The Ziping Method Of Fatecalculation

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Introduction1

Judicial astrology deals with the relationship between the heavenly bodies and the life of an individual. However, Chinese astrology, as we can see in Appendix I, instead of concerning itself with the common people, dealt with the relationship between the stars and the life of those who happened to occupy important positions in the official hierarchy centred on the Chinese emperor and extending from him to members of the royal family and the senior ministers. Fate-calculation applicable to all has often been misinterpreted as 'astrology'. The topic of fate-calculation briefly touched upon in the sub-section on pseudo-science in Needham (1956) refers to the Ziping method.2 A fuller account of the method is given in Ho Peng Yoke (1988).3 The Ziping method of fate-calculation is similar to judicial astrology in its purpose of interpreting what is destined in the life of an individual, but the similarity also ends here. Unlike judicial astrology, a practitioner of the Ziping method of fate-calculation does not go through the exercise of working out the positions of the planets to cast a horoscope. Rather, he just performs a rather laborious calculation of the mutual relationships of the parameters of the time of birth of the individual concerned, both among these parameters themselves and between them and each and every future year and sometimes perhaps every future month to come. There exists also another different type of fate-calculation with elements of Hellenistic, Iranian and Hindu astrology in the form of the Ziwei doushu, as mentioned in Chapter 3.

Fortune-telling is a subject that has received only mixed receptions in the past. In our modern age, some would brush this subject aside as either unscientific or superstitious, but there do remain others who are still fascinated by it. Nevertheless, if we were to extend to some of these traditional Chinese methods of fortune-telling the same amount of tolerance that we accord to many of our modern efforts of predicting future events, such as weather forecasting, stock market futures, Gallup polls, etc. - none of which ever guarantees precise accuracy but nevertheless are accepted as legitimate exercises - it can be demonstrated that the Ziping method of fate-calculation is one of those methods worthy of our attention. The Ziping method does not use scientific instruments to observe temperature, air pressure, humidity and air movement as the weather forecaster does, nor computers to analyse the trend of share prices like some stock-market consultants, nor public opinion polls like the political analyst - although it seems quite feasible to write a computer program for it - but it is consistent with the same principles that explain traditional Chinese science. It does not involve the supernatural and hence the word 'superstitious' is not applicable in this particular sense - unless, of course, if the word is given the broader meaning of the Chinese term mixin ISfs (infatuated in one's belief). Then, anything believed in gross excess to the neglect of essentials in life is a deserving candidate of this adjective, be it over-excess of indulgence in some of the desirable things in life, such as wealth and power.4

Brief history

Being an unorthodox subject in traditional Chinese scholarship, the art of fate-calculation was generally frowned upon by Chinese scholars. The exception to this rule was the Yijing (Book of Changes). Practitioners of the art of fate-calculation often wrote in an obscure style to discourage the uninitiated. Hence, unlike other branches of Chinese studies, it is difficult to gain access to reliable documentation concerning this arcane art. We know that by the Han period (206 bc-ad 220) some Confucianists were already talking about the three types of human fate (sanming Him). The first type was endowed during birth, known variously as 'normal fate' (,zhengming lE'np), 'great fate' (darning ^'bp), 'endowed fate' (shouming ■npT) and 'longevity fate' (shouming iSMr); the second was determined by one's behaviour in life, called the 'resultant fate' (suiming BS'wi); and the third was determined by something that modern insurance companies call 'an act of God', namely the 'fate of meeting (with calamity)' (zaoming 'Map). The first type led to the gradual development of the art of fate-calculation. At first only the year of birth was considered to be of consequence. As time went by, the month and then the day of birth were also taken into account. The earliest book on fate-calculation that is still extant is the Li Xuzhong mingshu ^Hft^lifri- (Li Xuzhong's Book of Fate-calculation), included in the Siki quanshu Collection. Attributed to the celebrated early ninth-century Tang fate-calculation expert Li Xuzhong ^i&L^t3, it mentions the use of the hour, or rather the double-hour, of birth, besides the year, month and day. Because there were some who doubted that Li Xuzhong ever made use of the hour there were also some who expressed the view that, although the book contained material added by later writers, the main part of the text that we now have was due to Li Xuzhong himself, who did make use of the hour in his calculation.

It is said that the method used by Li Xuzhong was inherited more than 100 years later by Xu Juyi better known under his style (zi

Xu Ziping Of his life we know very little. He probably lived during the latter half of the tenth century, from one account saying that he was a hermit in Huashan mountain during the time of the Five Dynasties (907-960) and from another saying that he was a fate-calculation expert of Northern Song (960-1127), and so great was his fame that his name was associated with the method he used. Some said that it was he who added the hour element to the method used by Li Xuzhong.

Xu Ziping is supposed to have written one of the four commentaries to the Luoluzi sanming xiaoxifu 5&I|<-pzE^f^.S,® (Luoluzi's Verses on the Fluctuations of the Three Fates) that we now have in the Siku quanshu Collection. This book seemed to be very popular among fate-calculation experts in the early days of the Song dynasty. However, as for the present version of its commentary by Xu Ziping, the actual authorship is also a contentious point. Xu Ziping's name is also prefixed to a number of book titles in later time, and it is believed that in many books bearing his name his method was referred to rather than his authorship.

The most comprehensive as well as authoritative book on the Ziping method of fate-calculation is the Sanming tonghui (Confluence of the Three Fates) in twelve juans, written by Wan Minying MKi^ (1523-?) (also known as Wan Yuwu If p) of the Ming period (1368-1644). This compendium is incorporated in the Siku quanshu Collection. Since then the method has been constantly revised to keep abreast with changing social structures, as witnessed by the many books written to promote the subject during the last few decades in various parts of East Asia.

Basic principles

The Ziping method of fate-calculation works on the same principles described in Chapter 2. Writers on the theory of fate-calculation invariably begin with Wood, the xing representing the spring season, and discuss the state of Wood in each of the 12 phases or in this case throughout the 12 months of the year. The annual cycle of a tree became the paradigm, which enables the theorist to explain the 12 phases of not only Wood but also Metal, Earth, Water and Fire. At what month of the year (i.e. which 'terrestrial branch') does a tree (i.e. Wood) need more water (i.e. the Water xing), when does it require sunlight and warmth (i.e. Fire), when should it be pruned (i.e. by Metal), and what should the condition of the soil (i.e. Earth) be at different times of the year? All these come into the consideration of the theorist in formulating the method of fate-calculation. Hence, the method seems to have been derived from a long and careful observation of nature.

Books on fate-calculation are mostly written in a garbled style. For example, let us quote a small passage from one of the basic texts used by the practitioners, the Ditiansui M^tS (Essence dripping from the Heavens), a book said to be written in the fifteenth century, that reads: 'Holding ding within and embracing bing; sitting upon the phoenix and riding on the monkey.' Here the phoenix refers to the chicken and therefore the branch you, while the monkey refers to the branch shen. The passage seems to say that if one is born on a day with either the you or shen branch, it augurs well if the month of birth has the bing or ding stem.

Two or more stems appearing together often interact among themselves. The same applies to the branches. Modern books on fate-calculation often include charts and diagrams indicating some of the relations that the authors consider as being significant. For example, the stem jia appearing together with the branch si is one of the ten signs showing that the individual concerned is destined to become a scholar, while jia with the branch ivei is one of the combinations showing a person whom Lady Luck tends to favour with her smile.

The eight characters (bazi A^)

In the art of fate-calculation the year, month, day and time of birth of the individual concerned, known as the 'Four Pillars' (sizhu EStt), are each represented by a stem-and-branch combination, comprising eight ordinals, or 'eight characters' (bazi). Hence the more general terms 'calculating fate from the eight characters' of the Chinese, 'the eight characters and the four pillars' of the Korean and 'four pillars fate-calculation' of the Japanese.5 They all refer to the Ziping method of fate-calculation, although all three of them have undergone modifications to adapt to the changing societies.

In the olden days, say during the third century when Guan Lu was hailed as the greatest diviner of his day, the year of birth was regarded as the primary factor that would influence one's fate in life. Later, perhaps at about the Tang period in the days of Li Xuzhong, the month of birth assumed greater importance than the year. Since the Ming period, at least not later than Wan Minying's Sanming tonghui, the day of birth has come to be regarded as the factor having the most direct bearing on the individual. The geographical location of the place of birth is also regarded by the Sanming tonghui as an important factor.6 The stem of the day of birth, known as 'original (ordinal of the) day' (riyuan 0 7U), is the first of the eight ordinals to be looked at in fate-calculation.

The relations between the riyuan, the day stem and the other seven ordinals are supposed to reveal the details of the family of the individual as, for example, the number of offspring, whether one's parents and even grandparents are rich or poor, whether one's brothers will be helpful and so on and, in the case of the Japanese system, one is supposed to be able to read from the eight ordinals even the individual's standing in the eyes of his or her own employer.

Let us look at Figure 2.1 again. Putting in the 10 stems and the 12 branches according to their being Yin or Yang in their respective xings results in Figure II.1.

Yin

Yang

y

iia

mao

Imagenes Pentagonos

Earth

Yin

Yang

gui

ren

hai

Metal

Earth

Water

Yin

Yang

xin

geng

yu

shen

Yin

Yang

J>

wit

chou

chen

wei

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