Introduction to The Five Elements (Wu Xing)

The Five Elements is a cosmological arrangement, and diagnostic tool found in Daoism and Chinese medicine. The name Wu Xing might be better described as the "Five Phases" or "Five Interactions". The Wu Xing is mutually mediating, change in one initiates change throughout the system. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Through the Five Elements, the primordial interaction of Yin and Yang, the Supreme Ultimate, is obscured and given variety. Two cycles of interaction occur, the generating cycle (sheng), and the controlling cycle (ke), the generating cycle is Wood being burned into Fire, Fire returning to Earth, Earth harvesting Metal, and Metal enriching Water. The controlling cycle is Wood grasping Earth, Metal cutting Wood, Fire melting Metal, Water dowsing Fire, and Earth restricting Water. Earth is a balance of Yin and Yang, it is the central pivot between all the elements. Fire is utmost Yang, Water is utmost Yin, Wood is Yang rising from Yin, and Metal is Yin concealing Yang. Yin is likened to the physical and the earthly, Yang is likened to the spiritual and the heavenly. While the physical appears to be solid, it is actually the soft and impermanent, while the progression of Dao and the Way of Heaven is that which is hard and enduring, and that which is truly tangible.


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