A quick overview of the Five Elements of TCM

Of course, the main philosophy of TCM about the balance of the Yin and the Yang and its vital energy (Qi) is the main guiding line in Shiatsu. Roughly spoken this means we try to find out, where there is too much energy in the body and which areas are not very well supported or show a certain need (to be supported with blood, circulation, Qi, touch, awareness, etc.).

TCM approach of the Five Elements, however, enables shiatsu practicioners to analyse the main root for a certain imbalance of a client’s symptoms (physical, emotions, mental) in more detail.


The Five Elements in Chinese culture

The Five Elements are a comprehensive template that organizes all natural phenomena into five master groups or patterns in nature. Each of the five groups—Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water—include categories such as a season, a direction, climate, stage of growth and development, internal organ, body tissue, emotion, aspect of the soul, taste, color, sound, etc. The categories are seemingly limitless. The Five Elements reflect a deep understanding of natural law, the Universal order underlying all things in our world.



  • Yin Organ: LIVER
  • Yang Organ: GALL BLADDER
  • Sense Organ: EYES
  • Tissue: TENDONS
  • Emotion: ANGER
  • Season: SPRING
  • Climate: WIND
  • Colour: GREEN
  • Taste: SOUR
  • Direction: EAST
  • Time of the day: GALLBLADDER (23.00-1.00), LIVER (01.00-03.00)

Liver Health:

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the Liver is the organ that is most affected by excess stress or emotions. Feel it, express it, but don’t hold it! Are you often irritable? Do things stress you out easily? Your Liver is telling you that its function is becoming out of balance.


  • Yin Organ: HEART
  • Sense Organ: TONGUE
  • Emotion: JOY
  • Season: SUMMER
  • Climate: HEAT
  • Sound: LAUGHING
  • Colour: RED
  • Taste: BITTER
  • Direction: SOUT
  • Time of the day: HEART (11.00-13.00), SMALL INTESTINE (13.00-15.00)

Heart Health:

True cardiovascular health is not just about physical fitness, it’s about deep contentment with one’s life and destiny.  Happiness and love are often associated with the Heart representing a state of peacefulness. Stress or lack of self-expression can directly impact this organ’s function. 


  • Yin Organ: SPLEEN
  • Yang Organ: STOMACH
  • Sense Organ: MOUTH
  • Tissue: MUSCLE
  • Season: LATE SUMMER
  • Climate: DAMPNESS
  • Sound: SINGING
  • Colour: YELLOW
  • Taste: SWEET
  • Direction: CENTER
  • Time of the day: STOMACH (07.00-09.00), SPEEN (09.00-11.00)

Stomach Health:

Chronic stress, worry, and anxiety can damage Stomach function very quickly. Without the proper functioning of the Stomach and its partner organ the Spleen, you can easily begin to suffer from poor digestive health and low metabolism function. 


  • Yin Organ: LUNGS
  • Sense Organ: NOSE
  • Tissue: TENDONS
  • Emotion: SKIN & HAIR
  • Season: AUTUMN
  • Climate: DRYNESS
  • Sound: CRYING
  • Colour: WHITE
  • Taste: SPICY
  • Direction: WEST
  • Time of the day: LUNGS (03.00-05.00), LARGE INTESTINE (05.00-07.00)

Lung Health:

Too much sadness and grieving can harm the Lung and its partner, the Large Intestine. “Letting things go” is a healthy way to stimulate your Lung’s function and get rid of physical and emotional baggage.


  • Yin Organ: KIDNEYS
  • Yang Organ: BLADDER
  • Sense Organ: EARS
  • Tissue: BONES
  • Emotion: FEAR
  • Season: WINTER
  • Climate: COLD
  • Colour: BLACK
  • Taste: SALTY
  • Direction: NORTH
  • Time of the day: KIDNEYS (15.00-17.00), BLADDER (17.00-19.00)

Kidney Health:

The Kidney is the “reserve generator” of energy in the body, supplying extra Qi to all the organs when necessary. Its corresponding emotion of fear can be a red flag that these powerhouses of the body are themselves low on Qi and working too hard



5 elements chart

Photo credits / blog entry header: www.pingofhealth.com