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Ten Heavenly Stems of Chinese Astrology

There are 10 Stems and 12 Branches in the Chinese astrology calendar. The Stem and the Branch are used together. The Stem is used in front of (on top of) the Branch. They are combined into a cycle of 60 counting systems for Year, Month, Day, and Hour cycles. The counting system begins with RatMouseWooden Rat and ends with PigPigWater Pig. Chinese Birth Chart is built using this Stem-Branch calendar.

No one knows who invented the Stem-Branch for Day counting system, but the characters of Day Stem-Branch were found on Oracle bones. The Stem-Branch was applied into the Month and Year system around 206 B.C. (between the Chin Chin and Han Han dynasties). The astrology animal names were assigned in the Han dynasty.

Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth are called Five Elements. Ancient Chinese Five Elements scholars observed yearly weather, farmer's activities, and plant life cycle in China, which is in the northern hemisphere. They found that the cycle of "to born in spring, to grow in summer, to harvest in the fall, and to hide in the winter" can apply to the Five Elements area.

Based on the theory of Yin Yang, Yin and Yang coexist all the time. Ancient Chinese distinguished the Five Elements into Yin and Yang groups.

Order Symbols Calendar Symbols Pronunciation
Yang Wood
Yin Wood
Yang Fire
Yin Fire
Yang Earth
Yin Earth
Yang Metal
Yin Metal
Yang Water
Yin Water

The 10 Chinese characters were developed from the ancient pictographic characters. From the following chart, we can see the meaning of the characters has a relationship with the cycles of farmers' activities with the plant during the year.

Chinese Characters Pronunciation Chinese Pictographic Characters
Jiǎ Yang WoodYang seed spouts from the ground
Yin Wood Young and tender stem grows
Bǐng Yang Fire Sunshine on the plant
Dīng Yin Fire Tree grows like a man
Wu Yang Earth Flourishing tree and plant
Yin Wood Fruit on the bending stems
Gēng Yang Metal Cut and keep the crop
Xīn Yin MetalPrepare crop to different food on the table
Ren Yang Water Yang livings hide under the ground
Guǐ Yin Water Complete close like pregnancy, wait for spout

The sequence of these 10 characters is Yang Wood 1, Yin Wood 2, Yang Fire 3, Yin Fire 4, Yang Earth 5, Yin Earth 6, Yang Metal 7, Yin Metal 8, Yang Water 9, Yin Water 10. That means they are a decimal counting system. One king was named , which means Kon First, in 1897 B.C. of the Yinn Yin Dynasty. More than 20 kings in Business Shang Dynasty (1783 - 1185 B.C.) used these 10 characters as their names.

Because these 10 character symbols are the counting numbers, they are borrowed from the Chinese calendar. Chinese call them Ten Stems.

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