Wu Xing
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Wu Xing
Diagram of the interactions between the wuxing. The "generative" cycle is illustrated by grey arrows running clockwise on the outside of the circle, while the "destructive" or "conquering" cycle is represented by red arrows inside the circle.
Tablet in the Temple of Heaven of Beijing, written in Chinese and Manchu, dedicated to the gods of the Five Movements. The Manchu word usiha, meaning "star", explains that this tablet is dedicated to the five planets: Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury and the movements which they govern.

The wuxing (Chinese: ; pinyin: w?xíng), also known as the Five Elements, Five Agents, Five Movements, Five Phases, Five Planets,[1]Five Processes, Five Stages, Five Steps, or Five Ways, is the short form of "w? zh?ng liúxíng zh? qì" () or "the five types of chi dominating at different times".[2] It is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicinal drugs. The "Five Phases" are Wood (? ), Fire (? hu?), Earth (? t?), Metal (? j?n), and Water (? shu?). This order of presentation is known as the "mutual generation" ( xi?ngsh?ng) sequence. In the order of "mutual overcoming" (/ xi?ngkè), they are Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal.[3][4][5]

The system of five phases was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. After it came to maturity in the second or first century BCE during the Han dynasty, this device was employed 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. The system is still used as a reference in some forms of complementary and alternative medicine and martial arts.

Names

Xing (?) of wuxing means moving; a planet is called a 'moving star' () in Chinese. Wu Xing (??) originally refers to the five major planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Mars, Venus) that create five dimensions of earth life.[1]Wuxing is also widely translated as "Five Elements" and this is used extensively by many including practitioners of Five Element acupuncture. This translation arose by false analogy with the Western system of the four elements.[6] Whereas the classical Greek elements were concerned with substances or natural qualities, the Chinese xíng are "primarily concerned with process and change," hence the common translation as "phases" or "agents".[7] By the same token, is thought of as "Tree" rather than "Wood".[8] The word 'element' is thus used within the context of Chinese medicine with a different meaning to its usual meaning.

It should be recognized that the word phase, although commonly preferred, is not perfect. Phase is a better translation for the five seasons ( W? Yùn) mentioned below, and so agents or processes might be preferred for the primary term xíng. Manfred Porkert attempts to resolve this by using Evolutive Phase for W? Xíng and Circuit Phase for W? Yùn, but these terms are unwieldy.

Some of the Mawangdui Silk Texts (no later than 168 BC) also present the wuxing as "five virtues" or types of activities.[9] Within Chinese medicine texts the wuxing are also referred to as Wu Yun (??}}; w? yùn) or a combination of the two characters (Wu Xing-Yun) these emphasise the correspondence of five elements to five 'seasons' (four seasons plus one). Another tradition refers to the W? Xíng as W? Dé (), the Five Virtues [zh].

The phases

The five phases are around 72 days each and are usually used to describe the state in nature:

  • Wood/Spring: a period of growth, which generates abundant wood and vitality
  • Fire/Summer: a period of swelling, flowering, brimming with fire and energy
  • Earth: the in-between transitional seasonal periods, or a separate 'season' known as Late Summer or Long Summer - in the latter case associated with leveling and dampening (moderation) and fruition
  • Metal/Autumn: a period of harvesting and collecting
  • Water/Winter: a period of retreat, where stillness and storage pervades

Cycles

The doctrine of five phases describes two cycles, a generating or creation (?, sh?ng) cycle, also known as "mother-son", and an overcoming or destruction (?/?, ) cycle, also known as "grandfather-grandson", of interactions between the phases. Within Chinese medicine the effects of these two main relations are further elaborated:

  • Inter-promoting (sh?ng cycle, mother/son)
  • Interacting (grandmother/grandson)
  • Overacting ( cycle, grandfather/grandson)
  • Counteracting (reverse )

Generating

The common memory jogs, which help to remind in what order the phases are:

  • Wood feeds Fire
  • Fire creates Earth (ash)
  • Earth bears Metal
  • Metal collects Water
  • Water nourishes Wood

Other common words for this cycle include "begets", "engenders" and "mothers".

Overcoming

  • Wood parts Earth (such as roots or trees can prevent soil erosion)
  • Earth dams (or muddies or absorbs) Water
  • Water extinguishes Fire
  • Fire melts Metal
  • Metal chops Wood

This cycle might also be called "controls", "restrains" or "fathers".

Cosmology and feng shui

Another illustration of the cycle.

According to wuxing theory, the structure of the cosmos mirrors the five phases. Each phase has a complex series of associations with different aspects of nature, as can be seen in the following table. In the ancient Chinese form of geomancy, known as Feng Shui, practitioners all based their art and system on the five phases (wuxing). All of these phases are represented within the trigrams. Associated with these phases are colors, seasons and shapes; all of which are interacting with each other.[10]

Based on a particular directional energy flow from one phase to the next, the interaction can be expansive, destructive, or exhaustive. A proper knowledge of each 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 for the receiver of the Feng Shui Treatment.

Movement Metal Metal Fire Wood Wood Water Earth Earth
Trigram hanzi ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Trigram pinyin qián duì zhèn xùn k?n gèn k?n
Trigrams ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
I Ching Heaven Lake Fire Thunder Wind Water Mountain Field
Planet (Celestial Body) Neptune Venus Mars Jupiter Pluto Mercury Uranus Saturn
Color Indigo White Crimson Green Scarlet Black Purple Yellow
Day Friday Friday Tuesday Thursday Thursday Wednesday Saturday Saturday
Season Autumn Autumn Summer Spring Spring Winter Intermediate Intermediate
Cardinal direction West West South East East North Center Center

Dynastic transitions

According to the Warring States period political philosopher Zou Yan (c. 305-240 BCE), each of the five elements possesses a personified "virtue" (de ?), which indicates the foreordained destiny (yun ?) of a dynasty; accordingly, the cyclic succession of the elements also indicates dynastic transitions. Zou Yan claims that the Mandate of Heaven sanctions the legitimacy of a dynasty by sending self-manifesting auspicious signs in the ritual color (yellow, blue, white, red, and black) that matches the element of the new dynasty (Earth, Wood, Metal, Fire, and Water). From the Qin dynasty onward, most Chinese dynasties invoked the theory of the Five Elements to legitimize their reign.[11]

Chinese medicine

Five Chinese Elements - Diurnal Cycle

The interdependence of zang-fu networks in the body was said to be a circle of five things, and so mapped by the Chinese doctors onto the five phases.[12][13]

Celestial stem

Movement Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Heavenly Stem Jia ?
Yi ?
Bing ?
Ding ?
Wu ?
Ji ?
Geng ?
Xin ?
Ren ?
Gui ?
Year ends with 4, 5 6, 7 8, 9 0, 1 2, 3

Ming neiyin

In Ziwei, neiyin () or the method of divination is the further classification of the Five Elements into 60 ming (?), or life orders, based on the ganzhi. Similar to the astrology zodiac, the ming is used by fortune-tellers to analyse a person's personality and future fate.

Order Ganzhi Ming Order Ganzhi Ming Element
1 Jia Zi Sea metal 31 Jia Wu Sand metal Metal
2 Yi Chou 32 Yi Wei
3 Bing Yin Furnace fire 33 Bing Shen Forest fire Fire
4 Ding Mao 34 Ding You
5 Wu Chen Forest wood 35 Wu Xu Meadow wood Wood
6 Ji Si 36 Ji Hai
7 Geng Wu Road earth 37 Geng Zi Adobe earth Earth
8 Xin Wei 38 Xin Chou
9 Ren Shen Sword metal 39 Ren Yin Precious metal Metal
10 Gui You 40 Gui Mao
11 Jia Xu Volcanic fire 41 Jia Chen Lamp fire Fire
12 Yi Hai 42 Yi Si
13 Bing Zi Cave water 43 Bing Wu Sky water Water
14 Ding Chou 44 Ding Wei
15 Wu Yin Fortress earth 45 Wu Shen Highway earth Earth
16 Ji Mao 46 Ji You
17 Geng Chen Wax metal 47 Geng Xu Jewellery metal Metal
18 Xin Si 48 Xin Hai
19 Ren Wu Willow wood 49 Ren Zi Mulberry wood Wood
20 Gui Wei 50 Gui Chou
21 Jia Shen Stream water 51 Jia Yin Rapids water Water
22 Yi You 52 Yi Mao
23 Bing Xu Roof tiles earth 53 Bing Chen Desert earth Earth
24 Ding Hai 54 Ding Si
25 Wu Zi Lightning fire 55 Wu Wu Sun fire Fire
26 Ji Chou 56 Ji Wei
27 Geng Yin Conifer wood 57 Geng Shen Pomegranate wood Wood
28 Xin Mao 58 Xin You
29 Ren Chen River water 59 Ren Xu Ocean water Water
30 Gui Si 60 Gui Hai

Music

The Yuèlìng chapter () of the L?jì () and the Huáinánz? () make the following correlations:

Movement Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Colour Green Red Yellow White Black
Arctic Direction east south center west north
Basic Pentatonic Scale pitch ? ? ? ? ?
Basic Pentatonic Scale pitch pinyin jué zh? g?ng sh?ng y?
solfege mi or E sol or G do or C re or D la or A
  • The Chinese word ? q?ng, has many meanings, including green, azure, cyan, and black. It refers to green in wuxing.
  • In most modern music, various five note or seven note scales (e.g., the major scale) are defined by selecting five or seven frequencies from the set of twelve semi-tones in the Equal tempered tuning. The Chinese "l?" tuning is closest to the ancient Greek tuning of Pythagoras.

Martial arts

T'ai chi ch'uan uses the five elements to designate different directions, positions or footwork patterns. Either forward, backward, left, right and centre, or three steps forward (attack) and two steps back (retreat).[11]

The Five Steps ( w? bù):

  • Jìn bù (, in simplified characters ) Forward step
  • Tùi bù () Backward step
  • Z?o gù (, in simplified characters ) Left step
  • Yòu pàn () Right step
  • Zh?ng dìng () Central position, balance, equilibrium

Xingyiquan uses the five elements metaphorically to represent five different states of combat.

Movement Fist Chinese Pinyin Description
Metal Splitting ? P? To split like an axe chopping up and over
Water Drilling ? / ? Zu?n Drilling forward horizontally like a geyser
Wood Crushing ? B?ng To collapse, as a building collapsing in on itself
Fire Pounding ? Pào Exploding outward like a cannon while blocking
Earth Crossing ? / ? Héng Crossing across the line of attack while turning over

Tea ceremony

There are spring, summer, fall, and winter teas. The perennial tea ceremony includes four tea settings () and a tea master (). Each tea setting is arranged and stands for the four directions (North, South, East, and West). A vase of the seasons' flowers is put on the tea table. The tea settings are:

  • Earth, ? (Incense), yellow, center, up and down
  • Wood, (Spring Wind), green, east
  • Fire, (Summer Dew), red, south
  • Metal, (Fall Sounds), white, west
  • Water, (Winter Sunshine) black/blue, north

See also

Bibliography

  • Feng Youlan (Yu-lan Fung), A History of Chinese Philosophy, volume 2, p. 13
  • Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, volume 2, pp. 262-23
  • Maciocia, G. 2005, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, 2nd edn, Elsevier Ltd., London
  • Chen Yuan, "Legitimation Discourse and the Theory of the Five Elements in Imperial China," Journal of Song-Yuan Studies (2014): 325-364.

References

  1. ^ a b Dr Zai, J. Taoism and Science: Cosmology, Evolution, Morality, Health and more. Ultravisum, 2015.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-05-27. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Deng Yu; Zhu Shuanli; Xu Peng; Deng Hai (2000). "" [Characteristics and a New English Translation of Wu Xing and Yin-Yang]. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine. 20 (12): 937. Archived from the original on 2015-07-16.
  4. ^ Deng Yu et al; Fresh Translator of Zang Xiang Fractal five System,Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine; 1999
  5. ^ Deng Yu et al,TCM Fractal Sets ,Journal of Mathematical Medicine ,1999,12(3),264-265
  6. ^ Nathan Sivin (1995), "Science and Medicine in Chinese History," in his Science in Ancient China (Aldershot, England: Variorum), text VI, p. 179.
  7. ^ Nathan Sivin (1987), Traditional Medicine in Contemporary China (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, The University of Michigan) p. 73.
  8. ^ [Wood and Metal were often replaced with air]. Lecture Room, CCTV-10.
  9. ^ Nathan Sivin (1987), Traditional Medicine in Contemporary China, p. 72.
  10. ^ Chinese Five Elements Chart Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine Information on the Chinese Five Elements from Northern Shaolin Academy in Microsoft Excel 2003 Format
  11. ^ a b Chen, Yuan (2014). Legitimation Discourse and the Theory of the Five Elements in Imperial China. https://www.academia.edu/23276848/_Legitimation_Discourse_and_the_Theory_of_the_Five_Elements_in_Imperial_China._Journal_of_Song-Yuan_Studies_44_2014_325-364: Journal of Song-Yuan Studies.
  12. ^ "Traditional Chinese Medicine: In Depth". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Archived from the original on 4 April 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  13. ^ Hafner, Christopher. "The TCM Organ Systems (Zang Fu)". University of Minnesota. Archived from the original on 6 April 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ Eberhard, Wolfram (December 1965). "Chinese Regional Stereotypes". Asian Survey. University of California Press. 5 (12): 596-608. doi:10.2307/2642652. JSTOR 2642652.

External links


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