The Five Chinese Zodiac Elements: How To Discover Yours And The Meaning Behind It

The Five Chinese Zodiac Elements: How To Discover Yours And The Meaning Behind It

In Chinese culture, there is a strong focus placed on balance. As energy flows in one direction, it ebbs in another. From Feng Shui to holistic medicine, the interactions and relationships within the universe are only harmonious when kept in balance. The Five Elements Theory, or Wu Xing, is a Chinese philosophy that is used as the basis for everything from traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture to fortune-telling, martial arts, and more. The five elements — earth, metal, wood, fire, and water — are believed to be the fundamental roots of the universe, between which interactions occur.

Similar to horoscopes in Western astrology, each Chinese element has its own characteristics and associations, and each plays a crucial role in the balance of the universe. No element is stronger or more important than another, and each has its own defined strengths and weaknesses. According to the Five Elements Theory, all things arise from and return to the universe and are composed of these elements. This is why understanding our own connection to them is important.

Understanding the Chinese Elements Cycle

Each of the five elements stands independently, but each influences and molds the others. The world’s interactions are determined by the Chinese elements creating and destroying each other. The process of creation promotes development, while the process of destruction restrains this development. The two are complementary processes and create a harmonious stillness when balanced.

For example:


  • Water feeds Wood.
  • Wood fuels Fire.
  • Fire makes Earth (i.e. ash).
  • Earth produces Metal.
  • Metal carries Water.


  • Wood separates the Earth (i.e. roots).
  • Earth absorbs Water.
  • Water smothers Fire.
  • Fire melts Metal.
  • Metal penetrates Wood.

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Aligning Inner and Outer Feng Shui

Discover Your Chinese Element

In Chinese astrology, each zodiac sign is associated with one of the five elements — this association is your “lucky” element. Each element has a dominant year based on the Chinese zodiac animal. Below is a way to find your “lucky” element:

Your Chinese Animal Sign

  • Rat: Intelligent, clever, charming and persuasive

2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936

  • Ox: Stubborn, patient, conservative

2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937

  • Tiger: Brave, passionate, commanding

2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938

  • Rabbit: Earnest, likable, empathetic

2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939

  • Dragon: Intrepid, cunning, spirited, strong

2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940

  • Snake: Shy, friendly, astute, inviting

2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941

  • Horse: Restless, wanderlust, self-reliant

2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942

  • Sheep/Goat: Coy, timid, peaceful

2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931

  • Monkey: Lively, boisterous, fun

2015, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932

  • Rooster: Perceptive, diligent, pragmatic

2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933

  • Dog: Loyal, kindhearted, forgiving

2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934

  • Pig: Sympathetic, appreciative, honest

2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935

Your “Lucky” Element

  • Wood: Tiger, Rabbit
  • Fire: Snake, Horse
  • Earth: Ox, Dragon, Goat, Dog
  • Metal: Monkey, Rooster
  • Water: Pig, Rat

However, when asking “What Chinese Element Am I?” the real answer is determined entirely by your birth year.

If the last number in your birth year is:

  • 0 or 1, you are a metal element.
  • 2 or 3, you are a water element.
  • 4 or 5, you are a wood element.
  • 6 or 7, you are a fire element.
  • 8 or 9, you are an earth element.

What Your Chinese Element Means


Wood is generous and expansive and cares deeply for others. As with bamboo, Wood is strong yet flexible and is a natural-born leader. Its roots dig deep into the Earth, constantly looking to expand and push forward. However, Wood also needs moisture to survive. The characteristics of Wood are often associated with sensuality and patience. However, to balance this, Wood can also be intrusive and aggressive.


  • Patient and understanding
  • Warm, sociable, and compassionate
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Stable and practical
  • Generous


  • Doesn’t have a good grasp of boundaries or limits
  • Can be too passive
  • Yields easily under pressure
  • Can rely too heavily on others


Fire is always directed upward, and its energy seems never-ending. It is persistent and strong, but it also spreads and wanders easily. Those with Fire as their element tend to be thrill-seekers who roam from one adventurous moment to the next. Fire is often associated with warmth, passion, and the need to create.

However, on the reverse side, it can also be related to aggression, impatience, and destruction. While Fire can provide heat and warmth, it can also burn. Fire cannot exist on its own. While it is bright and exciting, it needs the stability of Wood to continue thriving.


  • Passionate and enthusiastic
  • Creative
  • Persuasive and charismatic
  • Spontaneous and adventurous
  • Always up for a challenge
  • Warm and loving


  • Attention seeking
  • Impatient
  • Manipulative
  • Susceptible to mood swings
  • Aggressive
  • Impulsive and volatile
  • Dislike being alone


Earth is stabilizing and mediating. It is a natural-born peacekeeper. Earth is patient, thoughtful, and calm. While the Earth is warm and nurturing, it can also become easily self-centered as it believes it is the center of everything. Earth is protective and represents the roots that hold everything together, but it can also become controlling. People of this element contain a vast amount of empathy and find themselves constantly worried about the happiness of others.


  • Stable and rooted
  • Serious, practical, and logical
  • Compassionate, caring, and empathetic
  • Responsible
  • Loyal and honest
  • Nurturing
  • Organized and good at planning
  • Strong and enduring
  • Hardworking


  • Overprotective
  • Stubborn
  • Conservative — have trouble taking risks
  • Reserved


Metal is the diamond found in the rough — it is the breath of life. Metal respects itself and also respects others. It is strong and hard, but can adapt and change under pressure. Metal is often seen to be unyielding, rigid, and determined. People with this element tend to be minimalists — enjoying the simplicity of an organized, clean life. However, on the negative side, Metal can also be forceful and controlling. Metal is matter-of-fact and does not see a need for complex or unnecessary emotion in its life.


  • Courageous
  • Ambitious and competitive
  • Independent
  • Determined, disciplined, and focused
  • High morals and high standards


  • Lacks communication skills
  • Stubborn and sometimes unreasonable
  • Judging
  • Susceptible to being cruel and merciless
  • Cuts ties easily
  • Jaded


In Chinese Taoist philosophy, Water represents intelligence and wisdom. Water is flexible yet strong, flowing yet still, calm yet dangerous. For Water, the surface is only the beginning, with the real movement hidden in its depths. Those with the Water element are not reclusive, but enjoy their own company and time for inner reflection. They are often quiet and peaceful but have a great capacity to overwhelm others.


  • Diplomatic
  • Observant
  • Empathetic and good mediators
  • Persistent and determined
  • Intuitive and flexible
  • Gentle yet strong


  • Self-Indulgent
  • Too passive
  • Rely on others too much
  • Indecisive
  • Anxious

What are the Emotions Related to the Five Elements?


Joy, laughter, and passion are typically associated with the Fire element. The desire for excitement and new experiences is ever-persistent. The constant flickering and wavering of flames is symbolic of one’s constantly flowing energy. Sometimes, this sentiment can be a little too intense, leading to anxiety or unease, but it serves as a reminder to maintain equilibrium, never losing that energy and burning out.


The Water element is associated with fear and is often tied to darkness and cold. This fear, however, provides one with an awareness of the potential dangers or obstacles that could knock us off course in the ebbs and flows of our life path. When the Water element is in harmony, one can find that their willpower and endurance become stronger.


The Earth element represents worry, concern, sympathy, and melancholy. Other emotions tied to Earth are pensiveness, overanalysis, and obsessiveness, which one needs to be aware of to prevent this element from leading them to be overly controlling. Balancing the Earth element can result in one having better analytical skills and stronger concentration.


Metal is associated with sadness or grief as it represents an inability to be perfect. Although these types of emotions aren’t exactly pleasant to experience, they’re a part of life and unavoidable. Serving as a reminder to remain stoic, strong, and resolute, Metal also can prevent us from relaxing and letting go. However, a balanced Metal element will allow one to better process grief and sadness so as not to be consumed by it.


Wood, as an element, is tied to anger, frustration, and disappointment. As wood expands, it can become gnarled and stunted if it is not allowed to grow. To enhance decisiveness, action, and motivation, one must achieve harmony with this element.

Which Chinese Zodiac Sign Elements are Compatible?

Understanding the compatibility between Chinese zodiac sign elements can be enlightening and highly rewarding. Knowing which are compatible lets one gather insight into their relationships and interactions with others as well as their own personality traits. Peaceful interactions are often had with those that share compatible elements, while it’s possible (though not always the case) to experience potential challenges in communication or compatibility for those with conflicting elements.


  • Compatible with: Ox, Dragon, Monkey
  • Moderate with: Rat, Tiger
  • Incompatible with: Horse, Rooster


  • Compatible with: Rat, Snake, Rooster
  • Moderate with: Ox, Monkey
  • Incompatible with: Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Sheep


  • Compatible with: Dragon, Horse, Pig
  • Moderate with: Rat, Rabbit
  • Incompatible with: Ox, Tiger, Snake, Monkey


  • Compatible with: Sheep, Monkey, Dog, Pig
  • Moderate with: Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse
  • Incompatible with: Snake, Rooster


  • Compatible with: Rooster, Rat, Monkey
  • Moderate with: Rabbit, Horse
  • Incompatible with: Ox, Sheep, Dog


  • Compatible with: Dragon, Rooster
  • Moderate with: Dog
  • Incompatible with: Tiger, Rabbit, Snak, Sheep, Pig


  • Compatible with: Tiger, Sheep, Rabbit
  • Moderate with: Rabbit, Dragon, Monkey, Dog
  • Incompatible with: Rat, Ox, Rooster, Horse


  • Compatible with: Horse, Rabbit, Pig
  • Moderate with: Rooster
  • Incompatible with: Ox, Tiger, Dog


  • Compatible with: Ox, Rabbit
  • Moderate with: Horse, Rooster
  • Incompatible with: Tiger, Pig


  • Compatible with: Ox, Snake
  • Moderate with: Sheep, Monkey, Pig
  • Incompatible with: Rat, Rabbit, Horse, Rooster, Dog


  • Compatible with: Rabbit
  • Moderate with: Ox, Snake, Horse, Dog
  • Incompatible with: Dragon, Sheep, Rooster


  • Compatible with: Tiger, Rabbit, Sheep
  • Moderate with: Rooster
  • Incompatible with: Snake, Monkey

Harmonizing Key Aspects of Your Life

By knowing the various characteristics and traits of the five Chinese elements, one can know when to spot their manifestations and balance them. This is the essence of Feng Shui for both your inner self as well as the expression of your outer self and environment. By maintaining harmony between these elements, one will find peace, health, and prosperity. This harmonious balance of zodiac elements also allows one to navigate life’s complexities gracefully and fosters a strong sense of holistic well-being that can touch every aspect of one’s existence.


Regarding health, the five elements are individually associated with particular organs and body parts. These element/organ pairings are subsequently associated with other parts of the body, as well as various tastes. Additionally, each element and its designated body part directly support and generate another creating one symbiotic whole.


  • Heart
  • Small Intestine
  • Tongue
  • Blood Vessel
  • Taste: Bitter


  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Ear
  • Bone
  • Taste: Salty


  • Spleen
  • Stomach
  • Mouth Muscle
  • Taste: Sweet


  • Lung
  • Large Intestine
  • Nose
  • Skin & Hair
  • Taste: Spicy


  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Eye
  • Tendon
  • Taste: Sour


The five Chinese elements are balanced by five elements of spirit, which are considered to be the foundational features of our mind, soul, and personality. Much like the way these elements must be balanced in other aspects of life to which they are related, these elements and their spiritual counterparts should be relatively offset and proportionally equalized. Of course, everyone’s personality is unique, so some elements dominate others, though, like anything, an abundance of one at the expense of another leads to instability. However, when it comes to the five spirits, there is a subtle hierarchy.

Below are the spiritual characteristics associated with each element:

  • Shen — the Shen is considered to be the ruler of the heart and, therefore, given slightly more weight compared to other spiritual elements. It is associated with the fire element.
  • Hun — the Hun is associated with the soul and its intangible nature. It is tied to the nature of consciousness that exists beyond the physical body. It is associated with the wood element.
  • Po — Unlike the Hun, Po is associated with the consciousness that is tied to the body; the consciousness that dies when our physical body dies. It is associated with the metal element.
  • Yi — The Yi is tied to our analytical mind and our ability to rationalize and make decisions in daily life. It is associated with the Earth element
  • Zhi — Zhi characterizes our willpower and determination. It is associated with the water element.

Uncover Your Chinese Zodiac Element and Find Balance In Your Life

If there’s one takeaway from the study of Wu Xing or the Chinese Five Elements, it’s that everything in life requires balance. By identifying the characteristics of one’s personality, behavior, and tendencies, one can see where one may have certain strengths, predilections, weaknesses, and vices. Acknowledging these and consciously ensuring that one doesn’t overpower or outweigh the others is the key to a happy, successful, and peaceful life. This philosophy’s limbs branch out to nearly every aspect of one’s life, including how one should seek personal relationships, maintain physical and mental health, and pursue success in business.

Paramhansa Yogananda: A Mahayogi Comes West

Paramhansa Yogananda: A Mahayogi Comes West

Millions actively practice yoga and meditation with the ultimate goal of achieving self-realization, but few are aware of one of the most influential people who brought these Eastern teachings to the West. Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian yogi and guru who lived from 1893 to 1952, experienced his own rendition of the famed Hero’s Journey. Yogananda’s legacy lives on, and his seminal work, Autobiography of a Yogi, is still considered among the “100 Best Spiritual Books of the 20th Century,” continuing to grace the bookshelves of philosophers and the spiritually inquisitive.

Yogananda’s Life

Born to a devout, upper-class family in Gorakhpur, India, Yogananda’s spiritual fate was foretold in his infancy. His parents’ guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, blessed the child and told his mother, “Little mother, thy son will be a yogi. As a spiritual engine, he will carry many souls to God’s kingdom.” The prophecy did not take long to begin its manifestation, and at an early age, Yogananda experienced the first signs of spiritual awakening.

When he was eleven years old, Yogananda’s mother was in  Calcutta — he had a dream that she was dying. A telegram arrived soon after, confirming this tragedy. From this point onward, Yogananda’s spiritual life escalated, and he began an earnest search for the guru he had seen thousands of times in his dreams. When he was 17-years old, he finally found Swami Yuktweswar Giri, a revered teacher who met him with open arms, and declared that he had been waiting for Yogananda.

It was at their first meeting that Yuktweswar taught Yogananda the meaning of unconditional love. In his autobiography, Yogananda recalls his master’s words, “‘Ordinary love is selfish, darkly rooted in desires and satisfactions. Divine love is without condition, without boundary, without change. The flux of the human heart is gone forever at the transfixing touch of pure love.’” It was also during this first meeting that Yuktweswar told Yogananda that he was destined to teach Kriya Yoga in the United States and throughout the world.

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