05 May, 2015

Talking About Wu Xing

Wu Xing is the five-element theory of Chinese philosophy. It is a conceptual scheme that was once used to explain a wide array of natural and social phenomena, including interaction between human body organs and the properties of traditional Chinese drugs. The "Five Elements" are commonly described as an endless loop that influences people's fate and many other things. 

Wu Xing Vocabulary

Tai-chi uses this theory to designate various positions and directions. Feng Shui practitioners also base their art on the principles of "Five Elements". Wu Xing even has some impact on the tea ceremony! There are different types of tea and tea settings that are arranged in certain sequences and directions. 

The "mutual generation" is a sequence of the five phases: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. 
To memorize the order of the phases it is helpful to remember that: 

  • Burning Wood makes Fire; 
  • Fire produces ash (Earth); 
  • Earth contains Metal; 
  • Metal makes Water more healthy and beneficial to the human body; 
  • Water feeds Wood. 

The "mutual overcoming" involves another order of the elements: Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal. 
  • Wood breaks up Earth (roots move through soil, and trees prevent soil erosion); 
  • Earth absorbs Water;
  • Water puts out Fire; 
  • Fire melts Metal; 
  • Metal chops Wood.

Some Useful Vocabulary To Talk About Wu Xing

自古以来 – zì gǔ yǐ lái – since ancient times
系统 – xì tǒng  system, systematic
统观 – tǒng guān  overall view 
相生 – xiāng shēng  interpromoting relation, mutual engendering; to engender one another 
思想 – sī xiǎng  thought. idea
趋势 – qū shì – trend

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