Wu Xing – 5 phases of Change

In Chinese medicine, the Wu Xing 五行 are understood as states or phases that are constantly changing, so they are also referred to as phases of change. It is common in the West to compare these to the 4 elements of early Greek philosophy, where all being was believed to be composed of the basic elements or essences of fire, water, earth and air.

Therefore, the term “elements” is often used incorrectly in connection with the 5 phases of change in Chinese medicine. The difference between an element and a transforming phase is that the element always stays in the same state, while the transforming phase does not stay in the same state but constantly changes.

Just as there is not 24 hours in the morning on a day, a phase of change is also not static, but rather a passing state. Each phase of change has certain characteristics, which are to be understood on many areas and subtle levels. They are closely related to each other and are in constant exchange. They empower and control, create and destroy each other.

Only when everything is in balance and there is a balance, when you are constantly changing and therefore following nature, can you enjoy a long life, because the body, the organs, the emotions, etc. are balanced and healthy.


There are 2 circuits that are primarily important for practice.

  1. 生 – Generating or strengthening circuit

Wood nourishes the fire, fire nourishes the earth (the burned becomes hummus), earth produces metal, metal collects the water (dew), water nourishes the wood


  1. 克 – Controlling or destructive cycle

Wood controls earth, earth controls water, water controls fire, fire melts metal, metal cuts wood


It is important that you do not imagine the phases of change as something material or physical, but more like a condition or characteristic. The term wood means that this condition has the properties of wood in the various areas. Fire, for example, grows, it spreads, just as joy spreads among people, etc.

Another example:

Fear(Water) can be enhanced by Grief(Metal) and regulated by Thought(Earth).

If the Qi in the liver (wood) is weakened, this also affects the heart (fire). This weakness is increased by dryness (metal) and can be regulated by treatments that strengthen the Kidney Qi and thus the Liver Qi.

A deficiency in one area can be caused by an excess in another areas, but it can also be regulated.

Written by 玄門君XuanMenJun

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