Da Liu Ren 大六壬

The Ancient Chinese Art of Six Yang Waters Technique

The literal English translation of the above term written in Chinese Da Liu Ren 大六壬, has no coherent insights to it, let alone does it convey its full meaning to the readers at large except to a few good men from the ancient past imperial astronomical bureau in traditional China. In some colloquial Chinese dialects, such as Cantonese, it renders a cursory view of a particular scheme of things to happen in some future scenarios or provides some perspectives of some kind of clandestine plots being work in progress and is not fathomable to the audience at large except by the “chosen few” who have deeply studied and internalize its cryptic coding technique or in the words of the digital alphabets era, loosely translated as the “programming language standards” use to make “forecasting scenarios” in ancient China.

If any serious attempt of expressing its full sense and contextual meaning here would probably take up more descriptive content to qualify it as an all-inclusive title which would go against the intended norm, as a matter of brevity and succinctness.

Da Liu Ren 大六壬, in Short, Liu Ren as an arcane art, only a selected few could have the privilege to acquire it. Amongst those well-versed with its deep and penetrating knowledge & insights of Liu Ren ( translated in vernacular English language as Six Yang Waters Technique ) were typically members of the ancient China Astronomical Bureau. Most ancient scholars/literati in traditional China found it extremely difficult in comprehending the passages in question, the associated cryptic comments and its technical explanations are rarely helpful to the uninitiated general readers.

According to ancient Chinese records as extracted from Mengxi bitan 夢溪筆談 ( Dream Brook Essays ) in about year 1086, one of its sections on symbolic numerology ( xiang shu 象数 ) contains some of the knowledge developed by staff member of the Astronomical Bureau includes three passages concerning the Liu Ren 六壬 celestial chart system/technique that comes immediately after the first passage on the Dayan 大衍 calendar method of the Kaiyuan 開元reign-period in Tang dynasty China. The first of these three passages reads :

Qi Men Dun Jia & Da Liu Ren

With regards to the deities of the twelve earthly branches in the heaven { tian shier shen 天十二神 } in the system of Liu Ren 六壬, hai亥 is called Deng ming 登明 ( Ascending Brightness ) and the general of the first lunar month, while xu 戌 is called Tiankui  天魁 ( Heavenly Chief ), being the general of the second lunar month. People in the ancient China termed it the Heshen 合神 ( matching deity ) as well as ‘ the sun passing by the palace’ ( Taiyang guo gong 太陽禍宮 ). Heshen 合神 meant that in the first lunar month ( when Counter-Jupiter was at the earthly branch ) Yin 寅 it matched ( Jupiter when the latter reached the earthly branch ) Hai 亥, in the second lunar month ( when Counter-Jupiter was at the earthly branch ) Mao 卯 it matched (Jupiter when the latter reached the earthly branch) xu 戌 and so forth. The term ‘Taiyang guo gong’ referred to the position of the sun at (Jupiter-station) Zouzi 諏訾 in the first lunar month, shifting to (Jupiter-station) Jianglou 降婁 in the second lunar month, and so forth. These two phenomena corresponded to each other (only) at the time when the calendar of the ancient Emperor Zhuan (xu) 顓頊was adopted. (But) they do not correspond to each other nowadays, because the movement of the sun follows the ecliptic and varies according to the precession of the equinoxes.

In our present days condition, Jupiter reaches (Jupiter-station) Zouzi諏訾 only after the Yu Shui 雨水 Rain water (about February 19 ) forthnightly period, and reaches ( Jupiter-station) Jianglou降婁 only after Chun Fen 春分 Spring Equinox – about March 20 ). If (the method of) Heshen ( Matching Deity ) is applied in this case, from the day of Spring Equinox the hai 亥 general  should be used, and from the day of Jing Zhe 驚蟄 Insects Awaken forthnightly period ( about March 6) the xu 戌 general should be used. Thus, if we were to go by the sun’s movement, it does not correspond with Heshen 合神 ( i.e. matching Counter-Jupiter and Jupiter such that Yin 寅 matches Hai 亥, Mao 卯 matches Xu 戌, Chen 辰 matches  You酉 and so on, implying that Counter-Jupiter is out of alignment with Jupiter’s movement ). On the contrary, if we use Heshen 合神 (Jupiter’s movement) it will not correspond with the Sun’s movement. As a matter of logic, the process of casting (the four) divinations ( in Liu Ren operation ) the relevant monthly general must be allocated to the proper time. Hence one should follow the passage of the sun over the palaces ( i.e. the sun’s movement along the ecliptic ). If the movement of the sun over the Jupiter-stations is not accounted for then there will be no agreement in celestial motion with movements of the sun, the moon, the five planets, the sexagenary cycle and the 28 lunar mansions on any particular day and time. Hence one should bear in mind to take account of the movements of the sun ( for the Liu Ren Technique and its system of operation ). Matter does not rest here, because the same logical reasoning should be extended to affect the marking of the beginning of a lunar month by naming that lunar month after an earthly branch ( Yue Jian 月建). If we carefully observe the Ladle of the Plough the hour of dusk already shows discrepancy. Yue Jian月建 ( the first day of a lunar month ) should follow the sun’s position along the ecliptic to take into account the precession of the equinoxes.   At the present moment the beginning of the first lunar month by naming it after Yin 寅 should only take place one day after the Yu Shui 雨水 Rain water fortnightly period ( about February 19), the beginning of the second lunar month by naming it after Mao 卯 four days after 春分Chun Fen Spring Equinox (about March 20), the beginning of the third lunar month by naming it after Chen 辰 five days after the Gu yu 穀(谷)雨 fortnightly period (about April 20), and so on. Agreement with the movements of the sun can only be found by this means, and the two sayings as mentioned above would again merge and become one. Naturally, corrections must be made to reconcile them. Take for example, the seven lunar mansions of Cang Long 蒼龍 ( Azure Dragon ) in the East should begin with (the lunar mansion ) Kang 亢 and end with ( the lunar mansion Nan ) dou 南斗, the seven lunar mansions of Zhuque 朱雀 ( Crimson Bird ) in the South should begin with (the lunar mansion Qian ) Niu 牽牛 and end with ( the lunar mansion ) Kui 奎, the seven lunar mansions of Bai hu 白虎(White Tiger)in the West should begin with the lunar mansion Lou 婁 and end with the lunar mansion Yu gui 輿鬼 and the seven lunar mansions of Zhen wu 真武 ( Real Warrior ) in the North should begin with (the lunar mansion) Dong Jing 東井 and end with the lunar mansion Jue 角. Following closely in this manner, not only the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique system of operation but also the calendar system itself will be correct in alignment.

The above discussion is by no means exhaustive, but the basic premise of Liu Ren 六壬 aka Six Yang Waters Technique emphasizes its operation depends on the  accurate astronomical observations while pointing out the inaccuracy of the current calendar. From what it says, we are informed that in the past the operation of the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique was based on the Jupiter cycle as well as on the Zou zi 諏訾 station mentioned above, at the time of  Chen Zhuo 陳卓during the third century it was extended 16 du 度 from the determinant star of the 12th lunar mansion Wei to 4 du 度 from the determinant star of the 15th lunar mansion Kui, position of the Sun in the ecliptic. The matching of the positions of Counter-Jupiter and those of Jupiter, both expressed in branches.

Taking the case example of the Zou zi 諏訾while during the time of Yixing in the eighth century it again extended from 13 du 度 of Wei to 4 du 度 of Kui ( where 1 du is approximately 1 degree when converted to angular measurements). Yu Zhengxie 俞正燮 said in his Guisi leigao 癸巳類稿, ‘All systems ought to follow the movements of the heavens to seek harmony, but not to make rules to change the movements of the heavens’ ( fan shu dang shun tian yi qiu he, bu ke wei fa yi gai tian 凡術當顺天以求合, 不可為法以改天) when he criticized those who suggested changes.  Operators of the Liu Ren 六壬Six Yang Waters Technique celestial chart have come to use the 24 fortnightly periods, i.e. the 24 sub-seasons positions of the sun along the ecliptic for the day when the calculation is performed, while retaining the ancient Counter-Jupiter cycle to determine the deity at the time. It is interesting from the point of view of the history of Chinese astronomy and history of the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique to naming of the year after imaginary positions of Counter-Jupiter by using the branches was already out of step with the calendar during the eleventh century.

In the second passage, according to nineteenth-century scholar Yu Zhengxie 俞正燮 as said in his Guisi leigao 癸巳類稿 which discussed at considerable length the 12 deities of the earthly branches as real deities such as Deng Ming 登明 Ascending Brightness , Tian Kui 天魁 Heaven Chief , Cong Kui 從魁 Follow Leader, Zhuang Song 傳送Spirit Bids farewell and so on. While others scholars, like the neo-Confucius, may regard the 12 deities of the earthly branches simply as different stages of qi. For those who are into its detailed description of the appearance and characteristics of each individual deity is provided in the Liu Ren Da Quan 六壬大全 ( Complete Book on Liu Ren ).

Take for example, the Dai Chong deity is said to have a long, blue and bearded face with a high brow, a tall and slender figure, to be rather cunning and unorthodox in his actions, to be originally a musician in ancient time, to have under his control inns for stagecoaches, horses, boats and carriages, and so forth. Also, there were neo-Confucius scholars, who thought of them merely as culturally-inclined terms to express the different stages of the qi in the heaven resulting from the movement of the sun along the ecliptic. In any case, it is to be noted that deities (shen 神) in the Chinese mindsets were less supernatural or divine than their counterparts in Western culture. They are not omnipotent, not omnipresent, and were fallible, without immunity from misconduct against their natural law and for which they would also pay for their consequences.

In the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique system of operation, the goal of the exercise was to locate the deity present on that very day so that further steps could be taken to contact and to receive messages from him, everything being carried out by calculations on the celestial chart. The Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique celestial chart comprise a heaven plate (tian pan 天盤) and an earth plate (di pan 地盤). The heaven plate rotates, while the earth plate remains stationary. The day on which the celestial chart are arranged and correspond against the fortnightly period in which it occurs to give the deity present, expressed in terms of its earthly branches.

In the third passage, there also mentioned there are 12 deity generals ( shen jiang 神将 ) in the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique ( system ), Strictly speaking, there are only 11 deity generals and headed by the Gui Ren 贵人 Nobleman Deity General. The five generals in front of Gui Ren 贵人 are Teng She 螣蛇 Flying Snake, Zhu Que 朱雀 Crimson Bird,Liu He 六合  Six Union , Gou Chen 勾陳 Angular Hook and Qing Long 青龍 Blue Dragon respectively. Depending on the deity generals elemental attribute considerations, Only Gui Ren贵人 Nobleman Deity General has nothing in opposition like the sun in the heaven that has none in opposition other than when the moon is in opposition giving rise to an eclipse, or a planet in opposition giving rise to retrogressive movement. Thus, there is nothing in opposition to Gui Ren 贵人 Nobleman Deity General, and the position of opposition is known as Tian Kong 天空 Heaven Void. ‘Void’ implies that there is a vacuum, or simply nothing is there and hence Tian Kong天空 Heaven Void cannot be a deity general. This is very similar to Yue Sha 月殺 Moon Affliction with its opposite aspect of Yue Kong 月空 Moon Void. Its implied predictions, whether auspicious or ominous, are all void, with exception when encountering of the sovereign nature is sought for the purpose of seeking redress for miscarriage of justice.

Furthermore, the use of hexagrams incorporated into it to explain astronomical/astrological terms reflects the profound influence of the symbolic numerology school in the eleventh-century Song China and justifies the inclusion of his observational insights of certain points concerning the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique in the Xiang Shu section of the Mengxi Bitan 夢溪筆談.

Other components in the Liu Ren Chart includes the Day & Night Nobleman, Four Prognostications ( Si Ke 四課 ), Three Messages ( San Chuan 三傳 ) and the their interlinking relationships. I will leave out this technical jargon explanation until an appropriate suitable time in the future so as to keep it simple for now. After Liu Ren Celestial chart is properly completed, next come the interpretations. They vary according to the questions asked and the skill of the interpreter/practitioner. The applications of Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique to meteorological forecasting and divination of human mundane matters would explain why it is one of the oldest divination/forecasting system of the three cosmic oracle , including Qi Men Dun Jia 奇門遁甲aka Mysterious Gates Escaping Technique and Tai Yi 太乙, has survived to the present day, although it is still known only “to a few good men”,  and why it was claimed that the Song Emperor Renzong took a special interest in this system of divination/forecasting technique.

It was in the prediction of mundane affairs that the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique distinguished itself. A much lesser known application of Liu Ren六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique that had made a cursory mentioned in the classical episode in the Sanguo Yanyi ( Romance of the Three Kingdoms ) tells the following story about the Legendary Military Advisor/Strategist Zhuge Liang aka Kong Ming aka Sleeping Giant applying the Liu Ren六壬 Six Yang Waters method in order to know happenings in a remote battle before the arrival of the report:

Da Liu Ren Six Yang Waters Technique Heaven & Earth Plates

(Liu) Xuande 䉧玄德 ( i.e. Liu Bei 劉備 ) and Kong Ming 孔明 (i.e. Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮)are on the move together with their men and horses. At that time a green banner (suddenly) curls upside-down and a crow flies coming from the north towards the south, cawing three times before leaving. Riding on his horse, Kong Ming makes prognostications ( using his palms and fingers ) under his sleeves ( xiu zhan yi ke 袖占一課 ) and says, ‘the city of Changsha has fallen into our hands and also that we shall gain the service of a great warrior. The report will arrive after midday.’

The author of the novel, Luo Guanzhong 羅贯中, has not provided sufficient details to enable modern readers to comment further on the method of divination he refers to, but has told a fascinating story regarding the development of the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique of operation in warfare application. However, for those keen to dig deeper into this beautiful system and how it was applied in ancient times, one can refer to the relevant section of the military compendia, such as the last juan of Li Quan’s Taibai yinjing, Zeng Gongliang’s Wujing zongyao and Mao Yuanyi’s Wubeizhi. The military section Junzhangfu 軍帐赋 of the DaLiuRen Leiji in Gujin tushu jicheng gives the fullest information on the applications of Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique in time of war.

An example to illustrate will suffice for this brief discussion. On the report of an invasion one should observe the relation between the branches on which the Xuan Wu Sombre Warrior and the Bai Hu White Tiger ride and the branch of the day. If the former subjugates the latter the enemy is strong, indicating that urgent actions for defence are needed. If the branch of the day subjugates the branch on which either the Xuan Wu Sombre Warrior or the Bai Hu White Tiger rides, then the enemy will defeated.

The above illustrated story about Zhuge Liang gaining knowledge while riding on a horse and about an event that had taken at a remote location brings out one great advantage of the Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique amazing attributes. In one respect, the earth plate and the heaven plate of the Liu Ren六壬 Six Yang Waters method were far more portable and much more inexpensive relatively in this modern day technology-enabled gadgets. The proficient Liu Ren 六壬 Six Yang Waters Technique practitioner could simply use his own palms and fingers as the two earth-heaven plates. The divination can be literally performed with fingers hidden inside one's sleeves. Chinese novels and period dramas abound with mentions of Xiu Zhong Yi Ke ( a divination done under the sleeves ) regards how humanly "immortal" one can get news of happenings in distant places and seek foreknowledge of coming events. Thus, a good mastery of such amazing Liu Ren 六壬system of forecasting/divination skills certainly fulfills the prophecy of being forewarned, is to allow preparation in advance for any circumstances in the horizon. Besides, one could even trace back to the past with amazing accuracy as well.

In addition, Liu Ren 六壬Six Yang Waters system can be used to read someone life analysis, alternatively labelled as Four Pillars of Destiny, Bazi Analysis, Life Trends DNA Analysis or other "old wine in new bottle" naming labels.

Ultimately, mastering Divination/Forecasting skills are very useful not just for daily mundane matters but also help one to develop a strategic compass to guide one to gain the high grounds despite encountering challenging circumstances/situations and consistently enhance one’s chances of achieving greater rewarding results and favourable outcome.

Garrett Lee, Founder


1 Da Liu Ren aka Six Yang Waters
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