Four Pillars of Destiny - Days

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Friday, 29 January 2010 0 comments

The day is the third of the Four Pillars of Destiny and in Chinese fortune telling represents information about the person him/herself, his/her adult and married life.

The sexagenry cycle was used in China since the second millennium BC (Shang Dynasty), as a means of naming days (just as western cultures use the days in the week). This use of the cycle for days is attested throughout the Zhou dynasty. More recently this is not as popular but is still used in Almanacs and calendars.

The 1st day of a new year in the sexagenary cycle should be the Lichun (節氣 lìchūn). The Lichun is the 1st solar term. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 315° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 330°. It more often refers in particular to the day when the Sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 315°.

In the lunisolar calendar, New Year's Day might be before or after Lichun. A year without Lichun is called 無春年 wú chūn nián (no spring year). 無春年 is also known as 寡婦年 guǎfu nián (widow year) in northern China or 盲年 máng nián (blind year) in southern China. Marriage is believed to be unlucky in a year without Lichun.

I have found it hard to find the corresponding elements and animals of the days themselves, however you can use the calculator to find out your day on my post about the Four Pillars...

Chinese Children's Song: The 'Ugly' Doll Song 泥娃娃

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Thursday, 28 January 2010 2 comments

泥娃娃 : ní​wá​wa​

I found this, and it made me giggle, I think it is actually 'Mud Doll' essentially a Doll made of clay not an ugly doll as the video says. I have taken a picture of what I imagine to be 泥娃娃 ní​wá​wa​.

It is a horribly catchy song and after a while gets really quite annoying. But here is a popular Chinese children's song that caught my attention, I have translated it below. I hope you enjoy it. I have been singing along. (I think I successfully have annoyed my girlfriend, but learnt to sing a small amount of Chinese)

Clay Doll

泥 娃 娃 , 泥 娃 娃
ní wá wá , ní wá wá
Doll of Clay, Doll of Clay

一 个 泥 娃 娃
yī gè ní wá wá
A Doll of Clay

也 有 那 眉 毛
yě yǒu nà méi máo
She has eyebrows

也 有 那 眼 睛
yě yǒu nà yǎn jīng
She has eyes

眼 睛 不 会 眨
yǎn jīng bú huì zhǎ
but eyes that cant wink

泥 娃 娃 , 泥 娃 娃
ní wá wá , ní wá wá
Doll of Clay, Doll of Clay

一 个 泥 娃 娃
yī gè ní wá wá
A Doll of Clay

也 有 那 鼻 子
yě yǒu nà bí zǐ
She has a nose

也 有 那 嘴 巴
yě yǒu nà zuǐ bā
She has a mouth

嘴 巴 不 说 话
zuǐ bā bú shuō huà
But mouth cannot speak

她 是 个 假 娃 娃
tā shì gè jiǎ wá wá
She's a fake baby

不 是 个 真 娃 娃
bú shì gè zhēn wá wá
Is not a real baby

她 没 有 亲 爱 的 爸 爸
tā méi yǒu qīn ài de bà ba
She doesn't have a dear dad

也 没 有 妈 妈
yě méi yǒu mā ma
There is no mum

泥 娃 娃 , 泥 娃 娃
ní wá wá , ní wá wá
Doll of Clay, Doll of Clay

一 个 泥 娃 娃
yī gè ní wá wá
A Doll of Clay

我 做 她 爸 爸
wǒ zuò tā bà ba
I'm her dad

我 做 她 妈 妈
wǒ zuò tā mā ma
i'm her mum

永 远 爱 着 她
yǒng yuǎn ài zhe tā
love her forever

| Repeat from start|

Four Pillars of Destiny – Months and Solar Terms

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Wednesday, 27 January 2010 0 comments

Months and Solar Terms

Within the Four Pillars, the month (本月 běn​yuè​) that you are born is the pillar that represents information about the person's parents or later years in life. Many Chinese astrologers consider the month pillar to be the most important pillar in determining the circumstances of one's adult life.

The Gregorian (Western) calendar is used for day to day activities in most of East Asia, but the Chinese calendar is still used for marking traditional East Asian holidays such as the Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival (春節).
Solar Terms (节气 jiéqi) are based on seasonal markers and make up the Chinese agricultural calendar. This table shows the correlation between the Western calendar and the Chinese months. It also shows which animals (mnemonic) belong to each astrological month giving the second of the four pillars in Chinese astrology and fortune telling.

I had trouble making this table in html, but if you click the image, you can download the pdf with the full table.

Four Pillars of Destiny - Years

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Saturday, 23 January 2010 0 comments

Four Pillars Year & Sexagenary Cycle
六十花甲 liùshí huājiǎ or

Within the Four Pillars (Ba Zi) Years are the largest element. They are the most generic and least personal in fortune telling. The years are based off of the Ten Heavenly Stems (十天干 shí tiāngān) and Twelve Earthly Branches (十二地支 shí'èr dìzhī).

There are 5 'Elements', 五行 wǔ​xíng​ in Chinese Astrology,

* Wood 木 mù
* Fire 火 huǒ
* Earth 土 tǔ
* Metal 金 jīn
* Water 水 shuǐ

These 5 elements combine with yin and yang to make the Ten Heavenly stems 天干 tiāngān.

The 12 earthly branches were devised from the orbit of Jupiter (the twelve years of the Jupiter cycle also identify the twelve months of the year, directions, seasons, months, and Chinese hour in the form of double-hours.)

The more commonly known animals of the zodiac provide a mnemonic for remembering them. The animals of the zodiac in addition to the Ten Heavenly Stems give us 60 years with each animal and each element pairing up only once in the sexagenary cycle.

To explain how this cycle works, lets give both stems and branches by their numbers. We denote 1 by (1,1) or (甲,子), 2 by (2,2) or (乙,丑) and so on up to (10,10) or (癸,酉). But now we have run out of stems, so we denote 11 by (1, 11) or (甲,戌) and 12 by (2, 12) or (乙,亥). Now we have run out of branches, too, so 13 becomes (3, 1) or (丙,子). We continue in this way through 6 cycles of stems and 5 cycles of branches up to 60, which is (10, 12) or (癸,亥). The next number is then (1,1) or (甲,子), which starts a new sexagenary cycle.

Within the Four Pillars, the year is the pillar representing information about the person's ancestry or early age.

You can download the table below by clicking the image and saving the pdf. It provides the full sexagenary cycles between 1924-2044 with the associated elements and zodiac animals.

Understanding the Chinese Zodiac - Four Pillars of Destiny - 八字 Ba Zi

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Thursday, 21 January 2010 1 comments

Four Pillars of Destiny

Even today, when people talk about Chinese Astrology, it is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs of the zodiac. Many western descriptions of Chinese astrology draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals) and hours of the day (called secret animals).

Four Pillars of Destiny is a Chinese term that comprises of four elements of a person’s destiny or fate. The four components are taken from the moment of birth. They are the year, month, day, and time (hour). Each of these elements are important in Chinese astrology, the zodiac and fortune telling.

The term Four Pillars of Destiny come from the Chinese:

shíchen bāzì
Hour of the Eight characters

sì zhù mìnglǐxué
The Four Pillars Life-ology

zǐ píng mìng lǐ
The Four Pillars of Life

Commonly referred to by the shortened names of "Four Pillars" or "bā zì" these charts include both the element (Ten Heavenly Stems) and zodiac animal (Twelve Earthly Branches) of the year, month, day, and hour of birth, giving eight characters.

Ten Heavenly Stems are the yin and yang components of the Five Elements: Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire , Yang Earth, Yin Earth, Yang Metal, Yin Metal, Yang Water, Yin Water.

The Twelve Earthly Branches are more popularly represented by the twelve animals of the Zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

The culture of Chinese Fortune Telling (中华吉祥文化 Zhōnghuá jíxiáng wénhuà) is based on five principles that to the skilled can be judged from the balance found in the Eight Characters determined by the Ten Heavenly Stems and the Twelve Earthly Branches that are associated with the time and date of your birth. The five principles are:

• Fu, 福 (fortune) signifying luck;
• Lu, 禄 (affluence) for fame and recognition;
• Shou, 寿 (longevity) for health;
• Xi, 喜 (happiness) for joy;
• Cai, 财 (wealth) for abundance and riches.

There are a couple of online Charts available, although the real value in this style of reading is the readers themselves.

Try it out with this Bazi Calculator:

Some other calculators can be found below...

The following blog gives some topical readings about famous people and explores the readings in more depth.

Birthday, Deadlines and Icons

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Wednesday, 20 January 2010 2 comments

I recently got a comment on my Heisig post from a while back asking how I was doing (as today was supposed to be my finish date if I had kept up with my proposed schedule).

I have got to admit I have been lazy, or if you like excuses; I have been so busy that I have ended up ignoring what I wanted to achieve. I have got about 600 characters into Heisigs method and despite a lot of effort have found my motivation waning. I read Greg's recent post about motivation in language learning add that to the sense of guilt I feelby not meeting my own deadline and I feel a much renewed sense of wanting to complete Heisig and start really pushing my learning forwards again.


jīntiān shì wǒ de shēngrì !
Today is my Birthday!!

I am going to an event which is setting off over 100 Chinese Flying Lanterns in our local park tonight (The Rye, High Wycombe @ 18:30) as a celebration of my birthday. :) Hopefully there will be a video of the lanterns, so I will share when possible, it should be an awesome sight.

Also I have seen other people do this and it seems interesting. So please feel free to ask me anything.


Also whilst I am catching up a little... I thought I would share a way for all you blogger bloggers to change the little icon at the top there. I did it this week, and although my new 'favicon' isn't the most recognisable. It does set it apart from the rest of the blogger blogs.

So.. first off, you have to make your favicon. It is a 16px by 16px square, you can make it on your computer and save it as a .ico (windows icon) or you can use this favicon maker online.

You download your file, then all you have to do is insert the bit of code (you can find it here) in the head section of the html.

I used to host my icon, but it does support some very NSFW ads and annoying pop ups, if you can find a better place to host your icons for free let me know.

Chinese Sweet : Dragon Beard Candy: 龙须糖

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Saturday, 16 January 2010 3 comments

Dragon Beard Candy - 龙须糖 - lóng​ xū​ táng​

This is a Chinese sweet treat, Dragon Beard Candy (龙须糖) or (龍鬚糖) consists of many very fine strands of sugar, which gives an appearance and consistency of a fine beard, apparently like that of a dragon – hence its name. You can get many flavours of this tasty speciality, spicy, crispy icy, almond and ones I cannot imagine like wasabi laver and black sesame and the list goes on.

I bought some almond flavour dragon beard candy today from Chinatown, London. It blew my mind. I cannot think of anything that even comes close to describing the texture, taste or how great it is. It is soft and fluffy, but has a slight crunch to the crumbling crushed peanuts. The combination of odd textures is quite remarkable.

This is a truly rare and unique dessert which will leave you speechless. It is said that only recently have Dragon Beard Candy been allowed to be eaten by anyone other than the emperor of China. Although one feels that this could just be a persuasive sales technique to remind you of the quality of them.

My friend Jack likes to describe it as "like eating a hairy cloud full of almonds..." I like the cloud metaphor, it suits the sweet deservedly well. A disarmingly soft, melt in your mouth moment occurs (much like candy floss) but you do have some substance left with the peanuts.

There is a video of some Dragon Beard candy being made here. It is extraordinary how the sugar is so elastic-y and really is an artform unto itself.

Jack took a picture of one of our candies today. Simply gorgeous to look at, and although an odd textural experience, very tasty.

dragon beard candy

I did find a Dragon Beard Candy recipe, and it is one that I am definitely going to have to try out.

Does anyone know of somewhere in London that makes Dragon beard candy from scratch? Preferably so I can watch them make it too? I had some boxed ones today. And whilst they were lovely, I get the feeling having them fresh would be exquisite.

Photo credits:

Jack on twitter

Google To Stop Censoring? Or to Leave China?

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Wednesday, 13 January 2010 0 comments

It is being widely reported that this looks like Google removing their censorship in China. What I see though, is Google finding a way to remove itself from the problems it faces in China.

"We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China." Google blog post

I think that some of the reports being made from this blog post are a little misleading (like this Guardian article). I don't think Google want to leave operations in China, however maybe this is the leverage that could make the government change their mind?... ...I think not.

I really wonder whether the Chinese Government would allow Google to remove it's censorship? If they do I get the feeling they might take the step of ultimately censoring internet access further up the chain, from behind the scenes.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. What do you think will come of this latest news from Google?

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