Five Elements (Wú Xíng)
Five Elements refers to the five types of substances, namely wood, fire, earth, water, metal and their movements. The concept of Five Elements has emerged as early as the Warring States Period, which resulted in Yin and Yang interactions. Wood, fire, metal and water are located both above and below the earth, and while the first two elements are affiliated with Yang, the latter two belongs to Yin. Fire is much more active as compared to wood and is categorized as Zhi Yang; whereas water is below metal in activity and is categorized as Zhi Yin. Earth is located in the middle of the classification of elements, and belongs to the neutral group. As trees (wood) need water to grow, water is the supporting element of wood and wood can release the power of water (affinity relationship), thus correlate with each other. With this, the cycle of Five Elements is formed as such: wood enhances fire, fire enhances earth, earth enhances metal, metal enhances water, water enhances wood, known as the “Correlating Cycle of the Five Elements”.
Following this cycle of elements will enhance each other, while violating this cycle on the other hand will inhibit each other: wood inhibiting earth, earth inhibiting water, water inhibiting fire, fire inhibiting metal, metal inhibiting wood. This is called the “Inhibiting Cycle of the Five Elements”. However, unusual phenomena in the development and movement of things do exist indeed, and this is what we call “over-restriction” and “reverse restriction”.
Five Elements is a kind of culture. The studies of Five Elements believe that metal, wood, water, fire and earth are the most basic substances inevitable in the constitution of the material world. The constitution of the material world is a result of the movement and changes in the correlation and inhibiting characteristics of these five types of elements. Movement (Xíng – has the meaning of ‘walking’ in Chinese), in this context does not mean walking. It represents the energy of motion.