A Bazi (Chinese Astrology) Primer


Chinese cosmology is a cohesive philosophy that undergirds every aspect of Chinese culture and society. This primer is by no means meant to be a comprehensive treatment of Chinese cosmology. It is, however, meant to serve as an introductory guide to Bazi which is Chinese Astrology, or Four Pillars.

Bazi is Chinese Astrology, this is an introductory primer

Note: Here is a calculator you can use to plot your Bazi chart for you.


Chinese cosmology has a holistic conception of “ming”, or fate/destiny. There are 3 kinds of fate of luck: heaven luck, earth luck, and man luck. These are hierarchical and define both the possibilities and  impossibilities in a person’s life.

All 3 notions of fate, or luck, are beholden to time:

  • Heaven luck is astrology, how celestial phenomena occurring at specified times correlate to affairs on earth and the lives of men;
  • Earth luck is feng shui, the art of scheduling and positioning. It is the orientation of one’s self and life in relationship to the flow of qi (life force or energy);
  • Man luck is how one understands, respects, and works with or against their heaven and earth luck.


Essential to each of these studies of fate is “wu xing” which is the five elements (stages, phases, etc). The five elements are:

  • Wood
  • Fire
  • Earth
  • Metal
  • Water

Each of the five elements takes to forms, a yin form and a yang form giving us 10 primary presentations of qi. Each of these yin/yang forms of qi governs a season. Each season is comprised of 3 animal signs which are earthly manifestations of the qi/element that governs each season. Earth governs the periods between each of the seasons. See figure 1.

Figure 1

5 Elements in Yin/Yang

Each element interacts with every other element in several defined relationships. But the most important interactions between elements are the production cycle and the controlling cycle. Be careful not to assume that relationships is better than the other. Context is everything. When we discover the flow of your chart we will come to understand which relationships are most important to support that flow.

Figure 2

The Productions & Controlling Cycle of the 5 Elements


Bazi means eight characters. The eight characters in your Chinese astrology chart are divided into two groups. The Heavenly Stems and the Earthly Branches. The Heavenly Stems are the pure qi, the five elements in their yin or yang forms. The Earthly Branches are the 12 animals (see Figure 1).

There are four pillars in your Bazi chart. The year pillar, month pillar, day pillar, and hour pillar.

  • Year pillar is grandparents and extended family members, it is your family background and upbringing.
  • Month pillar represents the parents or siblings, employment.
  • Day pillar is the self, spouse, home.
  • Hour pillar is children, aspiration, career.

Each pillar has one heavenly stem at the top, and one earthly branch on the bottom. Each part of the chart is identified in terms of its pillar and whether it’s a stem or a branch. See figure 3.

Figure 3

Sample Bazi Chart

The two most important parts of a Bazi chart are the day stem and the month branch. The day stem is called the daymaster, and the month branch is the season of birth.

Once the daymaster is identified each of the other elements can be identified as well.

  • The daymaster (and its yin or yang counterpart) is the self (friends/enemies, peers, audience). It produces output.
  • The element that the daymaster produces is output (ideas, work ethic, talents, children in the chart of women). It produces wealth.
  • The element that output produces is wealth (assets, father, spouse or partner in the chart of men) it produces influence.
  • The element that wealth produces is officer (authority, superiors, spouse or partner in the chart of women, children in the chart of men). It produces resource.
  • The element that the officer produces is resource (mother, family support and upbringing, education, helpful people). It produces the self.


The flow of a Bazi chart originates with the daymaster and the season. The daymaster can be rooted or not rooted in the season. That means the animal in the earthly branch of the month pillar can be the same as or produce the element in the heavenly stem of the day pillar.

For example, Yi (Yin Wood) daymaster born in Spring (Wood season) or Winter (Water season) is rooted because the element of the season in the month branch matches the element of the day stem. Yi is rooted in Winter because the Water of Winter produces Wood. Yi (Yin Wood). Yi (Yin Wood) born in any other season is not rooted.

Whether or not the daymaster is rooted in the month branch determines the flow of the chart. The flow defines which elements are favorable and which elements are unfavorable to a chart. This is a complicated task that requires an understanding of how the stems and branches interact with each other. That is beyond the scope of this primer.


The Bazi chart and its flow determine the heaven luck you were born with. The annual and 10 (personal) year luck pillars determines when that flow is supported, disrupted or blocked.

Every 10 years, your personal luck pillar changes. Then you enter a new time period with a different focus. See figure 4.

Figure 4

10 Year Luck Pillar for Yi Wood daymaster born Mao Spring

Each year the annual luck pillar changes. It interacts with both your Bazi chart and your personal luck pillar to support, disrupt, or block the flow that your personal luck pillar adjusts every 10 years.

It is this part we focus on in the Bazi – Chinese Astrology Reading.