Within the Asian culture there is a focus placed on balance. From Feng shui to holistic medicine, when energy flows in one area, it ebbs in another. The interactions within the universe are only harmonious when there is give and take. One Chinese philosophy is the Five Elements Theory that is used for everything from medicine to fortune telling. These five elements are earth, metal, wood, fire, and water. They are believed to be the roots of the universe. Each element has its own associations and characteristics, playing a crucial role in the balance of the universe. No one element is more important or stronger, each have strengths and weaknesses. According to the theory, all of these elements rise and return to the universe which is why our connection to them is of vital importance.
While each of the elements stand independently, each has influence and molds the others. The interactions of the world are determined by the elements creating and destroying each other. The process promotes development while at the same time restraining the development. The complementary processes create harmonious stillness when they are in balance.
Creation: Water feeds wood that fuels fire that makes earth (ash) that produces metal that carries water.
Destruction: Wood separated earth (roots) that absorbs water that smothers fire that melts metal that penetrates wood.
Your Chinese Element
In Chinese astrology each zodiac sign is paired with an element. Each element has a dominant year based on the Chinese zodiac animal. Below is a short list of how to find your element.
- Rat – intelligent, charming, persuasive, and charming (2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948)
- Ox – patient, stubborn and conservative (2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949)
- Tiger – passionate, commanding, and brave (2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950)
- Rabbit – likable, earnest, empathetic (2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951)
- Dragon – cunning, spirited, strong (2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952)
- Snake – shy, astute, friendly, inviting (2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953)
- Horse – restless, self-reliant, wanderlust (2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954)
- Sheep or Goat – timid, peaceful, coy (2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955)
- Monkey – fun, boisterous, lively (2015, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956)
- Rooster – diligent, perceptive, pragmatic (2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957)
- Dog – loyal, forgiving, kindhearted (2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958)
- Pig – appreciative, sympathetic, honest (2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959)
Lucky Element Associations
- Wood – tiger, rabbit
- Fire – snake, horse
- Earth – ox, dragon, dog, goat/sheep
- Metal – monkey, rooster
- Water – rat, pig
When asking what element you are when determining your Chinese element it is completely based on birth year. This translates based on the last digit of your birth year.
- Metal – 0 or 1
- Water – 2 or 3
- Wood – 4 or 5
- Fire – 6 or 7
- Earth – 8 or 9
What Elements Mean
Those who are a wood element are generous and expansive as they care deeply for others. Like bamboo, wood is flexible, yet strong in being natural born leaders. The roots go deep into the earth looking to expand and push forward. Because wood needs water to survive, the characteristics tend to be associated with patience and sensuality, but in balance they can be aggressive and intrusive. Strengths include understanding, patience, warmth, sociability, flexibility, stability, adaptability, practicality, and generosity. Weaknesses include lack of boundaries, passivity, yielding under pressure, and relying too much on others.
Those associated with fire are always directed upward with never ending energy. They are persistent and strong but wonder easily. These individuals are often thrill-seekers who roam from one adventure to the next, but are still associated with warmth and a need to create. On the other side, fire is related to aggression, destruction, and impatience. Fire does not exist on its own and needs the stability of wood. The fire’s strength is passion, enthusiasm, charisma. persuasiveness, spontaneity, up for a challenge, and loving. Their weaknesses are attention seeking, manipulative, impatient, dislike being alone, and are impulsive.
Those associated with earth are meditative and stabilizing. Earth is a natural-born peace keeper. They are thoughtful and calm, warm and nurturing, but can become self-centered easily. Earth’s are protective and represent the roots that hold things together. Those with this element can be controlling, but typically have empathy and worry about others. The earth’s strengths are stability, seriousness, rootedness, logic, practicality, empathy, loyalty, honesty, endurance, organization, and strength. Their weaknesses include overprotectiveness, stubbornness, conservativism, and reservedness.
Those associated with metal are diamonds in the rough, the breath of life. Metal is respective of self and others. Though strong and hard, metal adapts when under pressure. Metal tends to be seen as determined and rigid, often unyielding. Those under this element tend to be minimalists and enjoy simple, organized, clean lives. However, they can be controlling and forceful with a matter of fact attitude with no unnecessary emotion. Metals strengths include courageousness, ambition, competitiveness, independence, discipline, focus, and high morals and standards. The metal’s weaknesses include a lack of skill when it comes to communication, judging, stubbornness, and susceptibility to being cruel.
Those associated with water represent intelligence and wisdom. Water is flexible, yet strong, calm, yet dangerous. For water, the surface is just the beginning of things with real movement in the depths. Water elements tend to enjoy their own company, but are not reclusive. They tend to be peaceful and quiet, yet can overwhelm others. The strengths of the water include diplomacy, observation, empathy, strong mediation skills, persistence, determination, and gentle strength. Weaknesses include self-indulgence, passivity, overreliance on others, indecisiveness, and anxiety.
Emotions and Elements
Each element is associated with varying emotions. These are shared below.
- Fire – joy, laughter, passion, excitement, and constantly flowing energy though often a bit intense
- Water – fear, darkness, awareness of danger and obstacles
- Earth – worry, concern, pensiveness, over-analysis, obsessiveness
- Metal – sadness, grief, inability to be perfect, stoic, resolute, and strength
- Wood – anger, frustration, and disappointment
Element Compatibility with Sign
Some signs relate better to other signs. These are shared below.
- Rat – Compatible with ox, dragon, monkey; Moderate with rat, tiger; Incompatible with horse, rooster
- Ox- Compatible with rat, snake, rooster; Moderate with ox, monkey; Incompatible with tiger, dragon, horse, sheep
- Tiger – Compatible with dragon, horse, pig; Moderate with rat, rabbit; Incompatible with ox, tiger, snake, monkey
- Rabbit- Compatible with sheep, monkey, dog, pig; Moderate with tiger, rabbit, dragon, horse; Incompatible with snake, rooster
- Dragon – Compatible with rooster, rat, monkey; Moderate with rabbit, horse; Incompatible with ox, sheep, dog
- Snake – Compatible with dragon, rooster; Moderate with dog; Incompatible with tiger, rabbit, snake, sheep, pig
- Horse – Compatible with tiger, sheep, rabbit; Moderate with dragon, monkey, dog; Incompatible with rat, ox, rooster, horse
- Sheep – Compatible with horse, rabbit, pig; Moderate with rooster; Incompatible with ox, tiger, dog
- Monkey – Compatible with ox, rabbit; Moderate with horse, rooster; Incompatible with tiger, pig
- Rooster – Compatible with ox, snake; Moderate with sheep, monkey, pig; Incompatible with rat, rabbit, horse, rooster, dog
- Dog – Compatible with rabbit; Moderate with ox, snake, horse, dog; Incompatible with dragon, sheep, rooster
- Pig – Compatible with tiger, rabbit, sheep; Moderate with rooster; Incompatible with snake, monkey
When it comes to health, the elements are associated with specific organs or body parts. These pairings are then associated with other body parts and even tastes. This creates a symbiotic whole. The associations are shared below.
- Wood – liver, gallbladder, tendon, eye and sour taste
- Water – bladder, kidney, bone, ear, and salty taste
- Fire – heart, small intestine, blood vessels, tongue, and bitter taste
- Earth – spleen, mouth muscle, stomach, and sweet taste
- Metal – lungs, large intestine, skin, hair, nose, and spicy taste
Each element is balanced by a spirit that is foundational to the features of the mind, soul, and personality. These must be in balance like the elements. While everyone’s personality is unique so some elements will dominate, an abundance of any single one will cause instability. However, when it comes to a subtle hierarchy, one exists for the five spirits. These ranks as follows.
- Shen – the ruler of the heart and holding slightly more weight than the other spirits, associated with fire
- Hun – associated with the soul and tied to consciousness beyond the physical body, associated with wood
- Po – connected to consciousness tied to the body, associated with metal
- Yi – tied to the analytical mind, rationalization, and daily decisions, associated with earth
- Zhi – characterizes willpower and determination, associated with water
Everything in life has a required balance according to this theory. Identifying personal characteristics allows us to see strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies and keeps us focused on maintaining balance with the others.