Five Elements Theory for Dummies

five_elements_520x300Is there such a book? There seems to be one for every subject on the earth but so far I haven’t found one for TCM and five elements theory. Now on the face of it there seems to be little problem with learning the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) and with a bit of effort the interaction between the elements i.e. the relationship of mutual interdependence and the way in which they each balance each other. Yes the principle is simple but in reality it quickly develops into a mind numbing crush of information which is far to much for my tired old brain to take in, order and make sense of. How does anyone even begin to learn all of the different categories and interactions?

This is made all the more confusing as there seems to be a range of different views as to what goes into each category depending on which particular tradition you research.I have made a start by trying to learn to draw the characters in my calligraphy class which is helped by a sympathetic teacher who doesn’t mind me wandering off topic when I need to.  I also find it useful to try and think about the elements in purely physical terms through the qigong movements associated with the elements. This has had some limited success but when I then try and relate the movements to the parts of the body and the qi meridians it doesn’t really help me that much.

Well as the Chinese say:  step by step… so I have made a start with trying to learn these simple bit size chunks of information I found on the Sacred Lotus Arts webpage:


Chinese Character for Metal

The Metal Element
Metal Generates Water, Controls Wood, and Insults Fire
Zang Fu: Lung (Yin) and Large Intestine (Yang)


Chinese Character for Water

The Water Element
Water Generates Wood, Controls Fire, and Insults Earth
Zang Fu: Kidneys (Yin) and Urinary Bladder (Yang)


Chinese Character for Wood

The Wood Element
Wood Generates Fire, Controls Earth, and Insults Metal
Zang Fu: Liver (Yin) and Gall Bladder (Yang)


Chinese Character for Fire

The Fire Element
Sequence: Fire Generates Earth, Controls Metal, and Insults Water
Zang Fu : Heart (Yin) and Small Intestine (Yang)


Chinese Character for Earth

The Earth Element
Earth Generates Metal, Controls Water, and Insults Wood
Zang Fu: Spleen (Yin) and Stomach (Yang)


There is also an excellent Five Elements spreadsheet (right click and save as – the file won’t open on its own) compiled by Donald Reynolds of the Northern Shaolin Academy for those of you with the ability to actually take in information and remember it. Should make for some good bed time reading!

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