Five Elements Theory

The oracle bone script for 行 (xíng) pictures a left and a right footstep

The translation from the Chinese 五行 (wŭ xíng) into Five Elements does not convey its essential meaning of movement. The character 行 is composed of two parts, 彳on the left and 亍 on the right. They are actually the same radical drawn differently. The radical means a step made by a human foot. 行 is composed of a left and a right footstep. It means walking, or movement. Understanding Chinese ideas is easier if one remembers that they are about process and change.

Five Element Correspondences with Nature

Five Flavorssourbittersweetspicysalty
Five Colorsgreenredyellowwhiteblack
Stages of Developmentbirthgrowthtransformationwithdrawalstorage
Seasonsspringsummerlong (late) summerautumnwinter

Five Element Correspondences with the Human Body

Yin (treasure house) OrgansLiverHeartSpleen and PancreasLungsKidneys
Yang (processing) OrgansGallbladderSmall IntestineStomachLarge IntestineUrinary Bladder
Five Senseseyestonguemouthnoseears
Body Tissuessinewsblood vesselsfleshskin and hairbones
Five Emotionsangerjoyworrygrieffear

The Five Elements interact with each other by exerting promoting and inhibiting forces on one another. Promoting means to create, to nourish, to enable growth, to make stronger. Inhibiting means to control, to inhibit growth, to make weaker, to diminish.

The Five Elements promote one another in this order: wood > fire > earth > metal > water > wood

The Five Elements inhibit one another in this order: wood > earth > water > fire > metal >wood

The promoting and inhibiting forces are working constantly and simultaneously in nature and in the human body. Natural and human events are the results of Five Elements interaction. Everything is evolving and changing. Some changes are quick and immediate, others are so slow as to give the illusion of permanence.

About Lok-Kwan

Lok-Kwan is a Licensed Acupuncturist in the state of Illinois. He is a board-certified acupuncturist and herbalist. He sees patients and teaches qigong in Chicago and Wilmette. Visit his website
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