The Theory of the Five Elements
The gogyō comes from the Taoist teachings of China. Unlike the godai system, where each appearance can be assigned a fixed plane, the gogyō taps into the polarity theory of yin and yang (in and yō in Japanese) and seeks to establish the cycles of transformation that continually take place on the material plane. Five code designations were developed for this, but they should only be regarded as a code and not as a literal classification.
- Sui (Water) or dissolving
- Moku (Wood) or growing
- Ka (Fire) or evaporating
- Do (Earth) or condensing
- Kin (Metal) or hardening
In ancient China, everything was subject to an eternal cycle, the seasons, the days, and the processes in the body. A man was not seen as an isolated being, but as his own little universe, a microcosm in the macrocosm, so to speak. Every aspect of Chinese culture, whether it be politics, medicine, art, or martial arts, could elude this theory. Therefore, different organs, points of the compass, colors, seasons, or animals were assigned to the five elements.
Equivalents of Elements
|Season||Spring||Summer||Transition from Summer/Autumn||Autumn||Winter|
|phase of life||Birth||Growth||Maturity||Decline||Death|
|guts||Gallbladder||Small intestine||Stomach||Colon||Urinary bladder|
|other body parts||Muscles and Tendons||Arteries and Veins||Meat||Skin and hair||Bones, teeth and bone marrow|
|Property||Harmony and Creativity||Stimulus and Passion||balance and stability||Hardness and determination||Communication|
Dependency of Elements
There is a hierarchy among the elements that in one possible order brings forth each other, in a different order each element destroys or subdues another. In the opposite order, one element overwhelms the other. Thus, wood produces fire, fire produces earth (as ash), the earth produces metal (ores), metal produces water (condensation on the surface), and finally, water produces wood (plants).
The wood conquers the earth like a plow, the earth tames the water like a dam, the water quenches the fire, the fire melts the metal and finally, the metal cuts down the wood like an ax or a saw.