The figure at left is the Kanji (alphabetic character) Mizu, representing the element of water. The water kanji is sometimes used as an unofficial symbol for adherents of the moral/philosophical system of Confucianism.
The remaining four elements in the ancient Chinese alchemical system are:
In Chinese philosophy, the Wu Xing (five elements) represent five states of matter which are constantly in flux. Each of the five elements effects the other four in unique ways. Wood feeds fire, which creates earth (ash). Earth produces metal, which channels water (pipes, buckets, etc.). Water nourishes wood and begins the cycle again. This is generally referred to as the “generating sequence,” one of many interrelationships between the elements.
The elemental cycle
Another significant interaction is known as the “controlling” sequence, and operates much like a game of “rock, paper, scissors.” Fire conforms metal, water quenches fire, etc. The cycles of the elements is represented by a pentagrammatic diagram, and the interplay of the five underpins many disparate branches of Chinese spirituality, including Feng Shui, Martial art traditions, and Chinese medicine.
See also: the four platonic elements