Four Pillars of Destiny: Decoding the Cryptic Chinese Classics

Just as it is basic human nature to assume that the grass is greener on the other side, it is the same when trying to accomplish difficult and time consuming tasks: people think that the work they are doing is more demanding than the work that others are doing.

Getting into specifics, those who have read and tried to understand, for example, the ancient Western astrological authors such as Vettius Valens (2nd century CE), Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century CE), Nechepso (BCE), Petosiris (BCE), etc, depending on the strength of their will and perseverance, or put another way – depending on how many years they have devoted to decoding those texts – can understand, as well as sympathize with, someone who is prepared to devote more years in decoding other ancient texts. In this case, it is about deciphering classical Four Pillars of Destiny texts.

Just as the oldest surviving texts of Ancient Western Astrology are deliberately cryptic and either skimpy or exemplification and/or sparse in delineation, so are the ones on BaZi. One must always keep in mind that these texts were NOT written for the common people. Other than being meant for serious students, who are prepared to devote their life to the discipline in question, the ancient Chinese astrological texts are also meant to confuse and to sidetrack. They require certain prerequisites. I write these things because so many students and practitioners have given up in despair in trying to decipher the materials in question. Some, out of anger for wasting years of their life without coming up with sufficient insights, have declared the classics to be either nonsensical and/or inapplicable to our time period.

Of course, I am not saying the classics are 100% true or 100% applicable. The same holds true for the classical texts in Ancient Western Astrology. I have written about this a few times at least: these textbooks and treatises were written to offer a helping hand to the students of the given practitioner or dedicated to a ruler whose interest they knew would not be strong/long enough in order to get to the intricacies of the given methods.

As someone who has spent years in deciphering such ancient texts and has gained so many practical insights from them, I need no convincing to pursue the decoding of their secrets and applying to them modern horoscopes.

My usual thanks to this site for the lovely free pictures:

What I am also saying is that people who have cracked certain ancient cryptic texts ought not to assume that they will necessarily be successful in cracking other texts belonging to a different category. I refer to Ancient Western Astrology and Four Pillars of Destiny or Feng Shui.

The material in question I want to decode in this article comes from the famous Four Pillars of Destiny Chinese classic called Di Tian Sui. There is a commentary by Mr. Ren TieQiao:

The quotes and translations are taken from the invaluable blog of Trey BaZi (to those interested in Four Pillars of Destiny I suggest you read not only the full article but his full blog):


“Yin within Yang, is kind and righteous on the outside, treacherous and dishonest on the inside; Yang within Yin, is dangerous on the outside but is kind and compassionate on the inside.”


“Those with Yang on the outside and Yin on the inside, has a heart that conceal disasters; those with Yin on the outside and Yang on the inside walk and uphold righteous path.”


My heartfelt appreciation for all the translation work Trey Tan has done. For someone who is from the other side of the world and who does not speak Chinese, this is priceless! Were it not for the generosity of Trey Tan, I would not be able to study the classics directly.

I will first deal with the simple variations. Their meanings are given by Chinese BaZi practitioner Lily Chung in her book Four Pillars of Destiny – Discover Your Code to Success, ( published in 2013, p.56). My thanks to Lily Chung (and Jin Peh) as well.

All Yang Pillars:

All Yin Pillars:

Alternating Yang and Yin Pillars:

Alternating Yang and Yin Pillars version 2:

Now it is time to deal with the tricky ones.

I will first examine “Yang on the outside and Yin on the inside” and vice versa.

Trey also says in the comments section of his blog:

“Hi Agnes,

I found a reference to inside and outside in a classic called Wu Xing Jing Ji WXJJ. According to the book, hour pillar and year pillar are ‘outside’ while day pillar and month pillar are ‘inside’. However I’m not sure if that is what Master Ren meant when he wrote the annotation.”

Considering what Trey says from the above quote, Chinese BaZi practitioner Lily Chung (who draws from the classics) says the same in her book Four Pillars of Destiny – Discover Your Code to Success, ( published in 2013, p.56).

So this is how “Yang on the outside and Yin on the inside” looks in a Four Pillars chart:

And this is how “Yin on the outside and Yang on the inside” looks:

Now, notice that Ren TieQiao, when speaking about Yang and Yin and outside and inside, groups them together, that is, when he speaks of inside and outside, the delineation involves them both. Thus when one condition is present, the other will be too, or otherwise it is a different configuration.

Conversely, when he speaks of Yin within Yang and vice versa, he does not group them together. Put another way, he does not say “when Yin is within Yang AND Yang is within Yin”

Why? Could there be some significance here?

I have to admit that I did not notice this when I decided to write this article. That is one of the joys of uncovering things while contemplating them!

Before I share my insight, I need to deal with the first quote, which is far trickier.

Here it is again for the sake of convenience:


“Yin within Yang, is kind and righteous on the outside, treacherous and dishonest on the inside; Yang within Yin, is dangerous on the outside but is kind and compassionate on the inside.”

The quote is about external/visible character descriptions versus internal/hidden ones. There are at least two possible meanings here as to what “outside” and “inside” refers in terms of dividing the 4 Pillars. The first one divides the chart like that:

So the Year and Month Pillars are Yang/left, external, while the Day and Hour ones are Yin, right and internal. This approach is common knowledge in BaZi and is also used to determine bodily ailments as well as the character traits of the native – in the external environment (other people, at one’s work, etc) versus those in the internal environment – at home, with one’s partner and with one’s children.

Jerry King gives it in his Four Pillars of Destiny: Unlocking the Mysteries of Life (p.35) and I have seen other authors give it as well.

I will say upfront that I favour this approach that the ancient author had in mind. So here is how the chart would look like with Yin within Yang:

Here is how Yang within Yin would look like:

Here comes a tricky part and the insight of mine. Note what would happen if one were to allow the following to represent Yin within Yang:

In theory, Yin is within the Yang side of the chart and should be valid, but Yin is also present in the Hour Pillar and as such it becomes Yin on the outside because Yin is now in both the Year and Hour Pillars.

One might say then that, in this chart, there is no counterpart, no Yang on the inside. In other words, this makes it possible for this configuration to comprise of two parts, just as the above one. Said another way, the ancient author Ren TieQiao did not bother to give all the possible variations in both delineations. What a surprise! Yeah, right. I am so used to the shortened style of writing of the ancient astrological authors that it would have been an exception had he covered the possibilities. I would have been even more surprised if Ren TieQiao had actually explained what he meant. Sure, I am straining myself in figuring out what someone wrote a few centuries ago, and am also somewhat enjoying the process, but I would appreciate it if had explained this particular part because it is fundamental.

Likewise if one allows Yang within Yin in the following case:

Again, though Yang is on the right/Yin/internal side of the chart, Yang is also present in the Year Pillar and thus this ought not to be considered Yang within Yin but Yang on the outside.

The second possible meaning of this first quote, namely Yin within Yang; Yang within Yin, is the exact reverse of what I presented. It comes from the way the Peach Blossom star is derived in Four Pillars and Destiny (also used in Feng Shui of course):

When a given BaZi chart shows problems with relationships, I mean, infidelity, many relationships, temptations, etc, one of the ways to gauge the severity of this indication is, to give one example, to note whether the Peach Blossom star (if present) is in the Year or Month Pillar (internal) or in the Day or Hour Pillar (external). If it is on the former, then these relationship problems will not get as much publicity and gossip, whereas if it is on the latter, then the native is easily tempted. Please note that this does not mean they will cheat. Other factors must be taken into account.

Anyway, the point is that this approach is the opposite of the previous one. Given that, to my knowledge, it is only used in the Peach Blossom (or some other similar stars), it clearly does not have the same weight as above one. Moreover, as the chart begins with the Year Pillar (the Chinese, among other cultures, write from right to left), which is Yang, and Creation (the I Ching/Yi Jing, Tarot, Astrology, Lenormand, etc) start with a masculine figure/image, this approach clearly makes more sense.

As a result, and not to confuse readers, I will not be showing the variations according to the Peach Blossom Approach.

There are other variations, however, which were not given by the writer of the book in question, Di Tian Sui, namely Liu Bo Wen, nor by Ren TieQiao. I feel it is my duty to examine them:

Yin within Yang AND Yang within Yin:


Yang within Yang and Yin within Yin:

Theoretically, there could be Yin within Yin. There could also be Yang within Yang. As there is no interplay between these two, I don’t think this should be considered as anything significant. Not only would there many more such cases, due to fewer variables, but it is the interplay between Yang and Yin is one of the major principles of Chinese Metaphysics.

One last thing which I wish to add is from Lily Chung’s book, as well as from common sense, namely that the meanings of the given Yang-Yin configurations can be augmented or countered if other special configurations are present in the BaZi chart. As always, nothing is read in isolation as the Four Pillars of Destiny, like Ancient Western Astrology, is inescapably holistic.

In conclusion, it is amazing how deceptively easy BaZi looks. After all, how many variations can there be when one reads Yang and Yin and 4 Pillars (without the 10 stems and 12 branches)? I was not going to write an article. I first started writing them on a sheet of paper. I soon realized that, if I wanted to do this concept justice, I would have to write a full article. I am glad that I did because I may have not had this insight. Time to check these indications in lots of Four Pillars of Destiny charts with correct times of birth!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s