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Qi, Xue, Yin, Yang and the Five Elements: Translating Chinese Terminology

Yin and Yang

In Chinese philosophy, there is the basic concept of yin and yang. Yang represents the light based, warm, moving, masculine nature, while yin represents the shadow based, cool, still, feminine nature. Both of these concepts are in relativity to one another. For example, the sun is yang, emitting warmth, and light during the day.

The moon is yin, being cooler and appearing during the night. In contrast, if you compare the moon and the earth together, the moon would be yang, since it is smaller, and shining light, whereas the earth would be yin, since it is larger, and more dense. These two concepts are the foundations to life itself. A large example of these two principles are shown in male and female hormones, testosterone being yang, and estrogen being yin. As we begin to age, these basic building blocks can become lowered when aging, such as with menopause and impotence.

Qi can be translated as energy, while xue can be translated as blood. In relativity to each other, qi is more yang, while xue is more yin. Qi is synonymous with the energy created during neurological synapses in your brain, relaying energetic impulses to your musculoskeletal and organ systems to carry out their functions. Xue, or blood, is the actual blood in your cardiovascular system, and the nourishment generated from the food you eat and air you breathe. When someone becomes deficient in qi, the person will be fatigued. If qi becomes stagnated, this will result in tense muscles and tense emotions. When xue becomes deficient, this person will have dry skin, dry hair, and pale skin, as with those who have anemia. If xue becomes stagnated, there will be bruises, or more severe muscle knots.

The Five Elements are representations of certain stages of life and the natural cycle of seasons. The elements are a way to explain how different organ systems manifest and relate to one another.

We begin with Wood, which is representative of Spring time and childhood, and resonates with the color green, such as new grass that springs from the ground during this time of the year. This element deals with new, young, fresh movement, like the wind that whips newly blossomed flowers off of the tree in the springtime. The emotion paired with Wood is that of courageousness and vigor when properly balanced, or anger and irritability when unbalanced, much like children throwing a temper tantrum, or someone who is trying to rake leaves on a windy day. The organ paired with the Wood element is the Liver, which is in control of the tendons and the sinews. This is why when we are stressed or frustrated, our tissues tend to become tense, and why people may tend to drink alcohol when angry or stressed, in an attempt to relax the Liver.

Next we have Fire, which resonates with the summertime, and the time of adolescence into young adulthood. Fire is much like the energy of youth, and the heat of the summer, and the color red represents the heat/energy that is abundant during these time periods. Joy is resonant with Fire when it is balanced, as in the joy of youth, or sadness when it is unbalanced, due to a lack of joy. The Heart is paired with the Fire element, as it is your source of firey passions. Too much passion can result in mania, whereas too little passion can result in depression.

The element Earth is symbolized by the period of time in which there is full ripening and maturation; this is shown as summer is ending and fall is beginning, a peak time in crop production. This time represented in adulthood is when most people are beginning to have children. This is a time of bearing ripe fruit, with fullness and vitality. The colors yellow and orange resonate with this time, as with ripe fruits and grains. Pensiveness or worry is related to an imbalanced Earth element, much as a worried mother who is waiting for her child to come home. When balanced, the Earth element is a sense of contentment, much like after we have finished a perfectly balanced, nutritious hot meal. The Spleen and Stomach is resonant with the Earth element, as it is where our source of nutrition from food comes from, which, in a well balanced diet, comes from what the Earth produces.

The second to last element is Metal. This element deals with the middle aged time of our lives, and resonates with the color white or gray, just as the hairs on our head begin to turn gray during this time. This is when the leaves begin to change, lose color, and fall off of the trees. When unbalanced, grief is resonant with Metal, as when we suddenly have the sense of growing old and being unable to stop it. Virtue is found in a balanced Metal element, much like when we have a realization of the quality of life, and the hidden gems of appreciation we may find when living a fulfilled one. The Lungs relate to Mental; when we are grieving, we may cry, causing increased motion and movement with the Lungs, or have momentary periods of sighing from grief and sadness.

The final element, Water, signifies the time of of life where we begin to transition into our eldest state, in preparation for our passing on, only to begin the cycle once more. The colors are the deepest blues, blacks and purples, as the deepest depths of the unknown parts of water. Winter time comes, causing a death, giving way for regeneration for life to follow suit, with time. We experience fear when our Water element is imbalanced, much like when our adrenaline is out of balance, as the source of our adrenaline sits on top of the Kidneys, the organ associated with water. The Bladder is also paired with the water element, which is shown in portrayals where someone may wet themselves out of fear. When we are able to let go of fear and go with the flow, like water, things become easier, and our fears are left far behind us, washed away.

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