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III. Fluids, Substances, and Seasons.

Originally the elements were not combined with the Seasons. The fact that there always have been Five Elements, but Four Seasons, and that our oldest sources do not allude to such a connexion, tells against it. On the other side, the term "Wu-hsing" makes it plain that the Five Elements were conceived already in times immemorial as something more than simple substances. From the passage of the Tso-chuan where the elements are mentioned together with the heavenly fluids, which become the Five Tastes, the Five Colours and the Five Sounds, and even manifest themselves in human affections (cf. p. 436) we may gather that, at a very early date, the elements were identified with the heavenly fluids or atmospherical influences. These are in the Shuking:---rain, sunshine, heat, cold, and wind. They again, I presume, formed the link with the Four Seasons, which in the opinion of the Chinese, who did not know the real cause of the seasons, are the result of the regular changes of the heavenly fluids. In the Liki elements and seasons are linked together already. Kuan Tse, XIV, 7 seq. asserts that wind produces wood, the Yang fluid fire, the Yin fluid metal, and cold, water. Earth has no special fluid.

The Sung philosophers were the first clearly to point out the difference of substances ### and fluids ###. Substances are produced, says Chou Tse, by the interaction and coagulation of the Yin and the Yang, whereas the Fluids are the regular revolutions of these two primary essences. 1T`sai Ch`ên ###, a disciple of Chu Hsi, holds that in heaven the Five Elements are the Five Fluids:---rain, sunshine, heat, cold, and wind, and on earth the Five Substances:---water, wood, fire, metal, earth. Of the Five Heavenly Fluids rain and sunshine are the substances, which seems to imply that they are more substantial than heat, cold, and wind---and of the Five Substances of Earth water and fire are the fluids---possessing more the nature of fluids than of substances, a view held by Chu Hsi also, as we have seen above. 2 Another writer maintains that the substances adhere to and have their roots in the earth, and that the fluids revolve in heaven. The latter generate, the former complete all organisms, 3i. e., the fluids give the first impulse to every new creation and the substances complete it. It may not be out of place to point out that the afore-mentioned Agrippa puts forward quite similar ideas. The elements in the lower worlds he declares to be coarser and more material, whereas in the higher spheres they appear only as forces or qualities. (Lehmann, Aberglaube p. 198.)

This view has again been modified, all elements being held to be compounded of substance and fluid. There is a difference between the various elements insomuch as they are more substantial or more etherial. "Fire and water have much fluid and little substance, wherefore they were produced first. Metal and wood have much substance and little fluid, and for this reason were created later. In earth substance and fluid are equally balanced, consequently it came after water and fire, but preceded metal and wood." 4

"The fluid of water is Yang, its substance Yin. The nature of Yin is procreative, therefore water produces wood. The fluid of fire is Yin, its substance Yang. Since the nature of Yang is burning and destructive, fire cannot produce metal. As regards earth, its fluid is Yang and its substance Yin. Consequently it makes use of the Yang of fire to produce the Yin of metal." 5 Here we have again the mysticism of the Yiking.

Fire and earth together produce metal, and water and earth combined produce wood. In both cases earth is indispensable. When wood produces fire, and metal, water, earth is not required.

Regarded as the ultimate causes of the seasons the elements were also invested with the qualities which, properly speaking, belong to the seasons alone. These characteristic features of the seasons are, according to Pan Ku's Po-hu-t`ung:---generating, growing, reaping, and hiding.6Tung Chung Shu already gave similar attributes to the elements. Wood, said he, is the generative nature of spring and the basis of agriculture. Fire is the growing of summer, earth the maturing of the seeds in mid-summer, metal the deadly breath of autumn, and water the hiding in winter and the extreme Yin.7


1. ###

2. ###

3. ### . . . . . ###

4. ###

5. ###

6. ### Kuan Tse XIV, 8v. has nearly the same attributes: ###

7. ###

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia