The Theory of Five Elements in Yin-Yang


The Theory of Five Elements in Yin-Yang

The theory of Five Elements in Yin-Yan is a thought that was born in ancient China from the theory of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements. This thought, which attempts to explain all phenomena in the natural world, was born in the Han dynasty by combining Yin-Yang theory and the Five Elements theory by Zou Yan, a philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period in China, and had a great influence on subsequent Chinese philosophy. It became the basic principle of Japanese Onmyodo.

Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism also adopted the thought of the Five Elements in Yin-Yan. Also the thought of the Five Elements in Yin-Yan is used as a way of thinking such as Chinese medicine and fortune-telling.

In Japanese the theory of Five Elements in Yin-Yan is called “Inyo-Gogyo / 陰陽inyo五行gogyo“.
*Yin: in
*Yan: yo
*Five Elements: 五行gogyo

The theory of Yin and Yan

In ancient China, all things were thought to be divided into two opposite qi (energies/characteristics) called yin and yang. This way of thinking is called yin-yang thought. This idea predates the Five Elements Theory, and is said to have been preached by an emperor in ancient Chinese mythology, or even before that.


This way of thinking is that there is no good or bad or superiority or inferiority of which nature is bad, all things in the world can be divided into ‘yin’ nature and ‘yang’ nature. It is believed that these two natures are maintained in balance with each other while changing proportions.

For example, a light classified as positive and a shadow classified as negative cannot exist without either one of them. In addition, while light and shadow have contradictory properties, the proportions also change, with more light during the day and more shadows at night.

Main yin and yang division
  • Moon (Yin) ⇔ Sun (Yan)
  • Night (Yin ) ⇔ Day (Yan)
  • Darkness (Yin) ⇔ Brightness (Yan)
  • Winter (Yin) ⇔ Summer (Yan)
  • Back (Yin) ⇔ Front (Yan)
  • Even number (Yin) ⇔ Odd number (Yan)
  • Water (Yin) ⇔ Fire (Yan)
  • Plant (Yin) ⇔ Animal (Yan)
  • Female (Yin) ⇔Male (Yan)
  • Softness (Yin) ⇔ Stiffness (Yan)

The Five Elements Theory

The Five Elements Theory is said to have been created by the First Emperor of the Xia Dynasty of ancient China (around 2070 BC to around 1600 BC). This theory is based on the thought that all things in the world are made up of the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.

Characteristics of the Five Elements and the five cardinal Confucian virtues (Gojo / 五常)

The five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water have their own characteristics and properties. In addition, the five virtues inherent in human beings: jin benevolence (sympathy), rei etiquette (respectfulness), shin believe (faith), gi righteousness (fulfillment of duty), and chi wisdom (development of wisdom). There is a way of thinking called Gojo gojo, which is applied to the five elements.

Properties of Wood


The trunks and branches of trees are twisted and twisted, but they continue to grow straight toward the sun. There is a curving property that the tree grows.

tree-like properties : growth, elongation, softness, smoothness, freedom

Effect : Wood absorbs nutrients from Earth and suppresses Earth. Also Wood is adjusted to Metal and helps with Fire.

Jin of Gojo : Heart of Benevolent Jin, gorgeous, and compassionate heart

Properties of Fire


It has a burning property that causes flames to flare up.

Flaming properties : heat, rising, bright

Effect : Fire melts and suppresses Metal. It also adjusted to Water and helps Earth.

Rei of Gojo : Heart of Etiquette Rei, valuing hierarchical relationships and earnestly showing gratitude.

Properties of Earth


There is a farming property that grow crops and help harvest them.

Properties like earth, the mother of all things : Nurture, accept, change, materialize

Effect : Earth suppresses Water. It also adjusted to Wood and helps Metal.

Shin of Gojo : Heart of believe Shin, gentle, vulnerable, sincere and cherishing people

Properties of Metal


It has a changing property that is easy and constant to change.

Metal-like properties : Cool, clean, astringent

Effect : Metal suppresses Wood. It is also adjusted to Fire and helps Water.

Gi of Gojo : Heart of righteous Gi that respects reason and rules, and is deeply devoted to justice and loyalty.

Properties of Water


It has the property of moisturizing and flowing downwards like water.

Water-like properties that are the source of life : Cold and cool, moisturizing/moisturizing, flowing downward

Effect : Water extinguishes Fire and regulates Fire. It also nourishes Wood and is adjusted to Earth.

Chi of Gojo : Heart of Wisdom Chi that observes things and has premonitions before acting.

The relationship of the five elements

These five elements have 3 relationships of “Sojo / 相生” where they cooperate and help each other, “Sokoku / 相剋” where they hurt each other, and “Hiwa / 比和” which becomes stronger by having the same nature. In the Hiwa relationship, there is a synergistic effect in which the same qualities are combined, but it is said that if it goes in a good direction, it will get better, and if it goes in a bad direction, it will get worse.

Sojo / 相生

It is a relationship of complementary neighbors. The relationship between neighbors is said to be good.

  • Burning wood creates fire.
  • Fire burns to ashes and creates earth.
  • Digging earth yields metal.
  • As the metal cools, water forms on the surface.
  • Water makes wood grow.

Sokoku / 相剋

It is a relationship of opposition to each other. Face-to-face relationships are said to be restraining and regulating each other.

  • Wood grow by absorbing nutrients from earth.
  • Fire melts metal.
  • Earth holds back water.
  • Metal cuts down wood.
  • Water puts out fire.

These five conflicting relationships prevent each other from becoming too strong.

The Five Elements in Yin-Yang (“Inyo-Gogyo / 陰陽inyo五行gogyo“)

By classifying things into five elements, yin and yang, the five elements of yin and yang enable consideration of their relationships, and have been incorporated into calendar studies and medicine. This “Inyo-Gogyo / 陰陽inyo五行gogyo” was introduced to Japan during the Asuka period (592-710) and is said to have been the basis of Onmyo-do, which was abolished in the Meiji period.

Main division of the Five Elements in Yin-Yang

Five elementsWoodFireEarthMetalWater
Four Gods and Five BeastsAzure Dragon
Vermilion Bird
Qilin (麒麟Kirin) or
Yellow dragon
White Tiger
Black Tortoise
MonthJan., Feb., Mar.Apr., May, Jun.Jul., Aug., Sep.Oct., Nov., Dec
The ten Heavenly Stems / 十干JikkanKou (Kinoe) 
Otsu (Kinoto)
Hei (Hinoe) 
Tei (Hinoto)
Bo (Tsuchinoe) 
Ki (Tsuchinoto)
Kou (Kanoe) 
Shin (Kanoto)
Jin (Mizunoe) 
Ki (Mizunoto)
The twelve zodiac animal signs / 十二支JunishitigerIn (Tora) Tiger
rabbitBou (U) Rabbit
snakeShi (Mi) Snake
horseGo (Uma) Horse
oxChuu (Ushi) Ox
dragonShin (Tatsu) Dragon
sheepBi (Hitsuji) Sheep
dogJutsu (Inu) Dog
monkeyShin (Saru) Monkey
roosterYuu (Tori) Rooster
ratShi (Ne) Rat
boarGai (I) Boar
Day of weekThursdayTuesdaySaturdayFridayWednesday
Five solid organsLiverHeartSpleenLungKidney
Five hollow organsGallbladderPericardiumStomachLarge intestineBladder
Five sense organsEyesTongueMouthNoseEars
Five parts of bodyTendon /
Blood vesselMuscleSkinBone
Five tastesSourBitterSweetSpicySalty
Five parts where the state of the five organs is reflected on the body surfaceNailFaceLipsBody hairHair
Five emotionsAngerJoyWorrySorrowFear
ColourBlue (Green)Red (Crimson)YellowWhiteBlack
Five cardinal Confucian virtuesJin benevolenceRei etiquetteShin believeGi righteousnessChi Wisdom
Five grainsWheatCommon milletFoxtail milletPaddy riceBeans
Five fruitsPlumApricotJujubePeachChestnut
Five animalsChickenSheepCowHorsePig
Five numbersThreeTwoFiveFourOne

*Doyo: The first days of spring, summer, autumn, and winter were called “立春 risshun”, “立夏 rikka”, “立秋 risshu”, and “立冬 ritto” when the lunar calendar was used. Doyo, strictly speaking, refers to the eighteen-day periods before these four days. Today, however, doyo generally only refers to the eighteen-day period before the first day of autumn. The first day of autumn is called risshu in Japanese, and it falls around the 8th of August on the calendar used now. The calendar says autumn begins after the doyo period, but the doyo period is the hottest time of the year. The doyo period is in midsummer.

The Five Elements in Yin-Yang and health


In Oriental medicine, we apply the idea of five elements and divide the body into five functions: “Kan Liver“, “Shin Heart“, “Hi Spleen“, “Hai Lung” and “Jin Kidney“. Like the elements of the five elements, these “五臓Gozo Five organs” are made up of each other in balance. By looking at the five organs from the perspective of the five elements, you can consider troubles that are likely to occur, parts that are likely to cause symptoms, and foods that suit your constitution.

The five elements and organs are deeply related. For example, if the function of the kidneys, which belongs to “water element”, deteriorates, it is thought that coldness and ear troubles are more likely to occur. In order to improve “water element” malfunction, it is said that it is good to supplement with salty foods such as miso and salted squid, which are “water element” of “五味Gomi five tastes (Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Spicy, Salty)”. In this way, there is also a way of thinking that attempts to improve physical condition by supplementing foods that correspond to five elements against organ malfunction.

Yin-Yang and Five Elements theory are alive in “薬膳yakuzen料理ryori medicinal dishes” that are gentle on the mind and body. For example, it is said that it is good to eat yin foods to cool the body in hot weather, and eat yang foods to warm the body in cold weather. There is also the idea of caring for the body by supplementing foods that correspond to the Five Elements in a well-balanced manner, such as sour foods from “wood element” in spring and bitter foods from “fire element” that cool the body in summer.

SymptomsFive senses
to heal
WoodLiverStress Insomnia, irritability, dullness,
neurosis, eyestrain, headache,
cracked nails, etc
Sense of smell
Spinach, chives, shiitake mushrooms,
cloud ear mushroom, wakame seaweed, red bean, plum,
Apricots, apples, kumquats,
lemon etc
Insomnia, irritability, dullness,
Depression, hot flashes and extremities,
Palpitations, shortness of breath, chest tightness, etc
Sense of sightBitter tasting food
Perilla, lily root, ginkgo nut,
bitter melon, burdock, celery,
parsley, udo, mugwort,
Grapefruit etc.
EarthSpleenColdirritable bowel syndrome, skin troubles,
Menstrual irregularities, stomach pain, loss of appetite,
Abdominal distension, swelling, taste disorder, etc
Sense of tasteSweet tasting food
pumpkin, chestnut, walnut,
Pine nuts, soybeans, brown rice, millet,
Millet, goji berries, honey,
Yamaimo, etc.
MetalLungConstipationDifficulty breathing, catching colds easily,
Throat trouble, cough and sputum, hay fever and
rhinitis, skin problems, diarrhea and constipation, etc

Sense of touch
Spicy tasting food,
Radish, perilla, green onion, ginger,
garland chrysanthemum, red pepper, garlic,
Turnip, Chinese cabbage, mandarin orange, yuzu, etc
WaterKidneyInsomniaInsomnia, dullness, sensitivity to cold, swelling,
Irregular menstruation, menstrual cramps, dizziness, tinnitus, etc
Auditory senseSalty tasting food,
Seaweed, kelp, clams, clams,
Oysters, hijiki, sesame, adzuki beans,
Black beans, walnuts, chestnuts, etc

The Five Elements in Yin-Yang and Four Pillars Astrology

A form of divination called “Four Pillars of Astrology” was born in ancient China based on the five elements in Yin-Yang. It is a fortune-telling that creates a horoscope-like table called “命式meishiki Four Pillars astrological chart” from the four pillars of the year, month, day, and time of birth to see your destiny.

The four Pillars astrological chart used in the four pillars of astrology is created by applying “天干 tenkan heavenly stems” and “地支Chishi earthly branches” calculated from the date of birth to the four pillars of the year, month, day, and time of birth. The heavenly stems means “十干Jikkan 10 heavenly stems” and the earthly branches means “十二支Junishi 12 zodiac animal signs”.

Please refer to the following website for how to write the four Pillars astrological chart.

Chinese Four Pillars of Destin...
Discover your Chinese Four Pillars of Destiny (Ba ...
Copied title and URL