Of the 3 rites of Chinese divination, Da Liu Ren (大六壬) unequivocally stands out as the highest level of divination studies.
It is used by practitioners to seek divine answers and guidance on all levels of life aspects, even in military applications. The latter however is mostly in the domain of dunjia.
The name 大六壬 literally translates to big 6 yang water technique as ren is essentially the yang water heavenly stem. Some people refer to it as big 6 ren days with reference to how it works in date and time selection, and that there are 6 ren days in the jiazi.
It is also often called Liu Ren (6R) in short.
Various classical text have referenced the study of Da Liu Ren (D6R) and the application of it in history, including for the purposes of weather forecast. Among ancient recorded history, it also shows that there were countless debates and discussions about this divination art at the highest level of imperial China.
Even the famed military strategist Zhuge Liang who essentially made Qimen Dunjia famous to modern learners used liuren for things ranging from the mundane to the spiritual.
This system is heavily influenced by the accuracy of celestial observations triggered by events on the mortal world.
It is therefore very frequently used to predict outcomes of certain events based on the observation of good or bad omens. This is rather similar to how the plum blossoms technique is used.
Among the various works on liuren, one of the most famous was that of Shen Kuo (沈括) who provided extensive commentary in the dream pool essays.
Fundamentals of Da Liu Ren (大六壬)
The cosmic natal chart of liuren consist of a stationary earth board and a rotating heaven board centered on the 24 fortnightly periods and tai sui dating.
The main board itself is drawn with a sixteen square grid, with the outer 12 squares taking on characteristics while the inner 4 square being empty. It somewhat resembles that of zi wei dou shu. This also implies that one can also use the palm as a quick access to liuren applications.
While the earth board is stationary, the position of earthly branches are not set in stone. Their positions depends on the asker choosing one of the 12 branches (十二辰) spontaneously, which effects which branch to start with in a sequential order.
Ancient practice of this stage of selection is done with a set of date tree branches that have been struck down by lightning. The reasoning is that having been struck by lightning, these branches have had direct contact with the cosmic energies of the heavens. And the date fruit itself (jujube) carries significant symbolism in Chinese culture. Using them for divination provides the linkage to the divine powers that can offer answers to difficult questions.
On the heaven board we find the 12 deities (天十二神) that can be represented by branches as follows:
- Zi, Shen hou (神后)
- Chou, Da ji (大吉)
- Yin, Gong cao (功曹)
- Mao, Da chong (大衝)
- Chen, Tian gang (天罡)
- Si, Tai yi (太乙)
- Wu, Sheng guang (勝光)
- Wei, Xiao ji (小吉)
- Shen, Chuan song (傳送)
- You, Cong kui (從魁)
- Xu, He kui (河魁)
- Hai, Deng ming (登明)
*A point of interest is taiyi which is embedded within these branches. This can come into play when one is divining with taiyi shenshu among the 3 rites.
The heaven board also consist of 12 godly generals (十二神將) whose positions are determined by the time in which the question(s) is asked.
The 12 godly generals consist of:
- Gui ren (贵人)
- Teng she (螣蛇)
- Zhu que (朱雀)
- Liu he (六合)
- Gou zhen (勾陳)
- Qing long (青龍)
- Tian hou (天后)
- Tai yin (太陰)
- Zhen wu (真武)
- Tai chang (太常)
- Bai hu (白虎)
- Tian kong (天空)
They are conceptually led by guiren, with the next 5 positioned on the left of guiren, and the next 5 on the right. Tiankong which rounds up the 12 is positioned opposite guiren.
This makes the determination of the noble one (guiren) position gravely material in the analysis of a natal chart for interpretation.
It’s position is determined by factors referenced from the earth board in tandem with the double-hour marker. While there is formula to this process, practitioners can still refer to tables that quickly pinpoint guiren’s position, and it’s followers.
Manually calculating it’s position involves the assessment of day or night orders and clockwise or anti-clockwise rotations.
With the earth and heaven board completed, the next step is a process of 4 classes (四課), or 4 prognostications. This is done by erecting the day stem and branch that coincides with the jiazi. Computation involves the interchanging reference of both the heaven and earth boards.
This process helps to insert the 4 classes into the liuren board.
After which, a diviner moves on to calling on the 3 messages (三傳), or 3 transmissions. The 3 messages consist of chu chuan (初傳), zhong chuan (中傳) and mo chuan (末傳).
These messages are erected based on information generated from the 4 classes. There are a total of 720 possible combinations of classes and messages which can also be found in reference books or compendiums.
It should be mentioned again that while there is a science to how all these variables of the D6R board are determined, these equations and formulas can take a back seat by just referring to tables that provide an overview of everything. The critical reference points are the date, monthly general and the hour in which the event occurred.
However, practitioners who seek to understand the inner workings of how liuren works should indeed get acquainted to the mathematics behind the tables and charts.
With the earth board, heaven board, 4 classes and 3 messages generated, the liuren chart would be ready for an expert to interpret. If you think that bazi, ziwei or qimen is challenging in dynamic interpretation, you have seen nothing yet. Analysis and interpretation in the liuren system will astound you.
Take note that the above explanation is an oversimplified description of liuren and does little justice to the intricacies rooted to the complex system. There are just so many variables, relationships, and special arrangements at play.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there might only be a handful of real masters of Da Liu Ren in the world today. And that number might even be an overestimation.
Usage of liuren
While there are few who have mastered the art, mastery is not necessary to apply liuren concepts into daily life. Just like one doesn’t need to be an expert in bazi to identify his 10 gods and apply them in real life.
There are micro concept within the system itself that practitioners of Chinese metaphysics regularly apply to everyday life.
These micro concepts include Xiao Liu Ren (小六壬), Zhong Liu Ren (中六壬), Jin Kou Jue (金口訣), etc. They can actually be practiced on their own without comprehension of liuren itself.
The beauty of liuren is that even though it has a complex background, the application can be quite portable using the palm of one hand as the earth board and the other hand as the heaven board.
This was cited in the romance of the 3 kingdoms novel when Zhuge Liang supposedly makes prognostications in his sleeves while riding on a horse to foresee the incoming of good news. While there was no direct reference to the liuren system here, it was the most obvious probability for those in-the-know.
Different Chinese divination systems tend to serve different types of situations. For example, Yi Jing is great for those arriving at a crossroad and cannot decide which route to go with. Tai yi is most appropriate for assessing big picture events that don’t directly impact a person, but the after effects would eventually trickle down to him. Qimen is obviously meant for military activities.
Liuren is most potent at dynamic impromptu readings where observed omens alerts a reader of what will happen or what has happened to an event linked to the asker.