In a BaZi chart not only each branch is compared to the Day Master (the most important comparison is made using the branch of the month) but each pillar is also evaluated independently and each stem is examined in relation to the branch that supports it.
The cycle of the “12 stages of growth” (十二长生 literally the “12 long life”) is used to assess the seasonal strength (which is determined by the branch) of the elements and stems in the four pillars.
In this post I will try to explain the difference between evaluating the seasonal strength of an element and the seasonal strength of a Yin/Yang stem.
In the last two rows of the chart below I:reported the Qi stages of
- the Day Master – purple row
- each steam in relation to the branch supporting it (pillar stages) – gray row
In the example below you can see that the stages for Ding in relation to Chou, Mao, Si and Wei are Mu (9 – grave), Bing (7 – sickness), Di Wang (5 – imperial prosperity) and Guan Dai (3 – wearing hat). However, if we were evaluating the stages for the element Fire in relation to Chou, Mao, Si and Wei we should obtain instead: Yang (12 – rear), Mu Yu (2 – Bath), LinGuan (4 – arriving officer) and Shuai (6 – waning). Similarly, the Water stage associated with Mao should be Si (8 – Death) and not Chang Sheng (1 – Birth) as in the case of Gui.
These differences are due to the fact that evaluating the seasonal strength of an element is not the same as evaluating the stage of a stem because a stem can have yin or yang qualities.
This can be explained as follows:
The Yang and the Yin follow different cycles. The Yang moves clockwise according to the months progression (yin-branch – mao-branch – chen-branch … to chou-branch) whereas the Yin moves anticlockwise against the cycle of months. Furthermore it is assumed that the yang is born when the yin is dead and, vice versa, the yin is born when the yang is dead.
The 12 stage cycle goes as follow
- 长生 ChangSheng – the stage of ‘Birth’
- 沐浴 MuYu – the stage of ‘Bath’
- 冠带 GuanDai – the stage of ‘Wearing Hat’.
- 临官 LinGuan – the stage of ‘Arriving Officer’
- 帝旺 DiWang – the stage of ‘Imperial Prosperity’
- 衰 Shuai – the stage of ‘Waning’
- 病 Bing – The stage of ‘Sickness’
- 死 Si – the stage of ‘Death’
- 墓 Mu – the stage of ‘Grave’
- 绝 Jue – the stage of ‘Extinct’
- 胎 Tai – the stage of ‘Womb’
- 养 Yang – the stage of ‘Rear’
This means that in the case of the WATER element
- is born (长生 ChangSheng – stage1) in Shen-branch
- is dead (死 Si – stage8) in Mao-branch
which is what we studied during the CPD when evaluating the seasonal strength of water; however,
- is born (长生 ChangSheng – stage1) in Mao-branch (when the yang Ren-stem is dead)
- is dead (死 Si – stage8) in Shen-branch.
The stages for all the other stems can be derived from the table below
4 thoughts on “The 12 stages of growth”
Thank you for your article. I noticed that Bing & Wu are the same as well as Ding & Ji. Will you clarify this for me please?
Hi Carl, sorry for the late reply but I have been away from this blog for several weeks.
The reason why the Fire and Earth phases have a similar progression is justified by the position of the Earth in the Chinese Compass as a phase of transition (a centre that splits in four sections occupying the four directions NE, SE, SW, NW associated with the branches Chou, Chen, Wei, Xu); hence the Earth is not associated with any of the four cardinal directions. Moreover, the cycle called the “12 stages of growth” 十二长生 works only according to 4 directions arranged in 3 stages (the so called three unities) this is why, as you can notice, the metal phase is born at fire branch-Si; which is like saying that Metal is born in Fire. However, since (a) the Earth phase is predominantly associated with the SW direction (there are many good reasons for this: cosmological and astronomical, yang/yin transition ext…), (b) in the sheng-creation cycle Fire is the mother of Earth and (c) stem-Ji is an additional hidden stem of the branch Wu, Fire (stem Bing and Ding) and Earth (stem Wu and Ji) phases were given the same life cycle hence the progression in the table above.
I hope this helps
Thank you for this interesting article. Could you explain how to interpret this stages of growth? What does it means about the person? Thank you
Dear Carole, sorry for the very late reply I have been so busy that I forgot to check my website.
This article is mostly about how each of the five phases, and more precisely each yin and yang aspect of the five phases, expresses itself and develops through 12 progressive life stages. Every living process is born, grows and after having reached its maximum development, starts declining and eventually dies; then it is forgotten and goes back to a state of void that leads to a new time of gestation/birth. This means that according to the influence of the season of birth (branch of the month), each yin/yang phase of the four pillar chart have different strengths. For example Wood is supple and strong when it is born in winter, even stronger when reaches full development in spring, declines in summer, dies in late summer and it is in void in autumn when it is dry and brittle. This means that two people with strong wood features but born in different seasons are going to express their wood traits differently (i.e. an autumnal wood would be less confident and possibly more fragile and introspective than a springy wood).
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