TNT: Wu Xing

Michael Blaker
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Michael's blog, Windborne's Story Eatery.


This week for Translation Necessary Thursday I’m covering a topic I touched upon last week. It’s Wu Xing, or the Five Element System!

Wu Xing?: Like I just said above it’s the Five Element System, originating back in the 2nd or 1st century BCE in China, it’s a way of thought that permeates many early Chinese philosophies. From Feng Shui to Martial Arts and Medicine. It’s a fairly interesting topic, but I’m going to only cover the basics in this post. If you want more info there’s a really great Wikipedia article.

Metal: The element that isn’t typically considered a Magical “Element” in Western mythology and fiction, Metal is central to Chinese and other Eastern mythologies. It’s also divided in the eight trigams to hold the sub elements of Lake and Heavens, the reasoning doesn’t make much sense even to me, but it’s just how it is.

Wood: The less common, but still recognizable to Westerner mythology, element in Wu Xing, Wood is a fairly common “element” in Chinese fiction. In the eight trigrams it’s subdivided into Thunder and Wind, which are two much more recognizable elements in Western fiction.

Earth: Earth is fairly obvious to us Westerners, but it’s still subdivided in the eight trigrams into Earth and Mountains. While a common element in both Western and Eastern fiction, it’s often overshadowed by other elements like Fire or Wind, or Metal and Wood in Eastern. That being said it’s considered the most prevalent and steadfast element in most fictional settings, even if it’s not the most flashy.

Fire and Water: These aren’t subdivided in the eight trigrams and the elements themselves are obvious to both Western and Eastern fiction. Nothing really needs to be said about them more than that.

That’s it for this week’s Translation Necessary Thursday! Feel free to look up the wonderful Wikipedia article, it’s fairly lengthy and an interesting read.

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