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The Chinese Five Elements

The Chinese Five Elements, also known as the Five Phases or Wu Xing, is a fivefold conceptual scheme that was influential in ancient Chinese philosophy and science.


The five elements are:


Wood (木 mù) - Associated with spring, the east, the color green, and growth/expansion.

Fire (火 huǒ) - Associated with summer, the south, the color red, and heat/passion.

Earth (土 tǔ) - Associated with late summer, the center, the color yellow, and stability/nurturing.

Metal (金 jīn) - Associated with autumn, the west, the color white, and contraction/perfection.

Water (水 shuǐ) - Associated with winter, the north, the color black, and flow/adaptability.

These five elements were seen as the fundamental building blocks that make up all phenomena and relationships in the universe. They were thought to interact with each other through generative and destructive cycles.


The five elements were used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine, astrology, Feng Shui, and other aspects of culture and cosmology. They represented dynamic processes rather than static substances.


The five element system differed from the Western four element model, with the addition of earth as a distinct element. It reflects the holistic Chinese worldview that saw the universe as a interconnected, ever-changing system.

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