Taoist Alchemy

mag-fs taoist alchemy

This article is about how to apply the five Taoist elements, and includes info on Chinese medicine.

 Feng Shui Journal

Summer 1998, Vol. 4, No. 2
Pages 8 and 38


The Balance of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood

The five Taoist elements are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Fire is very yang (masculine), its planet is Mars, and its season is summer, the time of heat, growth, and intense light. Fire’s position on the feng shui ba-gua represents fame/reputation and illumination.

Earth is yin (feminine), its planet is Saturn, and earth’s season is the last eighteen days of each of the four seasons, the time of seasonal transition. Earth’s position on the feng shui ba-gua represents unity and balance.

The element metal is yin since it is extracted from the yin earth, yet it is less yin than earth or water. Metal’s planet is Venus, and its season is autumn, the time of harvest (with a metal scythe). Metal’s position on the feng shui ba-gua represents children and creativity.

Water is the most yin of the five elements, its planet is Mercury, and its season is winter. Water’s position on the feng shui ba-gua represents career and the life journey.

The element Wood is yang, but less yang than fire. Wood’s planet is Jupiter, the largest planet, symbolic of wood’s growth in springtime, which is wood’s season. Wood’s position on the feng shui ba-gua represents ancestors and family relationships.

When balancing the chi – the vital life force energy – in a residence or work place, each element is assessed and then feng shui corrections are applied. To help strengthen a weak element, it is helpful to understand the alchemical elemental relationships.

The basic pattern of Taoist elemental compatibility is:

Fire is the parent of earth and the child of wood.
Earth is the parent of metal and the child of fire.
Metal is the parent of water and the child of earth.
Water is the parent of wood and the child of metal.
Wood is the parent of fire and the child of water.

The following circle depicts the Taoist nurturing cycle of creativity:

Fire nurtures earth because after fire burns it becomes ash, which creates more earth crust.
Earth nurtures metal because metal ores are mined from deep within the earth.
Metal nurtures water because water is contained and carried in metal vessels.
Water nurtures wood because watering wood (trees) helps them grow.
Wood nurtures fire because adding wooden logs to a fire creates a brighter blaze.


mother wheel

The following circle depicts the Taoist controlling cycle of destruction:

Fire melts metal.
Metal cuts wood.
Wood (trees) depletes nutrients from the earth.
Earth blocks water as in dikes and dams.
Water extinguishes fire.

By using the knowledge of the nurturing and controlling principles, we can create balance within the feng shui ba-gua. For example, if fire/fame (reputation) is weak, increase wood/family to help the fire grow stronger. Lack of a good reputation can be helped by family support. Also, lessen the earth element so that the fire is not drained by excessive earth. Remove clutter and reduce chaos to balance the earth element.

Each element does not exist in isolation from the other elements, although one element may be more imbalanced and require immediate attention. In the weak fire example above, all elements in balance will help the fame/reputation issue. Strong metal/creativity is important as is strong water/journey the desire to truly perform the job.

In another example, a feng shui client may be unhappy at their day job (water) and feel that they have compromised their dream. How has their unorganized earth made it difficult to change jobs? How has their metal creativity or obligations to their children helped create this compromise? Do they have any family support (wood) to try something different? How has their fire been snuffed out?

The alchemical blend of the five Taoist elements is the basis of all Taoist-healing arts, not just feng shui. In traditional Chinese medicine, fire is associated with the heart. A heart attack results from too much tension (wood) and grief (metal). Both the nurturing and controlling cycles are imbalanced. Fire did not receive nurturing from wood, and fire has excessive control over metal.

Another medical example is that water is associated with the kidneys. Water is nurtured by metal (lungs). The lungs are a respiratory filtering station just as the kidneys are a fluid filtering station. Water is controlled by earth (stomach). Water imbalance from stomach fluids and kidney fluids calcify to create kidney stones.

Remember the alchemical balance of all five elements when recommending feng shui corrections. All five elements are in a constant state of movement, change, and flux, like the dance of yin and yang. As each element is balanced, it balances the nurturing and controlling elements around it. As Lao Tzu, the Taoist philosopher from the late Chou period (600- 222 B.C.) explained in the TAO TE CHING:

What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is fragile is easy to shatter.
What is small is easy to scatter.
Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree grows from a single sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
begins from where you stand.