What is The Five Elements Theory?

Written by Losany

Mar, 2022

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The Five Elements Theory was summed up by the ancient Chinese people through their long-term observation and experience of the natural world. In order to grasp and explain the change in law and the internal relationship of things, the five familiar elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water in daily life are used as representatives.

On this basis, the ancient Chinese used the relationship between these five elements to breed and restrict each other to explain the complex changes in things, thus forming the Five Elements Theory.

Since ancient times, the Five Elements Theory has been a philosophical thought of Taoism in China. It takes the five elements of daily life: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth as the basis for constituting all things in the universe and the changes in various natural phenomena.

The Five Elements Theory is a concept that explains the eternal movement of the world.

On the one hand, the Five Elements Theory believes that everything in the world is generated by the movement and changes among the five basic elements. Using the relationship between the five elements to explain the relationship between things and giving a correct answer to the origin of the world;

On the other hand, The Five Elements Theory believes that nothing is isolated and static but is constantly interdependent. The dynamic coordination and balance are maintained in the movement of mutual restraint.

Therefore, the Five Elements Theory not only has a materialistic view but also contains rich dialectical ideas. It is a theory used in ancient China to understand the universe and explain the laws of interconnectedness in the process of occurrence and development of the universe.

Five Elements

Ancient Chinese thinkers used the operation and changes of five basic substances, metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, to explain the origin of all things in the world. Traditional Chinese medicine used them to explain various phenomena in physiology and pathology, while traditional Chinese numerology used them to calculate people’s fate.

The Five Elements Theory first appeared in Taoism. It emphasizes the concept of the whole, depicting the structural relationships and forms of movement of things. Suppose Yin and Yang is an ancient theory of the unity of opposites. In that case, The Five Elements Theory can be said to be a primitive general system theory.

The Five Elements Theory uses five substances, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, to explain the origin of all things in the world and the unity of diversity. All things and phenomena in nature can be classified into five systems according to the properties and characteristics of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The five systems and even the things and phenomena in each system have a certain internal relationship, thus forming a complex network state, the so-called “five elements.”

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Metal, wood, water, fire, and earth have different properties. The Five Elements Theory incorporates the properties and categories of all things in nature into the categories of these five categories. The feng shui meanings of these five elements are as follows:

The feng shui meaning of metal represents change and reform. Therefore, metal has the characteristics of being soft and rigid, extending, transforming, and killing.

The feng shui meaning of wood represents vigorous vitality. Because wood can absorb the Qi of water and earth, it can grow and develop, so the wood has a soft and kind nature of growth and slenderness.

The feng shui meaning of water represents cold, wet, and downward. Therefore, water has the properties of moisturizing downward and digging into hiding.

The feng shui meaning of fire represents hot, upward. Therefore, fire has the characteristics of heating, warmth, and upward, and fire also has the functions of expelling cold and keeping warm and tempering metal.

The feng shui meaning of earth represents carrying, biochemistry, and storage. Therefore, the earth has the function of loading and biochemical storage. It is the mother of all things and has the nature of contributing heavily.

Five Elements Theory

The Interrelationship of the Five Elements

According to The Five Elements Theory, mutual generation and mutual restraint are considered to be normal phenomena in nature. It is precisely because of the existence of the relationship between all things that they mutually generate and restrain each other so that nature can maintain ecological balance.

The meaning of mutual generation is support, cooperation, and compatibility, which means that one thing has the effect of promoting, encouraging, and growing another thing.

1. Wood generates fire

The fire uses wood as the burning material, and when the wood burns out, the fire will extinguish itself.

2. Fire generates earth

After a fire burns an object, the burned object turns into ashes, and the ashes are earth.

3. Earth generates metal

Metals are stored in earth or stones and can only be extracted after being smelted.

4. Metal generates water

Water must rely on metal utensils to open and dredge; if gold is burned by fire, it will melt into liquid.

5. Water generates Wood

Water can irrigate trees, and they will thrive.


The meaning of mutual restraint is inhibition, rejection, and opposition, which means that one thing has the effect of inhibiting and restricting the growth and function of another thing.

1. Water restricts fire

The many beats the few, so water restraints fire. Fire is extinguished when it meets water.

2. Fire restricts metal

The high temperature of fire can melt everything, so fire restraints gold. Fire can melt metal.

3. Metal restricts wood

Hardness beats softness, so metal restraints wood. Metal cutting tools can saw through trees.

4. Wood restricts earth

single-mindedness wins over chaos, so the wood restraints the earth. Saplings are powerful and can break through the barriers of the land.

5. earth restricts water

The real overcomes the virtual, and the earth restraints the water. The water comes to cover the earth, and the earth can be waterproof.

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