What Are the 5 Traditional Elements?

What Are the 5 Elements

Five element cycles – Wu Xing

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Many philosophies and traditions around the world believe in similar elements. They tend to focus on about five specific ones. Here is a look at the five elements in Chinese, Japanese, Buddhist, Greek, Babylonian, and European alchemy.

Babylonian 5 Elements

  1. wind
  2. fire
  3. earth
  4. sea
  5. sky

Medieval Alchemy

The number of traditional elements in medieval alchemy varies from 4, 5, or 8. The first four are always found. The fifth, aether, is important in some traditions. Sulfur, mercury, and salt are classical elements.

  1. air
  2. fire
  3. water
  4. earth
  5. aether
  6. sulfur
  7. mercury
  8. salt

Greek 5 Elements

  1. air
  2. water
  3. fire
  4. earth
  5. aether

Chinese 5 Elements - Wu Xing

  1. wood
  2. water
  3. earth
  4. fire
  5. metal

Japanese 5 Elements - Godai

  1. air
  2. water
  3. earth
  4. fire
  5. void

Hindu and Buddhist 5 Elements

Akasha is the equivalent to Aristotle's aether, in the Greek tradition. While Hinduism traditionally recognizes five elements, Buddhism typically only the first four "great" or "gross" elements. Although the names are different, the first four elements roughly translate as being air, fire, water, and earth.

  1. Vayu (wind or air)
  2. Ap (water)
  3. Agni fire)
  4. Prithvi (earth)
  5. Akasha

Tibetan 5 Elements (Bon)

  1. air
  2. water
  3. earth
  4. fire
  5. aether