An Introduction To Zi Wei Dou Shu & How To Read The Charts

zi-wei-dou-shu-big-dipper

Posted On Last updated May 31, 2020 | Published on Oct 27, 2017

Before I start, try to refrain from calling Zi Wei Dou Shu “Purple Star Astrology” because it sounds extremely silly. There is nothing “purple” about this star even though Zi here means purple in Chinese. ‘Zi Wei’ is another term for the emperor.

I’ve added a webpage for Zi Wei Dou Shu to provide some information on this technique. I’m not sure if BaZi or Zi Wei Dou Shu is more popular here in the region, but generally, these would be the two methods you would hear of when looking for an astrological reading.

If you’ve not known already, I know both methods and combine both BaZi and Zi Wei Dou Shu during my consultations to gather more insights for my clients. Applying two methods at the same time also serves as a way for me to make sure my analysis is on the right track. Despite being two very different methods, the conclusions drawn will not contradict each other. In other words, if one’s BaZi chart indicates a certain weaker area in life, the Zi Wei Dou Shu chart will say the same. Because they contradict, then one method is clearly flawed which we know is not true. Both are vigorously developed methods that withstood the test of time.

I’m going to give an introduction of Zi Wei Dou Shu in this post and point out some of the frequently asked questions related to the differences between BaZi and Zi Wei Dou Shu. I’ll start writing a bit more on Zi Wei Dou Shu since it’s part of the service I offer and there has been an indication of interest from readers.

What Exactly Is Zi Wei Dou Shu?

Zi Wei Dou Shu is one of the many Chinese astrological forecasting methods and extremely popular amongst the Chinese. Its origins are a little bit more mysterious as you’ll hear several versions of it.

The origins of Zi Wei Dou Shu are rather convoluted, with different arguments of which the true founder was. Some argued that it was the Taoist sage Chen Tuan (陳摶) during the Song Dynasty, whereas some others argued that it was Lü Dongbin (吕洞宾) of the Tang Dynasty many Chinese will know as one of the Eight Immortals (八仙) worshipped by Taoists..

Zi Wei Dou Shu held the title of 五大神数之首, meaning out of the 5 known methods of astrology, Zi Wei Dou Shu was considered the supreme method. Most of what we know of Zi Wei Dou Shu were originally passed down orally and not many books were written on it unlike BaZi. Unlike BaZi which looks at the position of Earth around the Sun, Zi Wei Dou Shu observes the position of the stars instead, with the major stars coming from that of the Big Dipper and six from the Sagittarius constellation.

What Makes Zi Wei Dou Shu So Popular?

Zi Wei Dou Shu is arguably a bit more popular because many people feel it is easier to pick up. Why though? It’s because most as long as you know what each of the main stars represents and looks at which sector it ends up, you will be able to tell a few things. This notion excites a lot of newcomers because you are able to tell a thing or two just with this superficial knowledge. However, please reminded that there is a lot more to a Zi Wei Dou Shu analysis than merely reading off the charts and where the stars lands.

One special trait of Zi Wei Dou Shu is that it can be used to deduce the root cause of a particular event, as well as the areas of your life it will affect. This is primarily determined by the Four Transformers (四化) which represent the impetus and process of change within the chart. Other Chinese astrological methods may not be able to point these things out as clearly.

For example, both BaZi and Zi Wei Dou Shu can help a practitioner deduce that someone might be having career difficulties. However, how exactly this might happen, we’ll have to consult Zi Wei Dou Shu. It’s not that BaZi is totally incapable of doing this, just that Zi Wei Dou Shu can give a much clearer and accurate picture. The root cause of career challenges might come in different forms, such as one’s company not doing well, having a less-than-ideal superior or simply not being up to the task. The same goes for marriage: the breakdown and friction within a marriage can be due to different factors. For some, it may be due to character flaws, and for others, it may be due to financial issues.

This is the reason why I combine both methods during my consultations because I realized that the questions that people are used to asking aren’t answerable using BaZi, and people tend to want to know the details and exactly how and where life’s challenges will come from, which is perfectly normal.

Which Is The ‘Better’ Method?

There’s no right answer to this and there is no point trying to address this question too. These are really just different techniques that are built on similar underlying laws of the universe. Both methods have their merits and I personally enjoy using both of them. In terms of complexity, Zi Wei Dou Shu is definitely more complex, which is why it could go into more detail. The great thing about BaZi is that analysis can be done extremely quickly and it literally takes just a few minutes for an experienced practitioner to determine the quality of a chart. Both have a lot to bring to the table.

Perhaps let me explain it like this, if your question is “I want to know an overview of my life and if I stand a good chance of success”, BaZi would be sufficient. If your question is more specific and goes “I want to know exactly how and where the opportunities or challenges will come from”, Zi Wei Dou Shu would be more suitable.

How Do You Read A Zi Wei Dou Shu Chart?

This is not something I will be able to fully address in this blog post, but I’ll give a brief introduction. You’ll realize a BaZi chart and Zi Wei Dou Shu chart look drastically different. You can see it for yourself below:

A Zi Wei Dou Shu chart is much more complex as you can see. What’s most easily identifiable is the 12 Palaces (宫位) in the chart which represents different aspect of one’s life such as family, home environment, career, finances and many more. Zi Wei Dou Shu also has the concept of Annual and 10-Year Phases as well, similar to BaZi, although we call usually call it ‘ da xian‘ (大限) instead of ‘da yun‘ (大运) for Zi Wei Dou Shu.

Despite looking so different on the surface, they are ultimately still built on astronomy and both are snapshots in time the moment someone is born. Parallels between the two methods do exist although expressesed different. For example, in Zi Wei Dou Shu, the 12 Palaces are your 12 Earthly Branches, but in BaZi, it is not expressed using the 12 Palaces but by the individual Earthly Branch itself.

If you wish to learn how to effectively analyze a Zi Wei Dou Shu chart, you’ll need to be extremely familiar with the following:

  • The major stars used in Zi Wei Dou Shu. This determines what your chart structure is which is crucial in determining the overall quality of your chart.
  • The minor stars which include both your beneficial and destructive stars. For a chart to be top-notch, you’ll need beneficial stars to end up in the important sectors.
  • You need be familiar with how to analyze the different 10-Year phases and Annual Phases.
  • Most importantly and perhaps the most complex part. You’ll need know the influences of the Four Transformer stars.

Zi Wei Dou Shu requires you to churn your brain a lot more and think in even more abstract ways. Although it is seemingly easier to pick up because you can just read off which stars land where to truly apply it effectively is a different story.

Flying Stars & Multiple Representations

One of the habits of beginners in this field is to blindly read off the chart and identify which star ends in which Palace without applying the other techniques which are required as part of the analysis. There are several other techniques that one must appreciate before any form of meaningful analysis can be done, such as:

  • ‘San Fang Si Zheng’ (三方四正): Palace aspects, representing the intricate relationships shared by certain Palaces.
  • ‘Da Xian Si Hua’ (大限四化): The 10-Year Phase Transformers
  • ‘Ti’ and ‘Yong’ (体 ,用): The foundation and the unfolding process
  • ‘Gong Gan Si Hua’ (宫干四化): The Four Transformers from each Palace
  • ‘Gong Wei Zhuan Huan’ (宫位转换): The dynamic representation of each Palace

Let’s take ‘Gong Wei Zhuan Huan’ for example: If you have read my Zi Wei Dou Shu case study on career success, I gave an example of one’s Health Palace (疾厄宫) which is originally supposed to represent one’s health. This sector can also represent how well the company one’s working for is doing. The key here is knowing when the Health Sector is supposed to represent what – when do we associate this Palace with health and when do we associate it with the company one’s working for? This is where the concept of ‘ti’ (体) and ‘yong’ (用) comes in.

All the above-mentioned concepts are what gives Zi Wei Dou Shu the ability to go into the details of one’s life, and quite frankly there is still more to it than whatever I’ve mentioned. You have to see how the 10-Year chart (大限盘) interacts with the natal chart (本命盘) and can go even deeper to see how the Annual Chart (流年盘) interacts with the the10-Year chart.

There are also certain special combinations and patterns of the Flying Stars to take into account as well. For example, you’ll often hear of such terms in advanced Zi Wei Dou Shu application:

  • Lu Chu 禄出
  • Ji Chu 忌出
  • Fong Gong Ji 反弓忌
  • Ni Shui Ji 逆水忌

These are just a few examples and there are many more to look out for.

Imagine 4 stars Flying out of the 12 Palaces, that’s 48 stars Flying about but this just the tip of the iceberg because you still need to trace how the stars move and the subsequent Palaces it flies into. Now, bring in your natal chart, 10-Year chart and finally your Annual Chart into the picture, that is a total of 144 Flying Stars to take into account and this is still considered a superficial application because we have yet to take into account the overlapping layers of the charts and Palaces.

Imagine three different charts belonging to the same person (yes, 3 charts belong to the same person) stacked on top of each other. The complexity multiplies geometrically.

But the fascinating thing is, underlying all these complexities, is still Yin Yang & The 5 Elements, just that the application of this simple law of Yin Yang & The 5 Elements has sort of developed an emergent property like it has a life of it’s own.

Should I Solely For Zi Wei Dou Shu Consultations?

This is entirely up to you of course. it also depends on your affinity with a legitimate practitioner. There are a lot of pseudo-practitioners out there who didn’t really go in-depth into their studies and are trying their ‘luck’ being in this field for a career. Most of them simply read off which stars land in which Palace which I mentioned is an extremely superficial way of analyzing the chart with no benefits at all.

It doesn’t matter which method is the specialization. A legitimate practitioner will be able to give you valuable insights into your life as long as he or she takes being in this field seriously and not some passing hobby or career experiment.

The Challenges For Zi Wei Dou Shu Learners And Clients

For Clients

Zi Wei Dou Shu is a very complex method. You’ll likely find yourself in a situation where the practitioner just says something and you have no choice but to take it at face value. However, I’d say you should ask for a technical explanation especially when you need the assurance. This serves a few important purposes:

  • It lets you find out whether the practitioner knows his/her stuff: Any legitimate practitioner will be able to explain the technicals. Meaning, they should know all 12 possibilities of what each Palace can represent and the significance behind how the Four Transformers interact with the Palaces.
  • You will be more assured with your reading: The last thing you want is to walk away from the consultation with doubts, and it is also your right as a customer to ask for a technical explanation because this is your life we are talking about.

Of course, if you do ask for a technical explanation, please be nice and polite about it because practitioners do get into a lot of situations where the client challenges him/her for the sake of it and they might take it the wrong way. The practitioner has the right to reject your request too if you want to be nasty about it.

For Students

Firstly, a lot of the good books on Zi Wei Dou Shu are in Chinese, so if you are not fluent in the language, it’s going to be very hard for you to pick it up. There are hardly any English books on Zi Wei Dou Shu too, so if you’re a pure English speaker or from a Westenr country, it’s going to be even more difficult.

The reason why you see other Chinese astrological methods being sold in English is because they are much easier to translate and it’s a lot quicker to monetize by turning it into a course and selling it to the masses. This is going to be a lot harder in Zi Wei Dou Shu because there are a lot more permutations to look out for and it takes significantly more time and effort to not only develop the curriculum, but also teach it in a meaningful way.

I hope you found this post useful in understanding a bit more on Zi Wei Dou Shu.

The reason why my reports are written mostly from a BaZi perspective even though I combine both methods is because it’s a much simpler method. I can break the analysis down into bite-sized pieces so that the client can understand his or her own chart. This is much more difficult to do for Zi Wei Dou Shu due to the reasons I’ve stated above, so it’s usually best I just say what I see from the chart and not go into the technicals. I do bring in the technicals during my Zi Wei Dou Shu consultations but only when the question asked calls for it.

If you have any questions on Zi Wei Dou Shu, don’t be afraid to reach out!

– Sean

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Written by Sean Chan

Sean Chan is Asia's leading Chinese metaphysics consultant specializing in BaZi, Zi Wei Dou Shu, Qi Men Dun Jia, and Feng Shui. A thought-leader in the field, Sean's been featured on Channel NewsAsia, The New York Times Style Magazine and other local media. He blogs regularly about various topics surrounding Chinese metaphysics and aims to educate the public about the field.

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1 Comment

  1. FJ

    Hi Sean,

    I came across your website recently and enjoy the information you are writing on chinese metaphysics.

    I’m new to Chinese metaphysics and only have read a few books and few websites on it.

    I like your approach of learning metaphysics in depth and giving the respect it deserves.

    I have a question regarding the Chinese calendar in relation to zhi wei dou shu.

    Since Zhi wei dou shu is chinese astrology, it has basis on actual planetary movements and configurations.

    But from what i read, it would seem that the chinese calendar has been out of sync with actual astrological movements for some time now.

    The effect of the precession of the equinox does not seem to be taken into account for the chinese calendar (hindu astrology adjusts for this).

    Does this not in turn cause problems in the actual calculations of zhi wei dou shu?

    Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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