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VII. The Regular Changes of the Elements during the Seasons.

Apart from the transformations which the elements undergo when meating, they are subject to regular modifications during the seasons, which repeat themselves every year. In the course of a year, they grow, reach their climax, and decline again. While one element is at its height, another has fallen off, and a third is still growing. The times are usually denoted by the Twelve Branches, which, as a rule, are merely local marks. Here they are almost equivalent to the twelve months, for the sun stays about a month in each of the twelve constellations or branches which, therefore, serve to designate the months.

Huai Nan Tse III, 16 r. gives us the following comparative table: 1

Wood is born in hai (N.N.W.---10th moon)

Wood is full-grown in mao (E.---2nd moon)

Wood dies in wei (S.S.W.---6th moon)

Fire is born in yin (E.N.E.---1st moon)

Fire is full-grown in wu (S.---5th moon)

Fire dies in hsü (W.N.W.---9th moon)

Earth is born in wu (S.---5th moon)

Earth is full-grown in hsü (W.N.W.---9th moon)

Earth dies in yin (E.N.E.---1st moon)

Metal is born in see (S.S.E.---4th moon)

Metal is full-grown in yu (W.---8th moon)

Metal dies in ch'ou (N.N.E.---12th moon)

Water is born in shên (W.S.W.---7th moon)

Water is full-grown in tse (N.---11th moon)

Water dies in ch`ên (E.S.E.---3rd moon).

After this scheme each element is alive nine months, and dead three months. Its body then still exists, but it is lifeless i. e., inactive. In the next year it is revived again, and the same process, its growing and decaying begins afresh. Each element is full-grown and shows its greatest development in the second or the middle month of the season over which it rules, wood in the second month of spring, and fire in the second month of summer, or the fifth month. The position assigned to earth is peculiar. It is just one month behind metal, consequently earth would govern a season almost falling together with autumn, but a little later.

Elsewhere Huai Nan Tse makes the elements pass through five different stages, adding to those given above "old age" and "imprisonment." Thus we have the following comparative list: 2

strong old born imprisoned dead
Spring wood water fire metal earth
Summer fire wood earth water metal
earth fire metal wood water
Autumn metal earth water fire wood
Winter water metal wood earth fire

Later authors go still more into details. Sun Chao of the Ming dynasty informs us that the "Classic of Huang Ti" 3 distinguishes twelve changes undergone by each element during a year. He treats the elements like human beings and therefore takes the names of these changes from human life. They are:---birth, bathing, being an official, a minister, a sovereign, decline, sickness, death, burial, cessation, stirring up, and growing as an embryo. 4Sun Chao characterises the twelve stages which follow the Twelve Branches a little differently:---1) Water exists as a sperm in sse, 2) in an embryonic state in wu, 3) develops in wei, 4) is born in shên, 5) is washed and bathed in yu, 6) receives the cap and the girdle in hsü, 7) begins its official career in hai, 8) obtains imperial glory in tse, 9) becomes old and decrepid in ch`ou, 10) sick in yin, 11) dies in mao, 12) and is buried in ch`ên.5 The life of each element, its development, its acme, and its decline, in all their phases are compared to the life of man. It is washed like a baby, capped like a youth, must become an official---the ambition of every Chinaman---becomes even an emperor, and then gradually declines. The same list holds good for the other elements likewise, but the cyclical signs indicating the months change. Thus fire exists in a spermatic state in hai, wood in shên, and metal in yin.


1. ### & c.

2. Huai Nan Tse IV, 9r.: ###, &c.

3. ###, the Huang Ti su-wên is meant.

4. ###

5. Loc. cit. ###

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