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Tattva – Mahābhūta
Wŭ Xíng (五行)
The Wu Xing, (五行 wŭ xíng) also known as the Five Elements, Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, Five Processes, and the Five Steps/Stages, 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 Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ). This order of presentation is known as the "mutual generation" (xiāngshēng 相生) sequence. In the order of "mutual overcoming" (xiāngkè 相克), they are Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal. "Wu Xing" is often translated as Five Elements and this is used extensively by many including practitioners of Five Element acupuncture. This translation arose by false analogy with the Western system of the four elements. Whereas the classical Greek elements were concerned with substances or natural qualities, the Chinese xíng are "primarily concerned with process and change," hence the common translation as "phases" or "agents." By the same token, Mù is thought of as "Tree" rather than "Wood". The word 'element' is thus used within the context of Chinese medicine with a different meaning to its usual meaning. Evolution of language in this way is not without precedent. It should be recognized that the word 'phase', although commonly preferred, is not perfect. 'Phase' is a better translation for the five 'seasons' (五運 wŭ yùn) mentioned below, and so 'agents' or 'processes' might be preferred for the primary term xíng. Manfred Porkert attempts to resolve this by using 'Evolutive Phase' for 五行 wŭ xíng and 'Circuit Phase' for 五運 wŭ yùn, but these terms are unwieldy. In some ways arguing for one term over another is pointless because any single word is probably inadequate for translation of what is a concept.
Some of the Mawangdui Silk Texts (no later than 168 BC) also present the Wu Xing as "five virtues" or types of activities. Within Chinese medicine texts the Wu Xing are also referred to as Wu Yun (五運 wŭ yùn) or a combination of the two characters (Wu Xing-Yun) these emphasise the correspondence of five elements to five 'seasons' (four seasons plus one). Another tradition refers to the wŭ xíng as wŭ dé 五德, the Five Virtues (zh:五德終始說).
The system of 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 geomancy or Feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy and martial arts. The system is still used as a reference in some forms of complementary and alternative medicine and martial arts.
The five phases are usually used to describe the state in nature:
The doctrine of five phases describes two cycles, a generating or creation (生, shēng) cycle, also known as "mother-son", and an overcoming or destruction (剋/克, kè) cycle, also known as "grandfather-nephew", of interactions between the phases. Within Chinese medicine the effects of these two main relations are further elaborated:
The common memory jogs, which help to remind in what order the phases are:
Other common words for this cycle include "begets", "engenders" and "mothers".
This cycle might also be called "controls", "restrains" or "fathers".
This cycle runs in the opposite direction of the "overcoming" cycle.
According to Wu Xing theory, the structure of the cosmos mirrors the five phases. Each phase has a complex series of associations with different aspects of nature, as can be seen in the following table. In the ancient Chinese form of geomancy known as Feng Shui practitioners all based their art and system on the five phases (Wu Xing). All of these phases are represented within the Bagua. Associated with these phases are colors, seasons and shapes; all of which are interacting with each other.
Based on a particular directional energy flow from one phase to the next, the interaction can be expansive, destructive, or exhaustive. A proper knowledge of each aspect of energy flow will enable the Feng Shui practitioner to apply certain cures or rearrangement of energy in a way they believe to be beneficial for the receiver of the Feng Shui "Treatment".
|Material||Wind, Sound, Air, Minerals, Mana, UV, Ink, Acid, Mind, Rubber, Paper, Static, Wax, Health||Visible light, Soap, Rust, Bleach, IR, Burn, Thermal radiation, Blaze, Oil, Glass, Mass, Clay||Rock, Carbon, Dust, Sand, Energy, Powder, Sugar, Smoke, Gems, Ash, Gravity, Quake, Muscle||Nimbus, Ether, Copper, Milk, Cast iron, Holy water, Snow, Ice, Frost, Forge||Sea, Space, Electrical currents, Storms, Rain, Steam, Fluid, Mud, Slime, Sludge, Salt, Time, Pressure, Glass mirror, Shadow|
|Color||Green, brown||Red, purple||Yellow, orange||White, silver||Black, grey|
|Heavenly creature||Azure Dragon|
|Yellow Dragon 黃龍 / Qilin 麒麟||White Tiger|
|Heavenly Stems||甲, 乙||丙, 丁||戊, 己||庚, 辛||壬, 癸|
|Phase||New Yang||Full Yang||Yin/Yang balance||New Yin||Full Yin|
|Direction and Natural phenomena||Expansive and exterior (in all directions)||Ascending||Stabilizing (representing harmony)||Contracting and interior||Descending|
|Development||Sprouting||Blooming||Ripening||Withering||Dormant|
The movements have also been correlated to the eight trigrams of the I Ching:
The Liver (Wood phase) is said to be the "mother" of the Heart (Fire phase).
The Kidneys (Water phase) the mother of the Liver.
The key observation was things like Kidney deficiency affecting the function of the Liver. In this case, the "mother" is weak, and cannot support the child.
However, the Kidneys control the Heart along the Kè cycle, so the Kidneys are claimed to restrain the Heart.[clarification needed]
The citation order of the Five Phases, i.e., the order in which they are cited in the Bo hu tong 白虎通 and other Han dynasty texts, is Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth.
The organs are most effectively treated, according to theory, in the following 4-hour(2h-Yin + 2h-Yang) periods throughout the day, beginning with the 3 a.m. to 7 a. m. period:
Metal organs= Lung[Yin] 3am-5am /\ Large intestine[Yang] 5am-7am
Earth organs= Stomach[Yang] 7am-9am /\ Spleen[Yin] 9am-11am
Fire1 organs= Heart[Yin] 11am-1pm /\ Small Intestine[Yang] 1pm-3pm
Water organs= Bladder[Yang] 3pm-5pm /\ Kidney[Yin] 5pm-7pm
Fire2=Ministerial Fire=Lifegate Fire (the "non-empirical" Pericardium and Triple Burner organs)= Pericard[Yin] 7pm-9pm /\ Triple Burner[Yang] 9pm-11pm
Wood organs which is the reverse of the citation order (plus an extra use of Fire and the non-empirical organs to take care of the sixth four-hour period of the day) = Gallbladder[Yang] 11pm-1am /\ Liver[Yin] 1am-3am
These two orders are further related to the sequence of the planets going outward from the sun (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, or Water, Metal, Fire, Wood, and Earth) by a star diagram similar to the one shown above.
The sequence of the five elements (Traditional Chinese medicine)： promotion, inhibition, Cheng (bullying), Wu (insult).
|Mental Quality||Idealism, Spontaneity, Curiosity||Passion, Intensity||Agreeableness, Honesty||Intuition, Rationality, Mind||Erudition, Resourcefulness, Wit|
|Emotion||anger||happiness||love||grief, sadness||fear, scare|
|Zang (yin organs)||liver||heart/pericardium||spleen/pancreas||lung||kidney|
|Fu (yang organs)||gall bladder||small intestine/San Jiao||stomach||large intestine||urinary bladder|
|Finger||thumb||index finger||middle finger||ring finger||little finger|
|Heavenly Stem||Jia 甲|
|Year ends with||4, 5||6, 7||8, 9||0, 1||2, 3|
The Yuèlìng chapter (月令篇) of the Lǐjì (禮記) and the Huáinánzǐ (淮南子) make the following correlations:
|Colour||Green or Blue||Red||Yellow||White||Black|
|Basic Pentatonic Scale pitch||角||徵||宮||商||羽|
|Basic Pentatonic Scale pitch pinyin||jué||zhǐ||gōng||shāng||yǔ|
T'ai chi ch'uan uses the five elements to designate different directions, positions or footwork patterns. Either forward, backward, left, right and centre, or three steps forward (attack) and two steps back (retreat).
The Five Steps (五步 wǔ bù):
Xingyiquan uses the five elements metaphorically to represent five different states of combat.
|Metal||Splitting||劈||Pī||To split like an axe chopping up and over.|
|Water||Drilling||鑽||Zuān||Drilling forward horizontally like a geyser.|
|Wood||Crushing||崩||Bēng||To collapse, as a building collapsing in on itself.|
|Fire||Pounding||炮||Pào||Exploding outward like a cannon while blocking.|
|Earth||Crossing||橫||Héng||Crossing across the line of attack while turning over.|
There are spring, summer, fall, and winter teas. The perennial tea ceremony ("perennial", literally means four steps or sequences that are linked together, each representing a season of the year) includes four tea settings (茶席) and a tea master (司茶). The tea settings are:
Each tea setting is arranged and stands for the four directions (north, south, east, and west). A vase of the seasons' flowers is put on tea table. Sometimes if four tea masters are included then five chairs are arranged per tea setting, making a total of twenty plus the 4 tea masters equalling 24, which symbolizes the 24 solar terms of the Chinese calendar, and represents that nature continues or is perennial.
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