In Asian 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 medicine, fortune telling, martials arts and more. The five elements — eart h, metal, wood, fire, and water — are believed to be the fundamental roots of the universe, between which interactions occur.
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, however, each influence 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 complimentary processes and create a harmonious stillness when balanced.
- Water feeds Wood.
- Wood fuels Fire.
- Fire makes Earth (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.
Find 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 Zodiac Sign
- Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936
- Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937
- Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938
- Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939
- Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940
- Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941
- Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942
- Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931
- Monkey: 2015, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932
- Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933
- Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934
- Pig: 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
- 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, however, 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
- Persuasive and charismatic
- Spontaneous and adventurous
- Always up for a challenge
- Warm and loving
- Attention seeking
- Susceptible to mood swings
- Impulsive and volatile
- Dislike being alone
Earth is stabilizing and mediating. It is a natural born peace-keeper. 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 the represent the roots that hold everything together, however, 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
- Loyal and honest
- Organized and good at planning
- Strong and enduring
- Conservative — have trouble taking risks
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 will adapt and change when put 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 and 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.
- Ambitious and competitive
- Determined, disciplined and focused
- High morals and high standards
- Lacks communication skills
- Stubborn and sometimes unreasonable
- Susceptible to being cruel and merciless
- Cuts ties easily
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, however, they enjoy their own company and time for inner reflection. They are often quiet and peaceful, but have great capacity to overwhelm others.
- Empathetic and good mediators
- Persistent and determined
- Intuitive and flexible
- Gentle yet strong
- Too passive
- Rely on others too much