地支 Di Zhi - Earthly Branches
What are the 12 earthly branches (Dì Zhī 地支)?
“内经: 天分五气, 五气分流，散支于十干” "Nei Jing: The sky is divided by the five Qi (phases), and the branches are scattered in the Ten Stems". Further, “The sky is divided by six poles, and each has its own division (Yang and Ying). A day is divided into six Yang
and six Yin
therefore, there are 12 branches
in a day".
Depending on the perspective, the Earth rotates around its own axis 360 degrees within 24 hours, which is a day, or from the geocentric perspective, the sun takes around 24 hours to revolve around the earth. Either way, the sky (the dome where the stars as ornaments are placed) is divided into six sectors; each of the six divisions has its own Yang/Yin phase. With this, we get 12 sectors in 360 degrees, which are equal to 12 double hours within 24 hours.
Each of the six/twelve divisions/sectors covers a specific asterism along the ecliptic.
While the divisions of the heavenly stems
, the earthly branches
.What are these 12 characters of the Earthly Brnanches?
Unlike the heavenly stems characters, which represent asterism around the ecliptic, the twelve characters (the ancient version of the character) of the earthly branches are neither asterism nor farming symbols but refer to 12
out of 28 moon phases
These 12 characters are reused to indicate the 12 Jupiter nodes
(year branch, Chinese zodiacs), the 12 months
, the 12 moon phases
within a month (day branch), and the 12 double hours
Different regions in China at different times used variations of the 12 characters; therefore, 12 different types of animal symbols were attached to the 12 characters (sectors or phases) to improve their recognisability.年 Nián: Year
木星 MùXīng: The planet Jupiter
is the biggest planet in our solar system; it has a twenty times stronger magnetic field than Earth's. It completes its cycle around the sun every twelve years
, which roughly correlates with the 12 lunar cycles
on the elliptic path. Each of these 12 cycles has its own astronomical name and is known as (十二次 Shí'èr cì) or (十二分野 Shí'èr fēn yě) Jupiter terms
, or nodes.
From Earth's perspective, the planet Jupiter revolves counterclockwise around the Earth. The mapping of the counter clockwise movement to the clockwise clock/compass is known as 太岁 Tai Sui
, the "Grand Duke of Jupiter” (歲星 Suì xīng) the year star
, the twelve “Earthly Branch” of the year, or in short, the year branch.
Although each 太岁 Tai Sui
node/ station has its own astronomical name, which is distinct from the Jupiter nodes, each year-branch is depicted with animal symbols and is recognized easily as the Chinese zodiacs
When the Earth takes 12 years
(twelve times) to revolve the sun
, the planet Jupiter revolves the sun once
every 11.86 years. This discrepancy causes a shift of the zodiac every 86 years; therefore, the (歲星紀年 Suìxīng jì nián) Jupiter year recording system has been abolished
since the later Han dynasty.月 Yuè: Month
The Month-Branch indicates the earth's position around the sun and the transition of seasons. The Lunisolar calendar year starts in February
and is depicted with a tiger
. The beginning days of the months are not equal to the first day of the western calendar. Each of the twelve months is also depicted with the same animal symbols used for the years. The month passes one to four of the 28 constellations along the ecliptic every month, which the planet Jupiter culminates in during the course of the year.月令 Yuè ling: The Month Commander
or Month Order.
For event prediction, the month is the starting point to analyze BaZi, the eight-character fate calculation system. In the practical application, the moon phases
, the Big Dipper
tail, the appearance of the stars
, and the climate
must be observed.天 Tiān: Day
The Day-Branch indicates the moon's position/ phases around the Earth. The day branches are also depicted with the twelve animal symbols. The day in the month concerns us most in our daily activities; thus, the heavenly stem
in the day
is taken as the maste
r regarding other elements in the chart; therefore, it is called the 日元 Day Master
.时 Shí: Hour
(十二時辰 Shí'èr shíchén) The Twelve Double-Hours. The Hour-Branch indicates the earth's phase rotation on its own axis. Each Chinese hour consists of two hours; the day is divided into 12 instead of 24 hours. The twelve animal symbols are also used to depict the twelve two-hour blocks.
|地支 12 Earthly Branches
||23:00 - 01:00
||01:00 - 03:00
||己 Ji 辛 Xin 癸 Gui
||03:00 - 05:00
||甲 Jia 戊 Wu 丙 Bing
||05:00 - 07:00
||07:00 - 09:00
||戊 Wu 癸 Gui 乙 Yi
||09:00 - 11:00
||丙 Bing 戊 Wu 庚 Geng
||11:00 - 13:00
||丁 Ding 己 Ji
||13:00 - 15:00
||乙 Yi 丁 Ding 己 Ji
||15:00 - 17:00
||戊 Wu 庚 Geng 壬 Ren
||17:00 - 19:00
||19:00 - 21:00
||丁Ding 戊 Wu 辛 Xin
||21:00 - 23:00
||甲 Jia 壬 Ren