Wuxing (Chinese philosophy)
Chinese five elements / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Wuxing (Chinese: 五行; pinyin: wǔxíng; Japanese: gogyō (五行); Korean: ohaeng (오행); Vietnamese: ngũ hành (五行)), usually translated as Five Phases or Five Agents, is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicinal drugs. The "Five Phases" are Fire (火; huǒ), Water (水; shuǐ), Wood (木; mù), Metal or Gold (金; jīn), and Earth or Soil (土; tǔ). This order of presentation is known as the "Days of the Week" sequence. In the order of "mutual generation" (相生; xiāngshēng), they are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. In the order of "mutual overcoming" (相克; xiāngkè), they are Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal.
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The system of five phases was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. After it came to maturity in the second or first century BCE during the Han dynasty, this device was employed in many fields of early Chinese thought, including seemingly disparate fields such as Yi jing divination, alchemy, feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy, and martial arts. Although often translated as the Five Elements in comparison to Classical elements of the ancient Mediterranean world, the Wǔxíng were conceived primarily as cosmic agents of change rather than a means to describe natural substances.