Wu Xing (Five Elements)

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:

wood fire
wood/ fire/ earth/ metal/

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

Related Symbols:

TomoeWater element

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Four Elements (Four Platonic Elements, Alchemical Elements) | symboldictionary.net
January 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm


Michael September 7, 2013 at 4:05 am

I would just like to point out that although there are elements of this that are concurrent with Confucius beliefs, it is referring to them in the Japanese sense by calling them “kanji” which is the Japanese equivalent and carries different connotations, the Chinese would call it “hanzi”. If you are truly talking about Confucius views, it should be referred to as “shui” instead of “mizu” for the element of water. as Confucianism, to its roots, is a Chinese practice and has all of its history in Chinese philosophy.

Pamela Glotzbach June 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Thank you so much for stopping the confusion of Confucianism. I have hung the “shui” of water around my neck, along with other spiritual talismans from different religious cultures although I saw it a long time ago, hung it along with others without any question whatsoever as to why. Tonight I felt compelled to KNOW it. Truly know it. Thank you for taking your time to be present enough to clarify it for anyone like me to find the truth of this water sign. If you would be so kind as to email me a confirmation that the name is Mizu, I would be ever grateful. If not, this is more than plenty.

jay harmon May 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Hi, as far as martial discipline goes in Japanese styles the five elements break down like this: Earth= Sinking and rising energy, steadiness, confidence, the immovable mountain, stubbornness, refusal of change, etc. Water= Tidewater energy, analysis, drawing back to crash in, reason, inability to act (too busy analyzing not doing), etc. Fire= Spring forward energy, passion, anger, straight forwardness, rashness, connectivity, etc. Wind/Metal/Air= Top spinning energy, avoidance, withdrawal from reality, etc. Void= All elements blended together seamlessly to make no element. Note that all elements work together paper, rock, scissors style. All elements are mnemonic devices to describe fundamental energy types. All elements, if taken to extremes = bad/ detrimental attitudes. The same interplay of elements in combat are the same for resolution of ANY type of struggle or conflict [physical ( hand to hand/ weapon combat), mental ( argument / discourse), and spiritual ( matters of belief and the imposition / insinuation of one will or ideal upon another with or without the others knowledge or consent)]. The truly balanced human does not seek to defeat others but his own weaknesses, fears, and deficiencies. The actualized human is in tune with everything around him/her so that adaptation is instinctive and automatic. If one achieves such a heightened state of awareness, then the world bends to that humans will. I have yet to meet anyone who is without fear or weakness. I think it’s kinda like any artist, you never get there, and you never stop trying to be better. You must remain striving. All things that live, strive. If not, then it’s merely existence. Well, you get the idea….

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