The five elements


Five Elements are five distinct types of energy (also known as Chi)- they are are wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

The properties of the Five Elements explain how the different types of chi interact with one another and how they move within nature. Wood, like trees and plants that sprout from the ground, moves upward and sideways. Fire, like a hot flame, also moves upward. Earth is a stabilizer that expands and can IT Ive in the four directions. Metal contracts, while water, like a waterfall, moves downward.

Many popular Feng Shui books represent these types of energy as just the physical form. However, these ategories go beyond the physical. It is also used to describe the changing of the seasons, colors, numbers, etc.

The following diagramme summarizes some of the different associations with the individual Five Elements:

The Five Elements

The interaction between these five elements is one of the keys to creating a balanced environment.

Since Feng Shui principles is about being in sync with nature, one needs to be able to mimic how these five elements interact with one another.

There are three cycles that exist between these five elements:

  • the creative cycle,
  • the destructtive cycle, and
  • the controlling cycle

The creative cycle

This diagramme demonstrates the creative cycle between the five elements.

The creative cycle of the five elements

In the creative cycle, the five elements enhance one another:

WATER creates TREE (a plant cannot survive without water)

TREE creates FIRE (wood and coal fuel the fire)

FIRE creates EARTH (the ashes left behind after a fire eventually turn into soil)

EARTH creates METAL (When the earth is compressed over time, it turns into rock which then creates metal)

METAL creates WATER (Cold metal will cause condensation of water)

When a certain element is lacking or deficient, we would use its conductive, or enhancing, element to strengthen it. For example, when there is a lack of fire element in your surroundings. One way to strengthen the fire element is to use more fire, which can be dangerous. A better option is to add the wood element. Since wood will feed the flames of the fire, it will strengthen that element.

In some cases, there might be too much of a certain element, and to weaken it we look to the destructive cycle or controlling cycle.

The destructive cycle

In the destructive cycle, the five elements destroy one another:

The destructive cycle of the five elements

WATER puts out FIRE


METAL cuts into WOOD, just like an axe to a tree

WOOD exhausts the EARTH, just like a tree taking its nutrients from the soil

EARTH muddies WATER, just like soil contaminate a puddle of water

We use the destructive cycle to control excess energy of a certain elements.

The controlling cycle

Certain Feng Shui practitioners also refer to another cycle known as the controlling cycle, also called the dissolving cycle, weakening cycle or reductive cycle.

This is similar to the creative cycle, except it moves in a counter-clockwise motion in the diagram.

The controlling cycle of the five elements

In the controlling cycle,

WOOD absorbs WATER into its roots to allow it to grow.

WATER corrodes the METAL, turning it to rust.

METAL weakens the EARTH by using the earth's energy to sustain an environment to allow it to form.

EARTH reduces FIRE, and

FIRE reduces WOOD by burning it to ashes.

Practitioners use the reductive cycle to weaken the dominating element without having to destroy it completely, unlike the destructive cycle.


Water is one of the five basic elements-the "shui" of feng shui.

When you need the water element to correct an imbalance somewhere in your house, real water must be used, not a picture of water. Clean, circulating water is more effective than still water. This is why fountains and aquariums are widely recommended by just about every school of feng shui. They are practical ways of getting water into areas that would not normally have any.

The colors blue and black, on a large scale, are considered a vibratory representation of real water. So, if you painted an entire room blue, it would resonate some of the water element.


Wood is an element that is somewhat misunderstood. Wood furniture is mostly dormant, so there is no harm in having wood furniture just about anywhere, including wood floors.

When you want to use wood as a remedying element, a live green plant is effective. A large display of green color, such as wall paint or carpet, can also work.


Fire is an extreme element and placing it anywhere can be very good or very bad.

Most Westerners who have not studied feng shui deeply do not know how to use the fire element correctly. In Chinese culture, the color red symbolizes happiness, fertility and prosperity. In America, it is a color associated with passion, power, sexuality and appetite.

Above and beyond any cultural or psychological associations with red, large displays of it vibrate heat, the fire element. Painting a door red for luck or power is a popular feng shui myth that is used incorrectly most of the time.

Fire colors used in the wrong locations can trigger accidents, miscarriages, divorces and a whole list of undesirable events. The fire element can be anything of significant size that is red, maroon, burgundy, hot pink or cranberry in color.


The earth element is represented by anything made from soil or stone. Objects of clay, ceramic, brick, concrete and marble possess the vibration of earth. Natural healing crystals like rose quartz and amethyst are also earth elements. Anything largely yellow, orange or brown in color represents the earth element. I don't believe man-made crystals possess much healing value, although they are popularly used in some of the New Age spin-off schools.


Anything made out of copper, brass, bronze, pewter, steel, silver or gold is a metal element. Metallic colors such as white and gray also enhance an environment in need of metal but real metal is best. Much of our furnishings and decor can be metal and can be inconspicuously incorporated into a living space or work area.

A row of metal file cabinets would definitely qualifY as a metal remedy. In other words, it is not necessary to purchase exotic metal Chinese knickknacks. A set of golf clubs in the appropriate location can do as much good as a strand of Chinese gold coins or brass Mandarin ducks. I like to see people use heavy pieces of raw, inexpensive copper or brass and not be timid with their metal remedies. Twenty-five to 30 pounds of metal are usually the minimum weight needed to affect a 10 foot by 10 foot room. Larger rooms usually need larger remedies. In later chapters you will be instructed on some good areas to place these elements.

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