We are now almost ready to return to Sun Tze. This writer was occupied by other projects. Perhaps you were wondering why a chart of the Five Chinese Elements (五行 wŭ xíng) was posted on this writer’s rendition of the First Chapter of Sun Tze’s Art of War. The answer is quite simple. A proper understanding of Sun Tze is truly gained from understanding the Chinese Five Element Scheme. For those of you who have been following the series of articles on Nova Thought, it is important to note that the Chinese System may seem just a little different from the Western and Vedic Systems. If we study the Symbolism, however, these differences will be seen as superficial. This will be explained below.
The Five traditional Chinese Elements are Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ). Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ). This particular arrangement is known as the “mutual generation” (xiangsheng 相生) sequence. The idea is, that Wood burns to create Fire, Fire leaves behind Earth (ash), Earth gives birth to Metal (ore), Metal yields Water (by melting or condensation), and Water nurtures Wood. The other usual arrangement is called “mutual conquest” (xiangsheng 相勝) or “mutual overcoming” (xiangke 相剋), which has Wood destroying Earth, Earth absorbing Water, Water quenching Fire, Fire melting Metal, and Metal chopping through Wood. In the diagram, the generating or creative cycle follows the circle clockwise, and the pentagram is the overcoming or destructive cycle.
Rather than representing literal physical objects, of course, these are states of transition; the term “xing” has been interpreted not only as “Element”, but also as Movements, Phases, Agents, Processes, Movements, Steps or Stages. None of these Words exactly correspond to “Xing”, so his writer will use the Term “Elements” in keeping with the usual Western usage. The Names of the Five Elements are but convenient labels, images to broaden understanding of the underlying Forces of the Universe, the internal organs of the human body, and aspects of psychology.
In reference to Nova Thought, the correlations to the Seven Principles are actually very simple. “Wood” is also known as “Wind”. “Fire” and “Water” should be obvious. This leaves “Metal” and “Earth”. These Two Elements are not as problematic as they might seem to the casual eye. “Earth” is Chinese Thought, is considered a Central, Neutral Concept. In Nova Thought, it would thus correlate to the Essence Principle. This leaves us with “Metal”, which is more like the Nova Thought Stone Principle. The Light Principle is called “Yang”, and the Shadow Principle, of course, is “Yin”. The correlation between the Three Sources and the Chinese Elemental System will be dealt with separately.