Five Elements and Chinese Astrology Ba Zi Charts

Written by Arthur-Link Freeman and Li-Lan Hsiang Weiss

It would be helpful to read over this blog post to familiarize yourself with the language of your Ba Zi Chart.  Don’t worry!  It will make more sense when you attend the monthly classes.   Join Arthur-Link the first Sundays of 2022 for the virtual, and possibly future in-person monthly classes on Ba Zi and for group support for your monthly intentions and projects!  Drop ins welcome.   Check out his Healcyon Youtube Channel for informative and fun videos on Ba Zi Astrology.

Five Elements Theory is a Chinese philosophy used to describe interactions and relationships between things. The Five Elements — Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water — are representations in nature that have been observed over time to help humans explain and understand the interactions of phenomenon, situations, and human interactions.

  • Chinese: 五行 Wǔ Xing /woo sshing/ ‘Five Actions’

The History of Five Elements Theory

Five Elements Theory first appeared during the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC). It became widespread: mostly used in Chinese medicine, philosophy, feng-shui, life consultations, and martial arts.

Associations of the Five Elements

Each element has its own characteristics and associations with different aspects of nature, such as direction, season, color, shape, and so on.  Our website has blog posts on various aspects of the Five Elements and how to apply them in every day life; you will find the links at the bottom of this post.

Interactions Between the Five Elements

Five Element Theory asserts that the world changes according to the five elements’ generating or overcoming relationships. Generating and overcoming are the complementary processes — the yin and yang — of Five Element Theory.

Generating processes promote development, while overcoming processes control development. By promoting and restraining, systems are harmonized and balance is maintained.

Generating Interactions

The generating interactions of the five elements are like the conception, gestation, birth, and nurture relationship between a mother and a baby. Such element pairs are deeply attached, and together imply success and luck.

The five generating interactions are fueling, forming, containing, carrying, and feeding:

  • Wood fuels fire.
  • Fire forms earth (volcanoes, ash, etc.).
  • Earth contains metal.
  • Metal carries water (buckets, pipes, etc.).
  • Water feeds wood (trees, plants, etc.).

Overcoming Interactions

The overcoming interactions of the five elements are like the acts of hostility between two sides in a war.

The five overcoming interactions are melting, penetrating, separating, absorbing, and quenching:

  • Fire melts metal
  • Metal penetrates wood (chopping, sawing, drilling, nailing, screwing).
  • Wood separates earth (tree roots breaking up soil/rock).
  • Earth absorbs water.
  • Water quenches fire.



Is a unique system that can help uncover your Life Potential by analyzing the blueprint of your personal birth data. … The 4 Pillars are composed of the year of birth, month, day, and hour. Each “pillar” holds two words, hence the 8 Characters (Ba).  A common misconception is that Chinese Astrology is all about the “Animal Year Sign” when this gives even less information than a Sun Sign in Western Astrology. Each Animal is paired with a different Element which can be further divided into either Yang or Yin. 

You can print out your personal BaZi birth chart by going to the following site:

Day Master

If you’ve looked up your BaZi chart online, you’ll notice it has a LOT of information. Let’s focus on the important aspect which is at the hub of Bazi theory: Your Daymaster.

This is a sample chart from Joey Yap’s free online calculator. Notice there is a top row, and a bottom row, along with 4 “pillars.” This gives us a total of 8 squares of information (ignore the bottom third row for now), which is why Ba Zi translates as Ba (Eight) Zi (Characters).

It’s easy to remember that the Top Row characters are called the Heavenly Stems, as Top is closer to Heaven. The Bottom Row characters are called the Earthly Branches. The Earthly Branches are where you find the Animal signs you may be familiar with.

The Day Master however is the Heavenly Stem of your Day Pillar. The Four pillars are organized by Hour, Day, Month, Year. The Day Pillar is highlighted gold in this chart, and as you can see the top character is called “Geng” or Yang Metal.

The Day Master is You! In Bazi theory this is actually the character that represents us, not our Animal Year (or Earthly branch of Year pillar), and there are 10 types of Day Masters. The 5 Elements: Fire, Wood, Water, Metal. Earth x2 for Yin and Yang.

5 Element Interactions

So review the interactions of the 5 elements again. Draw a clockwise circle through the colors (Red is Fire, Yellow-Earth, Grey-Metal, Blue-Water, Green-Wood) to understand how the Elements Produce or transform into one another. The imagery commonly used is that Water grows Wood, Wood is used to create Fire, Fire turns to Ash (Earth), Earth condenses to Metal, and Metal filters Water.

The star in the middle showcases how the elements ‘control’ or Influence each other. I prefer the term control to Destructive, because in BaZi and in Chinese Medicine this interaction is balancing in a different type of way-one of limiting or preventing excess. Imagery here is that Water Extinguishes Fire, Fire Melts Metal, Metal Chops Wood, Wood breaks through Earth, Earth Dams Water.

Be familiar with this theory, as reading your Bazi chart comes down to understanding how the other elements relate to YOU-your Day Master. So for Instance, or Geng (Yang Metal) chart above has an Influencing effect on Wood Element, and is Influenced by Fire. Earth is what Generates this sample person’s energy, and is this a resource.

Reference Guide for the Elements

Using the theory above you can figure out why each Element is named what it is. Look a the Metal Row- we see that our Metal Day master has Fire as its “Influence Element”, and the element which it controls is Wood which is called the “Wealth Element.” The Element that shares its type is called the “Companion Element” (think birds of a feather), and the Element which it produces is called it’s “Output Element.” Finally the Element which Generates Metal (Earth) is called its “Resource Element.”

I’ll go over all these elements in the class, since there are actually 10 (Two kinds of Wealth, Influence, Friends, etc.). Having this chart pulled up will help you get familiar with how you personally interact with each of the elements, which gives you a rough guide to understanding how other people (their Day Masters) impact your life.

These maybe are useful to know when understanding Chinese Astrology and your personal Ba Zi chart:

Astrology Associations

Characteristic Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Planets Venus Jupiter Mercury Mars Saturn
Heavenly Creatures Azure Dragon(青龙) Vermilion Bird (朱雀) Yellow Dragon (黄龙) White Tiger (白虎) Black Tortoise (玄武)
Heavenly Stems 1st (Jia 甲), 2nd (Yi 乙) 3rd (Bing 丙), 4th (Ding丁) 5th (Wu 戊), 6th (Ji 己) 7th (Geng 庚), 8th (Xin 辛) 9th (Ren 壬), 10th (Gui 癸)
Virtue Benevolence Propriety Fidelity/ Honesty Righteousness Wisdom
Represents Creativity, luxuriance, blooming, and flourishing Enthusiasm and passion Nurturing, stability, and security Ambition, determination, progress, and persistence Aptitude, brightness, agile mind, and mental strength

For more introductory information on the the Chinese Five Elements and how they can be applied to self, check out our posts Chinese Five Element Personality TypesChinese Five Element & our SensesIntro to the Chinese Five Elements & its associations

Our blog posts are categorized on the right side widget under various categories, check out the Chinese Five Elements and Self Care for ways to use each particular Element in your life.  For experiencing the Five Elements through music, Qi Gong, acupressure, and meditations, check out Tones for your Bones workshops.

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