What are the Chinese Zodiac Combinations and Clashes?

Did you know that the Animal Signs are used for more than just Love Compatibility? In fact, if you know your BaZi Four Pillars chart, you can work out your health, marriage, house compatibility, relationships with parents, wealth potential, and much more. Read on to learn more about how combinations and clashes can help you understand why you form certain relationships.

See a full list of additional Resources at the end of the article.

Everyone who has heard of Chinese Astrology probably knows the Animal sign of the year they were born. When you begin studying traditional Feng Shui, astrology systems such as BaZi or ZiWei, or traditional Chinese Medicine, you will learn that the Zodiac, or Earthly Branches have a much deeper meaning.

In this article we’ll have a closer look at the Branch combinations and clashes, and give examples of their use in different contexts. Some reference will be made to the Hidden Stems, which can be important in working out the “level” of relationship compatibility between the signs.

List of Chinese Zodiac combinations and clashes

There are three (and a half) different types of combinations and one direct clash. The combinations are –

  1. Six Harmony combination – also called 6 Branch, 6 Unity or 6 Elemental combinations. Involves only two Animal Signs.
  2. Three Harmony combination – also called 3 Unity or 3 Elemental combinations. Can involve 2 or 3 Animal Signs (3 is a full combination, 2 is a half).
  3. Three Seasonal combination – also called Directional combinations or Frames. Involves 3 Animal Signs.
  4. The Six Branch Clashes are direct oppositions to each other.

The table below has the Cardinal signs marked in their Element color, all the major combinations are shown – by green check mark/s or by shading the full boxes in the combination color, and all the major clashes by red crosses. In tabular form, you can see the patterns that arise when comparing the Animals signs to each other.

a table showing the chinese astrology combinations and clashes

For some additional education on the Earthly Branches, we’ll try using the traditional Chinese names for the Animal Signs, which are –

a table showing the western and chinese names for the zodiac as well as the chinese writing

Read more about how the combinations and clashes influence your own Animal Sign's relationships by clicking on your link below -

1. Six Harmony Combinations

Think of the 6 Branch combinations as the small bearings and cogs that help keep the wheels of society spinning. Looking at the Branches arranged in their directions around the compass shows us the “Houses” or “Palaces” that each Animal Sign is in charge of.

a diagram of the chinese astrology six harmony combinations

Notice that the start and mid-points of the combinations are the Rat (Zi) and the Horse (Wu), and their combination Branch is one to the left. From there you simply move one left and one right to get the combination – Rat moves to Pig (Hai) and Ox (Chou) moves to Tiger (Yin) giving the next combination.

In the two main forms of BaZi calculation, the Solar method (using the Sun to measure time changes) acknowledges that the Branch combinations can, in special circumstances, form a different Element to the one they started out as. For example the Rat can transform from Water Element into Earth Element. The Lunar method (using the Moon to measure time changes) simply acknowledges that a combination occurs, no transformation to another Element is possible.

The Six Harmony combinations are -

  • Rat and Ox (Zi-Chou): forms Earth in the Solar method of BaZi.
  • Tiger and Pig (Yin-Hai): forms Wood in the Solar method of BaZi.
  • Rabbit and Dog (Mao-Xu): forms Fire in the Solar method of BaZi.
  • Dragon and Rooster (Chen-You): forms Metal in the Solar method of BaZi.
  • Snake and Monkey (Si-Shen): forms Water in the Solar method of BaZi.
  • Horse and Sheep (Wu-Wei): forms Fire in the Solar method of BaZi.

Whether and how the combinations transform, I’ll leave to Solar method specialists versed in only Solar methods, suffice to say there is always more than one way to look at things. In both methods however, these combinations can attract helpful mentors (think work colleagues that you instantly ‘click’ with) or can attract competitors and disruptors.

An example of a helper and a disruptor at the same time is a chart that has a Six Harmony combination between the Spouse Palace (the animal sign under your Day Stem, or Day Master) and the Mother (Month) Palace, for example, Wu (Horse) and Wei (Sheep). This is a very helpful combination unless the person marries someone with a Sheep, Dog or Tiger (see 3 Harmony below) in their Spouse Palace, then the Mother becomes competition for the Spouse.

an image of maree kissing raymond and seperating deborah

Does anyone remember ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’? Ray Romano doesn’t have competing combinations, he has clashes between the Mother and Spouse instead. It’s likely that his mother’s chart formed a Spouse combination with Ray’s Spouse Palace to bring about such outrageous behavior.

Under normal circumstances though, Six Branch combinations give us the little boosts we need to keep moving forward and make life worth living.

2. Three Harmony Combinations

The Three Harmonies form a solid, stable triangle of 3 Branches (Animal Signs) based around a single Element. The combination’s Element is worked out by looking at the “Cardinal” sign, which is the Branch based at the North, East, South and West.

a diagram of the chinese astrology three harmony combinations

These combinations create lifelong partnerships and friendships between people, whether it’s romance, business, or BFF’s. If you have a complete 3 Harmony within your own chart, then you are quite a lucky person and everything tends to be easy for you.

3 Harmony combinations can be ‘half’ combinations too – in the Lunar style of BaZi any pairing can create a connection. So Shen (Monkey) can combine with Chen (Dragon) to form Water. This is why Dragon’s and Monkey’s are considered to be compatible.

On the other hand, Solar BaZi says No! only the Cardinal Sign can form a half combination. So in Solar methodolgy, only Zi (Rat) can combine with either Chen (Dragon) or Shen (Monkey) because Zi is the Cardinal sign in the North. The same goes for the Horse in the South, Rabbit in the East and Rooster in the West.

This is because the calculation is based on the Hidden Stems called “Remainder Chi”, “New Chi” and “Pure Chi”. The Cardinal Zi (Rat) contains Yang Water Remaining Chi and Yin Water Pure Chi. Shen (Monkey) has Yang Water New Chi and Chen (Dragon) has Yin Water New Chi, which means that both contain the seeds to “grow” Zi (Rat) and that they have a deep connection.

The Three Harmony combinations are -

  • Rat-Monkey-Dragon (Zi-Shen-Chen): forms Water Element.
  • Rabbit-Sheep/Goat-Pig (Mao-Wei-Hai): forms Wood Element.
  • Horse-Tiger-Dog (Wu-Yin-Xu): forms Fire Element.
  • Rooster-Ox-Snake (You-Chou-Si): forms Metal Element.

Note that there is no Earth Element combination.

3. The Seasonal Combinations

These combinations are fairly straight-forward, each one is simply the Cardinal Sign plus the Branch (Animal Sign) to the left and right.

The odd one out is the Earth combination, but it is one that could be considered the most important.

a diagram of the chinese astrology seasonal combinations

WARNING: Technical content ahead!

The center of the circle has no direction, but is Earth Element. The Earth Branches Chou (Ox), Chen (Dragon), Wei (Sheep/Goat) and Xu (Dog) are mostly Earth but are easily combined into other Elements.

This means that the Earth’s are essential to everything without truly having their own direction. When a person’s chart has all Four Earth’s, the power of Earth Element can over-ride any other combination and can be either extremely beneficial to the person, or can be extremely destructive. These charts are quite rare though.

The Seasonal, or Directional combinations are -

  • Ox-Rat-Pig (Chou-Zi-Hai): forms Water Element.
  • Tiger-Rabbit-Dragon (Yin-Mao-Chen): forms Wood Element.
  • Snake-Horse-Sheep/Goat (Si-Wu-Wei): forms Fire Element.
  • Monkey-Rooster-Dog (Shen-You-Xu): forms Metal Element.
  • Ox-Dragon-Sheep-Dog (Chou-Chen-Wei-Xu): forms Earth Element.

These combinations are the easiest to “break apart”, either by clashes or by other combinations. Since you *must* have all three Branches (Animal Signs) for a Seasonal combination to work, if any one of them is clashed, then the combination won’t work.

For example, someone with a Metal Monkey-Rooster-Dog (Shen-You-Xu) combination in their BaZi chart will have a difficult time in 2022 because the Tiger (Yin) will not only clash the Monkey (Shen), but it will break apart their combination. In 2023, the same person will have difficulties because the Rabbit (Mao) will clash the Rooster (You) producing similar results to 2022.

Someone with a Snake-Horse-Sheep (Si-Wu-Wei) combination may find themselves with too many choices (or temptations!) in 2022 and 2023 because the Tiger (Yin) combines the Horse (Wu) in a ‘half’ 3 Harmony combination in 2022, and then the same happens in 2023 between the Sheep (Wei) and 2023’s Rabbit (Mao). This type of combination competition can give you a clue on how to spot (or not be) a cheater!

4. Animal Sign Clashes

These are easiest to see around the circle of the Luo Pan with the Branches (Animal Signs) arranged in their directions. I prefer to see these as ‘oppositions’ rather clashes because clashes can in fact create positive change, you have to work for what you want.

a diagram of the chinese astrology six clashes

This is for most people. Some charts are very sensitive to clashing (such as those with Seasonal combinations) and they should be aware of those time periods that will disrupt their lives so they can be prepared.

The Six Branch Clashes are -

  • Rat and Horse (Zi-Wu): Water clashing Fire.
  • Ox and Sheep/Goat (Chou-Wei): Earth clashing Earth.
  • Tiger and Monkey (Yin-Shen): Wood* clashing Metal*.
  • Rabbit and Rooster (Mao-You): Wood clashing Metal.
  • Dragon and Dog (Chen-Xu): Earth clashing Earth.
  • Snake and Pig (Si-Hai): Fire* clashing Water*.

* The Elements for these four “Travel Horse” Branches are different in Lunar BaZi Chinese astrology, but the clashes are still clashes.

Fire and Water, Metal and Wood clashing makes sense but how can the Earth Elements clash when they are the same Element?

The clue is in the Hidden Stems – both the Ox (Chou) and the Sheep (Wei) are Yin Earth “Pure Chi” but their Remaining and New Chi are totally opposite. The Ox (Chou) has Yin Water and Yin Metal, whereas the Sheep (Wei) has Yin Fire and Yin Wood. It is here that the two signs clash – Water vs Fire and Metal vs Wood. The same applies to the Dragon (Chen) and the Dog (Xu) but with Yang Elements rather than Yin.

To Sum Up

These combinations and clashes form a large part of a BaZi astrology chart analysis no matter whether you use Solar or Lunar styles of BaZi Four Pillars Chinese Astrology.

If you are learning how to read your own chart, this is a great place to start so you can understand why you form certain relationships and how they can affect you at different times of your life.

There are plenty of other Animal Sign interactions to learn about, like the Six Harms, the Three Penalties, Drama combinations and more, but if you can understand the combinations and clashes down to a deep level, then you are off to a great start!

Resources

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Dean French

With over two decades of practical Feng Shui experience, Dean French is known for his down-to-earth attitude, perceptive observational skills, and his direct and honest communication. Amongst his clients, he has a reputation as an accomplished consultant that has grown through perseverance, professional diligence, conscientious integrity, and the outstanding transformative life shifts they receive.

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