Have you ever wondered how feelings of imbalance, illness and unease come to be? For many of these issues, there is no way of knowing their origins and we often do not know how to deal with them.
The Wuxing Five Element Theory is a traditional Chinese Theory used to explain a wide range of conditions and phenomenon from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicinal drugs.
According to the Wuxing Theory, imbalance and disease occur when our elements are out of balance. These elements are known as wood, earth, water, fire and metal.
Each of the natural elements are connected and depend on each other. Every living thing has these elements in them and in order to stay healthy, need to keep these elements in balance.
The five points of the Wuxing Theory are made up of the Five Elements, Fire, Water, Wood, Metal and Earth. Each element has a series of attributes that guide practitioners of the Wuxing Theory in understanding the relationships at play.
The Cycles of the Wuxing Theory
The Generation Cycle
The Generation Cycle is the Circle Cycle, we also call them the birth of the elements.
The cycle goes thus: Wood generates fire, fire generates earth, earth generates metal, metal generates water, and water generates wood.
What does this mean?
The generation cycle is the explanation of how each element is born.
- Wood produces Fire: Wood is needed to feed fire.
- Fire produces Earth: Fire, after burning wood, creates earth in the form of ash.
- Earth produces Metal: Earth is where metal can be found. Minerals are mined from the soil.
- Metal produces Water: When metal is being heated and cooled, water is captured in the air in the form of condensation.
- Water produces Wood: Water is needed for plants to grow.
The Control Cycle
The control cycle is the Star Cycle in Diagram 1. In this sequence, you can see the mutual control amongst the elements. This maintains balance, preventing any one element from becoming too dominant.
The cycle goes thus: Fire controls metal, metal controls wood, wood controls earth, earth controls water, water controls fire.
What does this mean?
Or it can be imagined as, fire melts metal; metal, for example in the form of an axe, cuts wood; wood in the form of tree roots, breaks up earth; earth in the form of an embankment or dam, controls water; water puts out fire.
- Fire weakens Metal: Fire is used to melt Metal
- Metal weakens Wood: Metal can be used to cut down wood
- Wood weakens Earth: Wood in the form of tree roots can break up Earth
- Earth weakens Water: Earth can be used to contain Water
- Water weakens Fire: Water can be used to put out Fire
The Five Elements and what they mean
Phase: First Element of the Wuxing Theory
Weather: Windy Weather
The element that contains the most Yang energy out of the five elements, Wood heralds the beginning of life, springtime and buds, sensuality and fecundity.
In the Generation Cycle, Water generates Wood, as all plants need water to grow and Wood generates fire as fire must be created by burning wood.
In the Control Cycle, Wood weakens Earth by drawing sustenance from the soil and Metal weakens Wood, as the metal axe can topple the largest trees.
Wood signifies strength and flexibility, think Bamboo. Wood attributes are also associated with warmth, generosity, co-operation and idealism. Wood personalities are expansive, outgoing and socially conscious.
In Chinese medicine, wood is associated with negative feelings of anger, positive feelings of optimism, patience, and altruism. Organs associated with this element are the liver, gall bladder, eyes, and tendons.
Wood type personalities are easily found in cosmopolitan cities where they tend to be highly ambitious and driven individuals. Always planning and doing, wood personalities should spend more time in nature, cultivate themselves by doing yoga or meditating to create a healthy balance of the wood element.
Phase: Second Element of the Wuxing Theory
Weather: Hot Weather
Fire is yang in character and is known for its upward motion and expansive energy.
In the Generation Cycle, Wood generates Fire as fire must be created by burning wood and Fire generates Earth fire reduces everything to ashes, which become a part of the earth again.
In the Control Cycle, Water weakens Fire as nothing will put out a fire as quickly as water and Fire overcomes metal as it can only be melted and forged by flame or heat.
Fire signifies dynamism, strength, and persistence; however, if in excess, will lead to restlessness.
Fire provides warmth, enthusiasm, and creativity; however, an excess of it can bring aggression, impatience, and impulsive behaviour. For example, while a fire provides heat and warmth; an excess of it will burn forests.
Fire is also associated with negative emotions of hate and the positive emotion is joy. The organs associated with the Fire element are the Heart, small intestine, tongue and a body’s pulse.
Fire personalities have these qualities in abundance: joy, romance, fun, connection, energy, passion, creativity. Outgoing and extroverted, they enjoy company and most of all, action. Rather susceptible to aggression, worry and feeling isolation, fire personalities should focus more on water, wood and earth activities such as gentle exercise, relaxation techniques in cool temperatures.
Phase: Third Element of the Wuxing Theory
Season: Associated as the turn of each of the 4 seasons
Direction: Centre of the Compass
Weather: Damp Weather
Earth is the element that signifies the balance of both Yin and Yang, the feminine and the masculine. Inward and centre, Earth energy is stabilising and conserving.
In the Generation Cycle, Fire generates Earth by creating ash from fire and Earth generates Metal, as metal can only be found in the ground.
In the Control Cycle, Wood weakens Earth by breaking it up with tree roots and Earth weakens Water by damming or absorbing it.
Earth governs the Spleen, Stomach, Mouth and Muscles. Its negative emotion is anxiety and its positive emotion is empathy.
Earth is often associated with the qualities of patience, thoughtfulness, practicality, hard work, and stability. The earth element is nurturing and seeks to draw all things together with itself, in order to bring harmony, rootedness and stability.
Earth personalities place value on loyalty and security, striving to feel grounded at all times. Earth type personalities are great to surround yourself with as they are compassionate and will go to lengths to ensure you feel welcome and cared for
An excess of the earth element can lead to worry, overthinking and health problems which may result from over-eating and obesity
Phase: Fourth Element of the Wuxing Theory
Weather: Dry Weather
Metal signifies decline and is Yin in character. Associated with old age, Metal attributes are considered to be firmness, rigidity and perseverance.
In the Generation Cycle, Earth generates Metal as all meal has be extracted from the Earth and Metal generates Water as metal traps falling water from a source.
In the Control cycle, Fire weakens Metal overcomes metal, as metal can only be melted and forged by flame or heat and Metal weakens Wood as the metal axe is able to topple the tallest tree.
In traditional Chinese medicine, metal governs the lung and the large intestine, nose and skin. The negative emotion associated with metal is grief, while the positive emotion is courage.
The metal personality is controlling, ambitious, forceful, and set in their ways as is the strength of metal. Self-reliant, metal personalities are also wise, business-oriented, and good at organization and stability.
Just as metal can conduct electricity, the metal personality has strong impulses and generative powers and can bring about changes and transformations for those who come into contact with them.
Phase: Fifth Element of the Wuxing Theory
Weather: Cold Weather
Colour: Black, Blue, Grey
Water is the last fifth element in the Wuxing Theory and signifies the dying or hiding stage. The most yin in character of the five elements, its energy is stillness and conserving.
In the Generation Cycle, Metal generates water, as it traps falling water from a source, and water generates wood as all plants need water to flourish.
In the Control Cycle, Water overcomes Fire, as water is able to extinguish Fire.
Water represents intelligence and wisdom, flexibility, softness, and pliancy. However, an overabundance of the element is said to cause indecision.
Additionally, in keeping with the qualities of water, personalities of water types can be fluid and weak, yet wields great power when it floods and overwhelms the land.
In Chinese medicine, water is believed to govern the kidney and urinary bladder and is associated with the ears and bones.
Water personalities are very adaptable and are able to change their form and appearance based on the situation. Intuitive, wise and creative, the main issue for water types is fear.
Water personalities often need more sleep – meditation, yoga, and Qi Gong can help them to stay balanced.
Keeping in Balance
Each of us has our own balance of the elements within us. While one might have more of one in them than others, this is completely natural and normal. However, if one element is in excess of the others within you, that is when emotional instability or even disease occurs.
Look into natural ways to rebalance your elements such as eating healthily and support yourself with conscious practices like mindful movement and meditation to support a free flow of Qi to help rebalance our elements.