5 Core Elements in the Chinese Zodiac and Their Meanings

elements in the chinese zodiac

Did you know that the Chinese zodiac has been around since the 5th century BC? That’s more than 2500 years! With very little variation, this ancient understanding of the stars and elements has persisted. 

Many people are familiar with the 12 signs of the zodiac, but fewer are familiar with the five core elements. It’s believed that the whole universe and everyone in it has a specific element associated with them, and their interactions reflect the interactions of these core substances. 

In this way, the five elements in the Chinese zodiac are the elements of life. If you’re interested in learning about this ancient perspective of the world, read on for a complete overview!

Overview of the Five Elements Theory

The five elements theory is the belief that all people and things can be classified as one of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These elements interact with each other in specific ways that reflect the interactions of all beings in the universe. 

In Chinese, this is known as Wu Xing or the “five actions.” Wu Xing is described by the I Ching, or the Book of Changes. The Book of Changes is the oldest Chinese classic and outlines familiar concepts like the yin and yang and several principles of feng shui. 

The five elements theory is intricately tied to the Chinese zodiac and has been used consistently in holistic medicine, divination, and decision making since its inception. 

The Five Elements

In addition to having specific interactions, each element has different associations with colors, shapes, directions, and more. They also have different characteristics. 

Each element also has associated zodiac signs. Your lucky element is the one associated with your zodiac symbol. 

For a complete list of associations, you can check out this article


Wood is the element of the providers of the world, and the concept of benevolence. It also represents creativity, blooming, and growth. 

Its full associations are: 

  • Planet: Venus
  • Direction: East
  • Season: Spring
  • Climate: Wind
  • Color: Green
  • Shape: Rectangles
  • Sense: Vision
  • Taste: Sour

Zodiac signs associated with wood are the tiger and the rabbit. 


Fire represents enthusiasm and passion. It’s also associated with the virtue of propriety and energy. 

Its full associations are: 

  • Planet: Jupiter
  • Direction: South
  • Season: Summer
  • Climate: Hot 
  • Color: Red
  • Shape: Angular 
  • Sense: Taste
  • Taste: Bitter

Zodiac signs associated with fire are the snake and the horse. 


Earth represents the changing of seasons and is deeply connected to the last month of each season. Its qualities are of nurturing stability, honesty, and strength. 

Its full associations are: 

  • Planet: Jupiter
  • Direction: Middle
  • Season: Season changes
  • Climate: Damp
  • Color: Yellow
  • Shape: Square 
  • Sense: Mouth
  • Taste: Sweet

Zodiac signs associated with earth are the ox, dragon, goat, and dog.


Metal is associated with determination and persistence, and organization.

Its full associations are: 

  • Planet: Mars
  • Direction: West
  • Season: Autumn
  • Climate: Dry
  • Color: White
  • Shape: Round 
  • Sense: Smell
  • Taste: Spice

Zodiac signs associated with metal are the monkey and the rooster.


Water is the symbol of wisdom, aptitude, and mental strength. 

Its full associations are: 

  • Planet: Saturn
  • Direction: North
  • Season: Winter
  • Climate: Cold
  • Color: Black
  • Shape: Undulating 
  • Sense: Hearing
  • Taste: Salt

Zodiac signs associated with water are the pig and the rat. 

Elemental Interactions

These elements interact in nature, and these interactions mirror the interactions of all beings in the world. These interactions can be broken up into generating interactions and overcoming interactions.

Generating interactions are those that have a nurturing quality, such as the relationship of a parent and child. These interactions are connected to success, creation, and luck.

These interactions are: 

  • Fire is fueled by wood
  • Earth envelops metal
  • Metal holds water (as in a bucket)
  • Water nourishes wood (as in a tree) 
  • Fire creates earth (as in a volcano) 

Overcoming interactions are the warlike relationships between an element and its opposing element. These interactions are:

  • Fire melts metal
  • Metal cuts wood (as in an ax)
  • Earth absorbs water
  • Water extinguishes fire
  • Wood breaks up the earth (as in a tree root) 

These interactions are reflected by the interactions between people. 

Your Lucky Element

The elements connect to the zodiac signs, and both together can determine your personality and influence your luck. 

When you find your personal element, it can tell you about which feng shui associations will bring you luck and which ones to avoid! 

For example, if your zodiac sign is the horse, your lucky element is fire. Your lucky color is therefore red, and your success will grow if you decorate the Southern wall of your house red. Facing the South can also bring you luck. 

In addition, you should avoid placing water in that direction due to your overcoming interaction where water extinguishes fire. You might experience negative interactions with water elements and people.

Connecting Elements in the Chinese Zodiac

In addition to having a lucky element, you will also have an element connected to your birth year. These elements are sometimes the same, but often not. The elements associated with the year cycle every 12 years.

Here’s a handy chart:

  • Wood: 1924-35, 1984-95
  • Fire: 1936-47, 1996-2007
  • Earth: 1948-59, 2008-19
  • Metal: 1960-71, 2020-31
  • Water: 1972-83, 2032-43

This is similar to how each year has a zodiac sign. For example, 2021 is the year of the ox. You can see above that it’s also associated with the metal element. 

The year you’re born will influence your personality according to the associated year. For example, if you’re born in 1994 you’re born in the year of the dog and a wood year. So, you’re classified as a Wood Dog personality. 

Find Personal Guidance for Your Element

These elements in the Chinese zodiac give brief overviews of personality, luck, and more. However, they’re still just general guides for divination. More in-depth guidance will depend on your circumstances. 

If you’re looking to deepen your spiritual understanding and get specific guidance, there’s no substitute for a one-on-one consultation with a psychic. Check out the Psychics Directory and our list of experts who are available now for a direct connection

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