to my research, an average of 1 in every 3-4 people) when people are born in this part of the calendar, which the Chinese call the “Grey area”. Thus, the month of birth differs, i.e 2 of the 8 written characters. Because the month determines the season and is the leading energy, this is a significant difference. Moreover, the Luck Pillars/predictive techiques would be different.
As a result of this “Grey area” problem, more and more practitioners of the Four Pillars of Destiny go to the other extreme, that is, they use only the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar is generally used for divination as well as in Emperor Astrology. Also, the Chinese celebrate their New Year according to the lunar calendar, not the solar calendar.
There are also astrologers who use a third approach, namely they examine each chart on a case by case basis. They do this by calculating the two possible BaZi charts side by side and, through a thorough examination of a person’s life, judge which is the correct one. Thanks to the invaluable work by top Chinese metaphysicians Lily Chung and Jerry King, I too have become a firm proponent of this approach. The reason is because it is practically oriented and specific to the client – the person we are doing this for, after all.
The client does not care at all which authoritative Chinese astrologer wrote what. What matters is what works in actual practice. A great many BaZi astrologers are uncomfortable with this topic because they have invested a lot of money and been taught incomplete or incorrect knowledge, such as using only the solar calendar, no matter what.
As I have written and shown, mistakes in incorrectly determining the chart structure are very costly in Chinese Astrology; and this is when it comes to reading the correct BaZi chart. Imagine what would happen if an astrologer worked on the wrong one!
This minus with the “Gray Area” is not present in Western and Indian Astrology, as long as the time of birth is accurate. At the same time, however, they have Zodiac problem.
Zi Wei Dou Shu/ZWDS/Emperor Astrology
Emperor Astrology is called Purple Star Astrology in the West by some people. As Tony Tan explained in his very helpful lecture on it, this is wrong. Zi Wei = Emperor, Dou = constellations, Shu = system.
Emperor Astrology is more complex than BaZi and gives more detail and greater accuracy.
Here is how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Chinese Astrology horoscope looks like:
The format of the Zi Wei Dou Shu chart is the same as that of Astrology in South India. What we call places/houses in the West, the Chinese call palaces/domains. Of course, in Ancient, Indian, and Chinese Astrology it is about the whole sign houses system aka sign as house – the original house system.
Some astrologers practicing Zi Wei Dou Shu like to belittle BaZi. The truth is that the horoscope in Emperor Astrology cannot be calculated without the Four Pillars of Destiny. Astrologers practicing the Four Pillars of Destiny method, on the other hand, belittle Emperor Astrology because it uses only the lunar calendar, which they believe is inaccurate and random. These conflicts are insignificant against the background of the huge problems facing those who want to dedicate themselves to this type of Chinese Astrology.
The huge obstacles for those that want to study Emperor Astrology
The most serious obstacle to the study of Ze Wei Dou Shu is that although it can provide great depth and detail, it does not provide the logic of the interpretations. In other words, the student has to memorize the configurations without knowing where their meanings come from. This is a crushing blow for people who want to make sense, clarify, explicate and internalize things the more they progress with the method. This gigantic obstacle may not prevent some Asians, who are accustomed to accepting what they are told without knowing the reason for it, but it is unacceptable to European and Western man. The reasons for this are many and not just cultural. Keeping it within the topic in question, this is not how Ancient Astrology is structured in the West. When students learn it, they don’t have to memorize the configurations as they understand how their meanings are derived.
The easiest way to illustrate is with a BaZi example.
A sample BaZi horoscope
The above BaZi chart is of a male, as the letter M shows. Since his structure is of a rival horoscope/ strong self, with Rob Wealth and Indirect Wealth in the Heavenly Stems, this means that this person will experience giant ups and downs in his finances. He will bet or speculate and win a lot, but he will lose an awful lot. He can even get ruined, more than once.
Anyone with a sufficiently advanced level in the Four Pillars of Destiny method will not only immediately notice this configuration, but will know why it means this and where its meaning comes from. They will also see that the configuration is “in season” and will know that this has a specific meaning. The BaZi astrologer will see that the Controlling element is under Rob Wealth, which has another specific meaning, and so on. This is impossible with Emperor Astrology.
There is very little material on Zi Wei Dou Shu in English compared to BaZi
Moreover, it also means that the level that a person with Emperor Astrology can reach is limited by the number of sources to which they have access. This is because it is only from them one can memorize the meanings of the combinations of stars in the palaces. Although Emperor Astrology is about 1,000 years old, as it was used almost exclusively by the imperial court and was inaccessible to the masses, the rest of the world learned about this method only thanks to astrologers who left China after World War II.
In contrast, there are many times more surviving classical sources on Four Pillars of Destiny, as well as books translated from classical Chinese into English. In this way, students of BaZi can get a far more complete picture of this method than of Emperor Astrology. Keep in mind that for the last 30 years in the West, there have been few published books on Zi Wei Dou Shu. If one does not speak Chinese, the depth to which one can reach is very limited. I recall the saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Emperor Astrology was deliberately watered down and divided
Going back to the latter, another very disturbing fact is that the Emperor Astrology was deliberately watered down and divided into different types/schools historically in order to scatter knowledge and not give it to the masses. The impact of this consequence on astrologers of the following centuries can hardly be measured.
While there are many courses on Four Pillars of Destiny, those on Zi Wei Dou Shu are many times less. Moreover, from what I have seen and read, most of the authors of these courses greatly water down the material! Accordingly, if the student does not know Chinese, does not have such friends, or does not bother to read much, he/she will hardly understand that he has paid 2-3 or more thousand euros and has received an complete and simplified version of the method.
The last thing I want to point out about Emperor Astrology is that the information given by this system cannot but be quite similar to that provided by Ancient Astrology. After all, we use the 12 houses, albeit with slightly different meanings. Ancient Astrology is the first and most detailed form of Astrology in the world. However, the BaZi horoscope is an excellent addition to it, which is the reason why I am so impressed by it. This is something I cannot say about Zi Wei Dou Shu, precisely because of the above considerations.
Yi Jing/I Ching Astrology/He Luo Li Shu/HLLS
Yijing Astrology, also called He Luo Li Shu by the Chinese, is the youngest of the three types of Chinese Astrology. This type of Astrology is the least known in the world. Even in China and neighboring countries, many astrologers do not know about it. I am one of the few astrologers outside of China who seriously do Yi Jing Astrology and am now ready to offer to the public the knowledge it reveals, in plain English.
Like almost all methods in Chinese Metaphysics, Yi Jing Astrology derives directly or indirectly from the Book of Changes. Although Yi Jing/ Book of Changes is over 3,000 years old or more, it is used for the Divination branch in Chinese Metaphysics. That is, the text in Yijing, in addition to understanding the laws of Nature, is used for divination in answering various specific questions.
The He Luo Li Shu method did not acquire its finished form until the Ming Dynasty (14th century +), i.e it is about 600 years old. It takes the Four Pillars of Destiny chart and turns it into numbers corresponding to the trigrams and hexagrams of the Book of Changes. That is why He Luo Li Shu is known as I Ching Astrology. This type of Chinese Astrology, although using the 64 hexagrams of the Yi Jing book, relies on a different ancient manuscript composed of text with different interpretations that are used only for horoscopes and not for divination.
Here is the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Four Pillars of Destiny chart transformed into He Luo Li Shu:
What information Yi Jing Astrology reveals
He Luo Li Shu is the least detailed of the three types of Chinese Astrology. Here the information concerns only the person in question and no one else. That is, there are no houses/palaces and topics here; there is no health and disease, marriage and children and so on. The information provided by I Ching Astrology focuses on the general picture of chart. In Ancient Astrology’s terms, this is the Universal approach to reading a chart. Here is what HLLS chart reading reveals:
- What is the person’s character (for example: whether he/she takes risks or plays it safe; whether his/ her strategy is short-term or long-term – which predominates)
- How strong or weak this person’s horoscope is (for example: whether he/she get help or he/she will have to succeed on his /her own)
- Whether the horoscope has support, that is, whether there will be mitigation if a person makes a big mistake/screws up
- How high a person will reach in society, i.e. eminence in the chart
- Whether the person will be a leader of the masses
- Whether the first or second half of life will be more successful for the native
- When the native will reach his/her peak in life
- When the native will meet with the biggest failures/low points in life
The I Ching Astrology horoscope is composed of 2 hexagrams governing the first and second half of life
The Yijing horoscope is composed of 2 hexagrams called Early Heaven/Life Hexagram and Late Heaven/Conversion hexagram. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chart above, they are number 61 and number 31 respectively. The Yin lines rule 6 years of life, the Yang lines 9.
In addition to the two hexagrams in the horoscope, there are annual hexagrams that are different for each person, as they are calculated based on his/her chart. This is not the case in BaZi. Although the Annual Pillar there has different meanings in different horoscopes, it is the same Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch.
For example, the year 2020 is that of the Yang Metal Rat for all people on Earth, but the Rat and Yang Metal have different meanings in different charts. In Yi Jing Astrology, and specifically in this horoscope, the year is in the form of 1 of the 64 hexagrams of Yi Jing, the Book of Changes. The annual hexagram is divided into 12 monthly ones. There are also daily ones, but their calculation is confusing, and there is no point in going down to such a level.
Incorrect time of birth gives gives a completely different Yi Jing chart, which is not the case with BaZi
It is very important to know that unlike any other type of Astrology, a single change in the BaZi chart gives a completely different horoscope in Yi Jing Astrology. In other words, if the time of birth is different in the BaZi chart, its remaining 6 symbols of the 8 will be the same. This is not the case with Yi Jing Astrology!
Also, twin boy and a girl, for example: if they are born without changing the Hour Pillar in the BaZi chart, they will have the same chart Yes, the Luck Pillars will be different for each of them and there will be differences in the reading of the horoscope, but the same 8 symbols will make up both horoscopes. This is not the case in Yi Jing Astrology, where the twins in question will have completely different horoscopes! This makes Yi Jing Astrology invaluable.
In the future, I plan to illustrate Yi Jing Astrology with real-life charts.
Conclusion on Chinese Astrology
If you read the full article, you will be able to easily answer the question “What is Chinese Astrology?”.
As seen in all three branches of Chinese Astrology, as far as the structure of general techniques is concerned, the situation is actually the same as in Ancient Astrology. That is, we have long-term techniques, then 10-year techniques, then 1-year techniques, then monthly and daily ones. It’s just that Ancient Astrology is much richer than Chinese Astrology, as it contains several techniques from different levels.
Like Ancient Astrology, the Chinese one works with the Eternal Laws of this reality, reveals objective truth and provides information that cannot be obtained on a permanent basis in any other way.
Free Chinese Astrology calculators and software
Here is Victor’s free site for calculating horoscopes with Emperor Astrology/Zi Wei Dou Shu, from which I calculated the chart.
Free Zi Wei Dou Shu calculator in English and Russian:
Victor uses the lunar calendar in his other sites as well, where he also offers:
Free BaZi/Four Pillars of Destiny calculator in English and Russian:
Free Yi Jing Astrology/He Luo Li Shu calculator in English and Russian:
I calculated the Four Pillars of Destiny chart with the free program Four Pillars 4.1, downloaded here. It is in a few different languages, but keep in mind it only uses the solar calendar:
And I calculated the He Luo Li Shu chart from the great calculator site of the person known as gmuli. Gmuli’s website offers BaZi chart calculation, also using Ani Pesheva’s book “Chinese Astrology Part 1”: The Stars in the Four Pillars of Destiny.
Free He Luo Li Shu/I Ching Astrology calculator in Bulgarian and English:
Free BaZi calculator in Bulgarian and English. Unlike Victor’s gmuli’s calculator allows the user to choose the solar or lunar calendar, for both BaZi and He Luo Li Shu. Just make sure you double check your results. My big thanks to gmuli for including the lunar calendar option as per my request.