Chinese Philosophy – Five Elements

Wuxing Chinese: 五行 Wǔ xíng 'Five Elements, Five Agents, Five Movements"

metal - 金 Jīn

wood - 木 mù

water - 水 shuǐ

fire  - 火 huǒ

earth - 土 tǔ

Wǔ (五) means five. Xíng (行) of Wuxing means moving; a planet is called a 'moving star' (行星) in Chinese.

Five Elements Theory is a Chinese philosophy used to describe interactions and relationships between things and phenomena. The five elements — wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — are believed to be the fundamental elements of everything in the universe between which interactions occur. It's Part of a series on Daoism.

Each element has its own characteristics and associations with different aspect of nature, such as direction, season, time, colour, tastes, virtues and so on.

You can ask your Chinese friends if their Chinese name has any Wuxing philosophy. Water, gold, and wood are most common Chinese radicals. In Chinese geomancy (divination practices such as Feng Shui), if your birthday data (the year, month, day and hour of a person's birth) really lacks one of these five elements, your family might consider trying adding it through your given name, and enhancing your name with some specific characters containing the lacking element. That's why some Chinese given names contain components of one of these five elements.


The Fixed Elements of 12 Chinese Zodiacs Sign

In Chinese astrology, each of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs is associated with one of the five elements as below.

Fixed Element Chinese Zodiac Sign
Wood Tiger, Rabbit
Fire Snake, Horse
Earth Ox, Dragon, Goat, Dog
Metal Monkey, Rooster
Water Pig, Rat

Astrology Associations

Characteristic Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Direction East South Center West North
Heavenly Creatures Azure Dragon Vermilion Bird Yellow Dragon White




Color Green Red Yellow White Black
Virtue Benevolence Propriety Fidelity/ Honesty Righteous-


Represents Creativity,

luxuriance, blooming, and flourishing

Enthusiasm and passion Nurturing, stability, and security Ambition,



Aptitude, brightness,

agile mind

Interactions Between the Five Elements


  • Wood feeds Fire
  • Fire creates Earth (ash)
  • Earth bears Metal
  • Metal collects Water
  • Water nourishes Wood


  • Wood parts Earth (such as roots or trees can prevent soil erosion)
  • Earth dams (or muddies or absorbs) Water
  • Water extinguishes Fire
  • Fire melts Metal
  • Metal chops Wood


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