The ancient Chinese discovered that the world could be broken down into five energy types, and they were given archetypal names from nature: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal.

In Feng Shui, the five element theory is used to determine which element is dominant or deficient in a space. Used as guides, the five elements can help you make positive adjustments to your space according to your needs. The result is a balanced environment that heals and nurtures.

A fundamental part of Oriental philosophy is the interrelationships among the five elements. These are divided into Conducive and Controlling interrelationships, and are as follows:


  • From Metal we get Water. In this context, the metal could mean a vessel or container for holding water, so we can say that metal traps water. In another sense, metal is the only element that will change into a liquid when heated.
  • From Water we get Wood. Water here means the rain or dew that makes plant life flourish, thus producing wood in the process.
  • From Wood we get Fire. Fire cannot exist by itself but is produced by burning wood.
  • From Fire we get Earth. Symbolically fire reduces everything into ashes, which becomes part of the earth again.
  • From Earth we get Metal. All metal has to be extracted from the earth.


The entire universe is composed of these five elements. They are interdependent and each is controlled by another. Hence we find that:

  • Metal is controlled by Fire. Metal can only be melted and forged with great heat.
  • Fire is controlled by Water. Nothing will put out a fire as fast as water.
  • Water is controlled by Earth. We dig canals in the earth to irrigate fields or build dikes to keep out or absorb water.
  • Earth is controlled by Wood. Trees and their roots hold the soil together and get their nourishment from the earth.
  • Wood is controlled by Metal. Even the largest tree can be felled by the metal blade of an axe.

         Under this philosophy, we see that no element can be called the strongest or weakest. They are forever dependent on one another and are equal. They are linked by the chain of life that brings about their existence, and there is no power struggle. Each has its own place and function.


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