To each of these STEM/BRANCH combinations (there are six altogether) are attached three Elements. Since there are five different Elements and the total number of occurrences in the chart is twelve, the Elements can never be equally represented. Ratings of two or three, however, are ideal, as an even proportion of the Five Elements indicates a well-balanced and fruitful life.
When there is a rating of two, it is usual for some other Element to have a very high, positive rating. Such imbalances can be countered, however, by striving to develop the recessive qualities of one's character. A rating of four shows where strengths lie, and where success is likely to be found. If a rating is above four, care must be taken not to allow this elemental quality to become overbearing. If not channelled correctly, this potential strength could turn into obsession, unyielding ambition or self-indulgence.
The varying importance of the twelve stages in life depends on the impact of Five Forces known as Fate, Seal, Official, Wealth, and Opportunity. The Four Pillars dictate which Forces are assigned to each of the stages.
Each Force reaches a zenith at different times in life (represented by the boxes on a "Life-Cycle Chart") but will actually have some effect on more than one of the twelve phases. To determine the relevance of these Forces, two factors must be considered:
The Fate determines the relative positions of the other four Forces and is thus the key to the Life-Cycle Chart. It indicates the moment when the direction of life is settled: a stroke of fortune, or a tragedy, the scale and nature of the change being indicated by the rating of the associated Element.
The Seal represents family and general happiness. At the end of life, it reveals a contented retirement without regrets. At the beginning, it compensates if other forces are weak; and, whenever it occurs, a strong Seal indicates good health and a happy family life.
The Wealth represents riches and material rewards. If it appears around the "Kuan Tai" Palace and its associated Element has a high rating, then the querent is destined to become rich (please get in touch with the author!!). If the Wealth appears at "Conception", this suggests a prosperous start rather than a life in which money will be earned. Alternatively, an individual whose wealth is indicated at "Burial" could be destined to make money without being able to enjoy the benefits.
Opportunity offers that unexpected chance which proverbially only knocks once. It differs from Fate in that is in no sense inevitable, but is entirely dependent on what is made of it. For this reason, it is obviously better for Opportunity to be present during early adulthood. If it appears in infancy, then this indicates the continuation of a strong family tradition; if at the end of life, the chance may be passed on to descendants.
The Official is a rather more abstruse concept, a legacy from the days when China was ruled by the Mandarins and promotion to office depended on the 'Official' examinations. Today, however, it can be taken to meaning all things to do with public office, closely linked with success in examinations, or other 'establishment' spheres, such as politics. Coming at the zenith of the Life-Cycle, at the age of twenty-one, it indicates the promise of a particularly successful career. In infancy, it reveals a natural talent; or at the close of life, the promise of public recognition, or even honours.