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A beginners’ guide to the Chinese Five Elements of Change

1. Earth- Heartbeat of the Mother


When the master entered the room the disciples were engrossed in a conversation about Lao- tzu’s words:


“One who knows does not speak

One who speaks does not know”


“What do the words mean?” asked the disciples.

“Who among you knows the fragrance of a rose?” the master responded.

They all knew

“Who among you can put this knowledge into words?’

They were all silent.


Where to start, I ask myself, in describing with words something which is beyond language and in the realm of knowing from deep within? I have to presume that since we are all made up of an intricate balance of these five elements that we actually know, deep within ourselves, what these concepts mean and that I am merely reminding you of something your inner knowing already understands. So, with this in mind, let’s start at the beginning of the circle.


Over the next few months we will be taking a journey through the Chinese Five Elements of Change, an ancient system of understanding the fundamental energy (or chi) of all things physical, emotional and spiritual.


Originally, in China, the village doctor was paid a tithe by all in the village for his/her services. As long as the people remained well, that is. As soon as a villager became ill their tithe to the doctor was stopped until they became well again. In this way the doctor was only rewarded if the villagers remained healthy, a true wellness industry indeed.

So, the ancient philosophical system of the Five Elements of Change became the backbone of the doctors’ tool kit to be able to understand where the underlying causes of illness lie (even before it strikes) and to bring balance back into the system to retain healthy patients.


According to this system everything in the universe is made up from a combination of 5 fundamental energies: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire and the aim of the healer is to make sure these are in a state of balance to create health and harmony.


The Generation or Mother/Child cycle describes to us how the five elements nourish and sustain each other in a never ending and always changing cycle of support (Sheng).

In classical Chinese theory the universe was formed by a massive ball of Fire, which cooled down to create Earth. As the Earth cooled down more, its core solidified into minerals and precious Metal, which permeated Water enabling it to nourish plants (Wood), which burned through Fire to create ash (Earth) which solidified into Metal, which feeds Water and so on.




EARTH contains all the elements (the ash of fire, the damp of water, pieces of plant material, and minerals) and is seen symbolically as a golden yellow cauldron, waiting to have the fire lit from underneath and to be filled with the waters of life.

It is also seen as a square dissecting a circle which represents heaven.

Each Element is related to different natural, spiritual, mental and emotional qualities, colours, organs and parts of the body, seasons, climates, directions, taste, sounds and times of day.



Colour -rich golden yellow

Direction- centre

Dynamic energy-physical

Fluids- lymph

Nature -fertility, nourishing, solid and restful, gives birth to all

Orifices- lips and mouth

Perverse climate-moisture

Psychic- intellect

Season- Indian summer or transition between the seasons

Senses- tactile

Smell- fragrant

Sound- singing

Symptoms – lips

Taste- sweet

Tissues -flesh and muscles.

Yin organ- Spleen 9-11am

Yang organ – Stomach 7-9am



In vibrational medicine the emotional energy experienced by the patient is of great importance when it comes to diagnosis and treatment. The system of the Chinese five elements of change has a deeply structured and well grounded understanding of how emotional energies affect different parts of the body. We find that it is an indispensible tool to combine with our particular approaches to energy medicine.

An imbalance can be either an excess or a deficiency.



The Earth type is called the Peacemaker, this personality is a nurturing individual who thrives on peace and harmony and finds discord difficult to deal with.

Emotionally, the individual who is in a balanced Earth state is relaxed, caring and thoughtful, solid and supportive. Their energy is aligned perfectly as a channel for all the other elements to ground and create whatever is needed.


Earth deficiency causes obsessive behaviour where there is a craving for nourishment, attention, love. The individual is not grounded in life and struggles to achieve anything.

Earth excess causes anxiety and worry, the sMothering type, lethargy, heavy spirit, heaviness of consciousness. Usually very practical, Earth types can become blocked by their very immovability and lack of spontaneity.




The spleens’ primary function is extraction of nutrients from food and fluids and changing these elements into chi (energy), blood and waste products, which are then transported to the organs that govern elimination and circulation. It is a massive distribution centre supplying the being with sufficient energy, blood, nutrients. It breaks down old blood cells and lymphocytes and returns iron to the liver. If spleen chi is deficient or weak, the blood is in danger of overflowing its pathways, this may cause symptoms such as nosebleeds, hemorrhaging, spotting between periods, vomiting blood or blood in the stools. The spleen also contains a reservoir of additional blood to be used in emergencies.


The Stomach is responsible for the active (Yang) part of receiving food. It is the in tray for everything we put into our mouths, sifting and sorting for nutrients and then transporting the pure nutritive energy to the spleen where it is transformed into chi and blood. The stomach is thought to rule pushing nutrients downwards while the Spleen governs pushing nutrients up to vital organs. When the stomach orb is not fully functional we cannot obtain enough nutrients to strengthen our being, and energy levels drop. Nausea, gastrointestinal pain, distention, belching and vomiting are signs of disharmony and weakness in the stomach orb.



Could cause hunger cravings but not knowing what to eat, sluggishness, difficulty losing weight, bloating, poor muscle tone, prolapses, varicose veins, slow healing of cuts, easily bruised, bleeding gums, tooth decay, swollen glands.



Excess appetite, water retention, irregular bowel movements and urination, tender gums, PMS with lethargy, bloating, soreness, hunger, swelling, aching, heavy feelings in eyes and head, thick mucus in nose throat and mouth, mental bogginess, cloudiness, heaviness, heavy limbs that make moving around an effort, metabolic problems, hypothyroidism, bowel and digestive disturbances, loose stools, diarrhea, lack of energy.


So, from this very brief description of how the element Earth affects the physical and emotional energies, one can see that a general picture can be built up to assist the practitioner in assessing whether the client has an imbalance of Earth. Then the appropriate treatment may begin to rebalance the individual back into a more healthy state. This can be through use of diet, exercise (Taiji, Qigong), herbs, acupuncture, acupressure, vibrational medicine, meditation and changes to lifestyle.


To achieve this at Balanced Energy we work with vibrational essences, energetic healing and movement to free the body to become natural again. Our vibrational essences hold the balanced energy of the element needed, and when they are used by the client their very being is reminded of the wholeness that needs to happen energetically and emotionally to shift back into a healthy state once again.

With an Earth imbalance we would use our vibrational essence HEARTBEAT OF THE MOTHER and techniques like the following exercise.

This exercise energises the stomach and spleen, relieves indigestion and heartburn, stress and anxiety.


Earth Balancing and activation exercise.

Stand with feet shoulder width apart and parallel, knees soft, hands cradling the Tantien (just below the belly button). Transfer weight to left heel, breathe in as you turn hips to right and look to right. Back to centre. Transfer weight to right heel, breathe out as you turn hips to left and look left. Move smoothly and rhythmically from side to centre to side and back again (spleen activation).

While you are doing this, close the lips and run the tongue around the inside of the lips in front of the teeth, 20 times anti-clockwise and 20 times clockwise. Once you have completed this stop moving from side to side and swallow the saliva that has built up in the mouth visualizing it as light, follow it into the stomach and feel the warmth and activation of the stomach energy.


Over the next four issues we will be exploring other aspects of understanding and diagnosis using the Five Elements as we continue our journey around the circle.

Next month we explore Metal, the concepts of Yin and Yang and the control cycle of the Elements.


Catherine Opie and Henri Venturini are Master practitioners, teachers and producers of Vibrational Medicines, energy healing and martial arts. They live on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in New Zealand where they run their Auckland based natural health and healing company Balanced Energy™. Copyright Balanced Energy Ltd.

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