According to Chinese metaphysics, all material substance in the universe is constituted of the five energetic building blocks: earth, metal, water, wood, and fire. These energies are also called the Five Elements, Five Phases, or Five energies. The Theory of the Five Elements is a concept developed in China over 4000 years ago. Over time the theory has influenced, or been the outright basis for many arts. Arts that have been influenced include Feng Shui, Chinese astrology, acupuncture, and general practice of Chinese medicine. Foods, objects, behaviors, and emotions can be categorized into the Five Elements.
In fact, the Five Elements gives one a paradigm that can be used for consistency between emotions, behaviors, and personality. They can also be described abstractly as representations of the transformation that occurs in the world around us, as metaphors for describing how things interact, relate, process and change. Their levels of intensity fluctuate with the changes of time and each other. If Yin and Yang can be thought of as polar opposites, then the Five Elements is just a simple system of gears. As a result, this theory provides an excellent basis for a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle.
The five elements themselves are taken both literally and metaphorically. The natural material substances of soil, metals, liquids, wood and combustion all represent their respective elements. However, since everything in existence is categorized as one of the five elements, it is not necessary for an object to be physically comprised of these materials.
Knowing the representations of each element and how they interact, you can modify the objects around you to change the flow of energy to your benefit. Let us take a closer look at each element.
Earth represents the root and foundation, the environment where all things begin life and return to at the end. Earth supports and nurtures. Its strength is wisdom, natural instinct, sturdy balance and fairness. People of the Earth element are loyal, supportive, practical, steady, patient, persevering, dependable, dedicated and full of inner strength. Associations with the Earth element include the colors of yellow, orange and brown; squares and other squat, sturdy shapes; clay, brick, cement and stone.
Metal represents new direction, innovation, solidity, Autumn, strength, and the ability to conduct and contain. People of the Metal element are firm, resolute, organized, independent, intuitive, serious and sometimes stubborn. Associations with the Metal element include the colors of white, silver and gold; round and dome-like shapes; all metallic objects and hardware.
Water represents communication, flow, the inner self, Winter, and the ability to nurture and support. People of the Water element are persuasive and are adept in diplomacy, empathetic, intuitive, flexible and adaptive, artistic, sociable and sometimes sensitive. Associations with Water include the colors of blue and black, curvy and flowing shapes, all forms of liquids.
Wood represents actions, growth, expansion, education, Spring, flexible strength and versatility. People of the Wood element are energetic, enthusiastic, outgoing, can take direction and turn it into action. Associations with Wood include the colors of green, turquoise and teal; tall, columnlike shapes; trees and all plant life; wooden materials including paper.
Fire represents honour, fairness, aggression, action, Summer, timing and execution. People of the Fire element are passionate, inspiring, action-oriented, innovative, humorous and sometimes impatient. Associations with Fire include the colors of red, pink and purple; triangles and spire shapes; light, warmth, and all sources of fire and heat.
Read about the way the Five Elements interact and balance in the next post, The Five Elements Theory Pt 2.