5 Elements  


The 5 Elements describe the main types of energy in the physical world. Everything in the physical world (visible or invisible - including air, electromagnetic fields etc.) has the overall characteristic of one of the Elements.

Understanding their qualities and the way they interact helps us to implement Feng Shui.


Chinese Taoists discovered a supreme natural power which they called "Wu Qi".

Wu Qi means nothingness. 
All things in the spiritual realm are unified, all things in the physical world are dualities.

There have been various cross-over theories to explain this Origional force in Scientific speak. 
One theory is that the "nothingness " is what Physicists describe as "Dark Matter" or subtle sub atomic entities. Dark Matter makes up the majority of the universe accounting for approximately 90%, with the remaining 10% being the physical universe or what we see as physical (planets, atmosphere, people,stuff).
Please see the "advanced" section for more detail. 

The diagram opposite shows the transformation of energy from subtle to physical. It explains everything. From unity (Wu Qi), splitting into (Yin and Yang(duality)) and then (dependant on the quality and proportions) forming the variety of our world  (5 Elements to 64 hexagrams and beyond).

Subtle origin to Physical

Yin & Yang to 5 elements

The Chinese used a binary system to describe the quality of energy. 

Yang (+'ve, male) is a solid line and 
Yin (-'ve, female)is a broken line.
(please refer to the Yin & Yang section for an explanation).
Man is a model of the integration of Yin and Yang. 

Physical energy is manifested as the body and  Subtle energy manifested as the mind and spirit.


yin yang
is the integration of the two.

Scientist are well aware of the 4 main forces (strong nuclear, weak nuclear, gravity and electromagnetism - shown above). The Taoists deduced that there was a 5th harmonising force ( Earth ). The natural way is for the 4 forces ( fire, metal, water and wood ) to fight it out. It is the earth element which harmonises. 

Colours, shapes, sounds, planets, organs, times, seasons, emotions, tastes, smells, where identified as relating to an element. (see attribute table below)

Fire symbolises > spirit / mental energy.
Earth symbolises >  the united, harmonising and neutral force.
Metal symbolises > characterised by gravity.
Water symbolises > aggregation, contraction, collection, condensation.
Wood symbolises > explosion, disaggregate, dispersion, dissipation.



5 Element Cycle

The five element cycle is the key to understanding energy exchange. There are regular and abnormal cycles which are described below.

Normal and regular (generative) cycle
of energy flow. 
Fire feeds earth ( ash / nutrients ).
Earth feeds metal ( minerals ).
Metal feeds water ( metal sweats ).
Water feeds wood.
Wood feeds fire.

Earth is at the centre, with it's harmonising influence.

5 element generative cycle

Abnormal (control) cycle of energy flow. 
Fire controls metal ( melts ).
Metal controls wood ( chops ). 
Wood controls earth (  extracts ).
Earth controls water ( contains ).
Water controls fire ( extinguishes ).

Nb. There are further levels to these exchanges. eg. Big fire combined with small water creates steam which is very auspicious.

control cycle

Elemental Clock

Each element is more active during certain months, years and times of the day. (see horoscope section for months and years information).

The clock diagram opposite shows which organ of the body is more active at what time. You will see below (attributes table) that there are yin and yang organs. Yin organs produce, transform and store qi whilst the yang organs separate the impure and expel waste. 


5 Element Attributes

The table below describes the common attributes of the five elements.

shape / form wood fire earth metal water
direction E(big) SE(small) S SW(big) NE(small) W(small) NW(big) N
season spring summer late summer autumn winter
planet Jupiter Mars Saturn Venus Mercury
archetype Pioneer Wizard Peacemaker Alchemist Philosopher
power expansion fusion moderation contraction consolidation
time 11pm - 3am 11am-3pm, 7-11pm 7 - 11am 3 - 7 am 3 - 7 pm
yin organs liver heart spleen lungs kidneys
yang organs gall bladder small intestine stomach colon bladder
taste sour bitter sweet spicy salty
smell rancid scorched fragrant rotten putrid
opening eyes tongue mouth nose ears
emotion anger joy pensive grief fear
animal Green Dragon Red Phoenix Yellow Pheasant White Tiger Turtle
Introduction      Qi (energy)      Yin & Yang      5 Elements      8 Directions top of page