Four pillars or saju in Korean is a study to understand and predict our life by analysing a person’s birth year, month, day and time. However owing to the fact that the four pillars originated from ancient times and has a philosophical background, most books and materials about it are too academic and difficult. They tend to be confusing and not easy to apply. Although there are treasured truths about life, they are not useful when they are too pedantic.
I, who speaks English and can use Chinese characters as a second language, wanted to understand saju and its philosophy in a more rational and logical way, so that the truths could be applicable to our daily lives.
The purpose of this article is to study saju in an economic way and I will try to clarify the facts easily, effectively and usefully.
I have tested the saju skill – I describe it as “a skill” so you can easily approach this study – for thousands of people and they continue consulting me for important decisions they have to make. I have come to realize how many people are concerned about their future and how hesitant they are about decision-making.
This essay is not going to be an academic thesis as I am not a born scholar. I will mention yin and yang and the five elements first as they are the basis of saju skills. Modern society sees rapid change and once we lose a single loop of the chain it becomes hard to catch up. In this era, in order to grasp the flow, predict the future and understand the way to go forward, we may need various tools that will make us strong and ready to confront the world. Take this momentum to know yourself. Slow down your speed to find out what you most value in your life.
Why Do We Study Saju?
Saju is the study of life through looking at one’s month, day and time of birth. Saju equates them to celestial stems and terrestrial branches according to natural reasoning. By understanding saju, we can know our personality, what situation we are in and find the best utilization of every factor.
Second, we can know the right time to do something – whether to progress or wait or whether to plan long-term or short-term.
Third, by knowing who is a suitable spouse or business partner, we will be able to maximize the synergy effect and minimize conflict. Lastly, we can understand health aspects in accordance with the harmonious elements placed in our saju and utilize materials, colours and energies around us to make our lives luckier than before.
What Do We Need to Know?
First, we need to know what saju consists of; what the basic essentials are; and where to apply them.
Second, we need to know what is needed to support weak elements in saju and what the unnecessary elements are. Finally, we will know what is good or bad luck and what makes a person’s life noble or poor.
How to Study Saju?
First, although I try not to use difficult terminology, you should understand basic astrology, the fact that the earth moves around the sun and the rotation of the earth on its axis. Then you will learn how it affects the seasons and the weather changes on the earth.
Second, it requires logical thinking rather than simple reading. In the first stage, it may be simple memory work to acquire knowledge and new words.
But once you understand the progress of its logic, you must understand the connections and reasoning of each factor. After reading, move your thoughts to how the natural principles are applied to saju. With this effort, you will understand all the situations written in this article.
Third, I encourage you to discuss with others the basis and logic of saju. I hope you develop saju theory further in your own field. Saju needs to be comprehended as a science not as an occult theory.
I hope this column will be of help to those who feel it difficult to study yin and yang or the five elements. And I also hope the content is not just printed type but is of some practical support for your life.
Key words for studying Saju 4 pillars
Before I start the main topic, I would like to introduce some key words in studying the four pillars. I have categorized them by each group. Please read and familiarize yourself with these words. We will start with some Chinese characters. Chinese characters are semantic letters that have gradually accumulated the information of meanings over several millennia. The shapes of Chinese characters and their semantic translation influenced part of the four pillars interpretation.
In order to understand the four pillars, we will use 22 Chinese characters, shown below with an English pronunciation guide.
Although there have been concerns about learning four pillars with Chinese characters, do not to worry about it because only 22 Chinese characters will be enough to learn four pillars. Below is a quick and short summary of the key words. Going forward, you will be able to look inside yourself and find who you are and who people around you are.
1. Ten Celestial Stems; Intangible energy in heaven Following below are the letters characterized for 10 stems:
3. The 10 celestial stems and 12 terrestrial branches make 60 associations-60 year cycle. The 60-year cycle is generated by the different combination between stems and branches as seen below. These associations are used to constitute the four pillars, by which we rationalize our fate.
It is very important that we have to deal these letters to understand one’s personality, examine the past and predict the future.
4. Five Elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, water
There are two natural relationships among the five elements as below:
Mutual Nourishment (inter-promotion) Wood → fire → earth → metal → water
Wood promotes fire, fire nourishes earth, earth produces metal, and water comes from metal (rocks).
Mutual restraint (interaction)
Wood → earth → water → fire → metal → wood
Wood restrains earth, earth restrains water, water extinguishes fire, fire melts metal and metal chops wood.
Once you start studying the stems and branches, yin yang, five elements and their interaction well, you will be able to read the fate correctly.
We often regarded yin yang and five elements as something that is not related to our daily life. Now it is something very close to our life, and more people around the world are getting more and more interested in them.
I hope you enjoy the new adventure of learning the four pillars and getting to know about yourself and people around you.
What is Yin and Yang?
The study of saju (four pillars) does require we use our imagination. But in order to study saju correctly, we must become familiar with basic terminologies and their logic. Saju has been translated differently by the different schools but the fundamental concept is to know ourselves and the universe, so it shouldn’t be misunderstood and has never been and will never be disposed. It would rather be regarded important.
There isn’t just way of looking at things. This is not just a theory. It is a logical prediction for one’s fate and future. But we also have to understand that this is something that can’t be interpreted via a scientific approach only. Although saju is neither mysterious superstition nor taboo, it will give us surprising clues to understanding ourselves and our surroundings which cannot be explained by existing scientific methods.
It will be great if you were able to use this for your reality and apply them to your daily life and if there were any mistake we dare to correct to find the answer why. For this reason, we must watch ourselves not to be idle and over satisfied.
Yin and yang are opposites, cold and warm, shade and light, inside and outside, etc. However they are not always opposite. They co-exist and require each other. If there is no light, there is no shade. Without inside, there is no outside. The outside doesn’t mean anything without inside.
We need to understand the reason for one side of existence and another reason for its opposite. This is the basic understanding of yin yang theory. The warmth is needed when it is cold. There are always the pairs: plus and minus, man and woman, negative and positive, sun and moon, etc.
We cannot value the importance of one side without recognizing the other. Studying yin yang, the five elements, and ‘saju’ (four pillars), requires a lot of brainstorming from short sentences and words. It needs painstaking hard work. Like other classical studies, it requires elaborate understanding between the lines. Without this effort, it may lead to inconsistent interpretations depending the different levels of our understanding.
There is no one theory and the judgment about what is right or wrong can be varied, because it is vague in oriental philosophy. But in ‘saju’, there is a definite but simple answer, which is an accurate rationalization in reading one’s destiny. The accurate reading of the past, present and answering the questions about the future by logical inference is the key answer of this study.
‘saju’ cannot be called a Chinese philosophy. Also it is not just studying the yin yang and five elements themselves. But it is a very logical way of studying our fate and a proactive way of reading our destiny.
Everything in the great cosmos contains many linkages. Every object has certain types of interaction with other objects, and within itself, has an opposing, yet interdependent nature.
This opposing, yet interdependent nature is due to the interaction between yin and yang. The yin yang philosophy is a means to understanding and grasping the ways of nature. It is classical reasoning for the production, development and perishing of all things in the great cosmos.
The most commonly used symbol to represent the yin yang philosophy is known as taiji (taegeuk-Korean) – the grand ultimate.
The big enclosed circle symbolizes the whole universe. The curvature within the circle symbolizes the opposing, yet interdependent nature of yin and yang. The black (yin) and the white (yang) tear drop shapes symbolize the decreasing and increasing of yin and yang, as well as the transformation of yin and yang. At the highest concentration of yang there is a black dot, and at the highest concentration of yin, there is a white dot. The dots symbolize that yin and yang are not absolute. They are not only interdependent, but there are subdivisions of yin and yang within yin and within yang.
A person who knows “saju” has different perspectives about the events happening around us. Saju lets us read the moment and convert it to something substantial. Yin yang theory is primarily used to describe the opposing, interdependent waxing and waning, and transformational nature of all things in the cosmos. The five-element theory is primarily used to explain characteristics, classifications, and the law of mutual nourishment and mutual restraint. They are used in conjunction with one another, in the practical applications of yin and yang and the five elements. The ancient people viewed their bodies, lives, family, countries, world and the universe based on the yin yang and five elements theory..
I classify three subjects originating from yin yang and five elements theory. First, fengshui is the study of geography and space.
The second subject is oriental medicine. Human physiology, the causes and development of diseases are within the yin yang and five element theories.
In traditional Chinese medicine, yin yang also refers to the various antitheses in a human body, which occur in the anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis and treatment.
The last subject is reading destiny by studying astrology, five elements and yin yang theory. They are melted into “saju,” which is used to study the times. By studying astrology, they tried to research the celestial times. By understanding the celestial time chart, they understood human time chart.
To find out where and when we are in our life is the fundamental target of the “saju” study. This will tell us how to understand important incidents, resolve problems and decide “when” in our lives.
Saju converted the celestial times and its study to human times and its study. If fengshui is a study of “space,” saju is a study of “time.”
So fengshui, oriental medicine and saju all study the terrestrial, human beings and celestial, whether they are tangible or intangible.
Think about a coin. One side has a picture, while another has a number. Let’s say each side is yin and yang, respectively. Do you think the coin consists of only two sides? The answer is no. There is a third side linking the front and back side of the coin, which is neither yin nor yang.
It may sound difficult for those who read about “saju” for the first time, but it will become easier through constant study of the basics. Saju is not so difficult to learn if you study each one carefully. You must always be humble in learning. I will try to write saju theories in the easiest way possible because I heard a lot of complaints that studying saju is so difficult and that it is hard to go further.
Actually there are many theories in studying saju. If you start in the wrong direction, it is hard to correct the bad studying habits. Many times it becomes boring to further study saju. Although there are many good books about saju, we should stay away from those written in an unscientific way based only on the writers’ personal experiences. Our ancestors learned the truth that a third aspect came out from one by developing yin yang philosophy. This “third” is the core spirit of neutralization and harmony. They said everything in the cosmos encounters misfortune if it exceeds the boundary of neutralization, but if they are within the neutralization, they will get fortune, which is a happy life.
Changes in nature and humans getting older, suffering from disease and death are the transformation of yin and yang. Why are all these constantly transformed?
The time frame causes changes in saju, making celestial and terrestrial forces react. Then it motivates the forces inside the terrestrial branches and makes changes to the movements of human condition. Being a human is part of nature as if flowers and grass are parts of nature.
In saju, we consider this as very important:
We may predict the success or failure of those determined by celestial forces by reading changes of 10 stems; We may tell the people’s unrevealed circumstances by reading the changes of 12 terrestrial branches;
We may tell the human conditions by reading the changes of those celestial energies contained in the 12 terrestrial branches.
With this basic understanding of yin yang and knowing how it is reflected in saju, you will be able to read the destiny of life.
The very first step to study saju is to know the destiny of yourself. Go and get your own four pillars (saju), see who you are (day master – day stem). You will know yourself and people around you, starting from the characteristics of ourselves and finally you will understand the destiny of your life.
Five elements of nature
This is an example of a saju reading. Please see how this person’s life can be read based on the yin yang that we learned from last week’s essay. These are the four pillars of a woman born on March 2, 1966 at 4:50 a.m. As you can see, all four pillars, from her birth year, month, day and time, are yang.
Remember what we learned last week about the properties of yin and yang.
This woman is in the trading business, so she travels a lot. She has strong self-assertion, makes quick decisions and tries to achieve whatever she plans. She pursues a splendid life. However, her marriage life is not harmonious as she confronts her husband. She is also impatient.
Yin and yang is broken down into five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water). It is a classification of our nature. They exist, act or react, and circulate within the yin yang boundary. Although it is usually translated as “element,” the Chinese character Xing literally means something like “changing states of being,” “permutations” or “metamorphoses of being.” In fact Sinologists cannot agree on one single translation. The Oriental conception of “element” is therefore quite different from the Western one. The Western elements were seen as the basic building blocks of matter. The Oriental “elements’ by contrast were seen as ever-changing and moving forces or energies – one translation is simply “the five changes.”
As said, ancient people classified the elements in the universe as wood, fire, earth, metal and water. These five elements are the tools and medium to interpret our destiny by being converted to something substantial in relation with our life path. People’s birth year, month, day and time have their own yin and yang and five elements in them to make into a sixty year cycle. From this sixty year cycle, we extract the inherent four pillars to read our destiny.
Wood metaphor: growing wood or flowers. It means honesty and benevolence. It indicates an east direction, spring as a season and 3, 8 as numbers.
Fire metaphor: flaming fire or light. It means courtesy and politeness. It indicates a south direction, summer as a season and 2, 7 as numbers.
Earth metaphor: calm and balanced ground or soil. It means confidence and faith. It indicates the centre, transitional season and 5, 10 as numbers.
Metal metaphor: stretched and solid metal or rock. It means justice and righteousness. It indicates the west, autumn as a season and 4, 9 as numbers.
Water metaphor: cohesive and cold water. It means intelligence and sagacity. It indicates the north, winter as a season and 1, 6 as numbers.
These five elements act and react to each other. Sometimes they nourish other elements, while sometimes they restrict them. When one element has too much power, we need the other element to restrict it. When one is too weak to survive, we need the others’ to help nourish it. If two elements are in conflict with each other, we need to read the person’s life based on this clue. This is the way people’s destiny goes and how we read and find answers in their life path.
As we learned before, in Saju wood represents spring, fire represents summer, metal stands for autumn and water for winter, while earth represents the balancing season or the transitional time. If the season starts from spring to summer, summer to autumn and autumn to winter, then wood changes to fire, fire to earth, earth to metal and metal to water.
Looking at the movements of the five elements, there are mutual generations (nourishment) and restrictions. Mutual generation (nourishment) means that one element nourishes the other element. Mutual restriction (restraint) means one element restricts the other.
Here, I further explain how the five elements react to and influence each other. Mutual nourishment (generation or inter-promotion):
Wood makes fire by burning (wood generates fire)
Fire makes the ashes from the wood nourish the earth (fire nourishes earth) Earth contains metal and makes metal hard (earth generates metal) Metal purifies the water (metal generates water; water comes from rocks) Water allows the wood to grow (water nourishes wood)
Mutual restraint (restriction):
Wood absorbs the earth’s energy (wood restrains earth) Earth blocks the water (earth restrains water)
Water extinguishes the fire (water restrains fire) Fire melts the metal (fire restrains metal)
Metal axe chops the wood (metal restrains wood)
Both the generation and restriction processes are natural relationships. It is a natural phenomenon that the wood is nourished by the water for the flowers to bloom. It is also natural that metal is refined by fire and transformed into jewellery.
So in our lives and nature’s lives, we need both generation and restriction to balance and change what we have learned from the yin and yang forces.
However there are other relationships among the five elements that we should know about to understand the further mechanisms, which are abnormal and cause important incidents in people’s fate.
Based on this knowledge, let’s review the saju of a woman who was born on Jan. 1, 1960 at 11pm.
She was born with yang earth energy. However, looking at the terrestrial branch pillars, all of them are water energy. Although earth can form a bank to block the water flow, there is still too much water that may cause the soil to drift away.
Her life has been like drifting soil. She was never able to settle down. She tried to make money, but in vain. She might have studied when she was young with the help of fire (byeong), but her attempts to achieve her dream were futile.
Ten Celestial Stems
The five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water have yin and yang. As we learned previously, everything has yin and yang. The 10 celestial stems will show how yin and yang are associated with the five elements.
The 10 celestial stems are intangible forces from heaven, while the 12 terrestrial branches are tangible energy from earth. As all natural beings exist and change by harmonious or disharmonious energies from heaven and earth, the celestial stems and terrestrial branches were made and respond to each other. We read human lives by the relationships and reactions between celestial stems and terrestrial branches. This is saju (four pillars).
The 10 celestial stems start from gap to gye. Yin and yang are applied to each stem individually. Then the energies of the five elements are affiliated with them as well. (See chart 1)
The properties of each stem will be explained by classifying them as the five elements. By looking at one’s four pillars, an individual can tell which elements his or her four pillars consist of and what specific element represents his or herself.
Here are the four pillars of a lady born May 29, 1987, at noon.
Though we will learn her terrestrial branches later, let’s see what elements represent her and what her environment looks like. The stem of a day pillar is the owner of saju.
So we start from the day stem when reading one’s destiny. (See Chart 2 and Illustration)
She was born with the energy of yin wood (eul). A flower represents yin wood and we see byeong (sunshine) placed next to the day stem. Imagine how beautiful the flower is with the sun shining on it. With these four pillars, we know she is beautiful and possibly have a job that attracts the spotlight.
There are, however, too many fire elements around her that could burn and dry the flower due to lack of moisture. Though she has water energy (im) on her time pillar, it is only an intangible energy and has no roots in terrestrial branches. The lacking element (water) should have nourished and cooled her down. This could be the unhappy aspect in her life. Think about which element in her life could be water. Perhaps it is her mother or her studies because a mother raises a daughter, while studies can mature a person. (Water nourishes woods)
She is a beautiful model, but her parents divorced when she was young so her grandmother raised her. She did not finish her studies. She dolls herself up beautifully and shows her talent under the spotlight.
We will go further step-by-step to review each element – stems and branches to understand saju. The ultimate goal is to understand oneself, make proper decisions, and take the right direction in one’s life path.
Start a journey to learn each stem. Basically, the concept is from yin and yang and five elements reviewed previously. Know what specific substantial materials or natural beings represent each of them to visualize one’s life and surroundings by the four pillars. It can be a surprising journey, interesting or painful for some. You might find some sorrow in your life or realize why it was so difficult to achieve something in the past. Whatever truth you find, it will definitely be an eye-opening journey. I hope you will enjoy learning the truth.
By now, if you have read my articles so far, you will be curious what stems indicate the five elements and which indicate yin yang respectively. You will learn these from next week’s article. Stay tuned.
Ten Celestial Stems; Gap and Eul
From now on, we will concentrate on the ten celestial stems from gap to gye individually. I will list them by wood (gap and eul), fire (byeong and jeong), earth (mu and gi), metal (gyeong and sin) and water (im and gye) in order. You will be given some pictures of nature to illustrate what represents each stem.
The stems are categorized into seasons, directions, planets, colours, characteristics and the five viscera (of heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys) and six entrails (of gall bladder, stomach, small and large intestines, belly, bladder and
This won’t be a perfect classification, so don’t let scepticism get the better of you. But this gives some insight into the ten celestial stems.
Instead of applying the individual categories automatically, you need to see the bigger picture and how it determines someone’s destiny, after seeing the physical and chemical responses in each other. At least, visualize what natural beings represent you and what other natural environments surround yourself.
Wood likes the water and the earth. Wood on dry earth would require some rain while wood on the wet and cold earth would require sunshine. This is a very natural reason. We must understand that the saju is based on natural and logical concepts.
(1) Gap wood
Gap woods act as they desire. They strive to succeed. Generally they are go-for-it people and competitive. However once they fail, they have less will power to recover. In nature, gap woods are pine tree, willow and chestnut trees, etc. Gap woods are yang wood so it is extroverted to express their property.
(2) Eul wood
Eul woods are self-stressed. When they encounter a problem, they search for a solution. They act after careful consideration, so they have lots of worries and thoughts. Because they are thoughtful, they would seem rather calculating. Basically, they tend to be showy. In nature, eul woods are flowers like roses, chrysanthemum, etc. ivy or small and weak trees.
Eul woods are yin wood, so they don’t show the wood properties outside rather inside. Wood generally means to seek to expand and grow but the eul woods can’t grow big or tall while the gap wood can.
Here are four pillars of a man with eul wood characteristic. Please see the five elements, yin/yang and the representative substantial beings added for each stem below.
As learned, day stem represent the owner of the saju. Looking at his saju, he has enough water to nourish him and the sun shines on him. Also the flower has wood and earth energy in terrestrial branches to root.
So you can know that this person is strong enough with the support of wood energy under the day stem although he was born as a small tree (or flower). He is a stable person with firm earth to root and enough moisture would have nourished him well, which means that he was well educated. Without high version of saju techniques, we can read that this person’s saju is harmonized, as all necessary elements are well supplemented.
He is a professor at a university. Although he was not born in a rich family, he studied hard to be a good professor. Like this, saju can visualize your destiny. Go and get your own saju. Find who you are and where you are heading for.
Ten Celestial Stems; Byeong and Jeong
Fire takes from the five cardinal virtues of wise men. Basically people born with fire energy are polite but on the other hand, they can’t bear evil. Fire will basically need wood to supplement fuel energy. It melts metal to make valuable jewellery. But if it is too strong, it does not harmonize with its surroundings. Then it will require water energy to cool it down. Let’s continue studying byeong and jeong fire.
The south Summer The planet Mars The color red
Circulatory system and heart
Dynamic, energetic, passionate, enterprising, adventurous, restless Competitive, leadership skills, strong, single minded, loves a good laugh
Fire is divided into two, byeong fire and jeong fire as celestial stems
1) Byeong fire
Byeong people have a distinct personality. They are chivalrous, considerate and cheerful, but they also boast about themselves.
Byeong fire represents the sun in the sky.
It is yang fire and radiates the fire’s character. It likes to shed light on everything and hates those who are impolite. We can see the sun anywhere we are, so byeong fire wants to have attention on itself all the time. The sun sheds light on others so it sacrifices itself for others. However it doesn’t focus on one place but spreads out all over the world. Once it has no attention, it easily loses passion.
2) Jeong fire
Jeong people keep their passion inside. They are progressive and very smart. While they care for others they also play for their own sake. They have internal desire.
Jeong fire represents candlelight, blast furnaces, the moon and stars etc. It is a yin fire. It keeps the property of diffusion internally.
Tip – Fire restrains metal. While the major mission of byeong fire is to shed light on jewellery, raise nature and make things warm, jeong fire is the melting pot to burn and melt materials.
Here are four pillars of man to show the characteristics of a fire stem.
Byeong fire (day stem) is the owner of this saju. He is born with the energy of sun. There is a big tree (gap wood) and im water placed next to a day stem. All five elements are harmonized and circulate well to generate new elements and no single element has too much power or restricts the others.
We need to see not only the power of five elements in celestial stems but whether they are in good shape among themselves. The five elements themselves are not so important. For example, byeong fire does well with the jewellery. But if it were jeong fire, it would not be so useful as it melts jewellery. Jeong fire is used to melt metal to make weapons, knives and jewellery. Jewellery has already formed its beauty so it needs byeong fire to shine on, while jeong fire is needed for raw metal. Also, we need to see how the stems are supported by terrestrial branches, such as if they receive support when they are weak.
Anyway, this person was born into a rich family. He was educated well. He studied at a top ranked university in Korea. His father was a founder of one of the biggest furniture companies in the country. As he is the only son, he will manage the company. But there is still one thing that made his life unsatisfactory. Managing his father’s company is not what he likes best. Although he has a master’s degree, his skills are not suited to managing a company. He is not free from the responsibility and has to do what he does not like.