Learn Chinese Calligraphy for the Five Elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth

Man writing Chinese calligraphy with a brush and black ink on a red paper being held down on a wooden table by three stones.

Many Chinese words have mutated into something different from their original orthodox meanings under the influence of Party culture. (Image: Kim Pin Tan via Dreamstime)

According to ancient Chinese philosophy, the Five Elements (五行 wu xing) include Metal (金 jīn), Wood (木 mù), Water (水 shuǐ), Fire (火 huǒ), and Earth (土 tǔ). The Chinese believe that everything in the universe, our health included, is governed by the Five Elements.

Characteristics of the Five Elements


Metal is one of the Five Elements.
The metal element. (Image: via Pixabay)

Righteousness, firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength, and determination. Metal corresponds to the lungs and large intestine.

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A pile of logs.
The wood element. (Image: via Pixabay)

Benevolence, warmth, generosity, strength, flexibility, and boldness. Wood corresponds to the liver and to the gall bladder.


Ripples going out as a drop of water falls.
The water element. (Image: via Pixabay)

Wisdom, flexibility, calmness, softness, and gentleness. Water corresponds to the kidneys and to the bladder.


Ring of fire against a dark background.
The water element. (Image: via Pixabay)

Propriety, dynamism, strength, enthusiasm, creativity, and persistence. Fire corresponds to the heart and to the small intestine.


Cracks seen in the ground during a drought.
The earth element. (Image: via Pixabay)

Honesty, stubbornness, rigidity, patience, thoughtfulness, and stability. Earth corresponds to the spleen and to the stomach.

These Five Elements interact with each other according to the principles of mutual generation and mutual inhibition. Wood generates Fire, Fire generates Earth, Earth generates Metal, Metal generates Water, and Water generates Wood; conversely, Water inhibits Fire, Fire inhibits Metal, Metal inhibits Wood, Wood inhibits Earth, and Earth inhibits Water.

Mr. Hsiao Shih-Hao, president of the Moxiang Calligraphy Association Taipei, Taiwan, demonstrates Chinese calligraphy.
Mr. Hsiao Shih-Hao, president of the Moxiang Calligraphy Association Taipei, Taiwan, demonstrates Chinese calligraphy. (Image: NTDTV AP)

The Five Elements are equally important and should be kept in balance. If they are balanced, the environment will be stable, and people can live peacefully and have good luck.

If they are imbalanced, the environment will be unstable and unpredictable, which will in turn have a negative influence on you. Chinese astrology, therefore, uses the balance theory of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements to predict people’s fortunes.

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