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Ten Heavenly Stems and Twelve Earthly Branches

Introduction

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    Short for Stem-Branch or Gan-Zhi, the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches are the most important counting system in the Chinese calendar. There are 10 Stems and 12 Branches.

    The ten stems are Jia, Yi, Bing, Ding, Wu, Ji, Geng, Xin, Ren and Gui.

    The 12 branches are Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You, Xu and Hai.

    From the unearthed inscriptions on bones of the Shang Dynasty (17th century BC - 1046 BC) of Yin Ruins, Gan-Zhi is used to record days as well as in Feng Shui and divination. Now, it’s not only applied for counting hour, day, month and year but also greatly used in Chinese astrology for fortune-telling.

    10 Heavenly Stems

    10 Heavenly Stems Jia Yi Bing Ding Wu Ji Geng Xin Ren Gui
    Chinese Character
    Chinese Pinyin jiǎ bǐng dīng gēng xīn rén guǐ

    12 Earthly Branches

    12 Earthly Branches Zi Chou Yin Mao Chen Si Wu Wei Shen You Xu Hai
    Chinese Character
    Chinese Pinyin chǒu yín maǒ chén weì shēn yǒu haì

    The 60-Year Cycle (Sexagenary Cycle)

    The 10 stems, each is paired with an earthly branch forming a 60-Year Cycle which is a cycle of sixty terms and used for recording days, months and years. It starts with Jia-Zi and ends with Gui-Hai. Hereunder is the match of Stems and Branches. The rule is that the Yang Heavenly Stems match the Yang Earthly Branches, and the Yin Stems match the Yin Branches (get to know The Relationship between the Stem-Branch and Yin/Yang).
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
    Jia-Zi Yi-Chou Bing-Yin Ding-Mao Wu-Chen Ji-Si Geng-Wu Xin-Wei Ren-Shen Gui-You
    11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
    Jia-Xu Yi-hai Bing-Zi Ding-Chou Wu-Yin Ji-Mao Geng-Chen Xin-Si Ren-Wu Gui-Wei
    21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
    Jia-Shen Yi-You Bing-Xu Ding-Hai Wu-Zi Ji-Chou Geng-Yin Xin-Mao Ren-Chen Gui-Si
    31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
    Jia-Wu Yi-Wei Bing-Shen Ding-You Wu-Xu Ji-Hai Geng-Zi Xin-Chou Ren-Yin Gui-Mao
    41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
    Jia-Chen Yi-Si Bing-Wu Ding-Wei Wu-Shen Ji-You Geng-Xu Xin-Hai Ren-Zi Gui-Chou
    51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
    Jia-Yin Yi-Mao Bing-Chen Ding-Si Wu-Wu Ji-Wei Geng-Shen Xin-You Ren-Xu Gui-Hai

    How to calculate the year and month?

    On Chinese calendars and almanacs, you can see this kind of note: e.g. For May 1, 2015, the calendar shows - March 13, Yi Wei (Sheep) Year (2015), Ding Chou Day, Geng Chen Month. This is the use of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches. It’s used for recording the year, month and day. Hereunder is how to calculate the year and month:

    Calculate the year: As you can see from the Chinese calendar, 2015 is Yi Wei Year. To get this, follow the steps below:
    1. 2015 - 3 = 2012 ('subtracting 3 from the Gregorian year')
    2. 2012 ÷ 60 = 33 ('divide by 60 and discard any fraction')
    3. 2012 - (60 × 33) = 32 ('taking the remainder')
    4. Look for 32 from the above table and we get Yi-Wei for the year of 2015.
    Find the zodiac animal of the year:
    In Chinese culture, each of the Earthly Branch has a corresponding animal. Following is the relationship between the Earthly Branch and Chinese Zodiac Animals:
    Earthly Branch Zi Chou Yin Mao Chen Si Wu Wei Shen You Xu Hai
    Chinese Zodiac Rat Ox Tiger Rabbit Dragon Snake Horse Sheep Monkey Rooster Dog Pig
    As we already know 2015 is Yi-Wei year. Wei is the earthly branch for 2015, check Wei in the above table, we know that the corresponding zodiac animal is Sheep. So, 2015 is year of the Sheep.

    Calculate the month:
    Hereunder is the relationship between the stem of the year and the stem of the month. Take 2015 for example, as we already know Yi is the Heavenly Stem for 2015, we can get January is Wu-Yin, Februay is Ji-Mao, March is Geng-Chen…from the following table. Please note that the month hereunder refers to the Chinese lunar month. You can use our Gregorian-Chinese Calendar Converter on the Chinese calendar page to get the Chinese lunar month.
    Stem of the year Stem of the month
    1st
    month
    2nd
    month
    3rd
    month
    4th
    month
    5th
    month
    6th
    month
    7th
    month
    8th
    month
    9th
    month
    10th
    month
    11th
    month
    12th
    month
    Jia or Ji Bing-Yin Ding-Mao Wu-Chen Ji-Si Geng-Wu Xin-Wei Ren-Shen Gui-You Jia-Xu Yi-Hai Bing-Zi Ding-Chou
    Yi or Geng Wu-Yin Ji- Mao Geng-Chen Xin-Si Ren-Wu Gui-Wei Jia-Shen Yi-You Bing-Xu Ding-Hai Wu-Zi Ji-Chou
    Bing or Xin Geng-Yin Xin-Mao Ren-Chen Gui-Si Jia-Wu Yi-Wei Bing-Shen Ding-You Wu-Xu Ji-Hai Geng-Zi Xin-Chou
    Ding or Ren Ren-Yin Gui-Mao Jia-Chen Yi-Si Bing-Wu Ding-Wei Wu-Shen Ji-You Geng-Xu Xin-Hai Ren-Zi Gui-Chou
    Wu or Gui Jia-Yin Yi-Mao Bing-Chen Ding-Si Wu-Wu Ji-Wei Geng-Shen Xin-You Ren-Xu Gui-Hai Jia-Zi Yi-Chou

    12 Earthly Branches and the Hour

    The 12 earthly branches not only stand for 12 Chinese animals but also 12 hours. In the old times, there was no conception of 24-hour for a day. People divided a day into 12 Shichen. Hereunder is the relationship between 12 Shichen and the present time system:
    12 shichen The present time
    Zi hour 23:00-01:00
    Chou hour 01:00-03:00
    Yin hour 03:00-05:00
    Mao hour 05:00-07:00
    Chen hour 07:00-09:00
    Si hour 09:00-11:00
    Wu hour 11:00-13:00
    Wei hour 13:00-15:00
    Shen hour 15:00-17:00
    You hour 17:00-19:00
    Xu hour 19:00-21:00
    Hai hour 21:00-23:00

    Stem-Branch and Yin/Yang

      Heavenly Stem Earthly Branch
    Yang Jia, Bing, Wu, Geng, Ren Zi, Yin, Chen, Wu, Shen, Xu
    Yin Yi, Ding, Ji, Xin, Gui Chou, Mao, Si, Wei, You, Hai
    Note:
    Yin: negative/passive/female principle in nature
    Yang: positive/active/male principle in nature

    Stem-Branch and Five Elements

    Five Element Heavenly Stem Earthly Branch
    Wood Jia, Yi Yin, Mao, Chen
    Fire Bing, Ding Si, Wu, Wei
    Earth Wu, Ji Chen, Xu, Chou, Mo
    Metal Geng, Xin Shen, You, Xu
    Water Ren, Gui Hai, Zi, Chou

    Compatibilities and Clashes of the Stem-Branch

      Compatibilities Clashes
    Heavenly Stem Jia and Ji combined into Earth, Yi and Geng combined into Metal, Bing and Xin combined into Water, Ding and Ren combined into Wood, Wu and Gui combined into Fire Jia – Wu, Yi – Ji, Bing – Geng, Ding – Xin, Wu – Ren, Ji – Gui, Geng – Jia, Xin – Yi, Ren – Bing, Gui - Ding
    Earthly Branch Six Compatibilities: Zi and Chou combined into Earth; Yin and Hai combined into Wood; Mao and Xu combined into Fire; Chen and You combined into Metal; Si and Shen combined into Water; Wu and Wei combined into the sun and moon Zi - Wu, Mao - You, Yin - Shen, Si - Hai, Chen - Xu, Chou - Wei
    Three Compatibilities: Shen, Zi and Chen combined into Water; Hai, Mao and Wei combined into Wood; Yin, Wu and Xu combined into Fire; Si, You and Chou combined into Metal; Chen, Xu and Chou combined into Earth.