Thursday, February 28, 2013

BaZi: history, people and books

I like to imagine BaZi knowledge is like a tree, all the twigs and leaves get their sources from the same root. The Bazi system that we use today is largely based on the teaching of Xu Ziping of Song dynasty. Learning ZiPing method usually begins with reading 5 classical books namely ZPZQ, SFTK, SMTH, XPHH and YHZP. 

Updated, correction:
In Eastern Han, there's Wang Cong 王充, Wang used 30 years to come out with his book 论衡 (Lun Heng). He believed that a person's fate is already determined at the time of dissemination. He thought that a person's life can be seen in 2 ways - 寿命 Life Expectancy (about birth, death, longevity and short-life) and 禄命  Fortune Life (about wealthiness, nobility, poverty and lowliness).
Guan Lu, Koei, a little too good looking

Guan Lu 管辂 of Eastern Han is said to have predicted the death of a hundred people, and his predictions were all accurate. He is also a character in ROTK, known to be an excellent soothsayer with an ugly look. He saved a boy's life by telling him to bribe the underworld officers 黑白无常 with wine and food. He was offered a position in CaoCao's 曹操 court but he declined by telling CaoCao he did not have the physiognomy to be a government officer. It was said the he could speak the language of the birds and he will always repay with kindness all wrongs did to him. Though ROTK is fictional, Guan Lu is indeed a historical figure recorded in the records of three kingdoms and historically he was an officer of the court.

Prime minister of the mountains

Tao HongJing 陶弘景, a Taoist philosopher cum healer of Liang dynasty, a child prodigy who studied 神仙传  (Legend of the Gods) by 葛洪 Ge Hong at the age of 10 and wrote 寻山志 (The records of searching mountains) at the age of 15. Lived his life as a hermit at JuQu Mountain 句曲山, When the Martial Emperor of Liang 梁武帝 ascended to the throne, Tao was invited to take a position in the court, but he refused the position by sending a drawing of 2 cows to the emperor. When the emperor saw the drawing, he understood what Tao wanted to say and thus did not force Tao out of seclusion. Even without an official position, Tao had been an important adviser to the emperor, he was consulted on all important matters pertaining to the government and for that Tao is nicknamed 'Prime minister of the mountains' 山中宰相,  Tao wrote 三命抄略, a book about Life analysis which unfortunately is already lost today but is mentioned in  禄命辨 of Ming dynasty. 

The Great Meaning of Five Elements

Xiao Ji 萧吉 of the royal family in the Southern dynasty and later a government official of the Sui synasty wrote 五行大义, The Great Meaning of the Five Elements. His position in the court allowed him access to ancient YinYang and 5 elements books. He was an excellent Life analyst who read for the Emperor Wen of Sui Dynasty. The Great Meaning is a result of Xiao's work after studying numerous ancient books about the theory of YinYang & five elements, this book and a few other books authored by Xiao are the fundamentals where many Bazi and other methods of CM theories are derived. 

Lv Cai 吕才, an autodidact polymath of Tang dynasty was another prominent figure who contributed significantly to development of BaZi, Lv Cai was an atheistic philosopher, an accomplished musician and choreographer, a mathematician, healer, astronomer, historian and natural scientist, that's a pretty impressive list. Lv Cai came from a lower class family but rose to prominence in Tang's court. He was said to have collected hundreds of books regarding the philosophy of Yin and Yang as well as the five elements, unfortunately these documents are mostly lost, leaving only three behind, 敘祿命, 叙宅经 and 叙葬书.  敘祿命 discusses Life   from the Year pillar point of view, using NaYin and ShenShas as the major methods of analysis. Up to this time ~ year 600, there's still no organized system in analyzing a birth chart, until the next prominent figure:

A piece from Lv Cai 吕才, named 秦王破阵乐

Li XuZhong 李虚中 of Tang dynasty was also an officer in the court, Li had been said to be the pioneer of BaZi system as he organized the pillars as in the way of what we do today. I do not know if Li was the first person to take the Day Stem as the DayMaster because I have contradicting sources; YHZP, under the topic of 论日为主 says that Xu ZiPing was the pioneer of the DayMaster system but SMTH implies that Li used the Day stem as the DayMaster. Also, some sources state that Li's method consists of only 3 pillars instead of 4. The Destiny Book of Li XuZhong 李虚中命书, a book that discusses NaYin and interactions of the stems are attributed to Li, some sources state that the book was originally written by Gui GuZi 鬼谷子, the father of the art of life 命术, annotated by Li XuZhong. Nevertheless the book is often regarded the first biggest contribution to the BaZi world, at this point, the a systematical way of analyzing a birth chart is established.
A rather odd looking Li XuZhong

Some time after Li XuZhong, there's a book of unknown author Luo LuZi 珞琭子, which is said to be written in Song dynasty. According to the source that says Li XuZhong used 3 pillars, Luo LuZi is the first book that analyses with 4 pillars and this book is said to have been annotated by four people - 王廷光、李仝、释昙莹 and 徐子平. 

Bazi as we know today is also called ZiPing method (子平法), that is because this system follows the teaching of Xu ZiPing 徐子平 of Song dynasty. Little is known about Xu's life, it was said that he and other Taoists Lu DongBin 吕洞宾 and Chen Chuan 陈传 were hermits who lived in seclusion in Mount Hua, Both Lu and Chen are now worshiped as immortals but Xu is still relatively unknown to the general (Chinese) public. However, his works has become an important Chinese tradition that is what we know as BaZi today. Xu wrote some poems and odes which are the classics of the classics including 定真论、喜忌篇、继善篇 etc which are contained in YHZP.
Even odder looking Xu ZiPing

Up to this point, around 14th century, the BaZi system is already establish but its knowledge is not organized, many authors after this time attempted to write books to organize the information, to make learning BaZi an easier process, and today five books are commonly accepted as the bibles of Bazi, they are:

渊海子平 YHZP - the earliest classical bible, written by 徐大升 Xu DaSheng of Tang dynasty, the first attempt to compile BaZi knowledge into a book.

三命通会 SMTH - written in Ming Dynasty by 万民英 Wan MinYing, an officer in Ming's court. SMTH is like the encyclopedia of BaZi.

Lu DongBin, who drew this picture?
神峰通考 SFTK - written in Ming Dynasty by 张楠 ZhangNan, an officer in Ming's court. Zhang Nan wrote the book at 80+ years old, after having studied the art for more than 40 years.

星平会海 XPHH - author unknown, the book was very influential during Ming and Qing dynasty.

子平真诠 ZPZQ - authored by 沈孝瞻 Shen XiaoZhan of Qing dynasty, the last book that can be called a classic, The book explains ZiPing method in a clear and concise way, is often regarded as the best book for ZiPing beginner. 

Other notable classics:

兰台妙选 Lan Tai Miao Xuan - authored by the old man of western window 西窗老人 in Ming dynasty, contains discussion about NaYin only, possibly the most influential book for NaYin sect. The book is contained in XPHH.

命理约言 Ming Li Yue Yan - authored by Chen SuAn 陈素庵 in Ming dynasty, annotated by Wei QianLi.

Liu BoWen of Ming

滴天髓 - Di Tian Sui - said to be authored in Song Dynasty by Jing Tu 京图, annotated by 刘伯温 of Ming dynasty and 任铁樵  Ren TieQiao of Qing

穷通宝监 - Qiong Tong Bao Jian - annotation of 栏江网 by 余春台 Yu ChunTai, this book is not traditional ZiPing method. It is often called the imitation of ZiPing. 


  1. Hi,

    Do you know anything about these Bazi books (author, content etc.)?
    - Zi Ping Zhen Jue (子平真訣)
    - Zi Ping Zhen Cui (子平真粹)


  2. Hi,

    ZPZJ is a poem, I don't know the author, its content is similar to other classical poems, Baidu has the poem here:

    I don't know about ZPZC, but I guess it's also a poem, sometimes SMTH quotes ZPZC, but I could not find the source.


  3. The YHZP book was compiled by Xu Dasheng (徐大升, aka Xu Ziping 徐子平, hence the book's name) of the Song Dynasty