In Taoist cosmology, first there was the tai chi, the oneness or great source. This gave birth to the opposite principles of yin and yang which, when aligned in the body, are known as the tai chi axis.

From the balanced duality of yin and yang arose the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. 

In Taoism, health is based on ideas of natural harmony and balance within and between the macrocosm and the microcosm. The macrocosm refers to universal wholeness, and the microcosm is the universe or wholeness within us. This indicates a relationship between the universe and our individual selves that can be cultivated to develop greater harmony and balance within and without. This balance expresses itself in ease, wellbeing and vitality, or qi.

Accordingly, each of our major organ systems corresponds with one of the five elements. Together the elements and their qualities move in cycles in our bodies in resonance with the natural cycles of nature. These cycles are part of the alternate movement of yin and yang. Each element has a relationship with the others, and wellness is an effect of the balanced flow of these cycles of energy. The intention of qigong practice is to balance the qi in our body and bring our yin (receptive) and yang (active) energies into alignment.

Through balancing the five elements within us we practise inner alchemy, transforming blocked energies into flowing energies and transmuting difficult emotions to more positive states. 

For each element there is a corresponding season, organ system, direction, colour and emotion:

The wood element is associated with spring. Its organs are the liver and gallbladder. Its direction is east and its colour is green. Wood is associated with anger.

The fire element is associated with summer. Its organs are the heart, small intestine, pericardium and triple heater. Its direction is south and its colour is red. Fire is associated with joy.

The earth element is associated with high summer. Its organs are the spleen and stomach. Its direction is centre and its colour is yellow. Earth is associated with sympathy. 

The metal element is associated with autumn. Its organs are the lungs and large intestine. Its direction is west and its colour is white. Metal is associated with grief.

The water element is associated with winter. Its organs are the kidneys and bladder. Its direction is north and its colour is blue or black. Water is associated with fear. 

In the next few blogs we will explore each of the elements in Taoist five element theory more fully, relating them to the qigong practice of inner alchemy. 



Original artwork by Dyana Wells © 2020



Qigong is an energy system developed in China between 4000 and 8000 years ago for strengthening and directing life force energy through the body. Ancient Chinese sages and healers observed the natural world, its cycles and seasons, the movements and habits of animals, and the elemental forces of sun, moon, stars, water, mountains, sky, earth and trees. They developed a system for moving energy in a synergistic flow with the rhythms of nature that proved to be an effective method of self-healing. In Chinese, Qigong is represented by an ideagram that combines two ideas – the concept of energy or breath, and the concept of skill or work. So, Qigong refers to skilful means of working with life-force energy, the energy in all living things. Working with our body’s meridians or energy lines, Qigong increases the healthy flow and distribution of life-force energy, thereby strengthening our vitality, boosting our immune system, calming our mind, and healing difficult states that arise from imbalances of energy.
Practising Qigong regularly helps us to feel alive, calm, alert, focused, relaxed and grounded. Through Qigong practice we cultivate and balance our life force energy for enhanced health, vitality and wellbeing.
Qigong uses flowing gentle movements to nourish and support the flow of energy through our body. Combining body, breath and mind within each movement, Qigong can be considered a form of moving meditation, combining all the benefits of a physical workout, cardiovascular exercise and meditation in one practice. As a result, Qigong may relieve or reduce stress, tension and pain. As the greater flow of qi balances our emotions we may feel a deep inner peace and relaxation. Integrating mind, breath and body in Qigong nourishes all our cells with vital life energies, clearing blockages or stagnation, strengthening weaknesses and reducing overstimulation or excess of energy. This has the effect of balancing our internal states naturally over time. … See the full introduction to Qigong and Five Element theory by Dr Violet Sherwood here.

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