[PDF ] Wuxing (the five elements)-Part Two
The five elements possess specific properties respectively. They are related to each other and act on each other. Though the five categories of things classified according to the properties of the five elements are complicated and changeable, they still can be expounded with the theory of the five elements. The interactions among the five elements are either normal or abnormal. The former includes inter-promotion and inter-restraint and the latter includes over restraint (or subjugation) and reverse restraint which are actually the abnormal manifestations of inter-restraint.
Inter-promotion and inter-restraint among the five elements
Inter-promotion means that one thing bears the effect of promoting or generating another in the five elements. The order of inter-promotion among the five elements follows certain rules and forms a circle, i.e. wood promoting fire, fire promoting earth, earth promoting metal, metal promoting water and water promoting wood. The one that generates is called "mother" while the one that is generated is termed "child". So the inter-promotion relationship among the five elements is also called mother-child relationship. Take fire for example. The one that generates fire is wood and the one that is generated by fire is earth. So wood is the mother of fire and earth is the child of fire.
Inter-restraint means that one thing controls and re- strains another thing in the five elements. The order of inter-restraint also follows certain rules and forms a circle, i.e. wood restraining earth, earth restraining water, water restraining fire, fire restraining metal and metal restraining wood. Since the thing being restrained "can not dominate the one that controls it" and the thing restraining another "dominates the one that it controls", the inter-restraint relationship among the five elements is also known as the relationship of domination and submission. Take water for example. The one that restrains water is earth and the one that is restrained by water is fire. For this reason, earth is called the dominator of water and fire is called the submitter of water.
The relationship between inter-promotion and inter-restraint
Inter-promotion and inter-restraint among the five elements are in fact inseparable. Without promotion, nothing can grow and develop; without restraint, there will be no way to prevent harm caused by excessive development of things. Only when restraint exists in promotion and promotion in restraint can the normal development and harmonious balance of things be maintained.
Besides, inter-promotion and inter-restraint among the five elements restrict each other to avoid harm resulting from excessive promotion and over restraint. For example, wood restrains earth, earth generates metal and metal, in turn, restrains wood. If wood is too powerful, it will over restrain earth and bring on harm. However, metal generated by earth can protect earth by restricting wood. Again take wood for example. Only under the normal restraint of metal can wood generate fire. If wood excessively generates fire, fire will become superabundant and turn to restrain metal. Consequently metal will be weakened in restraining wood and wood will become feeble in generating fire. In such a way automatic regulation within the five elements is realized through mutual restriction between inter-promotion and inter-restraint.
Over restraint and reverse restraint
Over restraint refers to an abnormal state in which one element among the five elements excessively restrains another element. The order of over restraint is the same as that of inter-restraint, i.e. wood over restraining earth, earth over restraining water, water over restraining fire, fire over restraining metal and metal over restraining wood. There are two causes responsible for over restraint:
One is that one element among the five elements becomes too powerful and, in turn, excessively restrains the element that it normally restrains, damaging the normal restraint relationship between them. For example, if wood is too powerful, it will excessively restrain earth; if water is too strong, it will excessively restrain fire.
The other is that one element among the five elements becomes weak and therefore provides the element normally restraining it a chance to excessively restrain it, damaging the normal restraint relationship between them. For example, if earth becomes weak, it will be excessively restrained by wood; if water is weak, it will be excessively restrained by earth.
Reverse restraint refers to an abnormal state in which one element among the five elements reversely restrains and bullies another element. That is why this phenomenon is called reverse restraint. The order of reverse restraint is just opposite to that of inter-restraint, i.e. wood reversely restraining metal, metal reversely restraining fire, fire reversely restraining water, water reversely restraining earth and earth reversely restraining wood. There are two causes responsible for reverse restraint.
One is that one element among the five elements becomes very powerful and turns to restraint the element that it is normally inferior to, damaging the normal inter-restraint relationship between them. For example, if wood becomes too powerful, it will reversely restrain metal; if fire becomes too strong, it will reversely restrain water.
The other is that one element among the five elements becomes weak and is restrained by the one that it is normally superior to, damaging the normal inter-restraint relationship between them. For example, if metal becomes weak, it will be reversely restrained by wood; if earth is weak, it will be reversely restrained by water.
Besides, the abnormal change of inter-promotion relationship is called mutual involvement of the mother and the child. The mother involving or affecting the child means that the disorde