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A beginners’ guide to the Chinese Five Elements of Change


2. Metal- Wings of Joy

In this, the second of five articles on the Chinese Five Elements of change, we explore the element of Metal, the concepts of Yin and Yang and begin to unlock the controlling cycle of these incredible diagnostic tools. Article #1 explored the element of Earth and, as Metal comes out of the Earth; it is only natural to speak of this element next.


METAL is seen symbolically as a White tiger.



Colour -white

Direction- West

Dynamic energy-vital

Fluids- mucus

Nature –descend be clear

Orifices- nose

Perverse climate-dryness

Psychic- instinct (Bo)

Season- Autumn

Senses- smell

Smell- rotten

Sound- crying, weeping

Symptoms – body hair problems

System- respiratory

Taste- pungent

Tissues –skin, body hair

Yin organ- Lungs 3-5am

Yang organ – Colon 5-7am



Yin is a passive force with a negative charge which signifies death or night, Yang is birth or day an outward force with a positive charge. There are no real polarities however as both these energies are in a constantly shifting dance to reach balance, forever dependant upon each other yet equal. This is illustrated by the Tai Chi (often called Yin Yang) symbol and is referred to as the “Ultimate Principle of all matter”. When these two energies are in perfect balance, such as dusk and dawn where they are indistinguishable or the equinoxes when they are equal, the magical mixture of Yin /Yang creates a point of stillness potent with power and possibilities. In Oriental art, medicine and philosophy Yin /Yang must be kept constantly in balance to maintain harmony within the universe and the body.


In the last issue we discussed the nurturing (Shen) aspects of the Chinese five elements of change. The Shen illustrates how each element supports another in a never ending cycle. In order that an element doesn’t rage out of control there is always another to ensure that the boundaries of balance are held. This is called the Control Cycle, or Ko and its nature is to balance the energy.

Fire controls Metal by having the ability to melt, shape and form it, Metal (the axe) controls Wood whose tree roots bind the Earth together to prevent it from crumbling away. Earth dams Water and holds it so it can flow in a contained path and Water in turn controls Fire. This cycle does not happen naturally, it requires activation through awareness of the process.

For instance:

Lungs (Metal) are the vehicle for the kidneys (Water) to release their fear, dampness in the lungs is water releasing out of the body. If the lungs are not releasing this fear properly then the spleen (Earth) is overloaded to create anxiety. (Earth creates Metal which creates Water, Earth controls Water, so if Metal is deficient Water becomes out of control and Earth has to work to contain it)


This is where diagnosis becomes complicated especially when one is working with the use of opposites such as in herbal medicine. This is why at Balanced Energy we also like to work with vibrational essences. Through the creation of our essence WINGS OF JOY we simply introduce the Balanced Energy of the element METAL, and harmony naturally reintegrates throughout the system.





The balanced energy of Metal is to be strong and flexible, aesthetically inclined, a holder of deep wisdom and lover of true beauty. Accepting, disciplined, calm the balanced Metal type has a deep interest in searching for higher wisdom, philosophy and spirituality.

Metal is also ambitious, has strong ideas and is able to sustain prolonged effort to achieve goals even through hardships, drawbacks and failures. Preferring to sort things out on their own and often aloof, they are however a conduit for electricity which influences those around them to bring about the transformation they seek. With a desire for opulence, luxury and power they can achieve much in life.




Perfectionism, rigidity and dogmatism, order and discipline to the extreme. Unable to relax unless everything is perfect, deviation from the routine causes intense distress. The religious convert or political extremist Metal is self righteous, hardened, inflexible and unyielding. Anyone who differs or challenges ideas is judged and resented. Obsessed by physical possessions, power, people and relationships this creates a huge grief due to obsession with perceived loss and becomes envy, jealousy, greed and clinging possessively to all they own, unable to let go or grieve.



No boundaries, energy and power pour away. Need for approval, no self confidence and oversensitivity to criticism. Tendency to cling on to loved ones, giving too much and putting them on a pedestal leads to disappointment. No sense of inner wisdom. Surface behaviours mean more than the inner quality and gross or coarse behaviour brings feelings of repulsion.



The organs associated with Metal know when to take things in and to let them go.



The lungs provide the body with the ability to take advantage of the air that we breathe into the respiratory bronchioles, through cells enabling oxygen to be picked up by the bloodstream. Oxygen is a necessary ingredient for healthy functioning of the whole body. Lungs have a rhythm as they breathe in (inspiration) and breathe out (expiration) and relate to the concept of time (having enough of it) the ability to pick up and make use of opportunity, and the understanding that for every end there is a new beginning. The lungs oversee the relationship between heaven and earth, exterior and interior world. They are responsible for ching chi (energy needed to supply organs) and wei chi (defensive/immune energy). Wei chi protects from invasion by pathogens and prevents internal energy being lost through the skin (the third lung) whilst also allowing toxin elimination through perspiration, hence the relation of Metal to skin.



The Colon, or large intestine, is responsible for absorbing water from food and fluids and, through the action of peristalsis, for containing and moving out all the remains of our food that is considered to be of no further value to us. Known as the Drainer of Dregs it is able to distinguish between the harmless and the harmful to keep the clutter moving out and clear the way for new chi coming in from the lungs. The large intestines represent the ability to let go of what is no longer needed to allow the new to come in.



Rigidity, stiff muscle movement, clumsy, stiff posture.

Spine, neck and joint problems

Chronic sinus with headaches

Short breath, chronic dry cough, tight chest, asthma

Constipation, diarrhoea, colitis, IBS

Dry skin, hair, nails, lips, nasal passages and mucous membranes

Nasal polyps

Lack of perspiration



Environmental oversensitivity, i.e. allergies

Shallow breathing

Food allergies that disturb bowel and intestines: colitis, Chron’s disease

Congested nose, throat, sinuses


Dry skin, hair, lips, and nasal passages

Moles and warts

Loss of body hair

Cracked, dry or soft nails (mineral deficiency)

Headaches due to loss or disappointment

Bowel problems: constipation, loose stools, IBS

Depleted immune function manifesting as persistent colds and flu, sinus congestion, postnasal drip, chronic fatigue, Lupus.


When dealing on an energetic level with a client who needs to balance the Metal element

key patterns to reintroduce are playfulness in relationships (towards oneself and others), creative flow, communication and expression. Lightness of being.


The nose is the orifice relating to the Metal Element. At the top of the nasal passage there is a group of hairs that are related to the pituitary gland. When stimulated these hairs activate the endocrine system. This only happens during very slow rhythmic or fast pulsing breath. The following breathing exercise done for 10 mins every morning charges and aids the circulation of chi, releasing stagnation in the lungs which in turn helps to release regret, control and anger. This feeds your emotional state so that you feel energised and balanced. Chi, or universal life force energy, is a direct attribute of Metal.

Chi needs to be stored in the sacral then excited and felt as a moving energy. If this doesn’t happen then rigidity and stagnation occur.


Sit with spine straight, but not rigid, both feet on the floor, or stand with feet shoulder width apart in parallel, eyes may be closed if this helps you to focus.

Start to feel the breath as it moves in and out of the nose, for 1-2 mins.

Move deeper to experience how the breath moves in the lungs; focus first on the left lung then the right lung, then both together.

Draw breath deeper into the left side of the colon (intestines),

Then into the groin, the sexual organs, pelvis and hara (see article #1) feeling the breath moving in and out through the respiratory system down into these areas.

Move the breath outward into the skin, expanding as if you are blowing up a balloon on the in breath and contracting (deflating) on the out breath.

Bring the awareness back up slowly and focus once more on the breath moving in and out of the nose before finishing.


Next issue:

Emerging Spirit: The Element of Wood, the liver and gallbladder.

Catherine Opie and Henri Venturini are Master practitioners, teachers and producers of Vibrational Medicines, energy healing and martial arts. They live on Whangaparaoa Peninsula in New Zealand where they run their Auckland based natural health and healing company Balanced Energy™. Copyright Balanced Energy Ltd 2005

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