Chinese 5 Element Theory – Wu Xing
Chinese Five Elements Theory – Wu Xing (五行) Explained
The Chinese five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Wood comes first, water comes last with earth in the middle. In Chinese five element theory the relationships between the five Chinese elements forms four dynamic cycles:
- Creative cycle (also known as generating cycle or productive cycle) follow the arrows clockwise around the outside:
Each element is the mother of the following element and the son of the preceding element. Wood feeds fire, fire creates (ash) earth, earth produces metal, metal collects (condensation) water and water nourishes wood completing the cycle.
- Weakening cycle (also known as exhaustive cycle) counter-clockwise around the outside:
The opposite of the creative cycle. For example; when metal ore is removed from the earth it becomes exhausted.
- Destructive cycle (also known as overcoming cycle or control cycle) follow the straight lines:
Each element exerts control to suppress or inhibit the following element. For example; wood takes nutrients from earth, earth can stop the flow of water, water can overcome fire, fire can melt metal and a metal (axe) can split wood.
- Suppression cycle (also known as insults cycle or counter-acting cycle) backwards around the straight lines:
If the acted-upon element is too strong, or the acting element is too weak, the cycle can temporarily reverse. For example; if there’s not enough water to put out a fire the water is vaporized and the fire continues. However, if the flow of water is too strong it could overcome its river banks and flow freely.
Chinese five element theory chart created by ADDucation and released under the Creative Commons Zero license. No credit required but always appreciated.
The Chinese five elements (also known as five phases and five elementals) influence every aspect of daily life in Chinese culture. From setting up home (feng shui) to cooking healthy Chinese food. Entertaining guests (tea ceremonies), listening to music, health (Chinese medicine) and relaxation (tai chi and other martial arts). Making decisions (Chinese astrology) through philosophy, spirituality and religion (Chinese cosmology).
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- This list of was compiled by Joe Connor, last updated 08 Aug 2020.
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