The Four Seasons and the Five Elements

The five elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood which are associated one of the seasons.  Earth does not have its own season but provides the transition between seasons so it has a bit of each season with in it.  Fire with it’s expansive energy is summer.  Metal is like the blade that harvests in the fall. Water is the source of life and renewal like winter. Wood’s energy changes rapidly like the wind and causes plants to sprout in the spring.

Harmonize the Spirits with the Qi of the Four seasons

The 3 months of spring
Are called the springing up and unfolding.
Heaven and Earth together produce life,
And the 10,000 beings are invigorated.

At night one goes to bed, at dawn one gets up.
One paces in the courtyard with great strides,
Hair loose, body at ease,
Exerting the will for life:
Letting live, not killing;
Giving, not taking away;
Rewarding, not punishing.

This corresponds
With the spring qi,
It is the way that maintains the drive of life.

To go countercurrent
Would injure the liver,
Causing , in summer, disturbance due to cold,
Through an insufficient contribution to growth.

The 3 months of summer
Are called prospering and developing the flower.
The qi of Heaven and Earth Intertwine,
The 10,000 beings flower and bring forth fruit.

At night one goes to bed, at dawn one gets up.
One does not let oneself be overcome by the sun,
Exerting the will, but without violence,
Assisting the brilliance of beauty and strength
Which thus fulfill their promise.
One must assist the flow of qi
Which likes to go to the exterior.

This corresponds
With the summer qi
It is the way
That maintains the growth of life.

To go countercurrent
Would injure the heart,
Causing, in autumn, intermittent fever,
Through an insufficient supply for harvesting.
When winter comes, the illness will get worse.

The 3 months of autumn
Are called plentiful and balancing.
The qi of Heaven becomes pressing,
The qi of Earth is resplendent.

One goes to bed early, on gets up early.
One does the cock.
Exerting the will
Peaceful and calmly,
To soften the repressive effect of autumn,
Harvesting the spirits
And gathering the qi,
Pacifying the autumn qi,
Without letting the will be scattered outside,
Clarifying and refreshing
The lung qi.

This corresponds
With the autumn qi.
It is the way
That maintains the harvesting of life.

To go countercurrent
Would injure the lung,
Causing, in winter, diarrhea
Through an insufficient supply for storing.

The 3 months of winter
Are called closing and storing.
Water freezes, Earth cracks.
No more influence from the yang.

One goes to bed early; one gets up late.
Everything must be done according to
The light of the sun,
Exerting the will
As if buried, as if hidden
And taking care only of oneself,
One must avoid the cold
And seek the heat;
Not let anything escape
Through the layers of the skin,
For fear of losing all the qi.

This corresponds
With the winter qi.
It is the way
That maintains the storing of life.

To go countercurrent
Would injure the kidneys,
Causing, in spring, impotence and deficiency,
Through insufficient supply for
The production of life.

Going against the flow
Is the catastrophe that destroys life.

Going with the flow
Is to prevent illness.
This is the way to obtain the Way.

Su Wen, Chapter 2 translated in The Way of Heaven, Claude Larre, SJ, Monkey Press, Cambridge, England, 1994

Traditionally the Water element is associated with Winter. Water represents unbounded energy, drive and direction but also stillness, transformation, regeneration.

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