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The 5 Elements


Students can develop quite happily without knowing anything about the theory of the five elements. However as you continue to study you will see that this theory will crop up in some unlikely places.

The five elements in question are abstract entities represented in nature by Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood and are used to classify all known phenomena by how closely their properties match those of these five elements. Having classified things by their properties, the theory is then used to explain and chart their relationships and mutual interaction. Keep in mind that this theory is used like an analogy or description, not necessarily in the literal sense.

The following table shows some typical categories.

Element Direction Weather Yin Organs Yang Organs Feelings Color Taste
Fire South Hot Heart Small Intestine Joy Red Bitter
Earth Center Humid Spleen Stomach Meditate Yellow Sweet
Metal West Dry Lung Large Intestine Worry White Pungent
Water North Cold Kidney Bladder Fear Black Salty
Wood East Wind Liver Gall Bladder Anger Green Sour

There are three cycles which describe the mutual interaction of these five elements. They are Creative Cycle, Destructive Cycle and the Counter-active Cycle. You may come across different descriptions, but the relations are always the same. For more on the Cycles go to Cycles.