Components of Wu Xing (5 Elements) in Bazi

We must have a fundamental understanding of yin and yang and the theory of the five elements to comprehend Ba Zi (Wu Xing). Wu Xing is the five dynamics, phases, or movements. This only reinforces the idea that the five elements are not set conditions and constantly change due to natural evolution or in response to being forced in a different direction. We will now use the five elements to simplify the concept, but remember that they are based on the yin/yang theory. As such, they constantly change about one another to “maintain balance from either internal or external forces, or even an interaction between external and internal parties. For this reason, Wu Xing is also known as the five phases, movements, or dynamics.

They are as follows:

  • Wood (Mu)
  • Fire (Huo)
  • Earth (Tu)
  • Metal (Jin)
  • Water (Shui) 

              

Wu Xing was developed more recently than the theory of yin and yang (300 BC). It was created to explain and organize potential connections between various aspects based on their movements, interactions, and properties, much like the theory of yin and yang. On the other hand, Wu Xing was never intended to be rigidly accurate but rather a general objective description of natural phenomena, in contrast to yin/yang theory, which points to an infinite explanation of a phenomenon. Therefore, the only way to comprehend the five elements theory is to look at how each element interacts with the others. Wu Xing is used throughout Chinese metaphysics, including Ba Zi and Feng Shui, to describe situations and their connections to other people, places, circumstances, personalities, and so forth.

It’s interesting to note that traditional Chinese medicine has embraced Wu Xing (TCM). The five energetic organs—Liver, Spleen/Stomach, Kidney, Heart, and Lungs—are each associated with a particular element in TCM, with the Liver being represented by wood, Spleen/Stomach by earth, Kidney by water, Heart by fire, and Lungs by metal. This is how the Wu Xing theory has been applied. It is possible to identify a patient’s physiological and pathological dynamics by arranging each organ in relation to the Wu Xing, with each element generating, controlling, and even being controlled by another.

We will introduce the various elements, their properties, and some examples of the personality traits that these elements represent in Ba Zi before we begin to look more closely at Wu Xing. The five cycles of Wu Xing will then be discussed, along with how Ba Zi applies this theory to comprehend interpersonal relationships.

WOOD

Wood is the encompassing force that extends outward and in every direction. When light strikes a reflective surface, it behaves less like a laser beam and more like a light reflected in all orders. It needs freedom and room because it wants to grow and expand. This is why the illustration of a sizable tree with its trunk, branches, and roots is so helpful. Only if the tree has been given the room and time to grow can it grow to this size. The element of wood, like the tree, embodies the qualities of steadiness, flexibility (while also being constrained), growth, and unrestricted expansion. The expanding nature of fire and wood energy are very similar. It is challenging for the power of wood to be centered and focused on one thing because it is constantly expanding in all directions.

The element of wood embodies knowledge. Just as a tree grows, knowledge is something that has taken time to seek out and acquire. The tree’s branches spread out in every direction to cover the area necessary to receive the amount of sunlight required to support the tree’s constantly expanding trunk at its core. The box is the growing body of knowledge, which the branches nourish.

We also find intelligence, intuition, and a person’s potential development in wood. You need a good foundation of knowledge to have strong intuition. These qualities represent the yin and yang elements in the energy of wood.

There is already a defined potential, similar to the tree at the start of its development. This means that as long as the tree is given enough space and nutrients, it will develop into whatever it was meant to be. This is the energy of wood, potentially becoming whatever it is intended to become under the right conditions. We can see this in children as they grow. The proper upbringing and education allow the child to evolve into what is deep within them.

FIRE

Fire is the ascending movement. In other words, fire is the energy/movement constantly rising toward the sky, top, or peak. Its momentum is always upward, pushing it beyond where it began. It must continuously reach new heights, or it will deteriorate. It’s similar to starting a campfire. As long as there is fuel, the fire will continue to burn and stretch from the first spark that ignited the wood. However, putting something on top of the campfire will quell it or even put it out if there is too much on top. As a result, the fire requires space to expand/ascend. It must be constantly fueled, or it will eventually consume itself.

Fire is the ascending movement. In other words, fire is the energy/movement constantly rising toward the sky, top, or peak. Its momentum is always upward, pushing it beyond where it began. It must continuously reach new heights, or it will deteriorate. It’s similar to starting a campfire. As long as there is fuel, the fire will continue to burn and stretch from the first spark that ignited the wood. However, putting something on top of the campfire will quell it or even put it out if there is too much on top. As a result, the fire requires space to expand/ascend. It must be constantly fueled, or it will eventually consume itself.

Fire is also what cleanses and makes things possible to come back from the ashes/be reborn. For example, everything has been burned to the ground after a raging forest fire. However, plants grow back from the ash, and even new plants that did not exist are allowed to take root and grow there. Even the animals and insects return, taking up residence and flourishing. Fire can burn away old things and allow new things to enter. This also implies that fire is the element of heat, light, life, and illumination. Fire illuminates the darkness and reveals what was previously unseen. Fire is what rises to the sky and, as a result, has a good perspective of the earth while also being able to shine on everything below.

The sun is also made of fire! It is the center of attention in the blue sky, shining down with all its intensity and power on the earth. Nothing in the atmosphere is more captivating than the sun. Even on cloudy days, the sun’s heat will eventually burn through and cast its light on what lies beneath. The sun can be used as a compass as well. We know it rises in the east in the morning, sets in the west in the evening, and points south at noon. It’s a little more complicated than that, but in short, the sun always points us in the right direction and illuminates the path.

EARTH

The earth element is the movement that stabilizes and moves from outside to inside. Earth is a movement/phase/energy that condenses inwards. It is the element that allows for sowing and harvesting. Earth represents the intellectual work that will be done or obtained later. Earth energy is the ability to plan and discern what is required.

For example, suppose you live in a remote area and need to be able to care for yourself. What are you going to do? So you start thinking about your options and what is essential (food, communication) and what isn’t so important (access to a soda machine). It is part of the Earth’s nature to reason and discerns to make the right decisions—if you want corn, plant corn seeds rather than potatoes. You eat (sow) a well-balanced diet to balance out what your body requires if you want to be healthy (harvest). You put in the effort to build a good foundation for your business if you want it to be successful.

Earth, like nature, represents production and transformation. For example, in the deepest parts of the Earth, we find riches transformed over millennia from simple minerals/elements to valuable diamonds and other gems. This is the Earth’s ability to change things. Also, remember that the quality of what you have—or put into the Earth—determines what it can be transformed into. If you want good wine, you must plant seeds from good grapes; otherwise, the wine will not be good. It is that simple.

Earth also represents the qualities of rootedness and practicality. The Earth condenses, keeping you grounded and sounding like the foundation of a building. The Earth is like a mountain: it is immovable and towering. The hill is tenacious and will withstand the test of time. This is the “earth energy.” It concretizes things, making them more transparent and easier to understand. It is the logic of things, not imagination or creativity. As a result, what is the reason that can become a practical thing? Earth is everything represented by all of the laws and principles in science, engineering, and mechanics. Again, Earth is the base and foundation for creating something and seeing things clearly for what they are. All living things have the inherent ability to analyze and make critical decisions. The Earth is found in the art of contemplation and thus in the Yi part of the mind.

METAL

Metal represents that which is both malleable and complex at the same time. It is the source of water and thus can be pliable and strong. Metal is what collects, cuts, and slices. Metal represents justice and righteousness. Metal distinguishes between two sources: right and wrong, left and right, or up and down. For example, the energy of metal determines whether something should exist or not. In a social sense, it distinguishes countries, communities, counties, and neighbors. Metal distinguishes between cultures, people, and social settings. It establishes what is considered socially acceptable. It reveals the relative values of a person, a group, a country, and the entire world. Everything that defines human interactions is part of metal’s energy.

Metal represents wisdom and the ability to see and face the truth—for example, what is good for us and what is not. As a metal, it represents a rigidity that makes it difficult to see the more subtle and detailed aspects of things. It cannot distinguish finer distinctions where the line between right and wrong, high and low, or yes or no, is very fine or lies in the gray area. Metal is predominantly black and white. Metal can both restore and restrict the essence.

Furthermore, metal is hard and quickly resists things. Metal requires much force to break, but it can wither over time due to corrosion and rust. It must be cared for, or it will eventually lose its strength. Metal is essential because it reflects light—whatever you shine on, it will remember “the same back.” As a result, it is critical to care for metal and keep it shiny so that whatever you shine on it is reflected with at least the same strength and purity. Suppose you want the metal to discern and separate things correctly. In that case, it must be adequately sharpened so that it does not cut imprecisely and clumsily. If you want the butcher to cut your meat correctly and even trim and clean it, he’ll need a good, strong, and sharp blade. 

Metal represents the Lungs (Po) in TCM. Thus it is associated with the breath, body energy, and the ability to condense and emit. Strong lungs result in strong qi and, as a result, robust health. If the Lungs are weakened (for example, the metal blade becomes dull), you will experience fatigue and difficulty digesting emotions. The Lungs’ quality determines the metal blade’s ability to function correctly.

WATER

Water is the element that defines everything fluid, changing, and moving. It, like a river, will always find a way to move through terrain and maintain momentum. Water must circulate/transfer, or it will become stagnant and clogged with algae and sediment, similar to a pool with nowhere to go. Water’s energy must be moved, or it will become polluted.

Water is also the source of life in the natural world. After a rain, even the driest desert will come to life. Water is the basis for all life, and it nourishes the earth. But equally, as important as it is for sustaining life, it can also destroy it. If too much water moves, floods occur, the dam fails, or a massive tsunami hits the shore.

These water properties are the primary source of adaptation in life. It can change in any situation; however, the fear of stopping within the movement, so water’s energy is limited by fear. As a result, we say that stagnant water causes disease, confusion, and hindrance. As in yin/yang theory, things must always move, or they will die. The ideogram is the current of water.

Water, as a force, descends (to the bottom) like a waterfall or a river flowing down from the mountains. Water contains the energetic potential for doing or creating things. Water is the underlying potential for life to exist. It is the source of life and is inextricably linked to sexual energy and reproduction.Water preserves energy, knowledge, wisdom, and secrets in its depth. However, to access these treasures, the water must be calm. Suppose you’re looking for a shipwreck in a choppy sea. In that case, you’ll have difficulty finding it because of all the powerful movements on the surface and the enormous challenges of seeing through the water that has stirred up all the particles from the sea bottom. Only in a calm lake or sea will you be able to see things correctly/clearly.

Water is also the energy expended by the will to achieve its goals. Water can act and do, and the only thing that prevents it from doing so is fear. Water also contains introspection, insight, self-assurance, and internal force.

Wu Xing describes the five elements and their potential interaction patterns or cycles. We must understand four different processes in Wu Xing to interpret Ba Zi. In general, Ba Zi believes that everyone has a distinct personality that can be explained by one of the elements. And depending on which elements they are, these various personas interact with one another in different ways. A fire person, for example, interacts differently with an earth person than a water person.

The Wu Xing cycles describe how things should generally flow (creation cycle), how things should go against what is usually situated (insulting process), how certain aspects should dominate (controlling cycle), and finally, how one element can drain another (exhausting cycle). Another critical component is reinforcement.