Chinese Astrology and Chinese Calendar - Ten Heavenly Stems

There are 10 Stems and 12 Branches in 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 from WoodenRatMale WoodMouseWooden Rat and end with Water Pig WaterPigWater 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 and Han dynasties). The astrology animal names was assigned in Han dynasty.

The following we want to depict the original meaning of

The Chinese call them Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch and use a specific sequence as a counting system for the calendar.

Chinese Astrology Calendar uses the Stem-Branch counting system

Chinese lunar calendar uses the cycle of Moon for the Month and uses the cycle of Sun for Year and Day. There is an independent counting system for Day is called Heavenly Stem Earthly Branch, which short name is Stem-Branch. No one knows who invented the Stem-Branch for Day counting system, but legend has it that characters of Day Stem-Branch were found on Oracle bones. The Animal names of Stem-Branch were applied into the Month system around 206 B.C. (between the Chin and Han dynasties).

The counting system of Stem-Branch is a 60-day cycle system. There are 10 Stems and 12 Branches. The Stem and the Branch are used together. The Stem is used in front of (on top of) the Branch. The Chinese call them Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch and use a specific sequence as a counting system for the calendar.

10 Stems and 12 Branches are combined into a cycle of 60 counting systems which begin fromWoodenRatMale WoodMouseWooden Rat and end with Water Pig WaterPigWater Pig. 1999 is the year of the Brown Rabbit which is the 16th of the Stem-Branch system. Year 2000 is the White (Golden) Dragon.

Nobody knows who invented the Stem-Branch counting system. This means that the Chinese knew about Stem-Branch before the invention of Chinese characters. Today we can see the Stem-Branch symbols in the ancient Chinese oracle bones. At the beginning,  Stem-Branch was for counting the DAY only.  Later, the Yin-Yang Five-Element scholars applied Stem-Branch into a MONTH, YEAR and HOUR system. The Five-Element scholars also applied Stem-Branch to the Five Elements which are the foundation of Chinese Fortune-Telling systems.

 Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth are called Five Elements. Ancient Chinese Five Elements scholars observed yearly weather, farmer's activities and plant's 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 on Five Elements area.

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

Order Symbols Calendar Symbols Pronunciation Pictographic Characters
1 Yang Wood Jiǎ Yang seed spouts from the ground
2 Yin Wood Young and tender stem grows
3 Yang Fire Bǐng Sunshine on the plant
4 Yin Fire Dīng Tree grows like a man
5 Yang Earth W Flourishing tree and plant
6 Yin Earth Fruit on the bending stems
7 Yang Metal Gēng Cut and keep the crop
8 Yin Metal Xīn Prepare crop to different food on the table
9 Yang Water Rn Yang livings hide under the ground
10 Yin Water Guǐ Complete close like pregnancy, wait for spout

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

Chinese Characters Pronunciation Chinese Pictographic Characters
Jiǎ Yang seed spouts from the ground
Young and tender stem grows
Bǐng Sunshine on the plant
Dīng Tree grows like a man
W Flourishing tree and plant
Fruit on the bending stems
Gēng Cut and keep the crop
Xīn Prepare crop to different food on the table
Rn Yang livings hide under the ground
Guǐ Complete close like pregnancy, wait for spout

The sequence of these 10 characters is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. That means they are a decimal counting system. One king was named , which means Kon First, in 1897 B.C. of Yin Dynasty. More than 20 kings in 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 to Chinese calendar. Chinese call them Ten Stems.


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