Hi. I moved this article to my new website. Please read its updated and improved version there. Thank you.
The Four Pillars of Destiny method is one of the two branches of Chinese Astrology. It is also known as BaZi, meaning 8 Characters (the year, month, day and hour of bith). It is one of the most popular methods in Asia for uncovering and predicting one’s destiny.
BaZi is structured in a different way compared to Western Ancient Astrology. It is the Day Branch that is the most important, not the Hour one. This may seem very strange and even ridiculous to Western professionals who are accustomed to working with great accuracy and that a change of some minutes can alter the natal chart a lot. Four Pillars of Destiny is simply a different method which rests on different rules. To those that are versed in Numerology it won’t seem strange at all because it is the day of birth, not the hour, which is the most important there as well. BaZi is simply a type of system that is more encompassing of the greater energies or significations. Still, it has over 500000 variations. A very good analogy is the fixed stars in Astrology.
Being structured in a different way has, of course, both advantages and disadvantages compared to Western Ancient Astrology. One of the biggest advantages of Four Pillars of Destiny is that a chart can be read without the Hour Pillar. This is absolutely impossible to do in Ancient Western Astrology. I have already written about this. Without the correct Ascendant and Lots, one only has psychological descriptions, and even though some delineating can be made, its weight and context cannot be established.
To one who is unfamiliar with Chinese Astrology it does seem as if it makes no sense for BaZi to work without an Hour Branch. This is because everyone born on that day will have the same 6 symbols out of the 8. That is 360000 people being born every single day. Right? Well, not really! While the numbers are correct, these people will have different faces, different palms and bodies, as seen from Chinese Physiognomy; they will be living in different properties, as seen by Classical Feng Shui; they will be living in different locations with different fates, as seen from Mundane Astrology; when one determines the minute of birth, there will be even more differences; in addition to this, they will have different names, as read from Numerology.
And, of course, they will make different choices, have different education, environment, upbringing, values etc. The latter are part of the Human Luck and must be taken into consideration.
When all that is said and done it does seem extremely unlikely that BaZi can work without the Hour Pillar. One can speculate and theorize as much as they want but, as must always be the case, it is in actual practice that a method can truly shine. And actual practice shows that Four Pillars of Destiny can be really accurate even without the Hour Pillar. In countries where BaZi is extremely popular, like China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and others, practitioners routinely read charts where the time of birth is unknown.
There is another reason for this, but this reason again rests on the nature of Chinese Astrology and Metaphysics being differently structured than Ancient Western Astrology. It is Classical Feng Shui, which traditionally was always used alongside BaZi or the other branch of Chinese Astrology. As the Chinese say: the Four Pillars of Destiny is the diagnosis, Feng Shui is the cure. The older system of Classical Feng Shui is called San He and it is extremely connected with BaZi. There, as in BaZi, some stars (not astronomical bodies but merely fancy names for energy) are derived not from the Hour Pillar, not from the Day Pillar, but from the Year Pillar. Again, it is a different system but it works amazingly well. So that is why the practitioners of Chinese Astrology are confident in reading a chart without the Hour Pillar – by using the stars derived from the Year Pillar (and some of them are really important, like Peach Blossom, Traveling Horse and others, but to be thorough some practitioners prefer to derive these from the Day Branch).
Another thing which may be unfamiliar to my readers is that the Chinese measure the hours not as is done in the West. A day has 12 hours ruled by the 12 Chinese zoidia. (wrongly called animals, just as the Western representations/images are wrongly called “signs”; in fact the words in Chinese are different, that is, the word say for the physical animal “rat” is different than the word used for the Rat, the 1st zoidion/image from the Chinese Zodiac; the zoidia are familiar every day rural names for the types of energy, which are easy to remember.)
What this means is 1 Chinese hour = 2 Western hours. This was one of the things that immediately caught attention when I heard of BaZi years ago. The reason for this should be obvious to anyone who is into Western Ancient Astrology. 2 hours is roughly 1 Rising image/Ascendant. Moreover, 1 Chinese hour is again roughly the time the Lot of Fortune or Spirit or any other indispensable Lot spends in a given zoidion, that is, it changes roughly every 2 hours. This, of course, brings me to the topic of chart rectification – the method of finding the exact time of birth (within seconds, to the minute, or within a few minutes in some more peculiar charts).
While BaZi charts can be read without the Hour Pillar, one does not get the complete information (the Hour Pillar deals with the native’s children, the affinity between the children and the native among other things). What is more, some charts cannot be read reliably without the Hour Pillar. It is just the way the chart is structured. In other words, the Stems and Branches are situated in such a way that the flow of the chart, the predominant element/s, cannot be established. This is because the 4th Pillar can change the energy of the chart by forming a particular combination, be it in the Stems or Branches, or both. In some such cases it is possible to determine the favourable and unfavourable elements, the Useful Deity, etc, but only after extensively checking the past events from the native’s life. Even then, if the chart belongs to special category, such as changing its positive and negative elements over time according to the combinations, one cannot be 100% certain. Thus, the predictions will be off or even wrong. What to do then? One must find the Hour Pillar.
There are a few ways to find the Hour Pillar out (again, it is about a 2 hour period, at least for Four Pillars of Destiny). Some people use divination, others read one’s palm and perform calculations. However, it is here that Chinese Astrology practitioners and those of Chinese Metaphysics (Feng Shui, Yi Jing, Chinese Physiognomy, Qi Men Dun Jia and others) in China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong etc, would do well to take advantage of Western Ancient Astrology which works with unsurpassed accuracy. The various rectification methods are derived from Babylonian, Hellenistic, Perso-Arabic and Medieval traditional astrological texts and most importantly, they work reliably in actual practice. One can establish not just the Hour Pillar but the exact minute of birth, which would be very helpful for the other branch of Chinese Astrology – Zi Wei Dou Shu – aka Emperor Astrology.
A word of warning to Eastern readers: discovering the time of birth when it is completely unknown/rectification from scratch is one of the really difficult things to do. Few practitioners can do it and not many offer to do it for the public. Moreover, there are over a dozen different techniques in Astrology in general, but few of them work when the time of birth is unknown. This is important to keep in mind. What is more important is to understand that finding out the unknown time of birth and the Hour Pillar for BaZi can only be done with traditional Western astrological methods (anything after the year 1650 is thrown away). You must also know that the vast majority of astrological practitioners in the West practise a type of modern astrology which is incapable of doing rectification work when the time of birth is unknown. In the vast majority of cases it is not the practitioners’ fault; they are simply working with techniques which were NOT designed to find out the missing time of birth, let alone rectification without a time of birth.
Some will admit it, but others will not and will mislead clients intentionally or not.
What is it then that is required for finding out the unknown Hour Pillar in Four Pillars of Destiny? Some people who have had their chart rectified and know some things about Western Astrology, assume that every practitioner does pretty much the same thing. This is not true. Different practitioners use different methods. What I require to do it is specific information from the person in question. I have had cases where people send me events of their lives assuming I need these and when I tell them I don’t need such types of events but different kinds of information (I send out a Word format document with specific questions to be filled by the client), they act surprised. To some of them it is like a Western person going to an Eastern doctor and wondering why they are asked about their favourite season, taste, colour etc. This is because of the rich nature of my system for rectification which has taken the best of ancient astrological texts and transformed it into something which is not present in any single one, i.e. the whole is more than the individual parts and techniques.
Considering the amount of money being paid for Feng Shui audits and consultations and for BaZi readings, investing in finding out the exact time of birth and thus the Hour Pillar in Chinese Astrology is a wise thing to do, especially when done by an experienced Western Ancient Astrology practitioner because then it will be correct (and thus valid for the whole life, and not just a service that is performed every year or once in few years) and can be used by different Chinese Metaphysics professionals.
Written on the 3rd of Apr 2016 day of the Sun, hour of Zeus, day of the Yin Wood Rabbit, hour of the Yang Fire Dog.