The Four Pillars of Destiny (四柱命理) is a Chinese, Japanese and Korean conceptual term describing the four components that supposedly create a person’s destiny or fate. The four components within the moment of birth are year, month, day, and hour. The four pillars (a translation of the Chinese dynastic phrase Shēng Chén Bā Zì; Korean Saju) are used alongside fortune-telling practices such as Zǐ wēi dòu shù (紫微斗数) within the realm of Chinese astrology. Comparisons have been made between Western astrology and Ba Zi(八字). However, unlike astrology, Ba Zi analysis does not look at an ‘alignment’ of celestial bodies of stars and planets but is based on the ‘alignment’ of blocks of time delineated by the Wan Nian Li (萬年曆), the “10,000-year” Chinese almanac.

The “four pillars” refers to the Chinese term (生辰八字, Shēng Chén Bā Zì), which translates as “The Eight Characters of Birth Time”. This is also referred to by the Chinese term (四柱命理學, Sì Zhù Mìng Lǐ Xué), which translates to “Study of ‘Four Pillars of Life’ Principles”. In Korea, it is usually called “four pillars eight characters” (四柱八字; Sajupalza).

Commonly referred to by the shortened terms, “Four Pillars” or Bā Zì, a frequently used alternate phrase is “Four Pillars of your birth time”. It is called Bā Zì (八字), Eight Characters, because each of the four pillars (representing the year, month, day, and hour of one’s birth, respectively) is represented by two characters; one character for a “Heavenly Stem” representing positive (陽; Yang) and one character for an “Earthly Branch” representing (陰; Yin). There are 10 Heavenly Stems (天干, Tiān Gān) and 12 Earthly Branches (地支, Dì Zhī). The 12-zodiac-animal reference is a folkloric representation of the 12 Earthly Branches. One four pillars text was that of the Qianlong Emperor.

10 Heavenly Stems (天干) and Positive-Negative (陰陽) Five Elements (五行):

  1. 甲 (Gab, 갑) : Positive Wood, 陽木
  2. 乙 (Eul, 을) : Negative Wood, 陰木
  3. 丙 (Byoung, 병) : Positive Fire, 陽火
  4. 丁 (Zeong, 정) : Negative Fire, 陰火
  5. 戊 (Moo, 무) : Positive Soil, 陽土
  6. 己 (Gee, 기) : Negative Soil, 陰土
  7. 庚 (Gyoung, 경) : Positive Metal, 陽金
  8. 辛 (Sin, 신) : Negative Metal, 陰金
  9. 壬 (Yim, 임) : Positive Water, 陽水
  10. 癸 (Gye, 계) : Negative Water, 陰水

12 Earthly Branches (干支):

  1. 寅 (Yin, 인) : Positive Tree, 陽木
  2. 卯 (Myo, 묘) : Negative Tree, 陰木
  3. 辰 (Zin, 진) : Positive Soil, 陽土
  4. 巳 (Saa, 사) : Positive Fire, 陽火 (changes to Negative Fire during four pillars of destiny interpretation)
  5. 午 (Oho, 오) : Negative Fire, 陰火 (changes to Positive Fire during four pillars of destiny interpretation)
  6. 未 (Mee, 미) : Negative Soil, 陰土
  7. 申 (Sin, 신) : Positive Metal, 陽金
  8. 酉 (Yoo, 유) : Negative Metal, 陰金
  9. 戌 (Sool, 술) : Positive Soil, 陽土
  10. 亥 (Hae, 해) : Positive Water, 陽水 (changes to Negative Water during four pillars of destiny interpretation)
  11. 子 (Zaa, 자) : Negative Water, 陰水 (changes to Positive Water during four pillars of destiny interpretation)
  12. 丑 (Choog, 축) : Negative Soil, 陰土

The relationship between Earthly Branches and four seasons with direction:

  1. Yin-Myo-Zin, 寅卯辰: spring, east
  2. Saa-Oho-Mee, 巳午未: summer, south
  3. Sin-Yoo-Sool, 申酉戌: autumn, west
  4. Hae-Zaa-Choog, 亥子丑: winter, north



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