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Wu Xing or the notions of 5 movements


In ancient Chinese philosophy, the organisation of the Universe, where time and space are inseparable, is structured by the law of the 5 Elements named Wu Xing. According to this vision, the Universe continuously self-generates itself and creates Cycles. This notion of Cycles is explained by the Wu Xing theory: All energies from the Original Breath (Yuan Qi) which is insubstantial, can materialise in movements or elements, and therefore become substantial. The invisible becomes visible.


All the energies provided by the Original Breath "Yuan Qi", have particular properties and a well defined role. They will manifest themselves materially in a particular, specific and individual way. So this creates Earth, Wood, Fire, Metal and Water. In terms of directions, these elements will take the 4 cardinal points: the Center will represent the Earth, the East the Wood, the South the Fire, the West the Metal and North the Water.

It has been defined that the best disposition for the Earth in cyclical movements, is located between Fire and Metal. Which brings us to the following diagram:












Their relations are explained according to a cycle of Generating Interaction (nourishing) :


✗ Wood generates Fire (Wood catches fire)
✗ Fire generates the Earth (Fire is reduced to ashes)
✗ The Earth generates Metal (the Earth produces metals)
✗ Metal generates Water (Metal liquefies in cast iron)
✗ Water generates Wood (Water nourishes wood)

And according to a cycle of Overcoming Interaction (controlling) :

✗ Wood controls Earth (Earth is plowed by Wood)

✗ The Earth controls Water (Water is absorbed by the Earth)

✗ Water controls Fire (Fire is extinguished by Water)

✗ Fire controls Metal (Metal is melted by Fire)

✗ Metal controls Wood (Wood is cut by Metal ax)

It is good to notify that the generating and controlling cycles are physiological. But as defined by the Yin-Yang theory, every phenomenon is balanced by its opposite, so there are two opposite or "pathological" cycles :

The cycle of "rebellion" (the controlled element rebels against its master. For example Fire rebels against Water and evaporates it) and the cycle of "aggression" (the element that controls another element will do it with too much fervour. For example the Water attacks the Fire and tend to extinguish it). In Chinese medicine, these two cycles bring the internal disease.

The San Bao theory defines the Man as the Center between the Earth and the Sky. In the human body, it is the couple Spleen - Stomach that is in the center of the body. Indeed, the Chinese think that the representation of the Universe, or the Macrocosms (Sky - Man - Earth) is a reflection of what is happening inside the Man, or the Microcosms (Heart as the Sky - Spleen as the Center - Kidney as the Earth). From the infinitely large to the infinitely small, the structures are the same. Therefore, the concepts of Wu Ji, Tai Ji, Yin-Yang and Wu Xing also applies to the body and mind.

This brings us to the following classification :

✗ The Wood reflects the Liver and Gall Bladder, and houses the Soul (Hun)
✗ Fire reflects the Heart and Small Intestine, and houses the Spirit (Shen)
✗ The Earth reflects the Spleen and Stomach, and houses the Intention (Yi)
✗ The Metal reflects the Lungs and Big Intestines, and houses the Soul (
✗ Water reflects the Kidneys and Bladder, and houses the will power (Zhi)

In Chinese Medicine, these relationships explain the body homeostasis and defines the following connections :


* Written by Cedric Mallants / Acupunctuur specialist in Eindhoven

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