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Five Elements: Things You Didn’t Know About the Chinese Zodiac

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the 12 Chinese zodiac animal signs: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. However, did you know there’s another aspect that might tell us much more about the year and ourselves? 2022, for example, is not only the Year of the Tiger, but also the Year of the Water Tiger! 

The Chinese zodiac is actually divided into five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These are based on the Five Elements Theory, also known as Wu Xing, a philosophy that describes the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things. As one energy increases, the other decreases. There is no hierarchy and all parts are interrelated. This philosophy underpins not just the Chinese zodiac, but also feng shui, medicine, acupuncture, divination, and martial arts.

There is a similar notion in Tropical Western astrology of the four elements— earth, air, fire, and water— stated initially by Plato in Timaeus. These concepts about the elements and how they interact are at the heart of why we label astrology zodiac fire signs as feisty and water signs as sensitive. The other element does not exist unless one of the elements is present. None are more significant or worse than the others, and they all complement one another. The ultimate objective is harmony. 

According to the Five Elements theory, energy is created and destroyed by the interplay of the elements. Progress (good or bad) is unavoidable when the components interact, much like the opposing sides of a yin yang symbol. The cycle of the five elements follows a definite order and may be memorized by noticing the many processes of creation and destruction that occur within them. The creating interactions are as follows: wood starts a fire, fire creates earth, earth holds metal, metal carries water, and water feeds wood. Meanwhile, the following destruction interactions occur: fire melts metal, metal slices wood, wood divides the earth, earth absorbs water, and water extinguishes fire. Creation and destruction are complementary processes in the Five Elements Theory, with harmony as the ultimate aim.

As the elements all function together, they each have different priorities, and persons born under various element types have diverse personality features. A successful team requires all of the jigsaw pieces: the wise wood person, the daring fire person, the creative water person, the peacekeeping earth person, and the stern metal person. Let’s go through each in-depth so you can figure out which one you are. Remember to keep your Chinese zodiac sign in mind as well, since this adds another dimension to knowing what element you identify with.

1. Wood

People who were born during the wood years are patient, kind, and understanding. These people are wise beyond their years as the vast roots of a great, ancient oak. Wood people are as gregarious and warm as they are stable and practical. Trees communicate with one another via their subterranean network of roots, and communication and growth go hand in hand for wood people.

As they are so focused on growth and opportunity, wood types can become unduly competitive or preoccupied with achieving for the sake of it. They might become obtrusive and violate others’ limits when they are overly intent on winning. Their vision is tremendous, but it should not impede the advancement of others! Wood people are also great planners and decision-makers, and they are frequently associated with exceptionally smart creatures such as owls. 

If the final number in your birth year is 4 or 5, you are a wood element. Recent wood years include the following: 1974, 1975, 1984, 1985, 1994, 1995, 2004, 2005, 2014, and 2015.

2. Fire

Those born during the fire years are compelled to seek adventure. These people are enthusiastic about life and are creative and persistent. Fire types like to bring everyone along for the journey and there’s no getting in their path unless you want to be consumed by the flame!

Fire people are thrill-seekers who grow bored easily if their activities become too repetitive. They fare poorly in job circumstances where every day is the same, and they might be erratic. Freelancing is unquestionably preferable to working for the same corporation for the rest of their lives. If something more fascinating catches their eye, they will leave a job or a relationship at the drop of a hat. Their love language is also spontaneity. 

If the final number in your birth year is 6 or 7 then your element is fire. Recent fire years are as follows: 1976, 1977, 1986, 1987, 1996, 1997, 2006, 2007, 2016, and 2017.

3. Earth

Those who are born during the earth years are natural peacekeepers. These people are the peer mediators on college campuses and the so-called “geeks” in high school who always make sure the group assignment is completed on time. Earth signs are best at assisting their friends, family, and anybody who genuinely values them. Even in the midst of a storm, earth people know how to stay calm.

Although earth types are skilled problem solvers and crisis managers, they may occasionally abuse their influence and become self-centered and dominating. These people will move a mountain to assist you but they will be upset if they are not given credit. For earth types, a mere “thank you” is insufficient. Earth people are recommended to find time for meditation and silence to keep themselves anchored in their business rather than merely living to serve everyone else. Yes, there is always something that needs to be corrected, but it does not necessarily need to be addressed right now. Patience is required for clarity.

If the last number in your birth year is 8 or 9, then your element is earth. The recent earth years are 1978, 1979, 1988, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2008, 2009, 2018, and 2019.

4. Metal

People born during the metal years, whether you like them or not, they always get the job done. These people are described as inflexible and uncompromising. Metal people are disciplined minimalists on the offense. Finding the easiest approach to a task well done brings them happiness. They are also very devoted and protective of their loved ones. 

Metal types are disciplined and have strong moral standards, which is admirable, but they can also be judgemental and domineering. When metal people are angry, their comments may be as sharp as blades. It is critical that metal signs learn to relax a little and see that rules and structure are vital but they are not everything. Volunteering in their communities allows metal individuals to connect with their softer, more sympathetic side. It’s beneficial for metal signs to be exposed to things that develop outwards rather than just upwards. They are humbled by the fact that they are a part of something bigger than themselves that nonetheless has a tangible influence. 

If the last number in your birth year is 0 or 1 then your element is metal. Here are some of the metal years: 1970, 1971, 1980, 1981, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2001, 2010, 2011, 2020, and 2021.

5. Water

People born during the water years are sensitive and introspective, and they often require a great deal of time for self-reflection. With their minds always racing—and sometimes their heads in the clouds—they prefer to avoid drama and watch from the sidelines. Water people will enter challenging circumstances only when they believe their voice must be heard. Water types enjoy being alone, and their happy place is spending a rainy day indoors reading and journaling. Water types are brimming with creativity and imagination. They are also empathetic perfectionists who like organizing things that please everyone.

Water types, who are empathetic to a fault, might sometimes allow their loved ones to take over their life and lose themselves in other people’s experiences. On the other hand, they might withdraw to protect themselves and become lethargic or self-indulgent. As water people keep so much inside, it may be overwhelming for their family and friends when they finally let it all out. People born during water years require a tranquil atmosphere to establish equilibrium. Water types, in general, are courageous and have strong resolve. Don’t dismiss them because they’re sensitive!

If the last number in your birth year is 2 or 3 then your element is Water. Recent water years include: 1972, 1973, 1982, 1983, 1992, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2012, 2013, and 2022.

Chinese Zodiac signs and their elements say a lot about a person and their characteristics, but don’t let it completely define you or others. This is to simply help you possibly understand yourself more and the people around you.

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