According to the Five Elements
In the five-element
theory, an analogy between the features and actions of something,
and the characteristics of the five elements is made so that the
properties of things similar to those of wood are classified into
wood; those things similar to fire, into fire, etc.
in classifying according to the five elements, the east is classified
as wood because the sun rises from it, which is similar to the ascending
and flourishing characteristics of wood; the hot south is classified
as fire because it is similar to the flaring-up characteristics of
fire; the sun sets in the west, and represents metal because it is
similar to the clearing and descending characteristics of metal;
the cold north, represents water because it is similar to water in
In the attribution
of the five yin viscera to the five elements, the liver corresponds
to wood because it is concerned with ascendance; heart yang corresponds
to fire because it is warming in action; the spleen corresponds to
earth because it is concerned with nourishment; the lung corresponds
to metal because it is concerned with descending; the kidney corresponds
to water because it governs water.
the five-element theory also holds that things corresponding to the
same element are related. For instance, the east, wind, wood and
sour taste are all related to the liver. Therefore it is thought
that the five-element theory is the basis for man’s relationship
to the natural environment, shown in the following tables:
and functions can also be categorized into the five physiological
and pathological systems which centre upon five yin viscera:
theory does not attribute things to the five elements mechanically
and in isolation, but shows the integrity and harmony of things according
to the interrelationship of the five elements, and shows what happens
to the five elements after they have lost their balance.
- Interpromoting and interacting
implies that a thing has an encouraging and generating influence
upon another; “interacting” implies that a thing restricts and restrains
the growth and function of another. In the five-element theory, both
are thought as normal activities.
in the environment determine the ecological balance in nature and
the physiological balance of the body.
of the five elements is as follows:wood promotes fire, fire promotes
earth, earth promotes metal, metal promotes water, and water, in
turn, promotes wood.
of the interaction of the five elements is: wood acts upon earth,
earth acts upon water, water acts upon fire, fire acts upon metal
and metal, in turn, acts upon wood.
The cyclic interaction
among the five elements are: “promotes, promoting, acted upon, and
In the Classic
on Difficult Medical Problems, the relation between “promoted” and
“promoting” is compared to the maternal and offspring relation. The
one that promotes the other is the “mother” while the one that is
promoted, the “son”. Take fire as an example. As wood promotes fire,
the wood is a promoting element; as fire promotes earth, the earth
is the promoted element. Thus, wood is the mother of fire and earth
is the son of fire. The promoted and promoting elements interact
and other elements restrain them. For instance, water is promoted
by wood, but water restrains fire. The five-element theory explains
that everything is regulated to prevent any excess or deficiency
and keep a dynamic ecological balance in the environment and a physiological
balance in the body.
of counteraction of the five elements was first seen in the Internal
Classic and refers to the abnormal interaction of the five elements
after their balance is upset.
the five elements is when one of the five elements acts upon another
excessively, resulting in an abnormal reaction.
why the overacting relation occurs are:
First of all,
one of the five elements is so strong that it acts excessively upon
and weakens another, resulting in abnormal interaction of the five
elements. For example, wood is so strong that earth is overacted
upon by it, causing a deficiency of the latter.
of the five elements is so weak that overacting of one by another
appears to be stronger, resulting in one getting weaker, e.g., wood
is originally not so strong, and when it overacts upon earth it is
still within a normal range, but, owing to the deficiency of earth,
the wood overacting upon earth becomes relatively strong, causing
earth to become deficient.
relation of the five elements implies that one of the five elements
is so strong that it counteracts another element which then becomes
overacted upon. For instance, on the one hand, wood is normally acted
upon by metal. When it is particularly strong, it is not acted upon
by metal but instead counteracts metal. On the other hand, metal
may be too weak to act upon wood, but is counteracted upon by wood.
and counteracting relations of the five elements are abnormal interactions.
For instance, when wood is extremely strong, it can not only overact
upon earth, but counteract metal; when metal is extremely weak, it
can not only be counteracted by wood but overacted upon by fire.
Hence, there is a connection between overaction and counteraction.
is presented by Cecilia Yankelevich, of acupunturachina.com
She is currently
directing research projects of clinical investigation in Nutrition,
Psychiatry, Neurology and Stress Management, integrating Western
medicine with Chinese medicine.