Understanding of Earthly Branch Relationships

Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches are two sets of signs in a certain sequence, which were created as early as about 2700BC by ancient Chinese ancestor to calculate the history and record the chronological sequence of events. 

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The Earthly Branch is presented by the Chinese Zodiac of the 12 Animal Signs. Below is a summarise of the 12 Earthly branch information.

子(zǐ)RATYang WaterWINTER 冬Dec 7 – Jan 5
(11pm – 12.59am)
丑(chǒu)OXYin EarthWINTER 冬Jan 6 – Feb 3
(1am – 2.59am)
寅(yín)TIGERYang WoodSPRING 春Feb 4 – Mar 5
(3am – 4.59am)
卯(mǎo)RABBITYin WoodSPRING 春Mar 6 – Apr 4
(5am – 6.59am)
辰(chén)DRAGONYang EarthSPRING 春Apr 5 – May 5
(7am – 8.59am)
巳(sì)SNAKEYin FireSUMMER 夏May 6 – Jun 5
(9am – 10.59am)
午(wǔ)HORSEYang FireSUMMER 夏Jun 6 – Jul 6
(11am – 12.59pm)
未(wèi)GOATYin EarthSUMMER 夏Jul 7 – Aug 7
(1pm – 2.59pm)
申(shēn)MONKEYYang MetalAUTUMN 秋Aug 8 – Sept 7
(3pm – 4.59pm)
酉(yǒu)ROOSTERYin MetalAUTUMN 秋Sept 8 – Oct 7
(5pm – 6.59pm)
戌(xū)DOGYang EarthAUTUMN 秋Oct 8 – Nov 6
(7pm – 8.59pm)
亥(hài)PIGWin WaterWINTER 冬Nov 7 – Dec 6
(9pm – 10.59pm)

The Earthly Branches can be used to count time of years, months and hours. When counting years, people use them with the 12 Chinese zodiacs and strictly one Earthly Branch corresponds to one fixed zodiac. For example, our ancestors have divided a day and night into twelve sections and named each as a ‘shi chen’ 时辰, which is equal to today’s two hours and has a fixed Earthly Branch name. From 11 pm at night to 1 am is decided to be the first one – ‘zi shi’ 子时, then the second two hours ‘chou shi’ 丑时, on the analogy of this.

There isn’t much relationship between the Heavenly Stems other than their combinations which form the hour, day, month, year base on the 60 (Jia Zi) 甲子 or 60 Pillars.

Earthly Branches, however have a much more complicated with each other. Altogether there are five types of relationships between the Earthly Branches:

  • Combo
  • Clash
  • Harm
  • Punishment
  • Destruction


This combination appears when two earthly branches form a pair as shown below:

If a pair exists inside your Bazi chart, it denotes some form of a workable relationship between the aspects governed by the relative pillars. However, there are pros and cons to combinations. Combinations indicate good relationships and ease of working with one another. However, it can also restrict the combined Earthly Branches from interacting with other Earthly Branches.

Combination can happen within your Natal Chart, between your Natal Chart and your Luck Pillar, between your Natal Chart and the current Year Pillar or between your Luck Pillar and the current Year Pillar.

The combinations can also produce a new element:


The Earthy Branches Three Combination appears when three Earthy Branches form a union resulting in an elemental group. There are 4 such possible combinations:

It is also possible for any two Earthly Branches within the group to combine and form a Half- Combination.

The Earthy Branches Three Combination denotes amplification of the element it forms and as such the aspects in your chart that are represented by the element will be amplified as well.


The Three Directional Combinations are essentially the groupings of animal signs according to the season in the study of BaZi:

The Directional Combination is the strongest combination as it produces stronger elements and covers an entire season. However, to discern if the element produced will be useful depends largely on whether your chart needs the resultant element. 

Do you prefer Directional Or Harmony Combo?

As a general rule, all 3 animals signs must appear in order to form a complete combination. When there is a complete Three Harmony or Directional Combination, the element associated with the combination is very strong; much stronger than the elements produced by the Six Combinations that is mention earlier. Between the 2 of the Three Combinations, the Three Directional Combination produces a stronger resultant element as the entire season is present. Although a complete Three Harmony or Directional Combination also indicates that a person has good networking, the Three Harmony Combination is particularly good for connections. Typically, a chart with a Three Harmony Combination is indicative of a great achiever who is able to make use of and leverage upon his/her connections with people, regardless of whether the element associated with the combination is favourable or not. Of course, a chart with a favourable Three Harmony Combination is better than one with an unfavourable combination. When it comes to the Three Directional Combination, we have to evaluate if the resultant element is favourable (or not) to a chart to determine the effect of such a combination.


The Earthly Branches Six Clashes indicates opposition between the Earthly Branches.

When a clash appears in your chart it means that there is an opposition between the elements. Clashes can denote antagonistic relationship between the aspects of the pillars involved in the clash.

This is because the earthly branches represent timing and are the core as well as the roots of a particular phenomenon, scenario or person. As such, any reaction of the Earthly Branches is generally more serious and has deeper implications. The Earthly Branch relationships affect a person’s emotions, thinking, feelings and also represent internal organs.

Therefore, any positive BaZi relationship that affects the Earthly Branches results in a much stronger and long lasting effect on the person, since the changes are from the roots and actual foundation of a person. Similarly, if the relationship is a negative one, the results are more detrimental in the long run.


What is a Harm? Is it worse than a Clash?

While both Harms and Clashes generally involve encountering discomfort and some measure of pain (during the time of occurrence), a Harm relationship produces more unpleasantness and emotional pain as it denotes an unexpected occurrence and unanticipated betrayal or stab-in-the-back. Thus, a Harm relationship usually has an effect on one’s emotions and thinking. It is psychological hurt. Whereas in a Clash, one can usually see the change or anticipate the area in life which is affected as a clash is a direct antagonistic relationship between 2 Earthly Branches.


A punishment relationship between 2 Earthly Branches is basically a “cause-and- effect” relationship. This is essentially the actions taken (or not taken) by an individual that causes a certain outcome. The initiator is the Bazi owner him/herself. The actions could be one’s own behaviour, thinking patterns and even desires. While it may appear that others are at fault, when a punishment relationship is involved, the effect always centers around the person who is experiencing the punishment him/herself. As such, a punishment generally has a negative effect.

A full punishment usually involves a relationship between 3 Earthly Branches. When only 2 of the relevant 3 Earthly Branches are present, the effects are weak until the point when the 3rd relevant Earthly Branch appears in the Luck or Annual Pillars. This is similar to full Three Combinations; the effect of the combination when only 2 of the 3 Earthly Branches are present is weak, at least until the third branch is present.

Bear in mind that a Punishment can happen at the same time with a Combination or Clash. There are four types of punishment:

  1. Ungrateful Punishment (Black Arrow)
  2. Bullying Punishment (Blue Arrow)
  3. Uncivilized Punishment (Red Arrow)
  4. Self-Punishment (Green Circle)

Essentially, the Ungrateful and Bullying Punishments involve 3 Earthly Branches for each formation while the Uncivilised and Self Punishments involve only 2 Earthly Branches. Each punishment is a manifestation of a cause-and-effect situation and has a sort of “karmic price tag” associated so to speak. A punishment effect is felt when one experiences a particular negative outcome due to his/her own actions (or inactions).

Ungrateful Punishment

An Ungrateful Punishment causes one to feel betrayed. When help or assistance is rendered to this person, he or she always feels there is a hidden agenda or a lack of trust. In addition, the person also frequently feels shortchanged by others, and that others do not reciprocate his/her help and assistance. As a result, he/she is discontented and commonly views life as being unfair.

A full Ungrateful Punishment formation can also cause estranged ties with family members. Relationships with parents, siblings or half-siblings can often be problematic as there is always a lack of gratitude for what one already has.
As the grass is always greener elsewhere, the person experiencing this punishment always experiences betrayal as they tend to “attract” situations

that reinforce this feeling.

A positive way to take active control of an Ungrateful Punishment is by practicing unconditional generosity. Since most of the time we tend to attach
some sort of condition when we render help (whether we admit it or not), it is especially crucial to practise and acknowledge unconditional generosity when we offer help or assistance. This is important if an Ungrateful Punishment is one’s chart!

Bullying Punishment

In a Bullying Punishment, the person affected finds him/herself being “bullied” ie. stuck in a helpless situation, often without any sort of leverage. For example, let’s look at a situation of a husband and wife divorcing. The man leaves the woman with nothing as she did not work or have a career while married. In addition, he makes use of his contacts and connection to ensure she does not get a single cent from divorce—hence bullying her! Another example would be when a big company takes over a small company leaving the small company with no choice to fight back. A Bullying Punishment is unpleasant because it leaves one with no power or authority to retaliate by virtue of being in a disadvantaged position. In a legal case, a Bullying Punishment can manifest as not being able to do anything due to the law not being on one’s side.

Uncivilized Punishment

An Uncivilised Punishment is brought on due to overwhelming desires or disloyalty to someone or party. This could be a situation when ones’ overwhelming desires and strive for excellence cause the person to step over other people or to go against those who given helped earlier.

As the Rat and Rabbit are “Peach Blossom” (relationship) stars, the Uncivilised Punishment can also involve sexual problems like sexual assault or harassment or being forced into committing any acts that violates your principles or morality. In serious cases, even rape and incest. It can also mean any trauma or distressing experience that you have yet to let go or forget. Do note that this occurs only in serious cases ie. when the elements are highly negative to a BaZi chart.


In a Self Punishment relationship, the person already knows that he/she has a habit or behavioural characteristics which is negative, but yet continues to act or behave in the detrimental fashion. It goes without saying that the self punishing behaviour results in an eventual negative outcome. Basically, it is the actions or behaviour of a person that he/she already knows is negative and is of harm, but continues to do so. A person who has a Self Punishment relationship in the BaZi constantly self-sabotages him/ herself.

An example would be a smoker who continues to smoke even after a doctor’s warning of impending lung cancer. Another example would be a woman who knows for a fact that her husband is loyal, yet constantly tests his faithfulness to the point that he gets fed-up and decides to leave her!


A Destruction typically relates to some sort of damaging behaviour in a person’s life, often brought on due to circumstances which are forced upon the person in question. Unlike the Punishment, which results in consequences due to one’s own actions, a “destructive” action is the result of circumstances which traps the person in situations that leaves him/her with no other choice. These situations then cause the person in question to act in damaging or negative ways. The effect of a Destruction relationship in the Earthly Branches forces one “up against the wall” with no where or no one else to turn to!

A Destruction is typically also associated with bad habits or damaging behaviour that arise out of the situations and circumstances the individual is entrapped in. Examples of such bad habits and vices are excessive drinking, smoking or even drug abuse often due to other people and the surrounding environment.

If a Destruction occurs in a Luck Pillar, then during that period, the person can acquire a bad habit/vice that he/she then needs to get rid of, in order to change for the better (after the Destruction period is over).

A person experiencing a Destruction can also find that his/her dreams are shattered! All hopes/aspirations crumble, resulting in having to start anew. As such, a Destruction period in one’s life leads to rebooting of the person’s life engine, so to speak.

I will perhaps have another few posting to discuss about each of the relationship in details. If you are interested to know more, contact me or join my Facebook Private Page and we can all learn together in the community.

Published by SHASTROLOGY

I am SH, a Chinese Metaphysics enthusiast, practitioner, consultant, life transformation coach and also the Founder of SH Astrology Consulting. Chinese Metaphysics such as Bazi and QiMen as always fascinated me. I am always amazed by how Bazi and QiMen could forecast the outcomes and relate encounters that a person can experience with great accuracy when it is being applied correctly. When it come to Feng Shui, the studying of the flow of Qi (Chi) energy can influences the environment around us.These energies can directly or indirectly affect how we operate and affect what we want to achieve. With proper practice, we can create opportunities that help us achieve our goals. SH Astrology was created to share my knowledge in BaZi and also some other Chinese Metaphysics systems like QiMen, Feng Shui, Yi Jing. I would also like to debunk some myths, and irrelevant concepts or beliefs in Chinese Metaphysic which cause confusion and fear in people’s life.

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