Recently, we discussed the significance of ‘本命年 (Ben Ming Nian)’ in Chinese culture. This phenomenon, also known as the 12-year curse, affects the zodiac sign of the current year.
Let’s delve deeper into how the ancient Chinese divided time. We’ll also explore the formation of zodiac relations.
The unearthed inscriptions on the bones of the Shang Dynasty at the Yin Ruins reveal that Gan-Zhi was used to record days and was also applied in Feng Shui and divination.
Now, it is not only used for counting hours, days, months, and years, but it also plays a significant role in Chinese astrology for fortune-telling.
Basically, ancient Chinese people divided a day time into twelve parts based on sunrise.
They matched those twelve parts with twelve earthly branches, which also match the twelve Chinese zodiacs.
These three counting systems make up the unique ancient Chinese time.
The ten Celestial Stems, called “天干-(tiān gān)”, pair with the Earthly Branches for a 60-year calendrical cycle.
Did you know that there were originally ten days of the week?
“天干-(tiān gān)” were the original names for each day of the 10-day week.
Each stem pairs with an earthly branch, forming a “pillar”.
It’s important to note that only odd-numbered stems pair with odd-numbered branches, and even-numbered stems pair with even-numbered branches.
For example, the first heavenly stem can be paired with the first earthly branch, the third, or the fifth one, but cannot be paired with the second or the fourth branch. Henceforth, instead of 120 combinations, we get 60.
The original terms used for the years were actually “地支 (dì zhī) Earthly Branches”. The hours of the day based on solar time also assign these “branches”.
Essentially, the Twelve Earthly Branches consist of: 子 (zǐ), 丑 (chǒu), 寅 (yín), 卯 (mǎo), 辰 (chén), 巳 (sì), 午 (wǔ), 未 (wèi), 申 (shēn), 酉 (yǒu), 戌 (xū), 亥 (hài).
The Ten Celestial Stems include: 甲 (jiǎ), 乙 (yǐ), 丙 (bǐng), 丁 (dīng), 戊 (wù), 己 (jǐ), 庚 (gēng), 辛 (xīn), 壬 (rén), 癸 (guǐ).
The elements are the classics: 水 (shuǐ) water, 木 (mù) wood, 火 (huǒ) fire, 土 (tǔ) earth, and 金 (jīn) metal.
Later, they incorporated 12 animals of the zodiac as symbols and categorized them as either “阴 (yīn)” or “阳 (yáng)”.
Then elements are added for each. These cycle through as well, but each zodiac also has a fixed element. This fixed element is what determines which sign you’re compatible with.
The Four Pillars of Destiny, also known as the Eight Characters of Birth Time or ‘ba zi’ in Chinese, gained immense popularity and saw extensive use in fortune-telling.
In four pairs of year, month, day, and hour of a person’s birth, each pair includes one of the Heavenly Stems and one of the Earthly Branchs.
Among the stems and branches form compatibilities and incompatibilitis between the zodiacs.
Using this method for fortune-telling has always considered the interpretation of one’s birth time to be vital for providing information. But that is another article on it’s own.