Wu Xing

Within Chinese Medicine, we see everyone as a unique blend of these [dynamic] elements. Every person has all five of these [dynamic] Elements within them, but more-often-than-not fit into predictable ‘constitutions,’ that can become a reference point for treatment. Here is a chart that we share with all parents.

Think of your child and see if there is one column more than the others that jumps out as descriptive of them. Then, read the description of that Element below to see if this rings a bell for you. Feel free to do this assessment for yourself and everyone in your family. Contact us with any questions.

There is also a video below for more information about the Wu Xing.


Wood – “The Pioneer” 

The Wood element is the energy of spring –

the rising, beginning, breaking through the heaviness to grow and grow and grow.

The wood element creates, plans, and initiates. The wood element in a person manifests as a drive to build, succeed, and pioneer. 

In a personality, the wood element manifests as confidence, determination, and need for growth. These people are also usually quick thinkers, comfortable in discussion and disagreement, and willing to be independent. They rarely back down from a challenge and are often motivated in competition. 

The Wood element is connected to the spirit eyes in Chinese Medicine, and we see this manifest in capability to envision, be a visionary, and be an explorer. 

Wood element translates into a natural desire for leadership, but they can be consumed by power and begin to take over and dominate a room or group. Because they are comfortable in challenging situations, they can sometimes become defiant. They like making the rules and if there is already a rule in place, they enjoy pushing the limits, bending the rules, or even breaking them. 

 Wood element tends to lead to quick thinking, quick growth, and likewise, quickly bored. Because they have strong feelings and like to be heard, they can sometimes have outbursts, usually of anger. If unchecked, this can turn into rage and fury. Wood generates fire, so to speak.

The wood element is kept in balance with space to explore and rest. In children and adults alike, this means getting out into nature with plenty of time to play or wander. This will keep them calm and grounded. In general, the need for quiet time, slowing down, and relaxation needs to be actively encouraged. 


Fire – “The Bright Light”

The Fire Element is the energy of summer – the warmth, the playful, expressing the joy of the year when everyone wants to be outside, traveling, celebrating.

Fire animates, illuminates, and warms. Similarly, the Fire element in a person manifests as warmth, playfulness, creativity, and a natural calling to perform. 

In a personality, the Fire element is like fire in nature – just as a campfire attracts everyone around it, the person with a strong fire affinity will be naturally attractive and the center of attention. They thrive in this environment – all eyes on them – and love the attention. Fire is like the sun – it shines! 

There is enchantment with fire, but there is also the possibility of being burned. These people are very fun to be with, but sometimes a little intense. 

The Fire element is connected to the Heart in Chinese Medicine, and we see this manifest in an innate ability to make emotional connections with almost anyone, and quickly. There is a ’spark’ that ‘brightens your day’ when you’re with them. 

But if not contained, fire can spread easily and burn everything in its path. We see these imbalances translating to people in clear ways:

1) The ‘meltdown’ –  think of a child who is spread out on the floor, limbs flailing, and no way to be consoled. But then magically, from one minute to the next, everything is better and all is forgotten. Adults have meltdowns in their own ways, but likely hold on to the experience a lot longer. When this is coupled with exhaustion, there is little hope other than to softly get them to sleep (which will not be easy).

2) The ‘burnout’ – fire can lead people to ‘burn the candle at both ends’ because they are so excited about everything, especially having fun at night. This can result in people feeling ‘fried’ and depleted.

The fire element is kept in balance with opportunity to shine, play, and create, and also appropriate amounts of rest and down time. They need to be reminded and supported on how to manage their energy and prevent meltdowns and burnouts. 


Earth – “The Harmonizer”

The Earth Element is the energy of the Earth – grounding, comforting, and nourishing. 

The Earth supports, provides, and sustains. The Earth element in a person manifests the same way.

In a personality, the Earth element manifests as the harmonizer – the person who makes sure everyone in the group is attended to and happy. They care about family, community, and each person’s well being. There is a ‘song in their voice’ and it sounds like they sing when they speak – think of the way most people speak to and care for babies as the primary example of the Earth element showing up. 

The Earth element is connected to digestion and has an affinity with taste and smell. Just as all food comes from the Earth, people with strong Earth love food: cooking, eating, and sharing meals. They love bringing people together in any way, but especially around the table. 

Earth element loves making other people happy. This appears early on as ‘Mommy’s helper’ or ‘teacher’s pet’ behavior. It’s their nature to help and please. Relationships are paramount to them, so if someone in the ‘tribe’ is unhappy or hurt, they will feel it too. 

Because they care about other people so much, and are so connected to their feelings, there are two ways that the Earth element typically goes out of balance emotionally:

1) Self-sacrifice: they put others before themselves and would rather see someone else happy before doing what they want. 

2) Over-eating: they love food and need comfort, and if they don’t get it from caring people in their world, they get it from eating – usually sugars, dairy, or greasy foods.

The Earth element is kept in balance by encouragement, teaching them to care for themselves too, appropriate exercise, and opportunities to be with people they love.


Metal Element – “The Mountain”

The Metal element represents the solidification of Earth – crystals, metals, and stones. In a season, it is the Autumn – cool, dry, and yet resplendent. 

Metal in nature is strong, sharp, and precious. 

In a personality, the Metal element can show up a few ways, and it mimics the ways in which we see metal appear in nature. In the same way metal can make a strong shield or fence to protect what is inside it, the Metal element in a person can make them very protective over others. Like metal swords, the mind and words of these people can be very penetrating and even piercing. They generally ‘get right to the point,’ which can be a little ‘sharp’ for people to handle.

Like stone and metal, it can take a while (and a lot of energy) for a person with strong Metal element qualities to ’warm up’ to others. Because they might say things very pointedly, their words can sometimes scare people off. Metal may be difficult to break, but sometimes easy to dent. And once dented, the mark of the dent will last forever. So too with the emotions and memory of the person with a strong Metal element – they can hold onto things for a very long time and are not quick to forget what you did or said to them.

For a person with strong metal, if you have a clear plan and stick to it, things will likely go smoothly. If you change the plan without warning, this could spell disaster. They see things as clearly black or white, right or wrong. They love rules and structure and can follow orders very well. 

The Metal element in a person can make them like a mountain – they teach you what you’re made of as you try to climb to the top, and as you go on, they show you more and more of your potential and wider views of a beautiful world. But it is not an easy ‘walk in the park.’

The Metal element is kept in balance with play, especially spontaneous play that still feels safe for them. For people interacting with Metal, it’s good to be fluid and spacious, as to not take what they say too personally or as an attack if it comes off as offensive. Look for them to show love in actions not words. Encourage and support these people to go outside their comfort zone as to not become too rigid or closed off. 


Water Element – “The Mystic”

The Water element is the energy of winter – it draws in, holds, and keeps safe. 

Water is fluid, it can run deep, and it can sustain a whole hidden world beneath the surface. So too, in a person, the Water element can manifest as mysterious and deep, and yet you feel like ‘on the surface’ there isn’t much going on.

For these people, they truly can ‘go with the flow’ and be happy. They may say “it doesn’t matter what we do or where we go,” and they mean it. They rarely have an agenda. Like water finds the lowest point and stays there until something or some force moves it, a person with strong Water element also tends to stay still, unless someone strongly encourages them to get moving.

Water element creates a deep and mysterious personality. They won’t say much, and tend to keep to themselves, but there is a lot going on that does not meet the eye immediately. Like a river, once you get it going it can be quite strong, the Water element can create incredible momentum and power when channeled.

Water has an inner power to it, like a wave that sweeps you off your feet before you even know what hit you. The Water element in a person gives them this force, yet they are usually very gentle. There is a gravitas, a quiet dignity, and a grace that comes with someone like this. They have nothing to prove and are usually very humble.

A body of water is healthy so long as it is not stagnant. To keep the Water element in balance, keep it moving. Keep it flowing. Encourage these people to take risks, to try new things. If they get sad, depressed, or ‘down on themselves,’ which tends to happen, get them up and moving again as soon as there is an opportunity. Encourage their natural creativity, mystic qualities, and compassion, all of which will be strong. 


Please also read our essay on the Five Emotions of Chinese Medicine, which includes a deeper history of the Wu Xing and how they affect our lives.

Contact us with any questions or to discuss how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help your family.

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