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): wood, fire, earth, metal, and water (木, 火, 土, 金, 水; mù, huǒ, tǔ, jīn, shǔi). These elements were used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. Five phases is the more appropriate way of translating wǔxíng — literally, "five goings". Traditional Taijiquan schools relate them to footwork and refer to them as five "steps".
The doctrine of five phases describes both a generating (生, shēng) cycle and an overcoming or restraining (克, kè) cycle of interactions between the phases. In the generating cycle, wood generates fire; fire generates earth (ash); earth generates metal; metal generates water (if metal is left out at night water will have condensed on it by morning); water generates wood. In the overcoming cycle, wood grows in earth; earth absorbs water; water quenches fire; fire melts metal; metal cuts wood.
The doctrine of five phases was employed in many fields of early Chinese philosophy, including seemingly disparate fields such as music, traditional Chinese medicine, and military strategy.
Correlations between the five elements and other categories Edit
The Yuèlìng chapter (月令篇) of the Lǐjì (禮記) and the Huáinánzǐ (淮南子) make the following correlations:
|Wood||east||green or blue||jué 角 (mi)|
|Fire||south||red||zhǐ 徵 (so)|
|Earth||center||yellow||gōng 宮 (do)|
|Metal||west||white||shāng 商 (re)|
|Water||north||black||yǔ 羽 (la)|
(see also pentatonic scale)
(note: The Chinese word 青 includes the range in the spectrum from green to blue, with shades down to black.)
Some other correspondences are shown below:
|Element||Heavenly creature||Season||Direction||Planet||Tastes||Sense||Viscera (yin)||Viscera (yang)||Finger|
|Wood|| Azure Dragon|
|Spring||east||Jupiter||sour||sight||liver||gall bladder||ring finger|
|Fire|| Vermilion Bird|
|Summer||south||Mars||bitter||sound||heart||small intestine||middle finger|
|Earth|| Yellow Dragon/Qilin|
| Change of seasons|
(four times a year)
|Metal|| White Tiger|
|Water|| Black Tortoise|
|Winter||north||Mercury||salty||touch||kidney||urinary bladder||little finger|
|Wood||Wind, thunder||:|| (☴ 巽 xùn) |:: (☳ 震 zhèn)|
|Fire||Fire|||:| (☲ 離 lí)|
|Earth||Earth, mountain||::: (☷ 坤 kūn) ::| (☶ 艮 gèn)|
|Metal||Sky, lake||||| (☰ 乾 qián) ||: (☱ 兌 duì)|
|Water||Water||:|: (☵ 坎 kǎn)|
The Five Elements appear in the movie "The Mystery of Chess Boxing", where the Ghostface Killer (later a member of the wu-tang clan) uses the a kung-fu style called the five-elements. A chessmaster learns the style, so that he can use the correct element to defeat whatever element the Ghostface Killer is using. It has memorable quotes such as "Five Elements! and first the gold!" "Fire melts gold, earth absorbs water" and last but not least, "I don't think your wood can overcome anything!".
See also Edit
- Chinese music
- Five elements (Japanese)
- Wu Xing Hui
- Four elements
- Pushing hands
- Zang Fu theory
- Feng Shui
- 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
- Five Elements in Feng Shui
- Five Element Information Five Element interrelationships, concordances and causative factors.
- Chinese Zodiac Chart Find your Chinese Zodiac sign based on your date of birth.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) - A model of transition from the traditional elements
- The American School of Classical Feng Shui
- Five Elements in Societyde:Fünf-Elemente-Lehre
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