Five Elements

Five Elements, a philosophical thought created by the Chinese nation, is widely used in philosophy, traditional Chinese medicine, astrology and divination. The Five-element Theory is an important part of Chinese civilization. Ancient Chinese people believed that everything in the world was composed of five elements, namely metal, wood, water, fire and earth which are inter-promoting and inter-restricting. The Five-element Theory essentially refers to the motion and variation of the five substances.

Mutual Promotion and Restraint of Five Elements

Mutual promotion means the mutual help and generation between two things with different properties. To be specific, wood generates fire, fire generates earth, earth generates metal, metal generates water, and water generates wood. Mutual restraint is opposite to mutual promotion and it means the inter-restriction of two things with different properties. To be specific, wood restricts earth, earth restricts water, water restricts fire, fire restricts metal, and metal restricts wood.
1.    Mutual Generation Cycle
Wood generates fire because wood is warm and fire hides inside; fire can be made by drilling wood;
Fire generates earth because fire is hot and burns wood into ash which is also earth;
Earth generates metal because metal is hidden in stone and attached to mountains while earth gathers together to form mountains which contain stone;
Metal generates water because it is warm and depends on water while forging metal looks like water;
Water generates wood because water cultivates trees.

2.    Mutual Restriction Cycle
Metal restricts wood because the cutting tools made of metal can cut trees (no vegetation on mineral land);
Wood restricts earth because roots replenish themselves by absorbing nutrients from the soil and earth will be weakened if not replenished;
Earth restricts water because it is waterproof (when the flood approaches bank up to keep it out);
Water restricts fire because fire goes out when meeting water;
Fire restricts metal because fire melts metal.

Five Elements and Ten Heavenly Stems, Colors and Mythical Animals

Five Elements Yang Yin Mythical Animals Colors
Wood Jia Yi Qinglong Green, Cyan, Emerald Viridis
Fire Bing Ding Zhuque Red, Purple
Earth Wu Ji Huanglin Yellow, Brown
Metal Geng Xin Baihu White, Golden, Silver
Water Ren Gui Xuanwu Black, Blue, Grey

Five Elements and Directions, Virtues, Precepts and Emotions

Five Elements Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Five Directions East South Center West North
Five Virtues Benevolence, Charity, and Humanity Correct behavior, Politeness Faithfulness and integrity Honesty and uprightness Knowledge
Five Precepts Killing living beings Sexual misconduct Lying Stealing Intoxication
Five Emotions Anger Joy Worry Greif Fear

Five Elements and Earthly Branches

1. Three Harmonies (San He 三合) and Five Elements
1. Zi (Rat), Chen (Dragon), Shen (Monkey) forms Water;
2. Chou (Ox), Si (Snake), You (Rooster) forms Metal;
3. Yin (Tiger), Wu (Horse), Xu (Dog) forms Fire;
4. Mao (Rabbit), Wei (Sheep), Hai (Pig) forms Wood

2. Six Harmonie(Liu He 六合) and Five Elements
1. Zi (Rat) and Chou (Ox) are combined into Earth;
2. Yin (Tiger) and Hai (Pig) are combined into Wood;
3. Mao (Rabbit) and Xu (Dog) are combined into Fire;
4. Chen (Dragon) and You (Rooster) are combined into Metal;
5. Si (Snake) and Shen (Monkey) are combined into Water;
6. Wu (Horse) and Wei (Sheep) are combined into Metal
3. Earthly Branches and Five Elements and Direction
Earthly Branches
(Zodiac)
Yin/Yang Five Elements Direction
Zi (Rat) Yang Water North
Chou (Ox) Yin Earth Center
Yin (Tiger) Yang Wood East
Mao (Rabbit) Yin Wood East
Chen (Dragon) Yang Earth Center
Si (Snake) Yin Fire South
Wu (Horse) Yang Fire South
Wei (Sheep) Yin Earth Center
Shen (Monkey) Yang Metal West
You (Rooster) Yin Metal West
Xu (Dog) Yang Earth Center
Hai (Pig) Yin Water North

Five Elements and Body

Metal – Skin, Nose, Lung, Large Intestine,
Wood – Tendons, Eyes, Liver, Gall Bladder
Water- Bones, Ears, Kidney, Urinary Bladder
Fire - Blood Vessels, Tongue, Heart, Small Intestine
Earth – Muscles, Mouth, Spleen, Stomach

Four Seasons & Five Elements

Five Elements refer to the five ways in which air moves. Ancient Chinese people believed that a year could be divided into five seasons corresponding to five elements:

Spring (Yin, Mao, Shen Month) belongs to wood and represents the ways air moves in all directions. In Spring, flowers and trees flourish, and their branches extend all round while nourishment is sent to the branches, so spring belongs to wood.

Summer (Si, Wu, Wei, Month) belongs to fire and represents the upward movement of air. Fire is upward and all plants grow fast in summer, so summer belongs to fire.

Later Summer, a transitional period between summer and autumn, is damp and hot. During this period, crops are maturing, so it belongs to earth.

Autumn (Shen, You, Xu Month) belongs to metal and represents the inward movement of air. Metal is stable while autumn means harvest; people save food for winter and leaves fall in this season, so autumn belongs to metal.

Winter (Hai, Zi, Chou Month) belongs to water and represents the downward movement of air. Water flows downhill and all things hibernate in winter to save up nutriment for spring. Therefore, winter belongs to water.

Property and Personality of Five Elements

Wood represents benevolence. It is straight, mild and green. People rich in wood are beautiful, slim and sharp-toothed, featuring pretty hair and offwhite complexion; they are compassionate, benevolent, amiable, easygoing, self-contained, generous and plain. People lacking of wood are tall, thin, intolerant, jealous, not benevolent and loose in hair.

Fire represents courtesy. It is hot-tempered, polite and red. People rich in fire feature small head, long feet, thick eyebrows and small ears; they are vigorous, courteous, respectful, plain yet short-tempered. People lacking of fire, with yellowish faces, are absurd, cunning, and jealous and they tend to begin well but end badly.

Earth represents trust. It is heavy, thick and earthy yellow. People rich in earth feature thick waist, big nose, bright eyes, graceful eyebrows and loud voice; they are filial, sincere, generous and decisive. People with too much earth are rigid, stupid, clumsy, introverted and quiet while those in lack of earth are vicious, grumpy, disloyal and unreasonable, featuring low nose and flat face.

Metal represents righteousness. It is firm and white. People rich in metal feature square and white face, high eyebrows, deep eyes, good health and spirit; they are resolute, decisive, generous in aiding needy people and have a sense of shame. Those with too much metal are greedy, heartless have valor but lack strategy while those in lack of metal are thin, sharp-tongued, lascivious, bloody, mean and greedy.

Water represents wisdom. It is kind, smart and black. People rich in water feature blackish complexion, polite speech and deep consideration; they are resourceful and excel others in knowledge. Those with too much water carry tales and are greedy and lustful while those in lack of water are short, moody, timid and foolhardy, and change frequently.