Five Elements - An Intro

The Five Elements refers to one diagnostic filter used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is basically a way to view a person's symptomology in a larger context; one that is more unique to the individual, and with the acknowledgement that symptoms and the conditions that give rise to them are not static, but representative of imbalances in the natural flow of things.


Diagram as it appears in "Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine", by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem KorngoldThe pictoral diagram of the the Five Element chart (also known as the Five Phases, Five Directions, or the Five Transformations.. to give you a better idea of motion or flow) is that of a five-pointed star. There are two cycles of motion.. one clockwise along each of the points, and one also clockwise, but connecting with element across from it.

More on these cycles will be discussed later.

Each element has particular associations with natural phenomenon, and these are used to describe the way that energy or chi is believed to move through the body. These associations also include organ systems and functions, meridians, emotions, personality tendencies, sounds, colors, smells, tastes, and seasons.

Here is a rundown of the elemental associations (according to the awesome book, "Shiatsu: Theory and Practice", by Carola Beresford-Cooke:


  • Meridians: Kidney & Bladder
  • Spiritual capacity: Will
  • Movement of energy: downward
  • Emotion: fear
  • Color: Blue/black
  • Sound: groaning
  • Odor: putrid
  • Sense organ: ears
  • Taste: salty
  • Season: winter
  • Climate: cold
  • Time of day: 3-7 pm


  • Meridians: Liver & Gall Bladder
  • Spiritual capacity: Houses the Ethereal Soul
  • Movement of energy: upward
  • Emotion: anger
  • Color: green
  • Sound: shouting
  • Odor: rancid
  • Sense organ: eyes
  • Taste: sour
  • Season: spring
  • Climate: wind
  • Time of day: 11 pm - 3 am


  • Meridians: Heart & Small Intestine/ Heart Protector & Triple Heater
  • Spiritual capacity: Shen ("Mind")
  • Movement of energy: outward
  • Emotion: joy
  • Color: red
  • Sound: laughing
  • Odor: scorched
  • Sense organ: tongue
  • Taste: bitter
  • Season: summer
  • Climate: hot
  • Time of day: 11 am - 3 pm


  • Meridians: Stomach & Spleen
  • Spiritual capacity: intellect
  • Movement of energy: stillness
  • Emotion: reflective thought/empathy
  • Color: yellow
  • Sound: singing
  • Odor: fragrant
  • Sense organ: mouth
  • Taste: sweet
  • Season: last days of each season
  • Climate: dampness
  • Time of day: 7 - 11 am


  • Meridians: Lungs & Large Intestine
  • Spiritual capacity: Corporeal Soul
  • Movement of energy: inward and downward
  • Emotion: grief
  • Sense organ: nose
  • Color: white
  • Sound: weeping
  • Odor: rotten
  • Taste: pungent
  • Season: autumn
  • Climate: dryness
  • Time of day: 3 - 7 am

Upcoming posts will delve further into each of these elements individually....