1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

What Are the 5 Traditional Elements?

What Are the 5 Elements

By

These are the five elements of Chinese Wu Xing as well as the interactions between the elements.

These are the five elements of Chinese Wu Xing as well as the interactions between the elements.

Benoît Stella, Creative Commons License Air was considered to be one of the four classical elements in alchemy.

Air was considered to be one of the four classical elements in alchemy, together with earth, water, and fire. The fifth classical element in alchemy is aether or ether, which is the material that fills seemingly empty space.

Todd Helmenstine

There are 5 elements in many philosophies and traditions around the world. Here is a look at the 5 elements in Chinese, Japanese, Buddhist, Greek, Babylonian and alchemy.

Babylonian 5 Elements

  1. wind
  2. fire
  3. earth
  4. sea
  5. sky

Medieval Alchemy

The number of traditional elements in medieval alchemy varies from 4, 5 or 8. The first four are always found. The fifth, aether, is important in some traditions. Sulfur, mercury and salt are classical elements.
  1. air
  2. fire
  3. water
  4. earth
  5. aether
  6. sulfur
  7. mercury
  8. salt

Greek 5 Elements

  1. air
  2. water
  3. fire
  4. earth
  5. aether

Chinese 5 Elements - Wu Xing

  1. wood
  2. water
  3. earth
  4. fire
  5. metal

Japanese 5 Elements - Godai

  1. air
  2. water
  3. earth
  4. fire
  5. void

Hindu and Buddhist 5 Elements

Akasha is the equivalent to Aristotle's aether, in the Greek tradition. While Hinduism traditionally recognizes 5 elements, Buddhism typically only the first four "great" or "gross" elements. Although the names are different, the first four elements roughly translate as being air, fire, water and earth.
  1. Vayu (wind or air)
  2. Ap (water)
  3. Agni fire)
  4. Prithvi (earth)
  5. Akasha

Tibetan 5 Elements (Bon)

  1. air
  2. water
  3. earth
  4. fire
  5. aether

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.