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The Symbolic Meanings of the 5 Primordial Elements In The Chinese Zodiac: How To Recognize Yours

Ancient Theory

Author: Ancient Theory

Published: February 28, 2023 / Updated: March 17, 2023

According to the ancient Chinese calendar, one of the five primal elements - Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal - rules the Earth at any given moment of the year.

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The Symbolic Meanings of the 5 Primordial Elements In The Chinese Zodiac: How To Recognize Yours

Each of the primal elements of the Chinese zodiac has its own characteristics and ways of interacting with the other signs of the zodiac and the other aspects of the Chinese astrological calendar.

The zodiac sign determines the personality and character of every individual, and the ruling primordial element enhances these characteristics and adds nuances. 

Every year, the governance of the world is taken over by one of the five primordial elements, influencing the destiny of people, the formation of their character, and global events.

Primordial Elements - Wood

In popular language, the primordial element of Wood is considered “matter par excellence” and reflects the ancient craft traditions of those who primarily worked with wood. 

In China, the Wood is one of the five elements corresponding to the east and spring, as well as the trigram “Zhen”: the shaking of the manifestation and nature. 

Renewed vegetation emerges from the ground, marking the awakening of Yang and the beginning of its ascent.

Individuals influenced by the primordial element of Wood are creative people who grow and adapt to their surroundings, like plants. 

They are relatively balanced and know how to rally others to their point of view. They are leaders with Pygmalion-like characteristics, both in the family environment, at work, and in the circle of friends. 

Extroverts, individuals influenced by the primordial element of Wood can be found at union meetings, where they want to reform the world; among teachers, where they invent new forms of education; in the artistic environment, where they can give free rein to their creative thirst; and in the religious field, where they listen to their believers with attention and compassion.

However, their greatest flaw may be the tendency to get angry when things don’t go as they wish.

According to the principles between the five primordial elements, Wood individuals can understand a Fire person, whom they will help to be “born,” an Earth individual, whom they will dominate, and a Water individual, which will “give them a hand.” 

On the other hand, they may find it difficult to get along with Metal, who will always seek to fight with individuals influenced by the primordial element Wood.

Associations of the primordial element Wood in the Chinese zodiac:

  • Color: Green
  • Season: Spring
  • Planet: Jupiter
  • Symbol: Dragon
  • Zodiac sign: Tiger, Rabbit

Primordial Elements - Fire

The primordial element Fire represents the passion, energy, and enthusiasm that drive individuals to pursue their goals. 

In the Chinese zodiac, Fire is associated with red and orange, the summer season, the planet Mars, the phoenix symbol, and the zodiac signs of Horse and Snake.

Individuals born under the element of Fire want everything to work out for them, things and beings to obey their will. They almost always succeed, fortunately for them and unfortunately for others.

If Wood is a leader for the good of mankind, Fire is a leader for itself. 

It is violent, aggressive, passionate, and excessive. It loves madly or hates fiercely, it burns rather than lives, explores the world rather than travels, and innovates rather than creates. 

It takes work to get along with. If Wood agreed to obey, they could do great things together. Fire can help Earth, but it can also stifle it too much. 

It hates Water, which extinguishes its energy, but conquers Metal, which does not like that very much.

In Fire years, meaningful and memorable events take place. 

People are more ambitious and aggressive. Thus, conditions are created for the development and realization of creative abilities.

Associations of the primordial element Fire in the Chinese zodiac:

  • Color: Red
  • Season: Summer
  • Planet: Mars
  • Symbol: Phoenix
  • Zodiac sign: Horse, Snake

Primordial Elements - Earth

In the Chinese zodiac, the primordial element Earth represents balance, work, seriousness, precision, and material wealth. 

Earth is associated with the color brown, the season of transition between summer and autumn, the planet Saturn, the dragon symbol, and the zodiac signs of Dragon, Dog, Ox, and Goat.

Individuals born under the element Earth are stable, hardworking, and precise. 

They have a strong sense of material ambition and tend to accumulate wealth through well-calculated plans. 

Earth individuals are thinkers and meditative, appreciating balance in their lives. However, if left unchecked, they can become selfish and even stingy.

Earth individuals get along well with Water, which is calm and inhibiting. They avoid Wood, which can be too expansionist for them, but can help Metal to realize itself.

Associations of the primordial element Earth in the Chinese zodiac:

  • Color: Brown
  • Season: Transition period between summer and autumn
  • Planet: Saturn
  • Symbol: Dragon
  • Zodiac sign: Dragon, Dog, Ox, Goat

Primordial Elements - Metal

The primordial element Metal represents strength, tenacity, and determination. 

In the Chinese zodiac, Metal is associated with the color white, the autumn season, the planet Venus, the tiger symbol, and the zodiac signs of Monkey and Rooster.

Individuals born under the primordial element Metal are tenacious, cold, and solitary. 

They have a strong sense of ambition and are willing to sacrifice everything to achieve their goals. Metal individuals are honest, organized, and decisive. 

However, their obsession with transcendence and metaphysical questions can make them appear surly and disgusted with life.

Metal individuals tend to find it hard to live harmoniously with others. They cannot stand Fire, which is destructive to them, hate Wood for its good feelings, and wish Earth could provide peace. 

They appreciate Water but may consider it less important than their other priorities.

Symbolic associations of the primordial element Metal in the Chinese zodiac:

  • Color: White
  • Season: Autumn
  • Planet: Venus
  • Symbol: Tiger
  • Zodiac sign: Monkey, Rooster

Primordial Elements - Water

Water is a primordial element associated with the origin of life, purification, and regeneration across cultures and traditions. 

In Chinese astrology, Water is considered a Yin element and is opposed to Fire. It is also associated with the North, winter solstice, the color black, and the trigram K’an, which symbolizes the abyssal. 

However, water is also linked to lightning, which is a form of Fire.

Individuals born under the influence of Water are typically peaceful and harmonious. 

They avoid conflicts and are skilled at convincing others through charm and diplomacy rather than force. 

Life for them is often a succession of calm and gentle experiences, with emotions playing a central role. However, their greatest flaw is their tendency towards passivity.

Water individuals seek to live in harmony with others and will make every effort to create peace. 

They work well in partnership with Wood and are often happy to be led by Metal, although they may struggle with its coldness. 

They appreciate Earth’s stability but may feel stifled by its limiting influence. Water will often try to calm and reason with Fire, although Fire may feel threatened and challenging to pacify.

Symbolic associations of the primordial element Water in the Chinese zodiac:

  • Color: Black
  • Season: Winter
  • Planet: Mercury
  • Symbol: Turtle
  • Zodiac sign: Rat, Boar

At Ancient Theory we only use trusted sources to document our articles. Such relevant sources include authentic documents, newspaper and magazine articles, established authors, or reputable websites.

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