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Wu Xing

Wu Xing - the Five Elements.

Wu Xing - the Five Elements.

Credits:Wellcome Library, London

Wu Xing, or the five elements, represents the five systems of the body in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Each system is represented by an organ and an element, the elements being metal, wood, water, fire and earth. They are the basic elements making up the world, and constantly move and change in relation to each other. Like the humours, each element is associated with other attributes, such as the season, colour, taste and direction. Each element also relates to parts of the body, senses and emotions.

Wu Xing explains how systems of the body relate to each other. Imbalances in the relationship between elements create illness and disease. The elements also explain the relationships believed to exist between the human body and the environment.

Wu Xing also relates to Yin and Yang. These are the two opposing yet interrelated forces underlying natural phenomena. Yin and Yang are associated with opposite forces, such as hot and cold, light and dark, and stillness and movement. Neither can exist in isolation, but they mutually influence each other. Yin-Yang explains the body’s structure and function. It is also used to diagnose and treat illness. The body is seen as a set of connected systems governed by the balance between Yin and Yang.


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