Friday, June 18, 2021

Wuxing (Chinese philosophy) 五行 (Five Phases)

Wuxing (Chinese: 五行; pinyin: wǔxíng) is certainly usually translated as Five Phases. This is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicinal drugs. The "Five Phases" are Fire (火 huǒ), Water (水 shuǐ), Wood (木 mù), Metal or Gold (金 jīn), and Earth or Soil (土 tǔ). This order of presentation is known as the "Days of the Week" sequence. In the order of "mutual generation" (相生 xiāngshēng), they are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. In the order of "mutual overcoming" (相克 xiāngkè), they are Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal.

The system of certain five phases was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. After it came to maturity in the second or first century BCE during the Han dynasty, this device was employed in many fields of early Chinese thought, including seemingly disparate fields such as Yi jing divination, alchemy, feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy, and martial arts.

Wu Xing is also called the five-element theory of Chinese philosophy. The "Five Elements" are commonly described as a so-called endless loop that influences people's fate and many other things.

Tai-chi certainly 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 really 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.

Take a look at 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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