The Five Chinese Elements: Which One Are You?

the five Chinese elements
Photo by 五玄土 ORIENTO on Unsplash

Have you ever felt like someone had a different energy to you? Like they weren’t quite on the same wave length?

You may be right!

According to Chinese Medicine, energy or qi (pronounced “chi”), flows through everything–including us.

Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that everything in the world could be categorised into five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.

Now embraced in the west, these five elements are the building blocks of energy practices such as Feng Shui and Qi Gong.

Each of these elements has its own unique characteristics, and can therefore be applied to our personalities. Just as sun signs can help us learn more about what makes us tick, so can our particular Chinese energy element.

Here are the five elements, how to identify yours, and bring your unique energy back into balance.

The Five Chinese Elements

Water

Associated with the winter season, water types are quiet observers, who think and feel deeply. Like water, people of this element tend to go with the flow and prefer to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’.

At their best: If you are a water type, you have great intuition, and because you like to go with the flow, you get along with most people. Water types tend to be introvert, so are happy being alone. In fact, that is the best way for them to recharge.

At their worst: Water types have tonnes of great ideas. But the downside? They tend to do nothing with them. In many cases it’s because fear holds them back. They also tend to feel like outsiders and can feel different to the herd.

Wood

Associated with spring, wood types have a strong and natural drive to grow. This means they tend to be goal-orientated. As soon as they finish one project, they ask, “what’s next?”

At their best: If you are a wood element, you are motivated, and on a mission to bring about positive change. You make decisions based on logic and facts, rather than on your gut or emotions. You are also seen as outgoing and social. And you enjoy being physically active, preferring to exercise while surrounded by nature.

At their worst: Because wood people are such hard workers, they tend to get obsessed with their work and burn themselves out. They can be so driven they neglect both their needs and other people’s.

Fire

Associated with summer, fire energy is one of excitement. Like fire, these people are animated and passionate. So much so, they tend to move their hands when they talk.

At their best: You won’t find a type with a bigger heart. Fire people are full of love and Haner describes them as having a certain “sparkle.” They are social types, who love to talk, make others feel special, and have fun. They come across as extrovert, but can be shy underneath.

At their worst: Fire people’s energy tends to come out in intense flairs, so their emotions and energies can be scattered and they struggle to focus on one thing. They need to learn to pace themselves and balance their energy levels to avoid burn out.

Earth

Associated with autumn, earth types are stable and solid like the ground. Natural-born nurturers, people tend to feel safe around them.

At their best: You are an earth type if you enjoy nurturing and empowering others. You will do this by creating comfortable spaces and putting your relationships first. You are happiest when you have found your “tribe,” who share your values and beliefs.

At their worst: Because they are always taking care at others, earth types can neglect self-care. They don’t always receive the same level of support from others and are the most likely to feel stuck. Earth people also love food, so may need to learn to be more disciplined with their diets. Comfort eating can be a problem.

Metal

Associated with late autumn, metal types aren’t as hard as you might expect. They are also associated with the sky, so the element of air tends to describe them better.

At their best: Do you have a keen eye for detail or pick up on things others don’t? Then you are likely to be a metal type. Haner describes them as having a “light energy.” Rather than forcing their views on others, they inspire those around them. They tend to be introverts and thrive within a small circle of friends.

At their worst: Their attention to detail can be their downfall, as they can over analyse things and become overwhelmed when they have a problem. As metal types are physically sensitive, they particularly hate feeling uncomfortable.

Which Of The Five Chinese Elements Am I?

Most people will have a gut instinct about which element they are, but if you still feel like you can relate strongly to two or more of these elements, Haner invites you to think about what your “autopilot setting” is.

When I first found out about the five elements, my gut-instinct told me I was a water type, which funnily enough is my astrology element (I’m a Pisces).

However, on doing Haner’s online quiz, my fire and water scores were neck and neck. But when I looked at the mental and physical health issues associated with each, I related much more to water. To make doubly sure I asked my friend, who is a reiki master, and she also thought I had water energy.

If you are still unsure, the health issues described below may confirm your instincts. Otherwise, take the elements quiz on Jean Haner’s website. To find out more, check out Jean Haner’s book, The Five Element Solution.

How To Restore Balance To Your Energy

Each energy element is associated with a particular organ or area of the body. These can be expressed through the seven chakras or energy centres; root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown.

If we focus on these corresponding chakras when we are feeling physically or mentally unwell, we can help restore balance to our particular type of energy.

Water – Sacral

If you are a water type, water is literally the key to understanding your physical wellbeing and is expressed through the kidneys.

When feeling mentally or physically out of balance, hold your hands over your kidneys (lower back). Imagine channelling orange energy into this area to help rebalance the sacral chakra.

Wood – Third Eye & Heart

Wood types are thinkers, and tend to get headaches when they are out of balance. Not big on feeling, they need to be reminded of their hearts too.

To do this, place one hand on your forehead, and the other on the centre of your chest. Imagine indigo light going into your third eye, and green light going into your heart chakra.

Fire – Heart

As they are the most big-hearted, it makes sense that the chakra associated with fire types is the heart.

When you feel your energy levels dwindling, hold both hands over the centre of your chest and imagine channelling green energy into this chakra.

Earth – Solar Plexus

The stomach is the area most affected when earth types are out of balance. The solar plexus is also associated with self-esteem and self-care, which these types tend to neglect.

If you are an earth type wanting to restore your balance, put your hands over your solar plexus, (below your ribcage) and imagine channelling yellow energy into this chakra.

Metal – Heart & Solar Plexus

As metal is like air, the lungs are associated with this element. If you are metal, your mind tends to need grounding with earth energy too.

So, place one hand on your heart, and the other on your solar plexus, and imagine sending green and yellow energy to both to restore balance.

Be Your Element And Be Proud!

Remember: we are made up of all five Chinese elements, but are generally ruled by one more than the others. Now armed with this knowledge, we can recognise these energy elements and have a better understanding of ourselves and others.

The main thing is to own your element–don’t trick yourself into being someone you’re not! Whichever element you identify with is uniquely beautiful and should be celebrated.

Unlike western science, Chinese medicine is based on the belief that there is not a “one pill-fits-all.” We all need personalised care and heal from the same things in very different ways. Hopefully this is the first step in finding your own way.

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