Five elements  - ( Image by Dr. Blog )

"The Five Elemental Energies of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water encompass all the myriad phenomena of nature. It is a paradigm that applies equally to humans."

The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine

The five elements: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal, come from the concept of yin and yang. They are considered the building blocks of everything physical on the earth. Ancient Chinese philosophers, astrologers, and doctors used the yin/yang and five element theories to describe everything in the universe. They believed that creation, growth, and changes in the universe were the result of yin/yang interacting with each other. This interaction of yin/yang can also be described in the theory of the five elements. Master Lam Kam Chuen, in his Feng Shui Handbook, says that this theory of the five elements is essentially a study of the movement of energy rather than a method for cataloguing elements and is one of the essential tools of the Feng Shui practitioner because of its focus on the energetic qualities of our world.

There are colors, shapes, numbers, smells, tastes, organs, seasons, directions, and even emotions associated with the five elements. We are usually most comfortable when all of the elements are represented in our living and working spaces in a harmonious balance.

The productive cycle

Wood feeds Fire, Fire feeds earth, Earth feeds metal, Metal feeds water, and Water feeds Wood. This is known as the Sheng cycle.

The Destructive cycle

Metal destroys Wood, wood destroys earth, earth destroys water, water destroys fire, and fire destroys metal.

The controlling cycle

Wood controls metal, metal controls fire, fire controls water, water controls earth, earth controls wood.

The dissolving cycle

Wood dissolves water, water dissolves metal, metal dissolves earth, earth dissolves fire, and fire dissolves wood.

The five elements


We start with the wood element since it is the beginning of new life. Just as spring brings new plants and new life, wood is the originator of the five elemental cycle. Many people mistakenly use wood furniture as a Feng Shui solution. The problem with wood furniture is that it is lifeless. To harness the Chi (Qi) of wood, it is essential you use live wood! A shrub or bushy plant is ideal since it emits live Chi and is also an excellent method of retaining Chi. Plants recycle the air we breath and can provide a natural filter for the air. A common Feng Shui problem is the staircase that empties into a doorway. A bushy plant can retain some of that chi, when it is placed either on the landing, or more ideally, at the bottom of the staircase. Remember that you want a live plant, so maintain it. A dead plant holds no Chi and is actually a “Sha” (unsightly or bad influence).

Wood can be represented by the color green. We find that the colors are not nearly effective though as the actual element. When it comes to the wood element, there is rarely an occasion when you need to substitute the color for a living plant.

Wood represents the directions of East and the Chen Trigram . It also represents the South East and the Sun Trigram .


The Fire Element is the most “Yang” of the elements. It is the hot summer or a blast of heat. In Feng Shui, we usually use a candle or the color of red. Feng Shui Advisors recommends the color red more than a candle as we do not want our clients to risk the possibility of a house fire. Being that Fire is so yang, this is the one example where color does work well. If it is hot, it is even better. A red night light or a table lamp with a red shade make excellent Fire remedies.

Fire represents the South and the Li Trigram .


Earth is an interesting element despite the rather commonplace conception of dirt. Many times Earth is recommended for a larger environmental solution. In this case large granite boulders, or a beautiful clay statue can be used. Terracotta pots filled with potting soil make a great Earth remedy. Earth also represents the Mountain.

Earth tone colors can be used, but they are not nearly as effective as the actual element.

Earth represents the North East or the Ken Trigram . It also represents the South West or the Kun Trigram . Additionally, it represents the “Center” of the Master Trigram . Energetically speaking, Kun Earth and the center representation (also called a star) of “5” can have negative influences, whereas the Ken Trigram (North East, also referred to as the Mountain) can have a very prosperous influence.


The most common solution, Metal can be found in all forms. Copper, Silver, Gold, and Bronze are a few variations of the Metal Element. Using the Metal Element can take on all sorts of creative ideas. A cast silver deer is one idea. A bronze plate hung on the wall is another. Even iron weightlifter plates can be utilized as a metal solution. Weightlifter plates? Yes, when done properly. This can be done by stacking a few, then placing a brass pot upside down on top and creating a pedestal for a small plant or a perhaps a metal statue. The quantity of the element is definitely there! The key thing to remember is that Feng Shui is about creating a beautiful environment. When utilizing the Metal Element, ensure that it is rounded and pleasing, not sharp and pointed. Metal is the most commonly used remedy for the negative Earth energies as mentioned above. Ideally, the goal is to introduce Feng Shui elemental solutions that are not identifiable as Feng Shui remedies. Feng Shui objects that are unsightly or easily identified as a “Feng Shui Cure” are not recommended. It should blend into the environment and be beautiful.

The colors of White, Silver, or Gold can be used.

Metal represents the Tui Trigram in the West. Tui is a soft metal such as gold. It is also the Chien Trigram in the North West. Chien is a hard metal like steel.


Water is the what give life on our planet. Without it, we would not exist. Our bodies are mostly water. In Feng Shui, Water is a very useful element. Water, when needed, should be clear and flowing. Stagnant water can create more problems than it solves. A simple aquarium, or even a small “metal” fountain can be used. Do not use ceramic or other earthen fountains. This is a common mistake. The Earth element blocks water and neutralizes the positive effect of the Water. Outside, a metal trough, a fountain, or even a fish pond can act as an environmental solution.

Water has always been synonymous with power. Water has been used as an elemental solution by the emperors in the form of moats and by placing their palaces near bodies of Water. If you look at most capital cities today, they are either located near the water or have large lakes or rivers nearby. Most ocean-side and lake-side homes are sought after and usually more expensive.

Water can be represented by the colors blue or black.

Water represents the Kan Trigram in the North.


Feng Shui basics by Lee Jin Shan ? 1972
Energy Elements by Helen Lee ? 1998
Basic notes by Dr. Chin Shiao Wu