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An Introduction to the Five Elements

An Introduction to the Five Elements
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Volume 5 Issue 1 - Spring 2010

by Richard Bertschinger

Ubiquitous to all classical Chinese Medicine are the Five Elements, or more correctly the ‘five forces’ (wu xing). In practical terms, when ‘doing classical Chinese medicine’ they provide five main diatheses whereby patients can be known, and their symptoms categorised. But actually they imply a great deal more. This first article will explore their deeper meaning. Later articles, it is hoped, will look at each element individually. Xing actually has the gloss ‘movers’, ‘walkers’ – it also means ‘to circulate’. As practitioners of an energy-medicine, such as acupuncture, this should all make perfect sense, because every day we are dealing with the circulation of ‘qi’. I would suggest that the most fundamental idea in classical Chinese medicine is qi-flow. And if you throw out qi – and this I know can be a bone of contention between traditional and medical acupuncturists – you throw out classical acupuncture.


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