A Simple Guide to the Feng Shui Five Elements Theory (Wu Xing)

When it comes to learning Feng Shui, the Five Elements (also known as "Wu Xing") play a significant role. These elements - Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, and Wood - hold deep meanings and are used...

When it comes to learning Feng Shui, the Five Elements (also known as "Wu Xing") play a significant role. These elements - Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, and Wood - hold deep meanings and are used in various ways. But where did this concept originate, and how is it applied in Feng Shui practices?

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the basics of the Five Elements theory, including their cycles, representations, and applications within different schools of Feng Shui. It is important to note that different schools may have varying approaches to the practice. Throughout this article, I will share my personal preferences and dislikes regarding the schools, providing you with a well-rounded perspective.

Where did Five Elements Come From?

The Five Elements theory reached maturity during the Han dynasty in the second or first century BCE. It became an integral part of various fields, such as Feng Shui, astrology, Chinese medicine, music, military strategy, and martial arts. This ancient Chinese theory delves into the relationship between natural objects and explores methods to strengthen or weaken them.

Take Chinese medicine, for example. The element of Wood is associated with the liver, while Water is connected to the kidneys. So, if someone has a weak liver, it is essential to ensure their kidneys are in good shape, as Water nourishes Wood. Similarly, in Bazi astrology, an individual's birth time determines their unique elemental composition. Elements are also tied to specific periods, such as the year of the Earth dog in 2018. Understanding these elemental associations helps shed light on the ups and downs of one's life.

Please remember that these examples are oversimplified. The Five Elements theory can be applied to a wide range of objects, including the dimension of time when it comes to astrology readings.

How Five Elements Theory is Used in Feng Shui

Feng Shui can be categorized into two main schools: the Form School and the Compass School. The Form School focuses on visible aspects, while the Compass School emphasizes compass directions and the invisible Qi energy.

The Five Elements are incorporated differently in each school. In the Form School, elements are attributed to color, shape, and material. In the Compass School, each cardinal direction is correlated with one of the Five Elements.

To effectively apply Feng Shui cures and enhancements, you should understand the interrelationships between the Five Elements. However, it is important to note that the practice can differ. Some practitioners utilize color, shape, and material of objects to strengthen beneficial elements and weaken harmful ones. Later in this article, I will provide a summary breakdown of the different practices.

Let's begin by exploring the relationships between the elements.

The Growth Cycle

The Growth Cycle, also known as the strengthening or production cycle, illustrates how the elements support each other. This cycle can be visualized using the following image:

Growth Cycle

The Growth Cycle follows the natural order of things:

  • Wood produces Fire: Wood is necessary to fuel the fire.
  • Fire produces Earth: After burning wood, fire transforms it into ash, creating earth.
  • Earth produces Metal: Minerals are found within the earth's soil, allowing the extraction of metals.
  • Metal produces Water: When metal is heated and cooled, water condenses in the form of vapor.
  • Water produces Wood: Water is essential for the growth of plants.

This cycle reflects the concept that growth or production requires energy or nutrients from another source, similar to how we need food to grow. It is important to note that this also introduces the concept of the weakening cycle.

The Weakening Cycle

The Weakening Cycle represents the draining of energy. Here is an image demonstrating this cycle:

Weakening Cycle

The Weakening Cycle flows in the opposite direction of the Growth Cycle. It symbolizes the sacrifice or weakening of one element to support the growth of another:

  • Fire weakens Wood: The presence of fire reduces the amount of wood available.
  • Wood weakens Water: Wood absorbs water for its growth.
  • Water weakens Metal: Water causes metal to rust and deteriorate.
  • Metal weakens Earth: To extract minerals, earth must be excavated.
  • Earth weakens Fire: Earth smothers or extinguishes fire.

The Controlling Cycle

The Controlling Cycle, also known as the Conflicting or Clashing cycle, reveals the aggressive interactions between elements. Refer to the image below to visualize this cycle:

Controlling Cycle

The Controlling Cycle illustrates how specific elements overpower others:

  • Fire controls Metal: Fire can melt or weaken metal.
  • Metal controls Wood: Solid metal can cut through wood.
  • Wood controls Earth: Wood consumes nutrients from the earth.
  • Earth controls Water: Earth determines the flow and direction of water.
  • Water controls Fire: Water extinguishes fire.

When seeking to balance the Five Elements, it is advisable to use the weakening cycle instead of the controlling cycle. This is because the clash between elements can have adverse effects. A notable example is how water extinguishing fire produces smoke and splatters heated water. It is crucial to exercise caution when attempting to control elements.

Now, let's delve into how the Five Elements theory manifests in our surroundings.

How the Five Elements Theory Correlates to Our World

You can identify an underlying element of any object by considering three aspects: color, shape, and material.

Color Representations of the Five Elements

Modern Feng Shui practitioners often associate colors with the Five Elements. The following color representations are generally accepted:

  • Metal: White, Gray, Silver
  • Wood: Green, Light Green
  • Water: Blue, Black
  • Fire: Red, Pink, Orange
  • Earth: Yellow, Brown

Colors can be applied to various elements, such as wall colors, pillow covers, or any other decorative items. It is believed that colors possess energies that are absorbed through our vision, influencing our emotions. However, it is important to note that while colors may influence us, they do not directly affect Feng Shui.

Material Representations of the Five Elements

Material representations are relatively straightforward. The element of an object corresponds to the material it is made of. For example, water imparts the energy of the Water Element, while wood furniture brings the Wood energy. Similarly, if you seek more metal energy to balance specific sections of your home, consider incorporating metal-made items.

However, when it comes to electronics, opinions differ among Feng Shui practitioners. While electronics generate heat and require electricity to function, some believe they belong to the Fire element, while others argue that they have Metal energy due to their metallic components. The same uncertainty surrounds appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers, which generate heat, contain water, and are made of metal. In such cases, consulting a Feng Shui expert may provide clarity.

Shape Representations of the Five Elements

Different shapes are associated with each of the Five Elements:

  • Metal: Round
  • Wood: Rectangular
  • Water: Wavy
  • Fire: Triangular
  • Earth: Square

Shapes are applied to various elements, ranging from small decorative items like fish bowls or aquariums to larger features like land plots, buildings, roads, and waterways such as rivers or streams.

In the Form School of Feng Shui, the shapes of land plots, buildings, and waterways play a crucial role. Classical Feng Shui emphasizes the shapes of mountains and waterways as they yield the most significant Feng Shui effects. For example, living in a triangular house is believed to foster more arguments, as Fire is associated with temper. Triangular houses are also considered more prone to fire disasters.

It is worth noting that defining what constitutes a specific shape can be ambiguous. Is it the shape of the building, the land plot, or the fence surrounding the house? To assess the Feng Shui effects of houses shaped differently, consulting a Feng Shui practitioner is recommended.

Putting It Together: The Five Elements and the Different Schools of Feng Shui

Now that we understand the significance of the Five Elements theory, let's explore how it is put into practice across various schools of Feng Shui.

The Bagua Directions and Its Associated Elements

The Bagua is the most widely practiced Feng Shui method found online. However, its efficacy is debatable. In this practice, each direction is associated with a particular element:

  • North: Water
  • Northwest: Metal
  • West: Metal
  • Southwest: Earth
  • South: Fire
  • Southeast: Wood
  • East: Wood
  • Northeast: Earth

By applying the Growth, Weakening, and Controlling Cycles mentioned earlier, you can determine which elements to promote or weaken.

One popular application of this practice is using colors in the bedroom. For instance, if your bedroom is in the Northern section of your home, it is associated with the Water element. Incorporating colors associated with Water or Metal in your bedroom can enhance the Water energy. However, it is important to approach this practice with caution, as the efficacy of color-based Feng Shui cures is subjective.

The Eight Mansions School of Feng Shui

The Eight Mansions practice focuses less on using items to enhance specific areas based on their Five Elements and more on the overall compatibility between individuals and their homes. Here's a brief overview of this concept:

The Eight Mansions practice divides houses and people into two groups: East and West. Individuals with personal Kua numbers associated with the East group should ideally reside in houses belonging to the East group, and vice versa. This is because the Five Elements of the house and the person must align to avoid clashes.

For example, someone with a personal Kua of Kan (Kua #1) corresponds to the Water element and belongs to the East Group. If they were to live in a Gen (Kua #8) or Kun (Kua #2) house, the Earth element of those houses would clash with the Water element of the individual.

While this practice seems logical, certain inconsistencies arise when it comes to individuals living in Dui (Kua #7) and Qian (Kua #6) houses. Shouldn't the Metal element of these West Group houses assist someone from the East Group due to the Metal-Water relationship? These inconsistencies highlight potential shortcomings of the Eight Mansions practice.

Flying Stars School of Feng Shui

The Flying Stars School, similar to Xuan Kong Flying Stars, incorporates the Five Elements theory into its practice. While I cannot delve into the details in this guide, I will provide a glimpse of how this school uses the theory.

Flying Stars involves plotting nine stars associated with the Five Elements onto the nine palaces of a home, based on the sitting and facing directions. By examining the relationships between these stars and the center palace, one can determine the auspicious and negative areas in a house.

Each star represents an element, and their relationships fall into five categories: Growth, Boost, Weaken, Control, and Killing. By understanding the Five Elements' interactions within a house, one can optimize its layout.

It is important to remember that this practice assumes houses facing the same direction, built in the same year, possess similar Feng Shui. While the Flying Stars approach is valuable, it may not provide a complete picture.

My Thoughts About the Practices Mentioned Above

In modern times, many non-professional Feng Shui enthusiasts have become obsessed with the Five Elements practice. This has led to excessive categorization of objects based on their shape, color, and material in an attempt to achieve "balance." However, it is crucial not to go overboard with this practice, as its efficacy when used alone is questionable.

Among the schools mentioned, the Eight Mansions practice exhibits several flaws and inconsistencies. While it may seem logical, it fails to yield consistent results, weakening its overall effectiveness.

As for the Flying Stars School, it is a reputable approach. However, it is important to recognize that its assumptions may not always hold true, as houses facing the same direction may still possess varying Feng Shui due to their unique architectural features or renovation history.

In conclusion, the Five Elements theory serves as a foundational concept in Feng Shui, Bazi, Chinese medicine, and other practices. However, it is essential to approach its application with a balanced perspective. Instead of obsessing over micro-level balance, consider the macro-level impact of shapes, colors, and materials in relation to the environment. If you require further guidance, it is advisable to enroll in Feng Shui classes or consult with experts in the field.

Have you employed the Five Elements theory to Feng Shui your home? We would love to hear about your experiences and insights. Share your stories with us by commenting below!