Talk:Wu Xing

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It may be affirmed turquoise hues correlate with spring while midnight and navy shades of indigo twilight but the Natural Color System recognizes three pairs of colors when there are only five motions. Earth is aligned with both southwest and northeast points of the compass in addition to the center. If green begets red and white begets black where does the azure (color stand in the midst of this? "Blue" is the Sky to the Mongolians. The atmosphere completes the planet as a whole. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:46, 11 February 2015 (UTC)

Rename page "Wuxing"[edit]

Following the rules of Hanyu Pinyin orthography shouldn't this page and its text use "wuxing" instead of "wu xing" with a space between the syllables? (Nb. There is already a disambiguation page at "Wuxing".)

Then the 5-“elements” page would match the 8-symbols (bagua) page.

See book Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography (Yin Binyong & Mary Felley, Sinolingua, 1990) contents at summarised at
Copyeditor42 (talk) 16:49, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

Broken link[edit]

I found the external link 'Five elements in society' broken. Paul Jonas (talk) 16:34, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

"Wu zhong liu xing zhi chi"[edit]

I found this term on this website: also I had found another page before relating to the Classical Elements of the different enthic cultural philosophies: Whether this website is needed here as a reference should be placed here.

I was thinking of editing the first paragraph. It didn't make sense for the first sentence but is easily fixable I think. But I want to add this little bit of info that Wu Xing is a shortened version of the above phrase "Wu zhong liu xing zhi chi" meaning "the five types of chi dominating at different times". The word "Chi" also should be Qi in Pinyin and Chi in Wades-Giles and I only know that much. I can't read romanized chinese, or even speak chinese for that matter. Is the entire phrase "Wu zhong liu xing zhi chi" in Pinyin or Wades-Giles?

The romanization is mixed. The person who wrote the website didn't quite translate it correctly either. Judging by what words turned up in English and the romanization, I think I know what was going on.

五種流行之氣. wu zhong liu-xing zhi qi. (pinyin) wu chung liu-hsing chih ch'i (Wade-Giles) five kinds of flowing qi.

Any activity, any characteristic, etc., can be explained by characterizing its qi, or its "lifebreath." So winter has a qi that is cold and killing, spring has a qi that is warm and enlivening, summer hs a qi that is hot and fulfilling, etc. It is actually an abstraction to define these as five discrete "things," for the same reason that you can see violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red in the rainbow, but you can't see the line where one color stops and another color takes up. If you had a prism that was on a slow turntable you could arrange it so that the beam of light that struck your eye was a different frequency from moment to moment. So it would appear that the colors were "flowing" from one to the other. You could regard the color of the light as the specific qi of the light, sort of.

Another note is that if this little bit of info is included then the Five Phases, Five "goings" and five "steps" shouldn't exist in the first paragraph. Also this sentence is incorrect: "It is the more appropriate way of translating Wu Xing— literally, five goings"

The website you are using is no great authority on how things should be said. Each of the translations you mention has its own strong points. The last one has to do with a special application in martial arts, which as I recall the article makes clear. When a single substance transforms from one form to another (steam, water, ice for instance) the several different forms are called "phases." The claim made for water, metal, fire, wood, and dirt is of the same kind. The "water quality" of something in nature changes to the "metal quality" and so forth. They "go" from one apparently discrete kind of thing to another apparently discrete kind of thing.P0M 05:08, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but I hope someone can justify or criticise my requisition for the first paragraph. Xangel 18:49, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

If the one page with the elements of different cultures lists the Chinese version, it should be added to the links. "Wu zhong liu xing zhi chi" is pinyin.(Ghostexorcist 19:06, 9 July 2007 (UTC))
"Chi" is a retroflex sound. It is pronounced something like "chur" (rhymes with fur). But you have to curl your tongue way back. The word for "to eat" is written as "chi," but the word for "lifebreath" is written as "qi" (which sounds something like "chee" but now the tongue has to be curled so the tip is down by the bottom front teeth). P0M 05:08, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

Colour Associations[edit]

In my opinion, the proper associations should be as a follows..

Metal - White Water - Black Earth - Green and/or Grey Wood - Purple Fire - Red

Metal and Water represent Yin polarities, I can make sense of the elemental association with the colours of White and Black. If Fire is associated with Red, it would make then sense to associate Wood with Purple. Considering these two phases represent Yang poloarities, it can be surmised that Fire is of representative of infrared heat, while Wood is an excitable phase likened to ultraviolet radiation. The central element of Earth might perhaps associate with Green if not Grey, as Green is the central colour along the spectrum of visible light. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:00, 20 February 2013 (UTC)

Banish the term "Five Elements"[edit]

As the article itself says (and in light of the "Wu zhong liu xing zhi qi" discussion above) "Five Phases" is truer to the meaning of Wu Xing ("five walks," "five movements"). Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water represent energetic states that transform over time. The erroneous but now-entrenched mistranslation, "Five Elements," originated with Jesuit missionaries who accompanied Dutch mariners to China. Steeped in a classical Greek and Roman framework of thought, the knowledge-loving Jesuits presumed that the concept of Wu Xing was similar to the idea of the Greek elements——fire, water, earth, and air——which were formerly thought to be the elemental building blocks of all things. Wu Xing is not the same idea at all. Wood, Fire, Metal, and Water correspond respectively with spring/growth, summer/maturity, autumn/decline, and winter/death/birth, with Earth as the balancing and transforming center. Wood is also wind, Fire is heat, Earth is humidity, Metal is dryness, Water is cold. There are other resonant correspondences to colors, odors, flavors, and in medicine, to body parts and functions. Those resonances are complex and extend throughout the macro- and microcosms. But they are definitely not "elemental" in the Greek sense. Throughout Wikipedia, all references to the Chinese "Five Elements" should be changed to "Five Phases," with redirects where necessary. (I have not edited this article, and leave this work for others.)Yogaman28734 12:13, 24 September 2007 (UTC)

What's with the "hence the preferred term Five Phases"? Preferred according to whom? I completely disagree that Elements should be banished. I am a Five Element acupuncturist. I have searched for a better term than Elements, but there isn't one. And it's certainly not "phase." A phase is like a station or season one passes through. Hence, as you're going through one phase, you're not in any other phases. This implies that the Elements exist separately from one another. They don't. They are all part of one whole. Despite the fact that Fire dominates Summer, the other four Elements are always present. Moreover, the Elements themselves are also substances. Water is water! Earth is earth! Wood in the human body is tendons/sinews. Earth is muscle. Metal is present in numerous bio-chemical processes, including the transportation of air! Water is also bone. Elements is a good term. Like the chemical elements, they can exist in a number of different states (spirits in the heavens, matter on earth), and like the chemical elements, they combine in an infinite array of ways to form the myriad things that fill the universe. I agree that "element" is not perfect, but it's better than "phase." Anahata9 (talk) 19:37, 25 November 2008 (UTC) Anahata9

The issue here is that they are called "五行", not "五素". There must be a way to explain in English why it's written this way. Collin237 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:10, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

One must realize that there are parallels between the 5 Wu Xing 'phases' and the four phases of Greek elemental alchemy. It can be understood that the 5 walks of Wu Xing were not meant to represent physical matter, but neither were the four 'elements' of Greek philosophy. Like Wu Xing, each 'element' or 'phase' of the Hellenic western cycle is tied to a season as a well as a state of matter in representation. Earth is associated with autumn and solid matter, Water with winter and liquids, Air with spring and vapors, and Fire with summer and plasmic matter. Aether was likewise the fifth element conceived to string all four phases together just as Earth in its representation as a source all other elements in Wu Xing. So ancient western civilization looked to physical matter for philosophical representations of sub-spectral energy changes coinciding with time and season just as the ancient Chinese.

Metal Phase = Water Element[edit]

The 'phase' Metal located on the west of the alchemical compass corresponds with the Lake and Heaven phases of the eight trigrams. The Lake phase is representative of a placid, reflective body of water in the elemental sense. On the Wicca compass, 'elemental' Water is located on the west. The 'phase' of Metal casts a mold over the wandering formlessness of Water, perhaps their is a correlation between the 'phase' of Metal and the 'element' of Water. The suit of Cups or Chalices is commonly associated with 'elemental' Water in Tarot and the expanse of the Heavens can be thought of as a consuming void of blueness (signifying the infinite) much like the ocean, only the former is still and consecrated by nature. Psychologically, the same abstract idea is perhaps represented in different terms through separate metaphysical languages...the same idea perhaps applies in motion with 'phase' Water and 'elemental' Earth as well as the rest of the matching compass directions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:44, 10 January 2013 (UTC)


As I recall, there are five flavors to Chinese cooking (not to be confused with Five spices powder)... is there a connection? --NickelKnowledge

The five flavors to Chinese cooking are sour, sweet, bitter, hot (as in chilly pepper), salty. Don't know if they tie to the five elements though.
These five flavors are not in any way restricted to Chinese cooking, but are universal and tied more to the human tongue! There is also the 'rich' element which is the fullness of flavor added by fats (due to their round molecules). Indian cooking relies on chutneys and sauces that combine pairs of the flavors, and French cooking uses a particular obvious mapping: pepper is bitter and hot, salt is salty, sugar is sweet, vinegar or lemon is sour, and raw salad greens tend to be bitters as well. These three (Chinese, Indian, French) are considered the three great cooking traditions, and others (Italian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, etc.) considered derivative in general.
You should probably go to Italy and tell a chef there that. See how far that gets you. (talk) 03:57, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

-- Probably not. Chinese like to number things (like the Jiang Zemin's theory of the three representations or Deng Xiaoping's four cardinal principles).

Or the six flavors of quarks?

I don't know about quarks, but I would guess the five flavors are related. I think that the five animals in Five Animals Kung Fu would probably represent the five elements as well? (tiger, leopard, crane, snake, dragon) I know that this five elements theory is also important in Japanese Shiatsu. And I think the belief in them predates the Taoist theory of Yin and Yang, if that's worth mentioning. --Wesley

-- Hi everyone. The five flavors are definitely related to the five elements. Their correspondance is:

sour - wood, bitter - fire, sweet - earth, hot - metal, salty - water.

Shiatsu Practitioner

--There's evidence for this here: although I'm not sure if it's appropriate to add to the article. nm —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:01, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

In addition to the rich flavor, there is also the minty flavor, totalling seven. You can also count seven colors, by including 棕, and by splitting 靑 into 蓝 and 绿. And there are seven notes in the Western musical scale.

Continuing the metaphor of Westernism, you can add the smells of disinfectant and fast food, and the mental processes of political enthusiasm and obsessive shopping. ☺

Collin237 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:58, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

Traditional five flavours are 鹹苦酸辛甘, i.e. salty, bitter, sour, acrid, sweet, which map to Five Elements. However, modern Chinese people usually regard five flavours as 酸甜苦辣咸, i.e. sour, sweet, bitter, hot (peppery), salty. --Yejianfei (talk) 17:34, 7 July 2017 (UTC)


Even when we know now the electrons, not the positive charge flow in the circuit, the definition of electric current is not abandoned because the model still works despite the invalid underlying theory.

This is a misrepresentation of the theory of electromagnetism. The definition of electric current is in no way invalidated by the fact that electrons are negatively charged. The definition is J=dρ/dt, and this definition gives no special place to either positive or negative charge.

I'm changing it to an example that hardly anyone will understand, but at least it's factually accurate. -- Tim Starling

This is incomprehensible. The statement that a scientific model does not have to be valid to be useful makes no sense.

At first sight, the theory behind the five elements seems to be very unscientific. However, if one thinks of it as a model and scaffolding to build knowledge on, one may find the system intriguing. Even the western scientific model does not have to be valid to be useful. One example is classical electrodynamics - even though it suffers fundamental problems such as infinite field energy and acausal acceleration, it is still widely used. By the same token, the five elements system is a useful model regardless how unscientific it may seem to be

-- User:Roadrunner

5 "Elemental" Phases Are All the Same Around the World[edit]

This is a theory..

In understanding the cyclical elements, we shall rely on the traditional Wu Xing arrangement alongside the contemporary Wiccan arrangement of the classical Greek Phases. I shall use parallel examples of the classical Babylonian 'elemental' phases.

The question of 'physical' elements is not of consequence in any philosophical arrangement of cycles, whether eastern or western. Rather than labeling the "phases" or "walks" with physical substance, we can instead "colour" these cyclical patterns. Before we break into this, first, one must understand the true orbital flow of our planet relative to our season changes. It is after the Winter solstice in which the initial spark of Yang (projective) energy is truly born, considering that the days become longer after the beginning of Winter. Thus, climatic changes observed during Spring had already taken place on a "cosmic" scale back in Winter...

During Winter, we enter the 'Green' spectral energy phase. It's climatic traits manifest during the Spring, but during Winter, its cosmic energy traits are occurring. This 'Green' flow may correlate with either the Chinese phase of Water (Stream on the Pakua), the Greek element of Earth or the Chaldean element of the Sea. During the Spring, we enter the energy spectral phase of the 'Yellow.' Its energies climatically manifest during the summer when the sun is strongest. "Yellow" energy may be associated with the Chinese element of Wood (Lightning and Wind) and the Greek and Babylonian elements of Air. The hallmarks of this energy phase is forward optimistic thinking and cognitive awakeness.. During the Summer, our world enters the "Red" energy phase. This phase of transformation is representative of the light and warmth which follows combustion, thus it is a period of relative stillness and inner stability when compared to the flammable 'yellow' phase. Its traits correspond with seasonal changes observed visibly during Autumn. "Red" is associated with the philosophical Chinese and Greek elements of Fire and the Chaldean element of Light. During Autumn, our planet enters the "Blue" energy phase. "Blue" is a colour of internal serenity, slumber and rest. During the Winter, reminiscent climatic traits become visible. "Blue" energy is associated with the Chinese element of Metal (Heaven and Lake), the Greek element of Water and the Babylonian element of Heaven. It is associated with the theoretical substance of aether in modern physics. This "element" represents substance of formless potential. Both the Chinese in some respect (through the Lake) and the Greeks have associated this phase with Water. However, this "phase" also enacts traits reminiscent of physical characteristics of pure metals such as iron, silver and platinum- hence the Chinese proper association. Neither the Chinese nor the Greeks wished to associate their elements with theoretical forms of matter which were then beyond grasp, hence the Greeks called this phase "water" and the Chinese "metal."

Safe to believe, the Chinese signs of the Ox, Snake and Rooster are "Green" as they correspond to the Earth ptolemaic astrolgical signs. The Tiger, Horse and Dog are "Yellow" as they correspond to the ptolemaic air signs. The Dragon, Monkey and Rat are "Red" as they correspond to the Fire ptolemaic signs. The Rabbit, Goat and Pig are "Blue" as they correspond to the ptolemaic Water star signs.


I just fixed a pet peeve of mine. Chinese philosophy includes a lot of things from Daoism to Maoism. The five elements is important on Chinese philosophies which are connected to Daoism, but its not an important concept in say Chinese Marxism, Zen Buddhism, or the Confucian Evidental school.

Also, removed the statement that five elements is an important and deep part of Chinese culture. Chinese culture is much too diverse to make a sweeping statement like that.

agreed - it is no more important than the w:Greek four elements (earth, air, fire water) is in our present day scientific culture.

-- User:Roadrunner

I think you could say that the five elements were comparable in importance if our doctors still used the four elements. Also on that note, I think that the five elements are a mnemonic. It is this sort of mnemonic that is the real strengths of the system. Without it you would just have a bunch of random facts that could not be thought through effectively. I is great for acupuncture use. --Magic.crow 00:14, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

I removed the following because the second sentence contradicts acupuncture and the first just seems out of place and meaninglessly vague. Tuf-Kat

Herbal therapy works wonders for certain types of diseases, and is widely used in China. Acupuncture was proven effective in suppressing certain types of symptoms even though medical equipment fails to show how qi flows in the meridian of the body.

What about five directions (North, S, W, E and center)? Did Taoists make any correlation? -- Error

Yes, at least among Korean Daoists, who also assigned the seasons to different elements. Wood = East and spring; Fire = South and summer; Earth = Centre and ? ("toyong", which literally means "earth use", but I don't have my Korean dictionary in front of me to figure out the meaning); Metal = West and autumn; Water = North and winter. I could add these to the main page, but wouldn't a table be nice? Well, unless someone either vociferously objects or does it first, I'll add a table some time soon... Sewing 22:31, 26 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Cultural transmission[edit]

There appears to have been cultural transmission between Egypt and China at a very early time, because the sequence given immediately above, which first occurs in the Bo Hu Tong, is the reverse of the sequence of the five visible planets used to name the five days of the week exclusive of Sunday and Monday. (added by Patrick0Moran)

I think this statement is just jump to conclusion. When people from different culture observed the same celestral pattern, it does not implied a cultural transmission. Almost all cultures around the world observes the pattern of seasons, the relative position of the sun, number of lunar cycles before the seasons repeat etc. All culture knows there are 12 months per year, following the same logic, all culture on earth had cultural transmission. Kowloonese 01:39, 2 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Of course, prior to discovery of any further evidence, it is just a hypothesis, but a hypothesis that may be very productive. If it were simply that both cultures had a list of planets that went by their apparent speed along the zodiac, then it would be absurd to insist that one had learned the list from the other. Even though some early shepherd several thousands of years ago might have noticed the fact and communicated it to the original nuclear band of humans somewhere in Africa, and that information might have remained the common property of most members of the human diaspora, that would not preclude some group having forgotten that piece of lore and then some member of that groups rediscovering the fact at some later time. Anyway, there is absolutely nothing surprising about the list: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.

On the other hand, what are the chances that somebody would randomly come up with the list Jin, Mu, Shui, Huo, Tu and that it would be the same list as somebody else's list Saturn, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus? You can use the laws of probability to come up with the betting odds. Let's simplify a little bit by saying that it really doesn't matter whether you write it in the Chinese order or the Western order. What are the chances that the two lists will start with the same planet, Saturn? That's one in 5. What are the chances that the next planet name chosen at random will be Mars? There are 4 other possibilities, so it is 1/4. What of the next choice? There are 3 possibilities, so that probability is 1/3. The next time the probability will be 1/2. So the total probability of getting exactly the same line-up would be 1/120.

Then you look at the question of how the Western list was ordered, and you find that there was a simple rule for it. You look at the Chinese list and you find that a version of the Western rule, modified to fit Chinese time concepts, will produce exactly the correct order -- including the fact that it is the reverse of the Western order. It doesn't prove anything, but it certainly makes me inclined to look into old texts and legends for any information that might throw further light on this subject. For one thing, both cultures seem to have had the idea that since the sun has a definite influence on biological processes on the earth, and since the moon has a discoverable influence on biological processes on earth (and there are specific phenomena mentioned in early texts), then the other moving things in the sky may have an influence on earthly things. P0M 02:22, 2 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The five planets idea is interesting, but the earliest calendars known in China used a ten-day week -- not a seven-day one. There was a calendar that tracked the orbit of Jupiter, which comes closest to the zodiac theory -- but ancient Chinese used tropical astronomy before switching to Western ecliptic astronomy when the Jesuits arrived -- then switched back again when Western astronomy went scientific! Ancient Chinese astronomy is vastly different from Egyptian, thanks to many things, including their position on the Earth. Despite Badari, the Egyptians apparently got their astronomy from Assyria. Joseph Needham thought the 12 ci (Jupiter tracking) used words that were transliterations from Ugaritic, but the Mul.Apin tables are now dated only to 1300 BCE. cbramble

The important thing seems to be that the five planets are conceived of as five gods, and they operate (are in charge of things) one after the other. The permutations that get seven Mediterranean gods arranged in a sequence through twentyfour hours produces one sequence of seven days of the week, and the same general plan of permutations gets five Chinese versions of the planetary gods put in charge of 12 watches, yielding the inverse of the Western sequence (minus Sun-day and Moon-day that is). The same sequence also appears in acupuncture accounts that indicate during which watch of the day the various organs are particularly sensitive. I hadn't noticed that use of the sequence before. There is a little wrinkle, double-duty for Mars (if I remember correctly), because there are six rather than five organ groups, so five gods have to deal with 6 jobs. P0M 06:19, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

Please merge[edit]

The following was removed from the traditional Chinese medicine article in order to reduce redundancy. If any of it needs to be added here, please merge it. heidimo 16:07, 8 May 2004 (UTC)

The Five Elements theory (五行 wǔ xíng), sometimes translated "Five Movements" or "Five Transformations," is also a fundamental concept in TCM theory.

The Five Elements of TCM are:

  • Wood
  • Fire
  • Earth
  • Water
  • Metal

Like Yin and Yang, these are not energies or substances, but basic qualities or phases of a cycle that can be found in natural phenomena, including the human being. Different schools of thought within TCM have had differing opinions on the importance of Five Element theory; it is primary to one particular school of thought within TCM appropriately called Five Element Acupuncture, while others make little direct reference to it.

Here the Five Element are refered to as a taoist concept. I'm not sure I could fully agree. It's part of Chinese thought and shared among many different schools. gbog 13:45, 31 May 2004 (UTC)

You are quite correct. See Fung Yu-lang, A History of Chinese Philosophy for details. P0M

Did some editing[edit]

I considered it somewhat inappropriate that this page and Zang Fu theory were linking to Western medicine entries about organs, and have threfore created corresponding (Zang) and (Fu) stubs, linked to those where I considered it appropriate and moved some content from Pericardium to Pericardium (Zang), putting in some appropriate linking text instead.

Also deleted 'hair' from the list corresponding to the Metal element, since the body hair is Metal and the head hair is Water (Maciocia, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine) - leaving it there could create potential for confusion. User:NickArgall


"Jr'u-chue". Is that a typo? I've never seen this kind of spelling.--Euniana 20:29, 10 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Looked up the character and most sources give it as "Zhu". Someone with more Chinese knowledge, please correct me if necessary. DenisMoskowitz 18:27, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC)

Order of the five elements[edit]

In China, these five elements are commonly known as

 metal, wood, water, fire, and earth
 (金, 木, 水, 火, 土; jīn, mù, shǔi, huǒ, tǔ)

instead of

 wood, fire, earth, metal, and water
 (木, 火, 土, 金, 水; mù, huǒ, tǔ, jīn, shǔi)


That's neither the "generating order" nor the "controlling order". Do you have some documentation for this claim? DenisMoskowitz 18:47, 2005 Jun 3 (UTC)
Let me answer my own question - google agrees with you. Compare [1] (26,000 hits) with [2] (10,000 hits). I'm not sure that makes it worth rearranging the article though. DenisMoskowitz 19:22, 2005 Jun 3 (UTC)
I don't know what it means, but any Chinese person I know will reply "金木水火土" (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth), in that order, when asked what the five elements are (or the five visible planets, for that matter). -- 03:35, 14 November 2005 (UTC)

Confirmed: 金木水火土 is the usual order.  Flag of Scarborough, ON, Canada  UTSRelativity (Talk 23:27, 12 December 2005 (UTC)

The sequence appears in the 白虎通 Bo hu tong. Look at the sequence of the five planets from fastest (Mercury) to the slowest (Saturn):

水金火木土. Those are the five planets/gods in their "natural" order. They get to take charge of things in that order. So write out the sequence with one for each of the watches of the day:

Now that you have repeated the list of five several times you are back to where you started. The sequence of gods/planets in charge of the day at the beginning of the day is shown in the first vertical column: 金木水火土.
As for why they are reversed in order, perhaps it is because it is a regular practice in the Chinese language to invert a sequence when one wants to call attention to the fact that it is a continuing series instead of something that only runs through once and then quits. P0M 06:51, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

In acupuncture the gods/planets order is the reverse of the above. Starting with the 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. time period, governed by 土, the next watch is governed by 火, then 水, then 火 is called back in for overtime duty to take care of the 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. period when the non-empirical organs (triple burner and pericardium) are dominant, then it's back to 木 and then 金. That's 土火水(火)木金. The corresponding organ pairs are stomach and spleen, heart and small intestine, bladder and kidneys, pericardium and triple burner, gall bladder and liver, and lungs and large intenstine.
Do any of the positions in this discussion include the way(s) that Chinese characters are written by native writers? See here: [Written_Chinese#Layout] --TheLastWordSword (talk) 16:12, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Then what would be the basis of this 'feels right order' of the elements. The Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water cycle is generative, the Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, Wood cycle is destructive. What would the significance of the Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth cycle be? Also, if the phases were planetary based in order from quickest to slowest, it would flow as Water, Metal, Fire, Wood and Earth, not the fore mentioned order... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:52, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

Caption text[edit]

I just added the second image. I did not label A and B because I could not come up with good titles. Also on the first image I feel that overcoming is incorrect because in TCM it does not overcome it but it does regulate it or control it. I have seen overcome used in refrence to warfare. With labels A and B anyone can edit them with HTML. --Magic.crow 00:20, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

I'm inclined to remove the second image - it doesn't really add anything to the article, being just the first image with the arrows reversed, and so I think its role would be better filled by a sentence saying something like "When the cycle is out of balance, these relations are reversed." (if that is what's intended - I can't actually tell.) DenisMoskowitz 13:18, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
As for "overcomes", I checked the Chinese (zh) wikipedia page for this topic, and it describes the cycles in this way:
  • 五行相克:金克木,木克土,土克水,水克火,火克金。
  • 五行相生:金生水,水生木,木生火,火生土,土生金。
The upper one is what we have as "overcomes", and the character they use (克) appears to translate as "subdue, restrain, overcome": [3] DenisMoskowitz 21:21, 11 October 2005 (UTC)

I feel that overcomes is inappropriate here because the element does not act to overcome the other. Restrains would be a great way to put it. In TCM, if the Liver=Wood is to weak then it cannot control the Spleen=Earth thus sickness. It is not trying to overcome the Spleen but regulate it. If the Liver gets to strong or the Spleen to weak you have what is called Liver overacting on Spleen, this is bad. The Earth needs to be healthy strong so it can feed the Metal and Metal needs to be healthy so that it does not eat to much and weaken the Earth. Wood needs to be healthy strong so that it can regulate Earth. But if Wood is extra strong Earth gets overcome and grows weak. If Earth is to strong and Wood can't cope then again the system breaks down as Earth counteracts Wood.

So as this shows you can't understand the system unless you see that energy can run in any direction. There is a healthy direction and there is a healthy level of action. --Magic.crow 21:08, 13 October 2005 (UTC)

But this article isn't just about TCM, and in some contexts the "overcomes" meaning is more appropriate. One magical reference I have translates 克 as "destroys", and another as "annihilates". I've added "restraining" as a possible translation at the first description of 克. DenisMoskowitz 22:15, 13 October 2005 (UTC)

Having had a year of Chinese language I can say that it is a very contextual language. I think what is written works for me, but I still think a picture would be nice. Are you translating the reference to destroys or is this possibly a bad translation by someone else? I know in 5E use in warfare it would make sense to say you should overcome metal (big hard stable force) using free thinking to fire. But, this is using 5E to upset a balance and not to bring it into harmony.

Could you post in my personal talk area what you are doing with Chinese magic? --Magic.crow 17:39, 14 October 2005 (UTC)

Those are someone else's translations, but ones I'm inclined to trust. I'm still not sure I like the idea of changing the caption from "overcomes" to "restrains" - in situations like the warfare one above, "restrains" isn't really appropriate. But I'm not really set up to change the image anyway. We may have to accept an imperfect translation in the image - the alternative is to use the Chinese character, which seems a little inaccessible. DenisMoskowitz 19:05, 14 October 2005 (UTC)

Changing the caption is easy. I used Gimp to do it, a lot like PhotoShop. You could too. It is GNU and runs on Linux and on Windows for free. I could do it if you don't have the time. I made the second one using Gimp and the first image also. As I did with the second image I could just label it A and B and then we could use the Hyper Text to change it back and forth or what ever.

I think the choice of overcomes vs restrains or controls has to do with balance. If you want a healthy system then it modulates it and if you want to change or destroy the element you say that you are destroying it. I use this system everyday at work and what is important about the system is to keep it balanced in your body. In warfare you are out to unbalance the and destroy the enemy thus you try and kill fire using water not just restrain or modulate. What I am getting at is that most likely both translations are right but it is in the context of use that the translator picks what English word to use. What is the character? I could put it on the graphic instead of a and b and then we could expain it in the text.

I looked up the character in my Chinese dictionary. You are right about it but did you also see it used in the word self-control? This is not about self destruction, and I feel it is a way that it could be used in this context. --Magic.crow 20:00, 14 October 2005 (UTC)

The number - Five[edit]

Many of the chinese related element (eg. music, taste, organ) are counted in a total number of 5 elements. Do anyone know why the number 5 is used instead of any others number?

Well, they're counted in 5 because they were all connected to the five elements. As to why 5 in the first place, it may be too far in the past to determine, but the 5 classically visible planets may have been part of it. DenisMoskowitz 15:26, 13 October 2005 (UTC)

Just some ideas. We have five fingers? But really maybe it is because 5 is an easy number of things to remember as a group. It is used as a way to make choices and as a way to think through complicated situations. Look at where it is used. Weather, medicine, war; all thinks that are hard to understand and hard to predict. It also relates to the way the Chinese saw the seasons.

"In order to understand the origin of the phase energetic system (5E), one must possess knowedge of astronomy." chapter 67 Neijing Suwen 300 bc? trans Maoshing Ni, Ph.D. --Magic.crow 20:49, 14 October 2005 (UTC)

There appears to be a connection between the five planets as understood in China and the planets, sun, and moon as understood in ancient Egypt and ancient Israel. In the Western system, the planets were identified with gods. Venus may have been having an active social life on Earth, but she was also up in the sky, and the same went for the other gods. They had their duties on Earth, too. They took turns being "in charge" throughout the day. Six of the gods Iincluding Sol and Luna) took four turns, but three gods were always left over at the end of the day, so the next one "up" took the first period of the following day. Then that day of the week was given the name of that god.
The "canonical" list of the five elements is metal, wood, water, fire, earth. Where did that order come from? Why don't them list them as metal, water, wood, fire, earth (the order of generation) or go by their physical order: water, metal, fire, wood, earth? You can derive the first order above from the third order the same way they got the days of the week in Western antiquity if you assume a 12 watch day governed only by those five gods. To see the results the fast way, just jump from the first to the third to the fifth, back around and skip to the second and then to the fourth. It's hard to believe that the "canonical" list came about by chance.
Once you've got the idea that the planets/gods control things on earth, and that these gods pass on their responsibilities for control from one to another, then you've got the idea of the "phase changes" that occur among the five elements, the idea that each of the five elements acts in ascendency in the human body at different times each day, etc. P0M 02:14, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

The number five in Shang times related to the number of directions one performed divinations and sacrifices. See Sarah Allan's "The Shape of the Turtle," which is corroborated by oracle bones from the period. User:cbramble

Elements and Guardians[edit]

There seems to be some confusion out there about the role of the Dragon. Yes, the Dragon (Qing Long) is the Guardian of the East, but I also remember the Dragon also being associated with the element of water, not wood. Wolf ODonnell 12:28, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

I would like to add the following external link.

Title of link: Five Element interrelationships, concordances and causative factors. Link:

There is some good information on 5 element, as well information on causative factors in five element theory.

Metal generates Water?[edit]

Why's that? --Kinst 01:01, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

Here is the explanation I learned. If you put a piece of metal outside on a night when the temperature goes below the dew point, then water will condense on the metal. Next the water gives rise to vegetation (wood), the wood burns and produces ashes (dirt), and you dig in the dirt to find metal ore. P0M 01:28, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
Weeeeeeiird. Thanks! --Kinst 01:21, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

What I learned when I was young was that the metal heated becomes a liquid like water. Similarly, the earth hardens into a very hard substance like metal. I don't know if these have any theoretical background, but they seem to be more 'plausible' than the 'dew' scenario. Maybe it was taught that way so that kids could remember it easily. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:22, 9 December 2007 (UTC)

Earth Season[edit]

Are we sure that Earth corresponds to the "change of seasons" 4 times a year? Can someone check that? Edededed 08:23, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, vol. 2, p. 262, says that the sixth month was sometimes associated with earth. The people who wanted to map a set of four onto a set of five had to do some forcing to make things fit. The fact that Needham says it is "sometimes" done one way does not mean that the present version of the text is wrong. It would be good to find a citation for the idea, however. P0M 06:29, 18 March 2007 (UTC)


I just made some changes to the page so it would be easier to read. Before, the descripions of the generating and overcoming cycles ran together and could have caused some confusion for those who know very little on the subject. This way, they are separated into their own sections. But the page still needs plenty of work. The second "correlations" section runs together as well. Someone needs to better separate and explain these into their own sections. (Ghostexorcist 00:45, 10 December 2006 (UTC))

Page is list[edit]

I'm not much of an expert in this area, so I can't really add much, but right now this page seems mostly like a list. Could someone elaborate on the significance of these elements to Chinese culture and analyze their aspects? PhoenixSeraph 23:54, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Concordances incorrect[edit]

Updated the table of concordances to bring it into line with the most accepted relations, for example, the grains were incorrect, and both zang and fu fire were incomplete. Referenced from Maciocia and ACNM DSL. --Nightwatchman 04:58, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

serial vandalism?[edit]

I just noticed that the components for the five emotions are all messed up. The latest person to change things made it worse than it was before, but it was bad enough to start with.

The list in Chinese is: 喜 樂 欲 怒 哀

The first one is always a little difficult to translate in this context since the first meaning that comes to mind is "to like" and in, "I like you." I have translated it pleasure, partly to distinguish it from the second element, which is usually translated "joy." The third feeling is desire. There isn't really any question about that except that in modern Chinese the noun for is usually written 慾. The fourth is anger. The fifth is sorrow. How all the strange translation crept in I don't know.

"Delight" would be another meaning for the first, according to Liang Shi-qiu's dictionary. I hadn't thought of that.

Let's stick with definitions that have the support of good dictionaries from now on. P0M 05:28, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

I've compared the table in this article with the table in the Chinese version of the article and also with the tables in Joseph Needham's Science and Civilization in China, vol. II, p. 262f. There are a couple of places where the Chinese version and Needham's version differ, but where they are the same but this article's table differs I have corrected the ones here. If the Chinese version and Needham's version differs it is possible that they are depending on different ancient Chinese sources. But Needham was working with the best Chinese scholars and the Chinese Wikipedia probably has access to reliable sources too. Nothing is perfect, especially where there is no objective check on theoretical assertions. But where these two sources agree it probably means that they are both looking at the same standard texts among the ancient classics. P0M 06:54, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Some traditional Chinese texts suggest seven emotions (七情), namely 喜怒哀惧爱恶欲, i.e. happiness, anger, sadness, fear, love, disgust, desire. --Yejianfei (talk) 17:54, 7 July 2017 (UTC)

Last edit[edit]

Is this edit legitimate? [4]. ssepp(talk) 22:41, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

Yes, it is. Matthew 百家姓之四 Discussion 討論 01:58, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

性格聰明, 好學,臨事果斷,好動,是背井離鄉之命,一生講信用,執意孤行 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:43, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Matching Elements in illustrations[edit]

I have a new edition of the 2000px Wuxing_en.svg.png {sic} file, which matches the layout of the next illustration on the page, FiveElementsCycleBalanceImbalance.jpg (wow!). Since there are multiple issues here, I thought it might be better to open this for discussion rather than simply upload it. A little guidance on how to do this properly without breaking something might be helpful as well. Thanks. --TheLastWordSword (talk) 16:22, 16 November 2010 (UTC) (First hexagram, line 4, lol)


i am pretty sure that napalm is not part of wu xing.

bijia hsing M. Ac. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:28, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Material Associations[edit]

This page has had a lot of changes regarding the material associations of the elements (i.e. radiation being part of the fire element). How does everyone figure those? Is it just figured based on either interaction with other elements (or qualities of the material itself), or is there some kind of source for this? Firespike33 (talk) 23:15, 6 October 2013 (UTC)

wood matter is yin metal air energy is yang left mounths table information arctic antarctic difference etc.


wood matter is yin metal air energy is yang left months table information arctic antarctic difference etc.

colour direction[edit]

water is not blue? wood is not green?

in antarctic side water is south (pole) fire is north — Preceding unsigned comment added by HeSeaBlueDogJueyin (talkcontribs) 12:10, 18 January 2016 (UTC)

dude what[edit]

there's some stuff going on in that first stub tbh (talk) 02:56, 6 March 2016 (UTC)


Thunder Yang Above born in Clouds on the Sky go Down

Wood Trees Source Yin Below born on the Ground go Up

--Iching4096 (talk) 12:08, 15 April 2016 (UTC)

Addition of original research[edit]

Wikipedia is not the place to publish personal view points or theories. Unsourced material will and should be removed and persistent addition may result in sanctions.Peter Rehse (talk) 10:29, 16 April 2016 (UTC)

My Source is the Pure True Tao what Theorys havent on books or sites because no one know it to put in a comunication. --Iching4096 (talk) 12:09, 18 April 2016 (UTC)


" en.wik / Venus " :

" Venus is by far the hottest planet in the Solar System, with a mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F), even though Mercury is closer to the Sun. "

Mars if Fire Planet ???

--Iching4096 (talk) 12:20, 20 April 2016 (UTC)

Unexplained image[edit]

The second image in the article (FiveElementsCycleBalanceImbalance 02 plain.svg) is full of stuff that isn't mentioned at all in the article. +SI -PC? Insulting and overacting cycles of imbalance? Exploding, crossing, splitting, drilling, crushing? What does any of this mean? - (talk) 18:17, 5 July 2016 (UTC)

Ming Nei-Yin[edit]

Bing-Ding Yang-Yin of Fire Element in Cave and Sky Water ???

Jia-Yi Yang-Yin of Wood Element in Lamp Fire ???


Can Some-One Ex-Plain Th-is ???

Han Xiang Zi 9 (talk) 12:36, 25 May 2017 (UTC)

First sentence clutter[edit]

The opening sentence gives a whole lot of names, referrals and variations without actually explaining the subject. Per WP:LEADCLUTTER: it is advisable to move alternate names of the subject to a separate section if "there are at least three alternate names". The 8/9 it currently has are way too much. Saying the subject's common name is a short form of something and then giving that full name's translation is also not the right way to introduce the subject (see WP:REFERS). Bataaf van Oranje (Prinsgezinde) (talk) 22:34, 14 October 2017 (UTC)

Well, obviously the page is a mess[edit]

and the legends varied over time and place, making it very difficult to work through. Still, there should be something on the page talking about the connections between the wu xing and the usual connections to the Four Benevolent Animals like the "Azure" Dragon. — LlywelynII 02:06, 16 November 2017 (UTC)