I’m recovering from a cold (yes, a cold during summer ironically) so thought I’d take the spare time to write something. It just dawned upon me that despite being a blog on BaZi and Chinese metaphysics in general, I’ve not written anything on what is probably the most Googled phrase, “How to read a BaZi chart?”
A lot of the websites by practitioners touch on the technicalities behind report a BaZi chart (assuming they are correct) and not the philosophy behind it. As you all know, I like to write about the philosophical aspect of metaphysics so that people can make sense of it, and that’ll be the aim of this post. This post won’t teach you how to read a BaZi chart per se, but I would still encourage you to finish reading it as I feel it’ll add a new dimension to your learning and understanding of Chinese metaphysics.
If you’re an enthusiast looking to pick up BaZi, I’d welcome you to visit my online school here instead: https://courses.masterseanchan.com. You’ll be able to learn BaZi in an interactive environment, at your own pace while being guided by me. It’s still under development and I’ll be adding more content along the way.
This is going to be a rather long and wordy post, but if you’ve ever wondered what goes through my mind when I look at a chart, this post will explain the process. This entry also aims to guide you in approaching reading a BaZi chart the right way, and I would encourage you to finish this post since you’re here already.
The Superficial Way Of Interpreting A BaZi Chart
It’s safe to assume that for any layman in BaZi, there’s always a difficulty in understanding what the chart is trying to communicate be it from the technical aspect or a philosophical one. To most people, charts are seen as “This year is good; this year is bad” or “This 10-year phase (大运) is good; this 10-year phase is bad”. There’s nothing wrong with this per se and as long as the chart is broken down very logically by theory, you’ll be able to get an understanding of the key milestones you need to look out for. It may be a turning point in life, or it may be a downturn you might need to look out for. I think what I wish to point out here is this: The typical way people react towards a BaZi reading is that, during the good years, people expect their desires to be met, and during the bad years, people basically just live in fear and worry unnecessarily. It’s a very superficial and linear way of looking at things and it’s not the best use of metaphysics in my opinion.
I always tell my clients to see every single year and/or 10-year phase as interconnected. If you choose to see them as independent and separate, you’ll be missing out on a lot of valuable insights into your life, how it’s going to unfold and how you are developing as a person. Isn’t where we are today but a build-up of all the things we’ve been through and all the decisions we’ve made thus far? The Chinese classics don’t touch on this notion of your annual phases and 10-year phases being interconnected, but I reckon it’s because they assumed people would already be reading the charts this way and understand the philosophy it was built on which modern-day audiences don’t really pay attention to.
The notion of seeing every 10-year phase and annual phase as interconnected started to develop as the number of charts under my belt grew and as clients kindly share their personal stories with me. You start to notice patterns and how things are not what they seem on the surface. Perhaps one of the biggest observations I’ve had is that desires being met aren’t always a good thing. It may look good now and on the surface, but I’m sure many of us have made decisions we eventually regret. This is where the interconnection between phases come in.
I’ve always mentioned that in BaZi analysis, looking at the 10-year phases (大运) is most important, because this the macro-environment you’re currently operating in and it plays an extremely critical role in how your life unfolds. If your 10-year phase is negative, there is no point having a positive annual phase – which is why I always say that annual zodiac forecasts are pure nonsense because it doesn’t take this simple yet fundamentally important step into account. There is proper, structured way of analyzing a BaZi chart. Ignoring the 10-year phase and just looking at the annual phase is a complete deviation and misapplication of the theory and no legitimate practitioner should be doing this.
How Modern Media & The Misunderstanding Of This Field Sabotages People
The masses have misconstrued the right way of interpreting a BaZi chart no thanks to the ridiculous culture of annual zodiac forecasts and what was meant to be a good year could end up going to waste if the chart is interpreted wrongly. BaZi was never meant to be used this way and the reason why we have so many annual forecasts is only because the general public has no clue what’s going on, but yet people demand it for some reason. Everyone will have good phases and bad phases – you can’t escape this fact. The top-notch charts are those where, despite going through a bad phase, not much harm comes to them because their charts are structured very well and it’s the reason why we always say a balanced chart is a good one with the exception of some special cases. Why I always ask people to see every 10-year phase or annual phase as interconnected is because your future phases will be positive because your current one is negative and vice versa. Sounds weird? Read on and I’ll explain.
Nothing valuable in nature comes about without first going through some forging process, and even the beautiful things in nature will eventually breakdown and decay. The bad phases we go through are precisely a reflection of nature’s way of molding you. On the flip side, the good phases aren’t going to last forever as well and there will come a point where things start breaking down and decay. This cycle is just how reality is. The way we plot someone’s 10-year phases has a formula to it, and the Stem and Branches that appear aren’t random and the formula is basically a description of nature’s laws. I’m not sure about other practitioners, but whenever I look at a chart, it’s as though I’m seeing a product of nature and see the events that it has to go through and whether or not it comes out stronger and more beautiful, or it whether it withers away. There is a reason why you will always hear that good charts are “balanced” because a lot of the good things we see in nature are balanced as well.
BaZi’s fundamental building blocks are based on these laws. Take a few classic examples: When Earth and Water are balanced, it forms a lake and it is able to nourish life. If either one overpowers the other, nothing forms. Too much Earth and Water gets sucked dry; too much Water and Earth gets completely washed away. The same logic applies to other elements as well, like Wood and Fire, Wood and Metal, so on and so forth. These aren’t concepts developed by me – they are written in the Chinese classics and describe how our ancestors viewed the world and the laws governing and it all revolved around Yin Yang & The 5 Elements you often hear so much about.
Understanding The Hidden Meaning & Philosophy Behind A Chart
Your natal chart basically determines your foundation, but what’s important is how you develop from that foundation. Yes, some natal BaZi charts are better than others but that’s something out of our control, so there’s no point debating about it and there’s nothing a practitioner can do to change that contrary to what most people believe. Metaphysics is not a shortcut to your life’s problems. Yes, you can get insight from it, but the change still has to come from the chart-holder – not the practitioner. What I always get clients to focus on is the phases they go through, because it paints a picture of how the chart-holder will grow and develop from that foundation he or she was born into. I believe I mentioned this before: From the way your 10-year phases unfold, I can basically see whether someone who is going through a tough time will crumble or rise from the ashes; I can also see whether someone who is having a good time is starting to get complacent. Why I want people to see every phase as interconnected is because what you go through in the past will definitely have some form of impact in the present and future. Not that I’m trying to get people to get stuck in the past, but rather, if you fail to see how things are interlinked, you may find yourself at the mercy of fate someday without realizing it. This is something I personally experienced before.
I think I may be confusing some people – so perhaps let use a chart as an example:
I’ll briefly summarize the key points:
- This is a chart where the Yang Fire (丙火) Daymaster needs to be strengthened, so the first two 10-year phases are definitely considered negative since Water does not achieve that.
- The chart-holder eventually moves into a much better phase by his third 10-year phase which is his Wood phase – this is the period where his Fire Daymaster starts to strengthen.
Now, the key thing here to focus on this transition into his positive Wood phase which happened in 2012. A transition into a new 10-year phase always brings about huge change, and almost all my clients fail to appreciate just how impactful such a switch can be. A move into a positive phase is definitely worth celebrating; a move into a bad one should not be underestimated. How one’s life would turn out all depend on the 10-year phases and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to encounter positive ones.
I’ve realized that when someone is about to move into a new 10-year phase, the signs of the shift into a different macro-environment would already start showing a few years prior to the transition year. Using the example above, the chart-holder would be feeling some changes since 2010 and 2011, and come 2012 the chart-holder realized his whole life has changed and he is suddenly now in a very good place. Certain events happened that allowed him to progress really well in life. It helps that 2010 and 2011 were positive years themselves as this transition happened, so depending on how your annual phases are like, what everyone experiences will be very different.
OK, I realized after writing so much, I’ve yet to address how each phase is interlinked. It gets a bit philosophical here. As mentioned above, the way the chart and the 10-year phases is plotted has a formula and we all know that the Stems and Branches progress in a fixed order according to a formula – the sexagenary cycle basically. What I’m trying to get people to see is the is a meaning behind this ‘order’ and formula for plotting charts. The chart-holder above cannot move into a Wood phase without first going through a Water phase – yes, his natal chart is a bit more challenging, but that’s not the point here. The point here is that he has (a lot of emphasis on this) to go through some crappy phase first before the good ones can come – it’s simply nature’s law, just like how the seasons change.
All living things go through the same cycle, and our charts tell us which part of the cycle we are at. What your chart tells you is basically which part of the cycle you are at, and the quality of your chart is determined by this. You can either be at a cycle where growth and development is ahead of you, or you could be in a cycle where death and decay are setting in.
Coming back to the above example: I’ve spoken to the chart-holder quite a fair bit to understand what he went through, and what’s important to note here is that the chart-holder had a huge mindset change as he moved into his Wood phase. The difficulties he went through during his first two 10-year phases were required for him to have a ‘revelation’ before he moved into his positive phase – that’s just how life works – and with this, naturally, career and other aspects of his life eventually start to go smoothly as well. I can relate to the impact such a transition in one’s chart can bring as I’ve been through one myself. The bottom line here is to never underestimate the impact of your 10-year Elemental Phases – it’s even more important than your natal chart.
I’ve argued plenty of times that there’s no such thing as luck, because what we go through is nothing but what we put out there into our environment, and our 10-year phases is a reflection of our mindset and how we develop in relation to the environment we’re in. I’ve mentioned time and again that the word “luck” is not a good translation of the Chinese character 运 which we often use in metaphysics. “Luck” is when things happen out of nowhere and this is the exact opposite of what metaphysics is about – which is cause-and-effect. There is no such thing as “happen out of nowhere” in metaphysics.
I know some people might say that but some things are out of our control, like the place we work or circumstances we are in – that’s true, but I am still inclined to say that the decisions we make, which includes how we react to things or the meaning we derive from our experiences, got us to wherever we are today. Those who are in good environments or good companies deserve to get there, because they focused on developing themselves and their mindset is right. They are like the trees that survived winter and are given a chance to bloom again during spring – this is the cycle of nature’s law and BaZi is precisely a description of these laws.
This same law that the universe works on can also be used to explain why some people have benefactors and why some others don’t. It’s not the first time I’ve written about the topic of why some people seem to have many benefactors. I think it’s fair to say that our mentalities not only determine what kind of people we keep around us, but who we attract into our lives as well. If we were to find a parallel in nature, two species with a symbiotic relationship will thrive together. Within a single species, it’s those that display signs of helping each other and altruism that eventually survive and thrive. I took a module on evolution under the University Scholars Programme, so trust me when I say there are animal species out there doing what some of us humans don’t do. You will need to have something to give before someone offers it in return.
People born under these auspicious stars have benefactors because of the way they are – they can well-liked, respectful or even altruistic and it draws people to them. It’s not because they are ‘lucky’.
Perhaps to sum up the essence of what I’m trying to communicate, what I’m trying to say is that your 10-year phases are a reflection of both your mindset and environment – they are interlinked as well and you cannot separate them. Nothing in metaphysics is assessed independently as an end in itself and it is incorrect to see BaZi as a tool for predicting arbitrary events.
The Unfortunate Case Of People Who Will Never Grow
You might be asking, what if the person never, ever encounters a positive phase? There are definitely such cases:
Let’s admit it. Bad people exist, and this, of course, can be seen in someone’s chart.
The above chart-holder will consistently encounter six (yes, six) negative 10-year phases since the start of his life. By the time he enters into a positive one, he would be 57. I know everyone probably can’t tell by looking at the chart, but the above chart-holder really has a huge character flaw, and sadly he fails to see how his mentality and character is sabotaging himself. The six consecutive negative 10-year phases tell a practitioner one thing: he’s simply not going to realize where he’s going wrong and he’s mentality is not going to change, and life is going to hit him so hard, by the time he realizes it, his best years will already be gone. He can only start truly laying a foundation for his life and start to enjoy it when he’s in his 50s. This is one of those charts where the chart-holder, instead of learning from his past mistake, sinks even deeper. The interconnection here between past and present phase is that you can clearly tell the chart-holder just simply refuses to acknowledge what’s going wrong, so each 10-year phase becomes progressive worse than the previous one. The worst 10-year phase would be his 2020 甲寅 phase and he will hit rock bottom in 2025 and 2026 before realizing he needs to change, but even that will take time. Bear in mind that this person’s background is not as challenging as some of the people I’ve met and I’ve seen people with even more challenging backgrounds handle life with much more grace, and not surprisingly they are doing so much better because they are likeable and people naturally help them – their mindsets are so healthy that they adapt, grow and become really great, inspiring people.
A lot of my clients come to me either right after they have moved into a new 10-year phase, or just when they are about to. It’s not surprising because it’s usually during these periods that the biggest changes, be it internally or externally, happen and people want to seek clarity. Most often, people ask about it’s a good time to make career changes and this is a good example of how to show the phases are interlinked. When someone’s about to enter into a negative 10-year phase, naturally we can assume that he or she will have career challenges and we can assume that this pending career move is not going to be a positive one. There can be several reasons for this and I’ve personally come across such cases in my consultations:
- The career move is made because another company is offering higher pay, but why is it not a good move then? In metaphysics, we don’t assess good or bad by using money. Yes, someone can get offered 2x more salary, but for 10x more work – would you think it’s a good move?
- At times, such moves also affect the career trajectory of the chart-holder. A switch in industries throws someone’s career way off course, and eventually, the chart-holder realizes that the opportunity cost is way higher than expected, especially when things don’t go well.
- A lot of things are out of your control, and if you’re not careful, you may end up in an environment which isn’t good for you and find yourself stuck there.
I think the best way I explain this whole interconnection between the different phases is that, as you go through the different life stages and events, you take something from it and move on to the next phase. Some people take the challenges and setbacks as lessons to become stronger, whereas some people continue to spiral downwards due to their toxic mindset. A lot of us don’t realize how some of the decisions we make end up changing our lives forever. I always remind my clients to calm down before making a decision, but what may seem positive at first may actually be detrimental in the long run.
For the people who eventually encounter a positive phase: If you’ve had three consecutive negative 10-year phases, don’t expect your life to suddenly turn around instantly the moment you enter into a good phase. The process and unfolding will definitely take time just like every other natural phenomenon. The time taken and manifestations will vary from chart to chart depending on a few factors, such as how your natal chart is structured and whether the year of transition itself is positive for you.
The main takeaway I wish my readers take away from this post is to appreciate how every 10-year phase and every single year is interconnected. It will give you a more holistic view of things and with that, help you make better decisions. What your BaZi chart says about you and your life is so much more than what the media or commercialized ‘practitioners’ portray it. You are missing out so much by not going into the history and philosophy of this field. Your natal chart, 10-year phases, and annual phases come together to form a story of how your life unfolds – it’s a story of how you as a person, with your mindset (be it positive or negative), interact with your environment and how you grow from there. The transition into the different phases hold key insights and details on whether this transition is considered a good or bad one, what causes it to be good or bad, and what the eventual impact or meaning would be of all these transitions might mean.
Make your decisions carefully, and be very aware and honest with yourself if you are truly developing as a person. Charging forward recklessly in the name of pursuing your goals and dreams isn’t always the best way to do things. Going through a rough patch is not a bad thing either – it’s simply a process required before something of metaphorical beauty forms.