Chinese Culture: The Five Elements2016-03-10 10:15:37Share:
Five elements are believed five basic elements consisting of the universe namely as metal, wood water, fire and earth. They produce each other and overcome each other.
The English word "element" has a somewhat fixed connotation that is not the same with the Chinese. Hence the Five Elements theory is often known, more accurately, as the Five Transformations or Five Phases.
The Five Elements theory views the Universe and its function as being cyclical and interactive. Accordingly, all of the things in universe are interdependent. Everything in existence contains some quantity of all five elements; however, according to the theory one of the five so particularly predominates or manifests itself in each thing, and may thus be categorized accordingly.
Taoist physicians and sages further determined that each element had special relations with particular organs in the human body as well as to other things such as colors, flavors, the time of day, the season of the year, and the way we respond physically and emotionally to external influences and all of the forces of nature.
The Five Elements theory identifies the five different modes (elements) in which chi energy may manifest itself. The five (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) are arranged into a cyclical sequence that represents the flow of energy between these elements as 'phases'. Each phase of an element characterizes a stage in a cyclical process. The characteristic of each phase is determined by the 'energy dynamic' personified as the never ending round of the seasons in the natural world.
It is not to say the passage of time that changes things; everything changes anyway. Thus the 5 elements theory is simply an observation on natural changes; everything can be in constant and harmonious transition from one phase to another - just as one season 'becomes' the next.
Wood is the most human of the elements. It is the element of spring; the creative urge to achieve - which can turn to anger when frustrated. It is associated with the capacity to look forward, plan and make decisions. Wood energy is rising, expanding, and is the force of growth and flexibility.
This element represents all the activities of the body that are self regulating and/or function without conscious thought; i.e. digestion, respiration, heart beat and basic metabolism.
The liver (which converts food into fuel which is then supplied to the muscles, tendons and ligaments) is associated to the Wood element.
Fire is the element of heat, summer and enthusiasm; nature at its peak of growth, and warmth in human relationships. Its motion is upward. Fire is the symbolic of combustion and this represents the functions of the body that have reached that fleeting moment of maximum activity; indicating that decline is then inevitable. The element is associated with the heart and related to the tongue.
Earth is the element of harvest time, abundance, nourishment, fertility, and the mother to child relationship. This element is also regarded as central to balance and the place where energy becomes downward in movement. It is the symbol of stability and being properly anchored.
Earth is associated to the spleen and related to the sense of taste.
This category includes the Western idea of the air element. It is the force of gravity, the minerals within the earth, the patterns of the heavenly bodies and the powers of electrical conductivity and magnetism. Metal has structure, but it can also accept a new form when molten. Metal energy is consolidating and with inward movement, like a flower closing its petals. The symbol of metal is one of a cutting and reforming action, but it is also regarded as a solidifying process. The element is associated with the lungs and related to the nose.
Water is the source of life on this planet. Likewise it is the fluids (the main component of the body), which nourish and maintain the health of every cell. Water corresponds to the vital fluids, i.e. blood, lymph, mucus, semen and fat. The kidney is especially linked to this element. Its motion is downward. Water has the capacity to flow, infinitely yielding yet infinitely powerful, ever changing and often dangerous with the capacity also to nourish and cleanse.
Water is the ultimate yin; quiet, cold; representing the resting time of winter. It has a waiting, silent; still quality that can be described as "stored potential". It has flexibility (think of water filling up any shape of vessel), yet it has great power (think of the devastation caused by floods). In human psychology the element governs the balance between fear or being exploited and the desire to dominate.
According to the 5 Elements theory - which is of itself no more than just one element in a far greater united theory of traditional Chinese medicine - your internal organs, tissues, other parts of the body and their associated activities, all correspond to one or another of the Five Elements (phases). Thus, the relationship between the internal organs is like the relationship between the seasons. Accordingly, in healthy people the elements are said to be balanced and in sick people they are said to be unbalanced. Indications of an imbalance may appear in signs as varied as an unusual skin color or body odor, or as the recurrence of a particular symptom at specific times of the day.
The characteristic of each phase (new yang through to full yin) is determined by what happens in the natural world during each associated season. One season after another plays its role in the cycle of the year by just doing what it does when it does it and then smoothly moves on to the next. It is the smooth and harmonious transition from one phase to another that is important, along with the balance between them.
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