5 Elements

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The Five Element theory is the core understanding of all Chinese Metaphysical studies. It is believed that all matters, as well as the sentient beings in our universe, are composed of the Five Elements. This does not mean, however, that the Five Elements are physical.

Five Elements are basically types of Qi. The interaction between the fundamental life forces- Yin and the Yang creates five phases of Qi, each phase the product of different proportions of Yin, and of Yang.

These five phases of transformational energy are known as the Five Elements.

ElementPropertiesShapesColors
EarthAttractive Dense StableCubic Shapes Flat and Broad ShapesBrown, Beige, Yellow
MetalSharp Pointing PiercingSpherical, Rounded White, Gold, Silver
WaterRuns downhill, Free/UnboundWavy, IndefiniteBlack, Dark Blue
WoodGrows outwards EnduringTall & Rectangular Green
FireSpreads in every direction, Radiates Hot Triangular Pointed, Sharp Red, Orange, Purple, Pink

These elements can also be represented by Physical Objects:

EarthMountain, rocks, bricks, stones
WoodPlants, shrubs, trees, flower, grass, bamboo, fern
MetalSword, axe, jewellery, gold, iron, silver, copper
FireFire, candles, red lamps, lightning, electricity
WaterPonds, swimming pools, fountains, lakes, seas, aquariums

Cycles in Feng Shui

All 5 Elements share three types of relationships known as ‘Cycles’, through which an element can affect another element. Depending on the cycle, these elements Produce (grow), Control (counter), Weaken or Destruct one another.

  • Water produces Wood
  • Wood produces Fire
  • Fire produces Earth
  • Earth produces Metal
  • Metal produces Water

This cycle shows forward chain, Water provides nourishment for trees (Wood), which is then used as fuel for Fire, resulting in ashes (Earth). Earth is mined for minerals, or Metal, which when melted, runs like Water. This is known as the productive cycle, where the elements produce one another.

The key point to remember for the productive cycle is that an element strengthens and grows the element it produces.

  • Fire controls Metal
  • Metal controls Wood
  • Wood controls Earth
  • Earth controls Water
  • Water controls Fire

In this cycle, the elements keep each other under control.

For example, Fire melts Metal. An axe (Metal) cuts into Wood. The roots of a tree grip tightly onto Earth (Wood control Earth). Earth forms a barrier to control Water – just like a dam holds back the massive amounts of water. Water extinguishes Fire.

In the controlling cycle, an element is countered or subjugated by its controlling element.

  • Water weakens Metal
  • Metal weakens Earth
  • Earth weakens Fire
  • Fire weakens Wood
  • Wood weakens Water

This particularly is the reverse process of Production Cycle.

For example, we said that Water produces Wood (as in water is used to nourish plants). Conversely, we can say that Wood weakens Water. – because Wood absorbs Water.

This is called the Weakening Cycle.

  • Fire destructs Metal
  • Metal destructs Wood
  • Wood destructs Earth
  • Earth destructs Water
  • Water destructs Fire

Destructive Cycle of Elements:

In the destructive cycle, you can easily see that wood destroys the earth because trees grow on earth and suck away all minerals and leave the earth barren. Fire destroys metal as metal is melted by fire. Earth element destroys water element because earth (mud) absorbs all the water when it rains. Metal destroys wood because all the sharp instruments that cut wood like axe, hacksaw etc. are made of metal. Water element destroys fire element as water can extinguish any fire.

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