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Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches

According to I-ching, ancient Chinese began to count the years by matching the Chinese zodiac and Heavenly Stems & Earthly Branches since the 1st century. The years with the same earthly branch match the same zodiac, like years of Jiashen, Bingshen, Wushen, and Gengshen are all monkey (earthly branch being Shen) years.

Since Han Dynasty, ancient Chinese people divided a day time into twelve parts based on the sunrise time. They matched those twelve parts with twelve earthly branches, which also match the twelve Chinese zodiacs. These three counting methods makes up the unique ancient Chinese time.


Zodiac and Earthly Branches


1.What are the twelve earthly branches? Which zodiacs do they match?

Zi(子): 23:00 -1:00Rat

Zi in earthly branch means nurture. The Yangqi begins to gather and provide nutrition to the earthly things.

Zodiac: Rat

Rats are quite active at this time. They will hang around and make sure there is no predators. The rat people are more likely to be careful when they seek fortune.

Nature: Yang

Element: Water

Orientation: North

Chou(丑): 01:00 - 03:00Ox

It’s a time when the Yangqi is till in the air and yet to be descended.

Zodiac: Ox

The ox ruminates to further digest the hays it had in the day time. The ox people are considered slow in action, but more powerful in the long run.

Nature: Yin

Element: Earth

Orientation: Center


Yin(寅): 03:00 - 05:00Tiger

The Yangqi is gathered together and fertilizing everything.

Zodiac: Tiger

At this time, tigers will go downhills hunting majestically. The tiger people are willing to admit their defeat. They will do everything in their power to pursue one course once they decide.

Nature: Yang

Element: Wood

Orientation: East


Mao(卯): 05:00 - 07:00Rabbit

Everything begins to thrive upon the sunrise.

Zodiac: Rabbit

Rabbits are most active at the time. They will bouncing around for food, which is quite interesting considering how timid they are at other times. The rabbit people are often quiet outside, but very active inside.

Nature: Yin

Element: Wood

Orientation: East


Chen(辰): 07:00 - 09:00Dragon

Things begin to change drastically and thrive more.

Zodiac: Dragon

At this time, the cold air will rise and become cloud. In the Chinese culture, there is only one animal that can fly, the dragon. The dragon people are considered ambitious no matter of the circumstances.

Nature: Yang

Element: Earth

Orientation: Center


Si (巳): 09:00 - 11:00Snake

Yangqi begins to reach its utmost and providing the best elements for earthly things.
Zodiac: Snake
The ice-cool snakes becomes active with the earth becomes warmer. The snake people may seem to be calm and unattached, they will act fast when the moment is right.
Nature: Yin
Element: Fire
Orientation: South

Wu(午): 11:00-13:00Horse

It’s the time when Yangqi reaches its utmost and calls for the Yinqi. Earthly things grow luxuriant.

Zodiac: Horse

Horses run best at this time of the day. The horse people are often passionate about everything.

Nature: Yang

Element: Fire

Orientation: South


Wei (未): 13:00 - 15:00Goat

“未”, in Chinese, is the homonym of “味”, meaning taste. Fruits and crops begin to ripen at this time.

Zodiac: Goat

Goats are most active at this time. They often hop up and down the steep mountains looking for grass. The goat people seem docile outside, they are actually high-spirited and adventurous.

Nature: Yin

Element: Earth

Orientation: Center


Shen (申): 15:00 - 17:00Monkey

“申”, in Chinese, is the homonym of “身”, meaning body. The body parts of the earthly things are growing mature at this time.

Zodiac: Monkey

Monkeys are most active at this time. They will jump up and down the trees and being the naughtiest. The monkey people are often considered indecisive, and easy to quit.

Nature: Yang

Element: Metal

Orientation: West


You (酉): 17:00 - 19:00Rooster

“酉” in Chinese means getting old. At this time, earthly things begin to pass their prime moments and heading for old.

Zodiac: Rooster

At this time, roosters tend to go back to the henhouse. Ancient Chinese people thought the roosters were getting blind as the dusk drawing upon, they have no choice but to withdraw to the henhouse. The rooster people are considered under bearing. They often leave enough room to fall back on if anything bad happens.

Nature: Yin

Element: Metal

Orientation: West


Xu (戌): 19:00-21:00Dog

“戌” in Chinese means perishment. Things lose their vitality and begin to fade away.

Zodiac: Dog

Dogs are most sensitive at this time and bark often. The dog people tend to act fast, but they like to gossip.

Nature: Yang

Element: Earth

Orientation: Center


Hai (亥): 21:00-23:00Pig

“亥” in Chinese, refers to “核”, meaning core. At this time, earthly things further withered back to where they began to wait for the next start.

Zodiac: Pig

At this time, the atmosphere is quiet and hypnagogic, much like the pigs’ usual conditions. The pig people seem to be free from every burden. In fact, it’s their attitude once everything is crystal clear to them.

Nature: Yin

Element: Water

Orientation: South


2.What are the ten Heavenly Stems?

Jia(甲)

Season: First month of the Spring

Orientation: East

Symbol: the seeds begin to spout and everything is new and fresh.

Nature: Yang

Element: Wood


Yi (乙)

Season: Spring

Orientation: East

Symbol: the grow process of seeds are slow and hard.

Nature: Yin

Element: Wood


Bing(丙)

Season: Summer

Orientation: South

Symbol: seeds become big trees and are fully grown.

Nature: Yang

Element: Fire


Ding (丁)

Season: Summer

Orientation: South

Symbol: trees are grown more stronger and mature.

Nature: Yin

Element: Fire


Wu(戊)

Season: March, June, September, December

Orientation: Center

Symbol: earthly things reaches its utmost prime.

Nature: Yang

Element: Earth


Ji(己)

Season: February, May, August, November

Orientation: Center

Symbol: earthly things begin to pass their best times.

Nature: Yin

Element: Earth



Geng(庚)

Season: Autumn

Orientation: West

Symbol: Yinqi begin to take control and earthly things begin to renew themselves.

Nature: Yang

Element: Metal


Xin(辛)

Season: Autumn

Orientation: West

Symbol: earthly things yield fruits and the new seeds are collected.

Nature: Yin

Element: Metal


Ren(壬)

Season: Winter

Orientation: North

Symbol: new seeds are cultivated for planting.

Nature: Yang

Element: Water


Gui(癸)

Season: Winter

Orientation:North

Symbol: the newly cultivated seeds are planted.

Nature: Yin

Element: Water



3.How to match the Heavenly Stems & Earthly Branches?

General rule: The Heavenly Stems with Yang Nature match the Earthly Branches with Yang Nature. The Heavenly Stems with Yin Nature match the Earthly Branches with Yin Nature.


Heavenly Stems

Earthly Branches

Jia

Yi

Bing

Ding

Wu

Ji

Geng

Xin

Ren

Gui

Zi

Jiazi

Bingzi

Wuzi

Gengzi

Renzi

Chou

Yichou

Dingchou

Jichou

Xinchou

Guichou

Yin

Jiayin

Bingyin

Wuyin

Gengyin

Renchou

Mao

Yimao

Dingmao

Jimao

Xinmao

Guimao

Chen

Jiachen

Binghcen

Wuchen

Gengchen

Renchen

Si

Yisi

Dingsi

Jisi

Xinsi

Guisi

Wu

Jiawu

Bingwu

Wuwu

Gengwu

Renwu

Wei

Yiwei

Dingwei

Jiwei

Xinwei

Guiwei

Shen

Jiashen

Bingshen

Wushen

Gengshen

Renshen

You

Yiyou

Dingyou

Jiyou

Xinyou

Guiyou

Xu

Jiaxu

Bingxu

Wuxu

Gengxu

Renxu

Hai

Yihai

Dinghai

Jihai

Xinhai

Guihai


4.How to calculate the Chinese lunar year?

The matching relationship between Heavenly Stems and Numbers:

Heavenly Stems

Jia

Yi

Bing

Ding

Wu

Ji

Geng

Xin

Ren

Gui

Numbers

4

5

6

7

8

9

0

1

2

3


The matching relationship between Earthly Branches and Numbers:

Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You, Xu, Hai are represented as 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3

The rule for the heavenly stem:the last number of the year.

The formula for the earthly branch: divide the number of the year with 12 and see what is the reminder.

For example: what’s the lunar year of 2020?

Heavenly Stem: The last number is 0, which is Geng.

Earthly Branch: 2020/12=168, remaining 4, which is Zi.

So the year 2020 is Year Gengzi in lunar calendar.
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