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The Taoist elements
Photography by David Walters

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The Taoist theory of the five elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water is a further refinement or mood of Chi energy.

Like Yin and Yang, they have a cyclical harmony and balance, which permeates through and forms all things. Understanding the interaction and relationship between the elements forms the fundamentals of many Feng Shui practices and formulas.

Each of the elements relates to and is at their most potent at certain times of the day and year. They have associations with different colours and shapes. Their characteristics can be found in every physical object, our speech, cooking styles and forms the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine practices like acupuncture.

WOOD is spring time and the upward movement of sunrise: greens, vertical stripes, tall plants and wooden objects. Wood supports Fire as fuel yet breaks up the Earth.

WOOD
   

FIRE is midsummer and the height of the midday sun: reds, angular shapes, lights, candles or fireplaces and stoves. Fire creates Earth, yet it can melt down Metal.

FIRE
   

EARTH is the downward movement of the sun and the onset of autumn: browns, flat, low objects and rocks. Earth in turn produces Metal, yet it absorbs and soaks up Water.

EARTH
   

METAL is the inward motion of dusk and late autumn: metallic colours, materials and circular shapes. Metal produces or ‘holds’ Water, yet as an axe, can be used to destroy Wood.

METAL
   

WATER is the dark, quiet of midnight and midwinter: black and dark blues, irregular shapes and flowing water. Water supplies nutrients to produce Wood, yet extinguishes Fire.

WATER

Within this balancing act the elements have a positive, or ‘productive cycle’, and a negative, or ‘destructive cycle’, as shown below. The productive or controlling cycle moves progressively clockwise from element to element. Notice that, if you miss out one element from the productive cycle, those on each side conflict forming the destructive cycle.

Earth Wood Fire Earth Metal Water

Understanding the interaction and relationship between the elements forms the fundamentals of many Feng Shui practices and formulae.

Productive Cycle

Water produces wood, wood produces fire, fire produces earth , earth produces metal, metal produces water

As another way of putting it; wood could be used to help support the lack of the fire element in a situation, or simply one can use metal to drain the effects of too much earth found in an area?

Destructive Cycle

Metal destroys Wood, wood destroys earth, earth destroys water, water destroys fire, and fire destroys metal.

As another way of putting it; metal could chop down wood, whos roots can break up the earth which soaks up any water. Fire can therefore be controlled by water which quells its flame.