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Wu Xing

In Chinese astrology and feng shui, the concept of wu xing is of utmost importance. Feng shui without using the wu xing theory is not feng shui but a joke.


The Five Types of Chi

In Chinese philosophy, the concept of "Wu Xing" has a prominent standing. In Chinese Medicine, Astrology and Fengshui, the idea of Wu Xing is used extensively. This term has been conveniently translated as "five elements" or "five phases". The word "Wu" means "five". To single out the word "Xing" and try to explain what it means is futile effort. "Wu Xing" is actually the short form of "Wu zhong liu xing zhi chi" or "the five types of chi dominating at different times". Water dominates in winter, wood in spring, fire in summer, metal in autumn. At the intersection between two seasons, the transitional period is dominated by earth. It is customary in Chinese writing to summarize a longer phrase into a couple of characters. Sometimes the meaning is completely lost in the abbreviated form if the original phrase is not referred to. Wu Xing is one such example. Common translations including "five elements", "five agents", "five qualities", "five properties" and "five courses" cannot bring out the underlying meaning of the abbreviated term. This is the deficiency of a word for word translation.

The names "water", "wood", "fire", "metal" and "earth" are only substances whose properties resemble the respective chi in the closest possible way. They do help us understand the properties of the five types of chi but they also mislead us if we take everything in the literal sense.

Here we list some of the properties of the five types of chi as their names imply.

Water runs downwards, liberal
Wood grows upwards, enduring
Fire spreads in all directions, radiant and hot
Metal pierce in one direction, sharp and pointing
Earth attracts and concentrates, stable

Shapes and Colours

When chi is in the form of matter, the shape and color will determine which of the five types it belongs. More often than not, we have a combination of two or more different types. The table shows the shapes and colors of the five types of chi in matter form.

Wu Xing Shapes Colours
Water Wavy Black, Dark Blue
Wood Rod-like or Beam-like Green
Fire Triangular Red, Orange, Purple, Pink
Metal Spherical White, Golden, Silver
Earth Cubic Brown, Yellow

The Enhancing and Weakening Cycles

It is commonly translated as "the producing cycle". This cycle explains how one type of chi can help another type to exhibit its quality and ability. "The enhancing cycle" is a more apt translation. For example, instead of saying that water produces wood, we say that water enhances wood. When a tree is watered, it can grow more healthily. As a matter of fact, a man influenced by woody chi will be more upwardly mobile when watery chi enhances his woody chi.

The reverse of the enhancing cycle is the weakening cycle. Wood helps burning, but in the meantime it loses energy. It is weakened. In the same way, if a person influenced by the fiery chi interacts with the earthy chi, the fiery chi will be weakened and one’s ability to shine will diminish.

The Controlling Cycle

It is erroneously translated as "the destroying cycle". This cycle explains how one type of chi can control and suppress another type. It does not destroy the other type of chi as matter and energy cannot be destroyed. For example, a metallic knife can be used to cut a piece of wood to make a wooden table top. It is controlling the shape of the piece of wood and not destroying it.

These ideas are very important in analyzing the Four Pillars of one's life.

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