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Living Arts Originals features a wide variety of articles on all types of symbols and their meanings. The types of symbols that Living Arts Originals focuses on include flowers, animals, colors, nature, color, sacred, and many more.

Environments of Power:
Chinese Symbols
and the Five Elements

NOTE: If you have reached this page without taking our survey to determine your top element compatibility, try our free Natural Element Survey.

Introduction to the Five Elements
Creating An Environment of Power
The Influence of Architectural Structures
Intentional Design with Art and Symbolism
The Five Elements and Nature
     The Wood Element
     The Fire Element
     The Water Element
     The Earth Element
     The Metal Element
     Mixed Elements
Chinese Symbols Meanings and Design
Chinese Five Elements and Feng Shui
Learn More About Feng Shui
Resources for Chinese Astrology

For more information about the Chinese five elements, try the following Amazon books:
Wood Becomes Water: Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life
Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements
Power of the Five Elements: The Chinese Medicine Path
Fusion of the Five Elements: Meditations for Transforming Negative Emotions


Introduction to the Five Elements

Feng Shui Five ElementsThe Chinese five element system views wood, fire, earth, metal and water as the primary natural elements.The five element form of feng shui classifies various aspects of interior design according to their relationship to the predominant forces in nature. Interior decorative objects, colors and design choices may be used to balance the five elements in several ways: using the actual element for construction (such as wood for the wood element), using something that is symbolic of the element (such as a fountain for the water element) and using colors or shapes representing the element (such as a triangle for the fire element). (Image by Chris, Wikimedia Commons)




Creating an Environment of Power

Experts in the emerging fields of design psychology, environmental psychology, human factors design, and evidence-based design believe that there are deep-seated reasons why we place such a high value on enhancing our environments. Decorating, they maintain, is not a frivolous occupation, but a fundamental survival skill.

feng shuiContinuing research indicates that the process of transforming our environment to better serve our needs is a creative act on par with choosing an occupation, finding a mate, and raising a family. Our homes and offices provide more than shelter and places for productivity. They are platforms for self-realization. Through choosing architectural styles, interior colors, furnishings and art, we are exerting power over our personal space, marking our territory, and defining our personalities.

And once we have finished our work—installed the last lamp and hung the last piece of tapestry—our environments begin to work on us. A growing body of evidence indicates that our visual environments are a determining factor in virtually every area of our lives. Color schemes and decorative motives can alternatively increase our energy levels or drain our reserves. Patterns in our wallpaper, rugs and upholstery can be invigorating or relaxing. The images in our art can be uplifting or depressing, romantic or confrontational, inspiring or discouraging.


The Influence of Architectural Structures

architectureal designArchitectural structures themselves can also affect our behavior and outlook. The length of hallways, size of meeting rooms and location of offices can either facilitate communication among building occupants or increase isolation. The geographical orientation of our homes can create warm, inviting spaces or dark, cave-like dwellings. Properly designed environments produce positive changes on emotional, psychological and physiological levels. (Image by Dino Olivieri, Wikimedia Commons)

Intentional Design with Art and Symbolism

interior designAlthough we cannot always choose the architecture around us, In almost every situation we have the freedom to choose the artwork and images that we place on our desks, tables, bookshelves and walls. Most of us choose these images almost unconsciously with the ubiquitous rationalization that such decisions are simply a matter of personal preference. There is another option. Art and interior decor can be chosen with the intention to invoke particular feelings or emotional states or to remind the viewer of resolutions or goals. In the case of the five elements, artwork and decor can be chosen to emphasize one or more of the elements to balance our personalities and natural compatibilities with our surroundings.

The Five Elements and Nature

Feng Shui SymbolThe five element system is both a philosophical and practical approach to assessing human wellness on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. This unique classification system helps to explain patterns of behavior and how our own energy levels mirror the transformational cycles in the natural world. By analyzing your compatibility with the five elements-wood, fire, water, earth, and metal-you can determine excesses or deficiencies in these energies in your personality and your surroundings. Understanding the five elements and balancing them through the use of this can thereby increase your vitality. Let's examine the five basic types of energy.

The Five Elements: Wood Element

Wood energy is constantly in motion, driven to grow and expand like the green shoots bursting forth in spring. A person with a predominantly "wood" personality seeks new challenges and adventures. If your predominant compatibility is with wood, you appreciate being firmly grounded with deep roots at home. From this place of stability and strength, your potential is unlimited, and you have the capacity to succeed against all odds. Color symbolism associations with wood are green and blue.

Nature Symbolism Photo 6 You are bold and ambitious. You are direct and forceful, with clear and effective self-expression. At times you are fiercely and perhaps overly competitive. You are adaptable and imbued with a sense of strength and purpose. You are blessed with insight, vision, and the ability to plan ahead. Your determination is strong. You react to stress, frustration and injustice with anger. Releasing and channeling anger effectively is a key to maintaining your balance and pliability. If you desire to strengthen the qualities of wood in your personality, the most appropriate art would include landscapes, florals, and gardens.

Potential Problems for Wood Element Personalities

Problems arise for you when you live for long periods of time with chronic, unrelieved stress. This can be complicated by poor health habits—high-fat foods, too many prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and lack of exercise—all of which tend to burden your liver and gallbladder. A tendency towards impulsive or reckless behavior may result, as well as difficulties with decision-making.

When your affinity to wood becomes excessive and is not balanced by the qualities of the other fundamental elements, you may become unpleasantly aggressive and cause damage to yourself and others as you push ahead without adequate planning or thought. Your behavior can become inconsiderate towards family and friends, but their protestations will only meet with angry self-defense and pointed denunciations.

beech tree symbolismIf your affinity to wood becomes deficient, you may be faced with an internal weakening and eventual collapse. You have depleted your energy reserves and your personal power begins to wane. Rather than focusing anger outwards, inwardly-directed shame and humiliation result in stagnation. You may find your powers of concentration have lessened considerably and you are becoming exhausted and despondent. If your deficiency of wood energy is uncorrected for an extended period of time, sleep disturbances, allergies, eye problems and digestive difficulties can result.

Strengthening Wood Energy

Wood SymbolismBy recognizing possible wood-related imbalances within yourself and actively correcting them in your lifestyle and in your environment, you can quickly restore your native health and harmony. If you desire to strengthen the qualities of wood in your personality, the most appropriate art would include landscapes, florals, and gardens. The colors to use to strengthen wood are green and blue. Wood energy can also be strengthened with gems and minerals, emphasizing particular shapes in your decor or clothing, and choosing design motifs and natural materials that emphasize wood energy. Keep in mind that you need some aspects of the other four elements to keep your environment in balance. Color symbolism associations with the water element are black, blue, charcoal and dark tones.

More Resources: To find natural materials, gems and minerals, designs, artwork and decorative items to strengthen wood energy, see our selections of Feng Shui Decor. See the Chart of Five Element Compatibility below for more ways to strengthen wood energy.

The Five Elements: Fire Element

Fire SymbolismFire energy is characterized by its ability to give off warmth and attract others. Predominately "fire" types place a great deal of emphasis on interpersonal relationships. According to five element feng shui, they are romantic and idealistic, enthusiastic and emotional. Fire energy is the energy of life, represented by sunshine, warm-blooded animals and people.

To strengthen your fire energy, art including people and animals is appropriate. On the other hand, if you tend to be overly excited and overly dependent on relationships with others, fire energy can be balanced by emphasizing the other four elements, especially water.

Fire Element Personalities

Color Symbolism and Fire ElementFire types are passionate about life and relationships. If your predominant compatibility is with fire, you attract others through your warmth and intuitive empathy. Your sunny, summer-time disposition makes you popular in any crowd. You work hard at creating and sustaining relationships. Your sensitivity to others in highly developed, and you often sense what others are thinking and feeling, sometimes even before they do!

You are devoted to your loved ones and experience a great deal of pain when separated from them. You are idealistic and classically romantic, yearning for a relationship that fuses two hearts into one forever. You are enthusiastic, full of energy, vivacious, warm-hearted and emotional.

Potential Problems for Fire Element Personalities

Fire SymbolismYou may have a tendency towards nervousness, agitation, and fidgeting. You constantly run the risk of losing a sense of self when you are deeply and intensely involved in a primary relationship. You need to remain connected to friends, family and the larger community to maintain your balance. When your intelligence and passion are channeled, you are highly creative and may be gifted as a public speaker, actor, politician or writer. Problems arise for your when you feel disconnected from others or when you are constantly over excited or over stimulated You need to set boundaries that will protect you and will help to conserve your natural energy. (Photo courtesy of Ayacop, Wikimedia Commons)

fire symbolismExcesses of the fire element can lead to irrational thoughts, phobias and fears. Restlessness, panic attacks, anxiety, heartburn and an accelerated heart rate can result. You may experience unpleasant mood swings and a lack of appetite. The heart and small intestines are the organs most affected by imbalances in fire energy.

If your affinity to wood becomes deficient, you may have a sense of lost direction, of being overwhelmed by circumstances or out of control. Eventually this can lead to emotional instability, depression and hopelessness. The dominant color symbolism association with fire energy is the color red.

Balancing a Fire Element Personality

Creating an environment that gives you a place of retreat can be critical for replenishing your abundant natural energy. You need to be able to withdraw for precious moments of peace and quiet to refocus on a regular basis. In this way, your tremendous talents in communication will be nourished through a balance of opportunities for gentle self-care and self-reflections. Choose design elements from the column under fire below to strengthen and nourish your natural element. Keep in mind that you need some aspects of the other four elements to keep your environment in balance.

More Resources: To find natural materials, gems and minerals, designs, artwork and decorative items to strengthen fire energy, see our selections of Feng Shui Decor. See the Chart of Five Element Compatibility below for more ways to balance fire energy.

The Five Elements: Water Element

Water SymbolismWater has the ability to change effortlessly without losing its essential character. In five element feng shui, water types are resourceful and single-minded, flowing over problems like a river. Water types also have the ability to pool their resources to be in a position of strength when opportunities arises. The art that is useful for strengthening the water element depicts rivers, waterfalls or the ocean. Any design with asymmetrical, flowing shapes or curved lines is representative of water. To bring water symbolism into your environment, choose art incorporating glass, crystals, fountains or mirrors.

Water Element Personalities

Water types have the ability to change effortlessly without ever losing their essential character. If your predominant compatibility is with water, you are resourceful, dependable and single-minded in the pursuit of your goals. You have a strong sense of elf and follow your path with purpose in spite of difficult or demanding situations.

Color Symbolism and WaterWater types often have a spiritual focus in life, or at least a dedication to a quiet introspection. You are curious about the underlying mechanics of the world as well as the underlying meaning of life and are gifted with an active imagination. You are an intellectual and a visionary. Logic and analysis come naturally to you, including the solving of complex mathematical or political problems. You flow over problems like a river and have the ability to pool your resources and strengths when necessary. This puts you in a position of readiness and strength when the opportunity to move forward arises again.

The organs most associated with the water element are the kidneys. As the regulators of blood quality, the kidneys metaphorically supply the energy required to continue moving forward in life. Depression, coping difficulties and a sense of foreboding can result when the blood is not filtered and warmed sufficiently by the kidney.

Potential Problems with Water Element Personalities

Water SymbolismExcess water energy can result in a cooling or “freezing” effect. Arthritis, tumors and high blood pressure can result. On the emotional level, excess water energy can result in intolerance and a tendency to be overly opinionated. Refusing to change your course, you can become paranoid about the contrasting views of others and fear persecution. Eventually this can lead to antisocial tendencies, marked withdrawal from others, and pessimism.

Deficient water energy types are melancholy and feel arid, empty and alone. Excessive dryness of the skin and mucus membranes can occur on the physical level, as well as deterioration in hearing and vision. Urinary or sexual problems can also arise.

The deficient water type can become absentminded. Procrastination and laziness can replace the natural quality of single-mindedness. Although winter is the season with the most affinity for water types, deficiency can result in an aversion to cold weather.

Balancing the Water Element Personality

Water types need an environment where they can be undistracted. A quiet, still place of beauty aids contemplation of the deep mysteries of life. Water types need to maintain a connection to something greater than themselves, whether a higher power or a cause and a means to creating a better world. Water types need warmth in their environment, both literally and figuratively to maintain their fluidity. In this way, they can retain their native reservoir of power.

More Resources: To find natural materials, gems and minerals, designs, artwork and decorative items to strengthen water energy, see our selections of Feng Shui Decor. See the Chart of Five Element Compatibility below for more ways to balance water energy.

Earth SymbolThe Five Elements: Earth Element

The earth element is able to absorb excesses of the other elements. Earth personalities are forgiving and compassionate. Earth types are wonderful friends and great listeners. Earth types have an affinity for ceramics, tile, stucco, bricks and adobe. To strengthen earth energy, use depictions of deserts, fields, and farms.

Understanding Your Earth Element Personality

Color Symbolism and Earth ElementEarth types are tolerant, forgiving, and caring. If your predominant compatibility is with the earth element, you are natural sympathetic and have great difficulty saying no to people in need. You are a wonderful friend, willing to listen to other people’s problems. You possess a good dispositional and the necessary patience to go with it. You are a loving parent, a spokesperson for peace and cooperation, and the one who tries to create harmony in all situations.

People feel safe with you, and you establish connections with many different types of people. Kinship with others and companionship are essential for your health and happiness. You are thrown off-balance by discord and strife. Your own natural non-judgmental attitude makes you a fine teacher, especially for young children.

You are likely to derive a great deal of pleasure from gardening. You love you harvest your handiwork as gifts for others. In fact, you particularly enjoy the season of late summer, sometimes know as Indian summer. The familiar comforts of the seasons as well as your home environment give you a sense of grounding and stability. Color symbolism associations with earth energy are orange, brown, yellow and earth tones.

Potential Problems for the Earth Element Personality

earth symbolImbalances in earth energy often affect the stomach and spleen. These organs are related to your center of gravity as well as to physical digestion. If you allow the desire to solve other’s problems to become an obsession—a key signal that you are suffering from excess earth energy—you may have little time or energy to care for yourself. The boundaries between yourself and others are no longer clearly defined. Your natural need to nurture others can become a suffocating over-protectiveness for them and an energy drain for you.

Your natural concern for people and situations can also degenerate into a constant worry and fretting. As an earth type, you are likely to turn to food for gratification, especially sweets. You may be plagued by blood sugar problems (especially hypoglycemia), and have difficulty losing unwanted weight. You can become hypersensitive to criticism from others, have difficulty with changes and transitions, and feel sluggish in general.

If your affinity to earth becomes deficient, your connection to others becomes a dependence on them rather than a desire to help A fear of abandonment or deprivation can lead to deep emotional insecurities.

Balancing an Earth Element Personality

earth elementLearning to take care of yourself is a key for the earth type. Creating environments at home and at work that help you to maintain essential boundaries between yourself and others can be a tremendous aid for your ongoing well-being. Emphasizing the materials and design elements in the earth category below will make you feel relaxed and comfortable, strengthening your natural compatibility with earth. Keep in mind that you need some aspects of the other four elements to keep your environment in balance. See the chart below.

Metal SAymbolismThe Five Elements: Metal Element

Metal is characterized by exceptional strength and endurance. According to the traditions of feng shui, people with metal as their predominant compatibility are disciplined and strong-willed. Metal types are often creative and seek to out picture the highest aspirations of life in their work and art. Color symbolism associations with the metal element are pastels and white. To strengthen metal energy, chose images that include majestic mountains that are firmly grounded but reaching towards the heavens.

More Resources: To find natural materials, gems and minerals, designs, artwork and decorative items to strengthen metal energy, see our selections of Feng Shui Decor. See the Chart of Five Element Compatibility below for more ways to balance metal energy.

Understanding Your Metal Element Personality

metal symbolismMetal types are disciplined, strong-willed and posses a great deal of endurance. The element of metal can be symbolized by a majestic, snow-capped mountain—firmly grounded, and reaching towards the heavens. If your predominant compatibility is with metal, you are precise and tranquil, yet adaptable to changing circumstances.

Metal SymbolismYou are drawn to the core issues in life, seeking to develop your character through a clear understanding and pursuit of ethics, morality, and the higher truths of art, philosophy and religion. You appreciate the acquisition of knowledge, especially concerning the underlying principles and structures of existence. You appreciate conciseness and have a special understanding of the temporary nature of life. You find the season of autumn exhilarating and refreshing.

Quality in life is more important to you than quantity. You enjoy intellectual discussion and avoid small talk and superficiality. Grief affects you more profoundly than other emotions and leads you again to seek the underlying meaning of life.

The organs most associated with metal energy are the lungs and large intestines. On both the physical and the emotional levels, metal types have to balance the ability to hold on and let go, to yield and demand, to give and take.

Potential Problems for the Metal Element Personality

Color Symbolism and Metal ElementWhen metal energy is excessive, order and discipline are rigidly maintained, rules and routines become inflexible and the emotions are kept under tight control. As a result, the body begins to stiffen and creativity becomes limited. The ability to hold on and let go, to yield and demand, to give and take.

When the fluid strength of metal has hardened to become solid and unyielding, pine and joint problems can result. Hay fever, allergies and respiratory symptoms can develop. You can become highly uncomfortable with conflict and disorder, and sometimes fanatical about cleanliness.

If metal energy becomes deficient, the need for outside support begins to replace the native inner strength of the metal type. Criticism from others becomes unbearable. You begin to revert to social conventions such as good manners and superficial beauty rather than adhering to a structure of deeper meaning. Your immune function may suffer and you become plagued by recurring or chronic illness.

Balancing a Metal Element Personality

Rather than tightly scheduling every minute of the day, you need to order in your life without going overboard. Order in your surroundings can be a key for your well-being. Arranging furniture, closets, and drawer, and decorating in a simple and esthetic fashion can help you refocus on the core issues and personal meaning in your life.

Creating environments at home and at work that support and nourish your metal energy can be a tremendous aid for your ongoing well-being. Emphasizing the materials and design elements in the metal category below will make you feel relaxed and comfortable, strengthening your natural compatibility with metal. Keep in mind that you need some aspects of the other four elements to keep your environment in balance. See the chart below.

More Resources: To find natural materials, gems and minerals, designs, artwork and decorative items to strengthen metal energy, see our selections of Feng Shui Decor. See the Chart of Five Element Compatibility below for more ways to balance metal energy.

Mixed Element Personalities

A mixed element personality (two or more elements in equal measure) can exhibit both the positive and negative aspects of each individual element. The strength of each element will affect the way in which the elements outpicture. Below is a summary of each element with links to more extensive information.

Each of the five elements in the Chinese system of nature symbols is associated with a particular colour or set of colours as well as with certain shapes, materials, designs and so forth. The five element form of feng shui classifies various aspects of interior design according to their relationship to the predominant forces in nature. Wood, fire, earth, metal and water are the primary natural elements.

By analyzing your compatibility with the five elements and their colour meanings, you can determine excesses or deficiencies in these energies in your personality and your surroundings. See information and colour meanings chart below for details.

More Resources: To find natural materials, gems and minerals, designs, artwork and decorative items to keep your mixed element energy in balance, see our selections of Feng Shui Decor. See the Chart of Five Element Compatibility below for more ways to balance the five elements.

Chinese Symbols Meanings and Design

Each of the five elements in the Chinese system of nature symbols is associated with a particular colour or set of colours as well as with certain shapes, materials, designs and so forth. The five element form of feng shui classifies various aspects of interior design according to their relationship to the predominant forces in nature. Wood, fire, earth, metal and water are the primary natural elements.

By analyzing your compatibility with the five elements and their colour meanings, you can determine excesses or deficiencies in these energies in your personality and your surroundings. See information and colour meanings chart below for details. The following chart includes a variety of materials, design elements, shapes, gems, artwork, colors and more that will help you to create an environment that is ideal for your temperament and health.

 

Water

Wood

Earth

Fire

Metal

Natural
Material

glass, crystals

all woods, plants, flowers

soil, adobe, ceramic, tile, stucco, brick

leather, wool

rock, stone, metallic

Gems and Minerals

quartz crystal, aqua-marine, sapphire

amber, jade, jadeite,

lapis, periodet

ruby,  garnet, carnelian

diamond, bronze, gold copper, silver,


Shape

symbol

    symbol

  symbol

  symbol

sytmbol

Design
Motif

smooth, flowing patterns

floral prints, stripes, rectangular patterns

broad
flat surface square patterns

radiant patterns

smooth, rounded patterns

 

Artwork

 

rivers, rain, waterfalls, oceans, streams
undines

forests, gardens, fruit, plants, flowers, herbs, trees, vegetables

landscapes, deserts, fields, gnomes

people, light, fire, animals,  sunshine

metal or stone sculpture

 

Structure

 

mirrors, birdbaths, fountains, aquarium

wooden furniture,
poles, columns, pillars

plateaus,
plains, meadow
ceramic, clay

lighting fixtures, candles, fireplace,
wood stoves

arches and archways, arched bridges or walkways

Symbols

tortoise

tree

lotus flower

animals

tiger

Quality

very yin

yin

balanced

very yang

yang


Colors
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
© 2004 Kathleen Karlsen, Living Arts Enterprises, LLC


Chinese Five Elements and Feng Shui

Achieving balance through five element feng shui is a matter of emphasizing one or more elements for an intended purpose. Each of the five elements support or nourish each other in some way and can also limit or control each other in other ways. Creating your own personal paradise in your surroundings with an appropriate balance of the five elements will result in a strong foundation for increased happiness and success in all areas of your life.

For more information about feng shui, try the following recommended Amazon books:
Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui
Feng Shui Your Life
The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Room by Room
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feng Shu

Learn More About Feng Shui

Learn the feng shui secrets that can help you unlock the wealth in your home!  The Feng Shui Money Map can help you locate the money power spots in your home or office and help you create a more successful and prosperous life.  Plus, when you buy the Feng Shui Money Map, you also receive the 2010 Red Lotus Letter Success Pack filled with important, timely feng shui tools, tips, and secrets that reveal how to put feng shui to work for you this year so you can leap ahead this year in career, love, money, and prestige!

Ready to ZOOM AHEAD in 2010?  2009 Left a lot of people in the dust. Don't be one of them this year.  Put the power of feng shui to work for you with the Year of the Tiger Success Pack -- it has all the feng shui tools, tips, and secrets revealed to show you how to put feng shui to work for you this year so you can you leap ahead this year in career, love, money, and prestige!

Resources for Chinese Astrology

Learn more in our article about Chinese astrology and Chinese signs of the zodiac. For more information on Chinese astrology, see these recommended books on Amazon:
Chinese Astrology: Exploring The Eastern Zodiac
Animal Symbolism of the Chinese Zodiac
The Chinese Astrology Bible: The Definitive Guide to Using the Chinese Zodiac
The Year of the Tiger: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac

©2007-2010 Living Arts Enterprises, LLC

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