The wuxing (Chinese: ; pinyin: ), also known as the Five Elements, Five Agents, Five Movements, Five Phases, Five Planets,Five Processes, Five Stages, Five Steps, or Five Ways, Five Virtues is the short form of "w? zh?ng liúxíng zh? qì" () or "the five types of chi dominating at different times". 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 Fire (? hu?), Water (? shu?), Wood (? mù), Metal (? j?n), and Earth (? t?). This order of presentation is known as the "Days of the Week" sequence. In the order of "mutual generation" ( xi?ngsh?ng), they are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. In the order of "mutual overcoming" (/ xi?ngkè), they are Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal.
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 Yi jing divination, alchemy, feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy, and martial arts.
Xíng (?) of w?xíng () means moving; a planet is called a 'moving star' ( xíngx?ng) in Chinese. W?xíng originally refers to the five major planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Mars, Venus) that create five dimensions of earth life.W?xíng 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. 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". By the same token, Mù is thought of as "Tree" rather than "Wood". 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 w?xíng as "five virtues" or types of activities. Within Chinese medicine texts the w?xíng are also referred to as w?y?n () or a combination of the two characters (??? w?xíngy?n) 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.
The five phases are around 72 days each and are usually used to describe the state in nature:
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 (?/? kè) cycle, also known as "grandfather-grandson", of interactions between the phases. Within Chinese medicine the effects of these two main relations are further elaborated:
Common verbs for the sh?ng cycle include "generate", "create" or "strengthens", as well as "grow" or "promote". The phase interactions in the sh?ng cycle are:
A deficient sh?ng cycle is called the xiè cycle and is the reverse of the sh?ng cycle. Common verbs for the xiè include "weaken", "drain", "diminish" or "exhaust". The phase interactions in the xiè cycle are:
Common verbs for the kè cycle include "controls", "restrains" and "fathers", as well as "overcome" or "regulate". The phase interactions in the kè cycle are:
An excessive kè cycle is called the chéng cycle. Common verbs for the chéng cycle include "restrict", "overwhelm", "dominate" or "destroy". The phase interactions in the chéng cycle are:
A deficient kè cycle is called the w? cycle and is the reverse of the kè cycle. Common verbs for the w? cycle can include "insult" or "harm". The phase interactions in the w? cycle are:
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.
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.
|Planet (Celestial Body)||Neptune||Venus||Mars||Jupiter||Pluto||Mercury||Uranus||Saturn|
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.
In order to explain the integrity and complexity of the human body, Chinese medical scientists used the Five Elements theory to classify the human body's organs, physiological activities, and pathological reactions.
|Mental Quality||idealism, spontaneity, curiosity||passion, intensity||agreeableness, honesty||intuition, rationality, mind||erudition, resourcefulness, wit|
|Emotion||anger, kindness||hate, resolve||anxiety, joy||grief, bravery||fear, gentleness|
|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||pinky finger|
|Life||early childhood||pre-puberty||adolescence/intermediate||adulthood||old age, conception|
|Year||Spring Equinox||Summer Solstice||Change||Fall Equinox||Winter Solstice|
|Heavenly Stem||Jia ?
|Ren ? |
|Year ends with||4, 5||6, 7||8, 9||0, 1||2, 3|
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.
|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|
The Yuèlìng chapter () of the L?jì () and the Huáinánz? () make the following correlations:
|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|
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).
The Five Steps ( w? bù):
Xingyiquan uses the five elements metaphorically to represent five different states of combat.
|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|
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: