The Chinese theory of the Five Elements arises from the observation of ancient sages that all phenomena in the universe are the products of movement of the five qualities of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. From the original void of Wu Ji, arose Yin-Yang. Yin-Yang within this Wu Ji generates the Three Treasures: Heaven, Earth, and Man. The energy continues to unfold to the four divisions of Yin and Yang. These four divisions plus the Earth Element give us five phases of energy, commonly known as the Five Elements. From the Five Elements come the “ten thousand things” or our material world. In Chinese medicine, Five Element theory has had considerable influence on physiology, pathology, diagnosis, treatment and pharmacology. It has also been applied in the realms of Feng Shui and astrology.
Each of the Five Elements has specific characteristics and associations, as observed in nature over two millennia. Throughout this book I will capitalize these five words when they refer to the Chinese concepts and not to physical objects. Thus:
> Fire has the traits of flaming upward, expansion, heat, dispersion and dissipation.
> Earth is the sowing, reaping and bringing forth of all phenomena; it carries the traits of harmonizing and balance; it is essentially neutral.
> Metal is the working of change; it has the qualities of purification, refinement, elimination, reform, and gravity.
> Water has the traits of contraction, collection, condensation.
> Wood has the characteristics of growth, initiation, release, and rejuvenation.