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Five Elements

In traditional Chinese philosophy, natural phenomena can be classified into the Five Elements : wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These elements were used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. Five phases is another way of translating wǔxíng — literally, "five goings". Traditional Taijiquan schools relate them to footwork and refer to them as five "steps".

The doctrine of five phases describes both a generating cycle and an overcoming cycle of interactions between the phases. In the generating cycle, wood generates fire; fire generates earth; earth generates metal; metal generates water; water generates wood. In the overcoming cycle, wood overcomes earth; earth overcomes water; water overcomes fire; fire overcomes metal; metal overcomes wood.

The doctrine of five phases was employed in many fields of early Chinese philosophy, including seemingly disparate fields such as music, medicine, and military strategy. 

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