The concept of 5 Elements, which are based on Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ) forms one of the fundamental principles of feng shui. The word Element here conjures up a certain connotation of something fixed in nature which is rather erroneous. This is because the ‘5 Elements’ which in Chinese is known as 五行 Wŭ Xíng actually pertains to a dynamic process of interaction of the elements. Particular attention is to be drawn to the word 行 which means a process, movement or transformation. This process of transformation of the 5 Elements is dynamic, in constant and harmonious transition from one phase to anothernever ending and is viewed as a representation of the ever changing universe. The concept of Wu Xing is central to all elements in Chinese philosophy, including science, medicine, astrology and feng shui.
Ideally there should be a balance of all the 5 Elements. Where one is missing, or one dominates, problems arise whereby the negative energy causes mishaps, sickness or depression. When the affinity of 5 Elements is harmonious, everything moves smoothly bringing balance and harmony. Interpreting and balancing the elements plays a major role in the practice of feng shui. In fact most cures and enhancers in feng shui are based on this theory.
According to Wu Xing theory, everything that exists in the universe, tangible as well as intangible, can be categorised under these 5 Elements. Each Element has a complex series of associations with different aspects of nature. Some of these associations are listed in the following table.
Five Element Chart
These 5 Elements constantly change their sphere of activity, nurturing and counteracting one another. The interaction of these primordial forces brings harmonious change and the cycles of nature run their course. A proper understanding of this aspect of energy flow helps in an appropriate application of this basic principle of Feng Shui for the understanding of the nature, treatment of ailments, designing of spaces, remedy of chi flow etc.
The 3 main interactions or cycles of the 5 elements are: Productive, Exhaustive and Destructive.
Productive or Creative Cycle
In the Productive cycle, Wood helps to feed Fire which creates Earth. Earth will then produce Metal which initiates and carries Water and Water helps to nourish Wood in a complete cycle.
* Wood feeds Fire;
* Fire creates Earth (ash);
* Earth bears Metal;
* Metal carries Water (as in a bucket or tap);
* Water nourishes Wood.
Exhaustive or Reducing Cycle
In the Exhaustive cycle which is the reverse of the Productive flow, the elements exhaust or weaken each other. Fire burns up Wood readily, Wood consumes water as when we place plants to water, Water causes Metal to rust, Metal exhaust Earth (Metal comes from Earth,), Earth puts out Fire and so on…
* Fire burns Wood;
* Wood consumes Water;
* Water corrodes Metal;
* Metal depletes Earth (as in tin mining;
* Earth chokes Fire;
Destructive or Controlling Cycle
The Destructive cycle is exemplified by the arrows inside the circle in which Wood parts Earth which can dam Water. And of course Water extinguishes Fire, whilst Fire melts Metal. This cycle completes when Metal is utilized to chop Wood.
* Wood parts Earth;
* Earth absorbs Water;
* Water extinguishes Fire;
* Fire melts Metal;
* Metal chops Wood.
Feng Shui wise, we need the presence and balance of all five feng shui elements in our home or office space in order to thrive and feel healthy. You can use the Productive or Generating Cycle, when you need to strengthen a particular feng shui element. For instance, if you need to strengthen the Fire feng shui element in a specific area, besides the obvious step of bringing more Fire energy (with bright lighting, red décor and triangular shaped décor items, etc), you can also focus on bringing more of the Wood element because it nourishes the Fire. You can do that with plants, wood décor items, colors green and brown etc.
Alternatively, you use the Exhaustive or Destructive Cycle when you need to weaken a particular feng shui element in your home or place or work. Use the Reducing Cycle when you want a gentle way to bring a situation into better balance. Apply the Destructive Cycle when one element is very strong, you need something stronger than the reducing effect to bring it back into balance. For example, if the Water element in a specific area is too strong and you cannot remove the decor element that brings the Water energy - such as, for example, mirrored wardrobe doors - then you need to weaken the Water element with Wood or Earth energy, depending on the extent of weakening effect required.
Each element can help alter your energy and/or the energy of your surroundings. When you understand the characteristics and relationships between the 5 elements, and how they can affect your space and your energy, they become a powerful tool in your feng shui kit. Metal helps you focus and get things done efficiently; Water improves communication and cash flow as well as bring opportunities; Wood is associated with growth and new beginnings; Fire is the energy to use when you want to boost passion and intensify any sphere of your life; Earth energy is ideal when things are chaotic and you need more stability and grounding. This is the basic information that you can use to adjust the energy of specific areas of your home or office. For example, to spice up your relationship areas, or to enhance your reputation, add more Fire energy: candles, lights or things that are red, purple, pink, and/or triangular in shape. Similarly, you can add Earth, Metal, Water or Wood or earth energy by working with the colors and shapes listed above.
Have fun playing with the 5 feng shui elements theory and decorate your home in a way that creates good feng shui as well as nurtures and supports the health and well-being of your loved ones.
Click here to find out more on other aspects of feng shui.