What Are The Four Pillars Of Destiny? (Ba-Zi)

In Chinese astrology, your fate is largely determined by the year, month, day, and hour of your birth. Ba and Zi are the characters used to describe your fate – that is your year, month, day, and hour of birth – and they translate to ‘The Four Pillars of Destiny’. When seeing the future of an individual, these four elements are studied by Chinese astrologers and fortune-tellers. We will discuss interesting facts about this system, and what it meant for ancient Chinese society.

The history and meaning of Bazi in China

Bazi is similar to all other astrology systems – it is a scientific technique that was to show the cosmic elements when an individual was born, and it was developed in China.

The person who invented the system is unknown, although most of what we know today is thanks to a man named Grand Master Xu Zi Ping or Xu Ziping who refined the system of Suan ming (Fate calculations). He came up with the system during the period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907 to 978), and one of the major ideas he stated was that the self was represented by the energy on the day of your birth instead of the year of birth.

Bazi elements

In the Chinese system, five elements or energy phases represent the cosmic components – water, earth, metal, fire, and wood.

These are all based on the stem-branch calendar (Ganzhi), a traditional Chinese calendar that uses earthly branches and heavenly stems to accurately record the hour, day, month, and year someone is born. These elements also have their equivalents, since they result from the planets Mercury, Saturn, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter.

Bazi element calculator and analysis

As we mentioned before, the Bazi system relies on stem-branch calculations. In total, these make up 8 characters, which are the hour branch, hour stem, day branch, day stem, month branch, month stem, year branch, and year stem.

When you combine a branch and stem pair, you create a pillar, so the Four Pillar Eight Characters system consists of the hour pillar, day pillar, month pillar, and year pillar. An individual’s life is governed by these four pillars, with the general calculations involving:

  • Year Pillar – determines your life from the age of 1 to 16
  • Month Pillar – determines your life from the age of 17 to 32
  • Day Pillar – determines your life from the age of 33 to 48
  • Hour Pillar – determines your life from the age of 49 onwards

Each pillar will govern your fate for 16 years, except the Day Pillar which determines it for a longer time. In more specifics, the heavenly stem will govern your life for the first 8 years of the pillar, while the earthly branch governs it for the next 8 years of the same pillar. This means:

  • Year Pillar – Heavenly stem rules it from age 1 to 8, earthly stem from age 9 to 16
  • Month Pillar – heavenly stem rules it from age 17 to 24, earthly stem from age 25 to 32
  • Day Pillar – heavenly stem rules it from age 33 to 40, earthly stem from age 41 to 48
  • Hour Pillar – heavenly stem rules it from age 49 to 56, earthly stem from age 57 to 64.

How you can read the Bazi chart

Year Pillar

It is thought of as the root of a person. In the same way, a plant needs to have strong roots to support it. Therefore, this pillar represents the Grandparents and Parents of the individual, so their woes and fortune will affect you in some way.

Both the branch and stem of the Year Pillar are representatives of your ancestors. If these elements are under restriction, you might lose your parents or grandparents before reaching the age of 16, while a strong Year pillar shows that your ancestors are of good standing and you will be blessed by your older relatives until the age of 16.

Another interpretation is when your Year Pillar contains an element that is against yours, and this may mean you will live an unsmooth childhood due to a poor environment or poverty, or your family may suffer unforeseen disasters during your childhood years.

Month Pillar

The Month Pillar represents your siblings and parent places, as well as your fortunes from age 17 to 32. It corresponds to your back and chest.

If your Month pillar is strong, it shows that your original family is well-off and living comfortably, and your parents are successful in their careers. However, the month pillar having an element that is against yours shows that your siblings and parents can only offer limited help or they are of average social standing.

Day Pillar

Unlike the prior two pillars, the Day pillar represents marriage, and the ups and downs you may experience with your spouse. The Day stem will show your fortune, while the Day Branch shows your partner’s fortune. In the body, it corresponds to the abdomen and waist and also represents your fortune from age 33 to 48.

If your day branch or stem conflicts, either due to conflicting elements or restriction, you might separate from your partner forever, especially if there are conflicts in the Month branch. If there are restrictions due to self-punishment, you may suffer misfortunes in your relationships – especially danger and casualties.

However, if the month branch is strong, that is a sign that the partner will come from a well-off family and help you to enjoy a happy marriage with them, as well as good career prospects from age 32 to 48. If the day branch has an opposing element, the partner you get will not satisfy you, your wishes will be unfulfilled, your marriage will be unhappy, or your partner will be from a poor family.

Hour pillar

This pillar is representative of your children, and the disgrace or honor they will bring to you. It also corresponds to the feet and legs.

The branch and stem of hour pillars show the fortune of your children and your old age. If it is in conflict or under restriction, you or your children will suffer casualty and misfortune if it is self-inflicted. If your hour pillar is strong, your later years will be peaceful due to a successful career and filial children. If the element in the hour pillar is opposed to yours, your children may go against you and you may lack peace in your later years.

What makes balanced, weak, or strong Bazi?

The five elements determine the strength of a person’s fate, and their ability to restrain and assist the Day Master, which is a representative of the self.

When the five elements are comprehensive, contain all advantageous items to the Day Master, and do not have any evil spirits, the Bazi is strong. Weak Bazi will mean the Day Master is weak, and the assisting power from the five elements is weaker than the restraint. People with a balanced Bazi have a Day Master that is equally restrained in its power by the five elements, so this means their lives will be smooth because their Yin and Yang are balanced.

Each element has its complementary elements, which the astrologer uses to calculate your fortune. Their relationships are governed by two cycles – the Controlling cycle and the Generating cycle.

Generating cycles are positive, and the elements support each other in this form:

Water supports wood growth – Wood assists the fire to burn – Fire creates the earth – Earth creates metal – Metal forms water

The controlling cycle results in destruction, as two forces are opposing each other in this form:

Water limits fire – Fire destroys metal – Metal chops down wood – Wood breaks the earth – Earth blocks water flow by soaking it

Knowing this assists in predicting which people will get along or become enemies, depending on their elements, as well as predicting the fortunes of an individual and people connected to them. Elements that consume wood, for instance, are seen as different – such as earth, fire, and metal. Helping elements are the same, such as wood and water. The score of similar elements is calculated, as well as the elements in contrast to it.

If the result is a higher score in the same element type, your Bazi is strong; if it is lower than opposing element combinations, it is a weak Bazi. If they are equal, you have a balanced Bazi.

As a general guideline, it is best to have a balanced Bazi instead of a weak or strong one – extreme differences or strengths show that you will go through extreme ups and downs in life.


The study of Bazi is interesting and never ends, as there are always things to discover in it. However, it is not the sole determiner of your fate, because your fortune calculations will also factor in your years of misfortune, 10-year luck pillars, the distance of your complementary Earthly branch, or Heavenly Stem from your Day Master, your life patterns, and other things.

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