Hi everyone! I hope everyone’s excited about the impending new year and what it harbours, and as the new year beckons, we all await in trepidation what it may bring – the opportunities, the romance and the challenges. I remember one of my earliest entries in this blog of mine was on the misconceptions and myths around 八字, and I guess since Chinese New Year is around the corner with everyone prowling the internet to find out what’s in store for 2017（丁酉年）， I’d take this opportunity to re-iterate a few things and give my own input once again. There have been a lot of companies that have reached out to me to ask if I could give talks as part of their Chinese New Year calendar of events and the topic of ‘forecasts’ always come up. I’ve not had any corporate engagements so far which is perfectly fine with me, because it seems like I would be forced to do or say things that I do not believe in – forecasts being one of them. The other thing that really upsets me is that the corporations that reached out to me think that I can make their company earn higher revenues by placing items around the office (I would be retired by now if items worked). You can find my thoughts on that in my blog post here. I wouldn’t say that the forecasts that you see on the internet and signages along the streets and malls are total falsehoods of course (I hope).
A Note About Forecasts
The descriptions of the Zodiacs you see are based on very traditional Chinese astrology (Google 星相图), but it barely scratches the surface. Every chart is unique, so it’s best you take what you read with a pinch of salt unless it’s a personalized reading that is based on your actual date of birth and time. It’s really not so simple, and trust me, most websites, unless they are owned by a genuine practitioner, just copy off each other and paraphrase. There’s no patent or trademark when it comes to the stars. The other thing that people love talking about is 太岁。
Just What Exactly Is The Grand Duke Or ‘Tai Sui’?
People generally associate the concept of 犯太岁 with negativity, which is a huge mistake. To me, it represents change, and change can be positive sometimes, and with change comes some discomfort for sure – you cannot expect growth without some discomfort. Just because your Zodiac is one of those which 犯太岁 this year does not mean your year will be bad – you’ll really have to look at the whole chart. The funny thing is that most people don’t actually know that 太岁 or the Grand Duke is actually the planet Jupiter, and the reason why there are 12 Zodiacs is because Jupiter takes 12 years to circle around Earth and come back to the same position. It’s very endearing to see how people around me, including many of my friends who know I’m ‘fortune-teller’, get really caught up with something written on the board in a mall, on a subject that they have absolutely no clue of because, hey, it’s your Zodiac.
At the end of the day, the methods that our ancestors used is just a form of astronomy as well as time-keeping, because our ancestors in the past had no clocks or watches back then, and one of the ways time was measured was by observing the stars and planets in the sky. Through the various cycles that repeat, they observed certain patterns and laws of the universe which they believe human life paralleled, like how the Polaris star represents the Emperor （紫微星）because all stars, representing the Emperor’s military generals and officials（文武百官）, circle around it and the Polaris star is the one star that does not move.
Yes, all Zodiacs do come under the effects of certain stars every year, but the knowing the Zodiac alone is not enough to give a conclusion on how your year will go. One would also needs to apply the concept of 体 and 用 to a get a better picture of how things will unfold for someone. To put it in a very abstract way, 体 represents your talents and conditions you were given, whereas 用 represents how things unfold and how your utilize what you were born with which would be seen from one’s 运. It would be interesting to note that Jupiter, our Chinese 太岁，can represent luck, wisdom, justice et cetera if you read up on astrology of other cultures. 2016 was a 犯太岁 year for me, but it was one of, if not the best of year of my life so far, although I have to admit it was tiring due to all the changes.
The Underlying Theory Of BaZi (八字) & Chinese Astrology
Strictly speaking, when analyzing someone’s 八字, the main focus ultimately revolves around Yin-Yang and the 5 Elements, and how they interact with each other. The ancillary/auxiliary（神煞）thatstars that appear in one’s 八字 chart only serves to act as a supplement and does not form the core of the analysis, hence the word “ancillary/auxiliary” which is commonly used in the field. Most people assume that when stars like 天乙贵人 or 天德贵人 appears, it would naturally mean it’s a positive thing, which is not true. Which Stem that these stars appear on matter a lot too, and there will be cases where the appearing of these stars do not make much of a difference and may even be harmful. Basically, don’t mix-up 八字 with what you see every Chinese New year which is another form of 占星术/astrology － 八字’s focus is not on the stars, but rather more about the position of the Earth around the sun and the 24 Solar Terms that change according to the seasons. It would be interesting to note that the person who authored 《星学大成》，万民英 from the Ming Dynasty， is the same person who authored 《三命通会》。 The introduction of 神煞 into 八字 analysis didn’t happen until further down the timeline when scholars from later dynasties built on the works of previous dynasties. Personally, I do not believe in this whole yearly forecasting practice so I’m not really motivated to write a Zodiac by Zodiac forecast which a lot of the existing practitioners like to do, with good reason of course (because the market demands it and it’s entertaining).
Whenever an event organizer approaches me for an event, I’d be sure to ask them if I could make the session about the history and theory of metaphysics/’fortune-telling’ instead of giving a typical yearly ‘forecast’ which I am extremely uncomfortable with. It’s something that I really do not see myself ever doing. There is no cookie-cutter framework or analysis when it comes to Chinese metaphysics. Every hour and even a minute that passes makes a world of difference to someone’s chart. I’m a bit of a contrarian whenever it comes to such topics, because this is after all sideline for me and I don’t need to conform or appeal to the mass market and I’ve always seen myself playing a more educational role which in alignment to the principles I have for this field. I don’t practice 占星术 or any other ‘purer’ form of Chinese astrology, so I can’t comment on from that angle and what to expect for each Zodiac although I dare say that if 八字 is accurate, there shouldn’t be any doubts with traditional 占星术 as well. The Zodiacs were created so the common folk are able to better understand how time was measured so that they can keep track of the years, but to practitioners like myself, the Zodiacs are actually just referring to the Year Stem/年支。If you read the Chinese classics on 八字, not a single mention of the animals associated with the Zodiacs were mentioned and it’s always about the 子丑寅卯辰巳午未申酉戌亥。The animals were chosen because of the energies and activity it represents at that particular time/时辰。
How BaZi (八字) Analysis Is Actually Done
Analyzing someone’s 八字 is always about identifying the chart structure/格局，finding out which elements are favourable that helps to uphold the structure and which elements make the chart structure collapse (破格)。Your Zodiac is but one of of the 8 characters that appear in your 八字 chart, and that’s not even taking into account your 大运 and 流年运 which is going to add a few more layers of depth into the analysis. One may be born on the same year and even the same month, but the moment the Daymaster/日元 changes, the 10 ‘Gods’／十神 （正官，偏官，正财，偏财，正印，偏印，伤官，食神，劫财，比肩） that manifest will change and that is going to make a world of difference. A 食神制殺 chart structure which is really auspicious can become a 伤官见官 which is one of the worst chart structures you can see. If you’re still thinking that just by knowing that the year 2017 is 丁酉年 can be helpful, perhaps ask yourself the following questions first:
How much do you understand about your own 八字 chart?
What is your 八字 chart structure/格局?
What are the beneficial elements and destructive elements that will have an impact on your chart structure?
What 大运 are you in now and how does it interact with your natal chart?
It is only when you’re able to answer the above questions that you can then begin to ask how a particular year will be, because if your 大运 (10-year ‘Luck Phase’) isn’t good, the most the 流年 (Annual ‘Luck’) can do for you is to offer you a breather from the sluggish 10 years the 大运 is causing. For one to experience a huge turnaround in one’s life, the 大运 must always be in your favour. The 流年 Pillar which governs your ‘luck’ for that year is actually the last thing I look at when I analyze a chart.
No practitioner should ever look at your 流年运 without looking at your 大运 first and I’m a bit baffled that some practitioners offer these two analyses as a separate, chargeable service because the client is going to walk away from the consultation being very misinformed. The message I wish to bring across regarding the use of metaphysics and what one’s mindset should be when approaching this will always be the same, so do take some time to read through my previous articles if you haven’t already.
Perhaps to share the one thing that I always say that my clients found most impactful: It’s not that bad things happen to people arbitrarily. At some point, whatever happens to us is because of what we put out there ourselves or what we choose not to let in. Your chart describes a process, a story, and you do not look at each year separate from each other, but see it as continuation of events that unveil your growth as person. At the end of the day, our ancestors wanted this field to be used as a tool for personal growth. These days, most people interpret 趋吉避凶 at face value, which is to attract good ‘luck’, but they fail to question how one is supposed to do that and what it really meant when this term was used in the past.
Some Final Words
When our ancestors spoke of 趋吉避凶，it comes from a position whereby we need to put in our own effort by watching our thoughts and actions, because like I’ve mentioned, whatever happens to us is a result of cause-and-effect that we’ve set in place ourselves. Whatever it is, don’t worry so much about what you’re reading online or in the malls and don’t be afraid to be skeptical! Ask questions! Remember, our ancestors would not have spent centuries developing this art just to tell us at the end of the day that we are powerless to do anything about it. Thank you for taking the time to read this! If you found this useful, do share it on Facebook! It’ll help spread the right message our ancestors intended and bring back peace of mind to a lot of misguided people. Here’s wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous new year and I hope 2017 will be amazing for everyone!
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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