East Asian Taoism The Taoist Five Elements Yin-Qi and Yang-Qi Give Birth to the Five Elements Share Flipboard Email Print Parnassus/Wikimedia Commons Taoism Principles Origins By Elizabeth Reninger Taoism Expert M.S., Sociology and Philosophy, University of Wisconsin–Madison B.S., Mathematics and Women's Studies, Northwestern University M.S.O.M., Southwest Acupuncture College–Santa Fe Elizabeth Reninger is a Taoist practitioner of qigong, acupuncture, and tuina massage. She is the author of several books on spirituality, including "Physics, Philosophy & Nondual Spiritual Inquiry." our editorial process Elizabeth Reninger Updated August 06, 2019 According to Taoist cosmology, Yin-Qi and Yang-Qi – the primordial feminine and masculine energies – produce what are known as the “Five Elements.” The Five Elements, in turn, give birth to the “ten-thousand things,” i.e. all of manifest existence. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The Five Elements are Fluid Categories To understand the use of the Five Element system in Qigong, Chinese Medicine, and other Taoist practices, it’s important to know that the elements – like Yin and Yang – are fluid rather than static categories. For this reason, they’re often referred to as the “Five Phases” or “Five Transformations” or even “Five Orbs” (of influence). The Five Elements Support and Control Each Other Everything we find in our external or internal terrain belongs to one of the Five Elements, each of which has supporting and controlling relationships with the other elements. When the Five Elements – within our bodies or external environments – are balanced, we experience health and prosperity. When they’re out of balance – overacting, counteracting, or failing to properly support one another – we experience dis-ease of one sort or another. Wood Element Correspondences Yin Organ: LiverYang Organ: GallbladderSeason: SpringColor: GreenFlavor: SourSense Organ: EyesTissue: TendonsOdor: RancidDirection: EastEmotion: AngerVirtue: KindnessPlanet: JupiterSound: ShoutingMusical Note: miHeaven Stems: Jia & YiEnvironment: WindDomestic Animal: Goat/SheepFive Animal Qigong: TigerDevelopmental Stage: Birth Fire Element Correspondences Yin Organ: Heart/PericardiumYang Organ: Small Intestine/Triple BurnerSeason: SummerColor: RedFlavor: BitterSense Organ: TongueTissue: VesselsOdor: ScorchedDirection: SouthEmotion: AnxietyVirtue: JoyPlanet: MarsSound: LaughingMusical Note: solHeaven Stems: Bing & DingEnvironment: HeatDomestic Animal: ChickenFive Animal Qigong: MonkeyDevelopmental Stage: Growth Earth Element Correspondences Yin Organ: SpleenYang Organ: StomachSeason: Late SummerColor: YellowFlavor: SweetSense Organ: MouthTissue: Flesh/MuscleOdor: FragrantDirection: CenterEmotion: Worry/PensivenessVirtue: EquanimityPlanet: SaturnSound: SingingMusical Note: doHeaven Stems: Wu & JiEnvironment: DampnessDomestic Animal: OxFive Animal Qigong: BearDevelopmental Stage: Transformation Metal Element Correspondences Yin Organ: LungYang Organ: Large IntestineSeason: AutumnColor: WhiteFlavor: PungentSense Organ: NoseTissue: SkinOdor: RottenDirection: WestEmotion: Grief/SadnessVirtue: CouragePlanet: VenusSound: CryingMusical Note: reHeaven Stems: Gen & XinEnvironment: DrynessDomestic Animal: DogFive Animal Qigong: CraneDevelopmental Stage: Harvest Water Element Correspondences Yin Organ: KidneyYang Organ: Urinary BladderSeason: WinterColor: Blue/BlackFlavor: SaltySense Organ: EarsTissue: BonesOdor: PutridDirection: NorthEmotion: FearVirtue: Wisdom/AwePlanet: MercurySound: GroaningMusical Note: laHeaven Stems: Ren & GuiEnvironment: ColdDomestic Animal: PigFive Animal Qigong: DeerDevelopmental Stage: Storage Uses of the Five Element System in Chinese Medicine & Qigong Within the practice of Chinese Medicine, Five-Element acupuncturists – as their name implies – use the Five-Element system to diagnose and treat their patients. Chinese herbalists are more likely to make use of an Eight Principles diagnostic framework, though Chinese herbal medicine does rely heavily on the Five-Element “tastes” (sour, salty, bitter, pungent & sweet) – since it is the taste, along with the temperature, of an herb which determines its action within the body. The Five Element system shows up in various ways within qigong practice. One simple, powerful practice is to direct our attention (using the "Inner Smile" technique) into the yin organs, in a sequence which follows the Five-Element supporting cycle: Kidney to Liver to Heart to Spleen to Lung, then back to Kidney again. Just becoming familiar with the Five Element Correspondences is a great way to enter into this terrain, and – with time – your intuition will reveal all kinds of ways to benefit from this perceptual framework.