Throughout COR 330 Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors we looked at Chinese culture from the ancient starts of religion and god worship to the way the way that government and economy have affected these religions and the way that people worship their ancestors in the modern day. Many of the traditions of these ancient cultures have survived to the modern world but have changed along with the rest of the world. For my common assignment, I researched the concept of Wu Xing or the Five Elements and how it applied to ancient and modern life in China. The Five Elements are broken up into 5 parts: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. These specific elements are combined into two different cycles that show how each element interacts with the one before and after it in each cycle. These two cycles are referred to as the “generating” cycle which involves creation and the “overcoming” cycle which involves destruction. These five elements are representative of several different aspects of the natural world and helps to explain the phenomenon of states in nature and the cycles above help to explain how these seasons change.
There are some ways that the Five Elements are no longer used in modern China. Although geomancy, or Feng Shui, is still a popular practice in China the way Wu Xing is used in combination with these practices are no longer in practice. This form of geomancy used the Five Elements to explain the way that energy flows through a space. The Five Elements are also used in in a form of Tai Chi and another martial art called Xingyiquan. This form of Tai Chi uses each of the five elements to represent different movements that correspond to each technique. Xingyiquan uses the five elements in a very similar way but instead of movements it is more about stances. Each of the five elements represent a specific stance and the way that you would attack from that stance. There is also some music that uses Wu Xing and the way it helps to divide the world into five categories. Different pitches along with symbolic meanings are given a label that corresponds to each of the five elements.
The five elements have also found root in modern China by using its labels for different parts of the body and how they correspond to the natural world. These labels when combined with the concepts of the Five Elements and the cycles above help to allow doctors to figure out what ways to help you feel both spiritually and physically better. One common traditional Chinese medicinal practice that incorporates the Five Elements is Five Element acupuncture. This form of acupuncture uses the labels to show how different parts of the body may be causing an imbalance in one of the Wu Xing cycles and uses these cycles to correct it. These labels also correspond to specific planets, moods, organs, and animals along with many more aspects of the natural world.
For this project we were able to choose the way that we would present our information to a wider audience and were encouraged to do something that was creative and interesting for people to look at and go through. For my project I decided to combine aspects of my computer science degree and what I have learned from this core class to build a website filled with information about Wu Xing and the ways that it has affected ancient and modern China. Each of the pages are focused around a single aspect of Wu Xing and includes various images to help reinforce the ideas presented on that particular page.