The 5 Chinese elements - Earth
When it comes to exploring the depths of Chinese metaphysics, the five elements are of paramount importance. Wood, fire, earth, metal and water are considered the foundations of all existence, and each has its own unique attributes and characteristics.
Among these elements, earth occupies a central and prominent position, providing a solid foundation for the other elements and playing a crucial role in Chinese metaphysics, including Feng Shui, Bazi and Chinese medicine.
The earth element is more than just matter. It symbolises stability, food, fertility and the material world. It is also associated with grounding. In the five element system, earth is considered the nurturing mother that supports and nourishes all the other elements. Remember, in the loshu square, the central number is 5, the element earth.
In Feng Shui practice, the earth element plays an essential role in harmonising the energies of the South West and North East sectors, as well as the energy centre. The colours, shapes and materials associated with earth are used to balance the energy flows in living and working spaces.
In the Chinese astrological system of Bazi, the earth element can be present in the pillars that determine an individual’s personality and destiny. Its interaction with the other elements reveals valuable information about character traits, strengths and weaknesses, and life predictions.
In Chinese medicine, each element is associated with certain organs of the body and specific health imbalances. Understanding the correspondences between the earth element and the human body allows the application of adapted treatment methods (acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietetics) to restore harmony and overall health.
I propose you to dive into the study of the earth element through these 3 axes.
The Foundations of the Earth Element
The Earth element occupies an essential place in Chinese metaphysics because of its deep symbolism and its fundamental role in the balance of the five elements. It is the phase of the trigrams Gen and Kun.
In the Chinese tradition, the Earth element is associated with stability, security and rootedness. It represents the fertile soil in which everything can take root and flourish. The Earth element symbolises the nurturing mother who offers protection and support. By analogy, Earth is therefore linked to the material aspect of life.
One of the key concepts of the Earth element is its interaction with the other elements. According to the five element system, Earth is considered the mother of Metal, as it is produced by Earth, and the child of Fire, which nourishes Earth. It is controlled by Wood, which depletes it. This dynamic relationship between the elements creates a harmonious balance in the universe. I have already explained the existence of these 3 cycles (production, control and destruction) and why it is fundamental to know them to harmonise the elements in feng shui but also to balance a theme in Bazi.
In Chinese philosophy, Earth is also associated with pragmatic thinking, patience and inner stability. It embodies the notion of “centre” and represents the balance between Heaven and Earth.
Understanding the fundamentals of the Earth element allows us to see more of its role in creating harmony and balance in all aspects of life. By embracing the energy of the Earth element, we can cultivate inner stability and deep connection with our environment.
Earth element in Feng Shui
The Earth element plays a central role in the practice of Feng Shui as it optimises environmental energy (in combination with the other 4 elements) and thus creates a balance conducive to prosperity, health and well-being.
In Feng Shui, the Earth element represents stability and security. It is associated with colours such as yellow, orange, ochre and terra cotta. Its representative shape is the square (that’s why there is a square in the centre of Chinese rooms).
Using these colours and shapes in a space can help anchor energy, create a sense of stability and foster a sense of security. Of course, it is ideal to use the Earth element in the northeast (number 8) and southeast (number 2) zones. In the lo-shu square, Earth is also associated with the centre (number 5).
The Earth element is also related to materials such as ceramics, clay and stone. These materials can be used to enhance the energy of the Earth element in a space. For example, terracotta pots or porcelain vases.
In Feng Shui, balancing the Earth element with the other elements is crucial to creating energetic harmony. For example, the Fire element nourishes the Earth element, so a fireplace can be placed in an Earth area to activate and strengthen the Earth energy. Similarly, the Earth element can control the Water element, so placing a pool of water in an Earth zone can help calm and regulate the flow of energy (assuming it is necessary, otherwise, of course, Earth should be avoided in the North).
By using Earth to harmonise our places, we foster an atmosphere of stability and support, conducive to personal growth, health and prosperity. Feng Shui also reminds us of the importance of creating a balance of natural energies to cultivate an environment that supports our overall well-being.
Earth element in Bazi
In the Chinese astrological system of Bazi, also known as the Four Pillars of Destiny, the element Earth occupies an important place. Its influence on the pillars of the Earth offers valuable information about an individual’s personality, destiny and life predictions (in the 10 Pillars of Luck).
In the Bazi, each person has a pillar of the year, month, day and time of birth, each associated with a specific element. The Earth element may be present in one or more of these pillars, which has an impact on the person’s characteristics and personality traits.
The Earth element is often associated with qualities such as stability, loyalty, patience and generosity. Individuals with a strong Earth element in their Bazi are often reliable, pragmatic and practical. They are also inclined to be compassionate and provide strong support to those around them.
It is also important to distinguish between Yang Earth (rock) and Yin Earth (sand) because although they share the same element, the polarity completely changes their characteristics.
The interaction of the Earth element with the other elements in the Bazi is also of great importance.
For example, if the Earth element is in a pillar and is supported by other elements, this strengthens its presence and may indicate financial stability or a prosperous career. On the other hand, if the Earth element is in conflict with other elements, this may indicate challenges or difficulties in certain aspects of life (relationship, health, job, finances…).
Earth element in Chinese medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Earth element also plays a key role in understanding and treating health imbalances. By linking the Earth element to the organs and functions of the body, this discipline offers valuable insight into how the harmony of the Earth element can be restored to promote overall health.
I am not a specialist but what I do know is that in Chinese medicine, the Earth element is associated with two main organs: the Spleen and the Stomach. The Spleen is responsible for digestion and processing of food, while the Stomach is responsible for receiving and preparing food. It is also connected to the abdomen, hands and fingers.
When the Earth element is in balance, digestion is efficient, energy is well assimilated and the organs function optimally. However, an imbalance in the Earth element can lead to problems such as fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal heaviness, digestive problems and weight gain.
Chinese medicine uses various methods to restore the harmony of the Earth element. Acupuncture, for example, can be used to stimulate acupuncture points related to the Earth element to restore the energy balance of associated organs. Specific herbal remedies can also be prescribed to strengthen the Spleen and Stomach, thus promoting healthy digestion.
Of course, diet can also play a key role in maintaining the balance of the Earth element: a balanced diet rich in whole grains, root vegetables, legumes or cooked foods can help support the Spleen and Stomach.
You now know a little more about the Earth element and its role in Chinese metaphysics, at least in Feng Shui, Bazi and Chinese medicine. The Earth element symbolises stability, nourishment, and security, providing a solid foundation for the other elements and playing a crucial role in balance and well-being.
In Feng Shui, the Earth element teaches us how to create a harmonious environment using colours, form and materials that anchor energy and promote stability, health and prosperity.
In Bazi, the Earth element reveals valuable information about an individual’s personality and destiny, allowing for greater self-understanding and guidance for a fulfilling life.
In Chinese medicine, the Earth element is associated with digestion and food processing, and by restoring the balance of this element, we promote optimal health and overall well-being.