How The Music Of Na Yin Elements Work

Learners of feng shui would often come across the na yin elements (納音五行) when they attempt to step into more intermediate and advanced applications.

And it can really send someone into a whirlwind because the elements that are represented by heavenly stems paired with earthly branches can go against everything that was learned before.

How does 2 characters such as jia and chen pair up to create fire when they are both not of the fire element? How are they derived? And what’s the use of it?

Na yin application is mostly used in certain forms of feng shui, especially sanhe feng shui, yin feng shui that deals with tombs, in bazi assessment, and especially in divination, manifestation and spirituality.

It actually takes the practice of Chinese metaphysics into the philosophical and spiritual realm where things are not as clear cut as 1+2=3. The absence of definitive reasoning is why most beginners will not be able to understand and apply na yin into their feng shui comprehension.

And to realize that na yin concepts are heavily structured based on music and melody can make learning it even more intimidating.

In terms of application, if you only want the bottom line, then the nayin table should be sufficient. But if you want to understand the mechanics of how it works, read on.

Music has long been held in the highest regard in society. There’s a reason why every country has a national anthem, drum beats echo throughout the battle zone in ancient times, and that soft music at the spa totally enhances the overall experience. It’s because music can change the state of mind.

And since everything is made up of energy, it was believed that music is a structure of energy that is linked to a higher power.

Classical Chinese music comprise of 5 notes that were given the representation of elements. Namely:

  • 宫 Gong for earth
  • 商 Shang for metal
  • 角 Jiao for wood
  • 徵 Zhi for fire
  • 羽 Yu for water

As there are 12 heptatonic scales and 5 pentatonic notes each, together it comprise of 60 melodic tones.

The 12 scales are 黃鐘, 大呂, 太簇, 夹钟, 姑洗, 仲呂, 蘿賓, 林鐘, 夷则, 南呂, 無射, 应钟.

When we see that the jiazi sexagenary cycle consist of 60 characters, it’s easy to see why merging the two into one makes sense. It’s would be like listening to classical music with a pop music beat.

Jiazi can be invoked with music by matching each jiazi pair with one of the tones (五音).

The 60 tones are grouped into 30 pairs, and the jiazi is grouped into 30 pairs each consisting of 1 yin and 1 yang. Each pair assigned with an element derived in a rule based sequence.

Because jiazi is deeply associated with time, na yin also serves as a meter that measures the quality of Qi throughout a year. Thus, it also has applications in date selection.

Workings of na yin elements

At the basic fundamental level, learners are always taught that the 5 elements flow in a particular order of wood, fire, earth, metal, water.

This is not the case when we are talking about nayin. Which is another big reason why beginners can find it hard to grasp.

The order of elements in na yin is metal, fire, wood, water, earth. This is neither the sequence abided by the cycle of birth or cycle of destruction.

The reasoning of this sequence is more philosophical.

Have you heard about virtuous elements in bazi when fire can actually be good for metal? This is when fire is viewed as the element required to forge raw metal into something useful like a tool or sword.

The sequence of elements is somewhat based around this concept.

The next thing to take note of is that the sequence of heavenly stems and earthly branches also do not follow their natural sequence. As if they are mixed about to create another beautiful melody of scores.

The meticulous mechanics behind na yin’s sequence is too complex to be explained in plain English. To elaborate this well, one would need to have sound knowledge in the academic aspects of music too. For instance, I can’t even be 100% sure that the variables I’ve talked about so far are rightly called scales, notes, tones, tunes, etc. It’s because I’m not an educator of music.

But the gist of it is that when 2 stems are of the same element (e.g. 甲 and 乙 are wood) they share a similar nayin element.

The 30 pairs start with jiazi (甲子) and is naturally followed by yichou (乙丑). Remember that the sequence of elements start with metal. So these 2 pairs of pairs are of metal element.

If we follow the flow of sequencing of the first 2 pairs of pairs, the next pair of characters would instinctively be bingyin (丙寅). But this not the case here.

The rule is that the characters should be 8 characters forward. Which leads us to renshen (壬申). There is actually a musical explanation for this. But I’m not a musician and will stay out of explaining this one. What follows 壬申 is guiyou (癸酉). This is the next 2 pairs of pairs.

The next pair would be 8 characters forward arriving at gengchen (庚辰) and xinsi (辛巳).

Remember that there are 60 pairs of characters and are grouped into 30 pairs of pairs. With 5 elements that take up 2 phases each, each phase would comprise of 3 pairs of pairs, making up the number 30.

Another reasoning for 3 pairs of pairs for each phase is that every phase would consist of the sequence of characters 子/午, 申/寅, 辰/戌 in the 3 pairs of pairs in a harmonic way. Thus completing 1 mini-cycle.

So the first 3 pairs of pairs are 甲子乙丑 followed by 壬申癸酉, then 庚辰辛巳. The pairs would all be of metal element.

The same sequencing methodology can then be applied to generate the subsequent pairs. The next 3 pairs of pairs would be fire element, and so on.

This goes on until the 30th pair (15th pair of pairs). And then the second macro sequence starts with jiawu (甲午). And the methodology of sequencing restarts until the 60th pair (30th pair of pairs).

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The resulting data tabulated is illustrated here.

If this na yin table seem different from what you have seen before, it’s most probably because these days the na yin elements are presented in the jiazi table for better comprehension by learners. After all, as mentioned earlier, the most critical part of using na yin principles is to know the elements.

See na yin in jiazi table here.

One should be able to observe that na yin elements don’t just state the essence of the element but also indicate the state and characteristics of it.

For example, wood is not just wood. But identified as pine wood, willow wood, etc. And water can be ocean water, well water, etc. So a reader applying na yin must be able to make sense of what all these subtle yet profound characteristics mean.

On a side note, one might now realize that there was a reason why the great sages, scholars and thinkers in ancient times venerate the zither. They don’t play it just for a dose of sentimental music when feeling down or secretly dream about composing a hit single that would go triple-platinum. They are actually calling on the elements to manipulate the environment and seek divination with na yin.

If you feel that you are a gifted outlier and might just be able to grasp the mechanics and dynamics of na yin like a fish to water, then start off by reading 協紀辨方書 and 三命通會.

To close this discussion, it’s worth repeating that na yin is used when it is deemed that a more philosophical or spiritual approach of metaphysics is necessary. This depends on various factors like the school of thought, the intent, the circumstances, etc.

It is not something that you absolutely need to incorporate in order to practice feng shui or decipher bazi, even at the advanced level. But you will naturally seek it to “level up” when you are ready.

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