Making Sense of the 5 Elements

Symbol showing the 5 elements in balance. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Symbol showing the 5 elements in balance. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

To make sense of how the universe works, the Ancient Chinese came up with a system called Wu Xing, or the 5 Elements. You may have heard that all matter classifies as either wood, fire, earth, metal, or water—these are the 5 elements, and together, they make up the universe.

The 5 elements also show us how material naturally interacts and gives life.

For example, wood fuels fire, which burns to become earth (ash), which contains metal (minerals), which then enriches water, which then nourishes wood (plants), which makes air (oxygen).

This law, or understanding, is also used in many traditional Chinese disciplines, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), fengshui, cosmology, I Ching, classical arts, and martial arts. All disciplines in ancient China aspired to follow the course of nature in how they went about things, believing this would elicit the best possible outcomes.

When all 5 elements are in balance, you can experience harmony, and a feeling of “rightness.” When one or two elements dominate, the scales are tipped, and problems will eventually result.

Some say that each person can be described as a “type,” such as a “wood type” or “earth type.” Which type are you?

 

 

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