Contact
Information:

Bill Cartmell, Instructor

Email:  info@
whitecranetaichi.com
Phone: (480) 518-3055
White Crane Tai Chi
Five Element Theory:
The Five Elements:
Along with the law of Yin and Yang, ancient Taoists observed a pattern of expression in nature that they interpreted as,
and called, the Five Elements. These elements, or energies, were described as fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. As
such, they were felt to be the prime energetic building blocks from which all material substance in the phenomenal world
is composed.

  




















     The basic idea is that everything is made up of some combination of these elements, and therefore expresses the
traits or tendencies implied. If one were to look in traditional Chinese medical texts, one finds long lists of categories
ascribed to each of these elements. The breakdown into these categories includes the seasons, foods, personality and
body types, colors, sounds, smells, and just about anything else that you can think of.
     For example, in color, fire is red, earth is yellow, metal is white, water is black, and wood is green. In the body, fire is
the heart-small intestine, earth is the spleen-stomach, metal is the lungs-large intestine, water is the kidneys-urinary
bladder, and wood is the liver-gall bladder.
     So what is the value of this life model? What are its practical applications? The ancient Taoists felt that we, as
humans, were unique in that our need and potential was to create a balance of all five elements in order to achieve
maximal health. Through diet, attunement to our environment, and movement practice, one has the opportunity to access
these energies.
     In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a doctor both diagnoses and treats a patient in respect to the model of the Five
Elements. Through listening to the pulses, determining one's constitutional elemental type (one is understood to be
predominately either fire, earth, metal, water, or wood), and observing physiognomy (facial diagnosis), a doctor
determines if there are imbalances within the patient in respect to the Five Elements; too much fire, too little water, and
so on. The treatment, either through acupuncture, herbs, or movement practice is intended to support a process of
allowing the individual to return to a state of energetic elemental balance.
     Fire is the primary creative force of life. The positive movement between the Five Elements, what is called the
Promoting Cycle begins with fire. It is dominant Yang and represents warmth, light, and the initial spark of life. It in turn
leads to earth. Earth represents all that we think of as substantial, enduring, and persevering. Next comes metal. People
often ask "Where's the air element?" In the Taoist view, the metal element is very similar to air. It includes the lungs as its
organ, but in general represents the process of transforming something that is base and impure into something that is
pure and strong. An example is that of forging iron into steel. The next element is water that is archetypal Yin. It is all that
is soft, fluid, and continuous. Last is wood whose image is that of the blade of grass or the bamboo shoot. It represents
suppleness and the ability to yield well in the face of force or aggression. It completes the elemental cycle and in turn
reconnects back to the point of origin; fire.

Two cycles can be seen at work within the 5 elements - one promoting, one controlling, so each element is strengthened
or weakened by two of the other elements.

Promoting Cycle
WOOD promotes FIRE
(Wood burns to create fire)

FIRE promotes EARTH
(Fire creates ashes, which become part of the earth again)

EARTH promotes METAL
(All metals are extracted from the earth)

METAL promotes WATER  
(Metal turns liquid when melted)

WATER promotes WOOD
(Water makes plants grow)

Controlling Cycle
WOOD controls EARTH
(Trees and plants maintain earth structure and take nutrients)

EARTH controls WATER
(Earthen defenses can hold water, and earth absorbs water)

WATER controls FIRE
(Water puts out fire)

FIRE controls METAL
(When it is melted)

METAL controls WOOD
(All wood can be chopped or sawed)

   
  When the correspondences are considered, these cycles become more practical. For example, in traditional Chinese
medicine, a person may complain of trouble with the lungs and weeping or grief, and as these are classified as metal
characteristics.  Earthy herbs with a metal boosting nature may be employed and foods classified as fire would be
restricted, as fire destroys or hinders metal. In this way the balance of energy in the body will be regained.
     As you can imagine, a full and detailed understanding of Yin and Yang and the five elements are required by
disciplines such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and is extremely involved and requires much study. However, the
important point is the underlying philosophy - everything changes, and furthermore, changes in accordance to a
universal law, and that appreciating the changes and working with them not against them makes for a peaceful and
happy life.

                                                   
Five Elements
Metal
Water
Wood
Fire
Earth
Yin Organs
Lungs
Kidneys
Liver
Heart
Spleen
Yang Organs
Large Intestine
Urinary Bladder
Gall Bladder
Small Intestine
Stomach
SpecificOpenings
Nose
Ears
Eyes
Tongue
Mouth
Anatomy
Skin and Hair
Bones
Tendons
Blood Vessels
Muscles
Emotions
Sorrow
Fear
Anger
Joy
Pensiveness
Directions
West
North
East
South
Center
Seasons
Autumn
Winter
Spring
Summer
Late Summer
Weather
Dry
Cold
Wind
Hot
Wet
Developments
Harvest
Storage
Production
Growth
Transformation
Colors
White
Black
Green
Red
Yellow
Tastes
Spicy
Salty
Sour
Bitter
Sweet