The Wu Xing (Chinese: 五行), also known as the Five Elements, Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, Five Processes, the Five Steps/Stages and the Five Planets is the short form of “the five types of chi dominating at different times”(五种流行之气). It 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 Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ). This order of presentation is known as the “mutual generation” (相生 xiāngshēng) sequence. In the order of “mutual overcoming” (相克 xiāngkè), they are Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal.
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 geomancy or Feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy, and martial arts. The system is still used as a reference in some forms of complementary and alternative medicine and martial arts.
In this way, lines of correspondence can be drawn:
|Fu Organ||Gallbladder||Small intestine||Stomach||Large intestine||Bladder|
|Facial part||above bridge of nose||between eyes, lower part||bridge of nose||between eyes, middle part||cheeks (below cheekbone)|
|Eye part||iris||inner/outer corner of the eye||upper and lower lid||sclera||pupil|
Strict rules are identified to apply to the relationships between the Five Phases in terms of sequence, of acting on each other, of counteraction, etc. All these aspects of Five Phases theory constitute the basis of the zàng-fǔ (脏腑)concept, and thus have great influence regarding the TCM model of the body. Five Phase theory is also applied in diagnosis and therapy.
Correspondences between the body and the universe have historically not only been seen in terms of the Five Elements, but also of the “Great Numbers” (大數, pinyin: dà shū) For example, the number of acu-points has at times been seen to be 365, corresponding with the number of days in a year; and the number of main meridians–12–has been seen as corresponding with the number of rivers flowing through the ancient Chinese empire.