Note that the five elements are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device for systems with 5 stages; hence the preferred translation of "Phase" over "Element".
The elements are:
The system of five phases was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. It was employed as a device in many fields of early Chinese thought, including seemingly disparate fields such as geomancy or Feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy and martial arts.
Traditional Taijiquan schools relate them to footwork and refer to them as five "steps". The system is still used as a reference in some forms of complementary and alternative medicine and martial arts. Some claim the original foundation of these are the concept of the Five Cardinal Points.
The common memory jogs, which help to remind in what order the phases are, are:
Other common words for this cycle include "begets", "engenders" and "mothers." two cycles of balance is yin and yang this generates energy for the elements to take power to good or evil
This cycle might also be called "controls", "restrains" or "fathers".
There are also two Cycles of Imbalance, an overacting cycle (cheng) and an insulting cycle (wu).
Based on a particular directional energy flow from one element to the next, the interaction can be expansive, destructive, or exhaustive. With proper knowledge of such aspect of energy flow will enable the Feng Shui practitioner to apply certain cures or rearrangement of energy in a way they believe to be beneficial.
|Direction||east||south||center / zenith||west||north|
|Heavenly creature|| Azure Dragon|
蒼龍 or 青龍
| Vermilion Bird|
| Yellow Dragon or Yellow Qilin|
黃龍 or 黃麟
| White Tiger|
| Black Tortoise|
|Heavenly Stems||甲, 乙||丙, 丁||戊, 己||庚, 辛||壬, 癸|
|Phase||New Yang||Full Yang||Yin/Yang balance||New Yin||Full Yin|
|Season||Spring||Summer|| Change of seasons|
(Every third month)
|Trigrams||☰ 乾 qián||☷ 坤 kūn||☳ 震 zhèn||☴ 巽 xùn||☵ 坎 kǎn||☲ 離 lí||☶ 艮 gèn||☱ 兌 duì|
The interdependence of organ networks in the body was noted to be a circle of five things, and so mapped by the Chinese doctors onto the five phases. For instance, the Liver (Wood phase) is said to be the "mother" of the heart (Fire phase), and the Kidneys (Water phase) the mother of the Liver. The key observation was things like kidney deficiency affecting the function of the liver. In this case, the "mother" is weak, and cannot support the child. However, the Kidneys control the heart along the Ke cycle, so the Kidneys are said to restrain the heart. Many of these interactions can nowadays be linked to known physiological pathways (such as Kidney pH affecting heart activity).
The key thing to keep in mind with the Chinese medical application of the five elements is that it is only a model, and it is known to have exceptions. However, in general the device seems to be useful for arriving at good clinical results, so they were kept by the critically thinking Chinese medical doctors and researchers since they were first introduced.
The citation order of the Five Phases, i.e., the order in which they are cited in the Bo Hu Tong and other Han dynasty texts, is Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth. The organs are most effectively treated, according to theory, in the following four-hour periods throughout the day, beginning with the 3 a.m. to 7 a. m. period: Metal organs (see the list below), Earth organs, Fire1 organs, Water organs, Fire2 (the "non-empirical" Pericardium and Triple Burner organs), and Wood organs, which is the reverse of the citation order (plus an extra use of Fire and the non-empirical organs to take care of the sixth four-hour period of the day). These two orders are further related to the sequence of the planets going outward from the sun (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, or Water, Metal, Fire, Wood, and Earth) by a star diagram similar to the one shown above.
|Negative Emotion||anger, frustration||over-excitation||worry, anxiety||grief, sadness||fear, lack of will|
|Zang (yin organs)||liver||heart/pericardium||spleen/pancreas||lung||kidney|
|Fu (yang organs)||gall bladder||small intestine/San Jiao||stomach||large intestine||urinary bladder|
|Finger||index finger||middle finger||thumb||ring finger||little finger|
|Heavenly Stem|| Jia 甲 |
| Bing 丙 |
| Wu 戊 |
| Geng 庚 |
| Ren 壬 |
|Birth year ends with||4, 5||6, 7||8, 9||0, 1||2, 3|
For example, assume someone is born in the year 1953, the year of the Snake. Because her birth year ends with 3, her element is Water; therefore, she was born in the year of the Water Snake.
|The Chinese Five-note Scale||jué 角 (mi)||zhǐ 徵 (so)||gōng 宮 (do)||shāng 商 (re)||yǔ 羽 (la)|
|Wood||Crushing||崩||Bēng||To collapse, as a building collapsing in on itself.|
|Fire||Pounding||炮||Pào||Exploding outward like a cannon while blocking.|
|Earth||Crossing||橫||Héng||Crossing across the line of attack while turning over.|
|Metal||Splitting||劈||Pī||To split like an axe chopping up and over.|
|Water||Drilling||鑽||Zuān||Drilling forward horizontally like a geyser.|