This is a crash course on the Wu Xing 五行, Five Dynamic Movements, though you’ll often see it called the Five Elements of East Asian metaphysics.
1/30/2023 Erratum Update: A few of the correspondence rows in the Metal and Earth columns got flip-flopped in the subsequent reference chart. If you downloaded the table before 1/30/2023, please delete it and re-download the rectified version. ❤
I say “East Asian” here because it’s not limited to any one culture, ethnic group, or nationality, not to mention the concept itself is much older than modern-day borders.
Let’s start with a fun exercise. What is the last numerical digit of your year of birth?
That last digit can reveal quite a bit about the prevailing forces in motion during your year of birth. (Though the degree of impact it will have on you as an individual depends on your Ba Zi, or natal chart.)
By way of an example, if you were born in 1985, then the last digit of your year of birth is 5. The last digit for the year 2023 is 3.
In the lunar-solar sexagenary 60-year calendar, it just so works out that the last digit of every year corresponds with one of the five elemental phases of change, in a fixed, formulaic cycle.
While you’re at it, note the last digit of the current year we’re in now. Based on its Wu Xing correspondences, what will be the projected prevailing forces?
0 or 1 – METAL YEAR. In Metal years, the prevailing global forces are that of civil strife, conflict, disturbances, and destruction. We want to harvest, so that’s swinging the scythe to cut the wheat. The inclination is to tear down and try to re-build. There’s also a rise in progress when it comes to the sciences. There’s a stronger focus on public policy and advocacy. Education. Scholarship. The media, declarations of independence, stirring conflicts, social unrest, and strife are generated from Metal.
If your zodiac sign is Rooster or Monkey and you were born in a Metal year, ending 0 or 1, this is considered particularly auspicious for Metal-dominant traits. Oh, and bonus points for being born in the autumn season.
2 or 3 – WATER YEAR. Water years tend to add stress to international relations and foreign affairs. Prevailing forces bring a lot of progress and advancement to the creative fields, medicine, health, and we also see a stronger collective turn toward religion. The two-year period marked by the 2 and 3 of a decade are a time of major power shifts, transitions, and transformation. It’s experiencing an aftermath and re-learning so that we can pick up the pieces and start anew.
If your zodiac sign is the Boar or the Rat, and you were born in a Water year, your birth chart is most likely Water-dominant, from an Asian metaphysics perspective, and bonus Water points for being born in the winter. Those who are Water-dominant make great diplomats and doctors, for their bedside manners and inner desire to heal the world.
4 or 5 – WOOD YEAR. Wood years, ending in digits 4 and 5, are times of growth, where markets of innovation will be most robust. These are also years that are more focused on agriculture, the humanities, writing, publishing, the language arts, but also healthcare, academia, and a time of rising, developing political powers. This is usually when you start to see new faces in charge, new influences rising and soon to become the dominant voices.
If your zodiac sign is Rabbit or Tiger and you were born in a Wood year, bonus points for a spring birth month, or an empowered Jupiter in your chart, you probably have a green thumb. You’re also by nature charitable, benevolent, open-minded, and generous.
6 or 7 – FIRE YEAR. Fire years underscore the role of the military. Fire drives people to be more ambitious, to want more, to desire more, to expand their territory. but it also supports the entertainment industry and commercial enterprises in creative fields. If Fire had a slogan, it’d be “Go higher, burn brighter.”
Zodiac signs Snake and Horse born in a Fire year, ending in 6 or 7, especially if you’re born in the summer months, will have particularly pronounced Fire corresponding traits, and best suited for Fire-associated career paths. Think positions of executive leadership, entrepreneurship, the military, or arts and entertainment, just to name a few.
8 or 9 – EARTH YEAR. The driving force of movement during Earth years is a focus back on domestic affairs. What’s happening within the homeland. What’s happening within the family. Stability of the family. Stability of a nation. But this is also when executive leadership is strongest. Earth is the alchemical phase that develops law, business, finance, and real estate. It is also the movement that facilitates fertility.
There are four zodiac signs that are by nature Earth dominant– on the yin side, Ox and Sheep, on the yang side, Dragon and Dog. If any of these are your zodiac signs and you were born in a year ending 8 or 9, you’re likely to exhibit strong Earth-associated traits, like diligence, perseverance, a confident nature, someone who values family and stability. And generally, pretty lucky when it comes to finances.
It stands to reason that year analysis alone is insufficient, especially if there are more prevailing Wu Xing forces in a Ba Zi chart that overrides year analysis.
Ba Zi, or the Four Pillars of Destiny, a form of personality analysis and life path calculator in East Asian fortune-telling, is premised on Wu Xing metaphysical correspondences. You’ll recall the above illustrative Ba Zi chart from the video.
One point I hope I’ve articulated clearly in the video course is that the Five Movements are five identified points on a spectrum. Metal is not a fixed, isolated “island state” separate from Earth or Water. Metal on the cusp of Earth will have some overlapping qualities with Earth, and Metal on the cusp of Water will have some overlapping qualities with Water, and so on.
Each of the Five are further characterized by the binary subdivision of yin and yang, and so there’s yin Earth and yang Earth, yin Wood and yang Wood.
A second key takeaway is that of the two directional cycles of the Wu Xing. This theoretical construct is considered fixed, meaning in their natural directional course, Fire must be “preceded” by Wood because Wood creates Fire. No Wood, No Fire. No Fire, No Earth. In that sense, if there’s Fire movement without obstruction, then you can “predict” that next will come Earth.
Likewise, each Movement “destroys” or subdues the Movement one step over. So Wood, skipping Fire, defeats Earth. Earth, skipping Metal, defeats Water. Water, skipping Wood, defeats Fire. Note the illustrated diagrams above for the Cycle of Creation and the Cycle of Destruction.
The essentials of what you need to know about how the energy of everything interacts with the energy of everything else is contained in those two diagrams. All you need to figure out is what’s “Wood,” what’s “Fire,” etc.
That which is Wood will support, fortify, amplify, feed, and raise up that which is Fire. But that which is Wood will defeat, weaken, subdue, and diminish that which is Earth. That which is Metal will defeat, weaken, subdue, and diminish Wood. Follow the pathways of the diagrams as you read those preceding statements.
Then the third step is figuring out the correspondences. That’s a bit tougher. For starters, there are actually several different traditional schools and systems of thought. So there’s that to contend with.
But the above correspondence table will give you a decent place to start your studies. Armed with a correspondence table, remember the Hermetic maxim that also applies in Taoist philosophy: as above, so below; as within, so without. Everything is inter-connected… that is, along the pathways of Creation and Destruction we covered earlier in the second key takeaway.
Let’s try something. In the “Organs” and “Organ Systems or Functions” rows, pinpoint one physical health area that tends to be a concern for you.
Note all the correspondences in that same column, scanning up and down the chart. Identify which Wu Xing changing phase weakens the phase correspondence of your Organ or Organ Function. Scan that column up and down.
What might you be able to intuit about root causes, and also what aspects of your current lifestyle or mental state might be continuing to exacerbate the situation?
(For those with the Metaphysician’s Day Planner, look to the back of your day planner at the “Human Body Clock” reference page. Note what lifestyle changes at which ascendant hours will help improve the condition.)
Also, the Wu Xing correspondence column that you locate the troubling Organ or Organ System in will show what you’re weak in, what you need to restore balance to and strengthen. For example, if the focus is on the digestive system, lymphatic system, or muscular, then a good starting point of nutritional focus is proteins. If tend to suffer from chronic skin problems, then reflect on your current diet– are you eating foods that are rich enough in nucleic acids?
What area of your life would you like to increase good luck and auspicious fortunes in? Locate that area in the below reference table.
Which Wu Xing correspondence is associated with that sector? Which Wu Xing correspondence empowers? Then return to the earlier reference table, note all feng shui correspondences for these elements and consider color and interior decor in the area of your home and your office that corresponds with that area of life.
And that’s your “quick” crash course into Wu Xing Five Movement fundamentals. If you’re new to this system and you’re eager to learn, then you may want to watch the video lecture a few times and study this companion written material, but really the best way to learn is to just get started. Try out practical applications of this lifestyle alchemy in every avenue, within healthy parameters of course, and just see what sticks. =)
2 thoughts on “Wu Xing: Five Movements 五行 · 오행”
Thats power . . . . . 5 points, hermetic Christianity uses only 4, and spiritual alchemy 7. How might one build technology around these frequencies? Is I-Ching dynamically driven; what components are necessary for this tech age?
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