In traditional Chinese philosophy, natural phenomena can be classified into the Five Elements (Chinese: 五行; pinyin: wǔxíng): wood, fire, earth, metal, and water (木, 火, 土, 金, 水; mù, huǒ, tǔ, jīn, shǔi).
These elements were used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. Five phases is the more appropriate way of translating wǔxíng — literally, "five goings". Traditional Taijiquan schools relate them to footwork and refer to them as five "steps".
The doctrine of five phases describes both a generating (生, shēng) cycle and an overcoming or restraining (克, kè) cycle of interactions between the phases. In the generating cycle, wood generates fire; fire generates earth (ash); earth generates metal; metal generates water (if metal is left out at night water will have condensed on it by morning); water generates wood. In the overcoming cycle, wood grows in earth; earth absorbs water; water quenches fire; fire melts metal; metal cuts wood.
Monday, November 06, 2006