Part of a series on
The Wu Xing, also known as the Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, and the Five Steps/Stages, are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device, in many traditional Chinese fields.
It is sometimes translated as Five Elements, but the Wu Xing were mainly used as memory tools, hence the preferred translation of "movements", "phases" or "steps" over "elements". By the same token, Mu is thought of as "Tree" rather than "Wood".
The five elements are:
The system of five phases was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. It was employed as a device in many fields of early Chinese thought, including seemingly disparate fields such as geomancy or Feng shui, astrology,traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy and martial arts.
The system is still used as a reference in some forms of complementary and alternative medicine and martial arts. Some[who?] claim the original foundation of these are the concept of the Five Cardinal Points.
The doctrine of five phases describes two cycles, a generating or creation (生, shēng) cycle, also known as "mother-son", and an overcoming or destruction (剋/克, kè) cycle, also known as "grandfather-nephew", of interactions between the phases.