Friday, October 21, 2011

Metal Element and Autumn


The season associated with Metal Is Autumn.  The overflowing effects of Summer are realised and it’s time for harvesting.  The harvesting must not only be of the food stuffs which are put in storehouses but also of Spirits and Breaths in our own storehouses.  We need to protect our own vitality to survive the Winter.  Our breaths are taken in by the Lung which receives the pure heavenly Qi.  Located between Summer and Winter the energetic tendency towards of Autumn is Yin ascending.  It’s a season of balancing. 

In the Book of Rites, another of the Five Classics, it says that Autumn puts everything back in the balancing scales.

                                                                                Larre, Claude & De La Valle, Elizabeth Rochat (1992), p6

Autumn is also a season of “letting go”.  We need to clear out the old to make room for the new.  This is reflected in nature where for example the trees let go of their leaves and seeds.  The leaves serve to compost the earth to support the germination of the seeds when Spring arrives.  We as humans also need to follow a similar pattern of letting go to remain healthy and in balance.  This is explored further later in this paper in relation to the Large Intestine which facilitates our letting go not only on a physical but also on a mind and spirit level.

Metal’s manifestation in nature is probably one of the more difficult to notice. 
Indeed this is reflected in the ideogram for Metal (Jin), (see illustration 1), which includes the character for Earth.  Whilst the Earth ideogram only has two horizontal lines the Metal ideogram includes a third line indicating that Metal is deep within the earth.  The two shorter lines at the bottom represent
nuggets of gold which can be likened to unseen growth.

Illustration 1 – Jin, Ideogram for Metal

The primary correspondences for Metal are listed in Table 1.

Yin Official / Zang Organ
Yang Official / Fu Organ
Large Intestine
Yin Official Peak Time
3am – 5am
Yang Official Peak Time
5am – 7am
Sense Organ/Orifice
Tissue/Body Part
Body Hair
Fluid Secretion
Table 1 – Metal’s primary correspondences

Autumn is the time of year when less is required.   One becomes a sage and reflects inwardly.  The Metal Element within us provides us with the gifts and capacities to support our body, mind and spirit in preparation for Winter.  There will also be challenges to face.  Some of these gifts, capacities and challenges are discussed in the next sections of this paper. 

Gifts & Capacities

In our environment minerals provide nutrients to the earth from which food is grown.  Ores provide fuel for heat, others material for structural strength, others gems for beauty.  Metal is a key component in most systems of communication.  Metal conducts electricity. 

In the human body the Metal Element provides us with the capacity to receive pure Qi from the heavens via the Lung and also to eliminate toxins and waste substances via the Large Intestine.  Receipt of pure Qi from the heavens is linked to our ability to be inspired.  The Chinese saw the Earth Element as the Mother, both for us and within us, and the saw the role of the Metal Element as a natural association with the Father from the heavens above.  This reminds us of our connection between heaven and earth.  Many forms of meditation use the principles of breathing exercises to enhance the mind and spirit directly.

Of all the Officials the Lung is perhaps the most vital in establishing and sustaining the spirit.  By taking in the pure Qi energy from the heavens it brings the guidance and authority which our lives need.

 Worsley, J.R. (1998), p162

Expanding on the connection to the Heavens is the notion of respect which is attached to the idea of the father in almost every culture.  When Metal is balanced within us when can also be aware of self respect which provides us with a sense of self-esteem.  This in turn gives our lives a sense of quality.

This in turn supports our ability to make judgements and decisions.

Every Element is qualitatively enriched in it’s own Nature by the Metal Element.

Worsley, J.R. (1998), p48

Just as the Lung receives the Large Intestines eliminates all the waste and rubbish within us.  This is not just our physical body waste but also our mental and spiritual waste.  The importance of “letting go” is discussed in the next section of this paper.


One of the key challenges that Metal presents to us is to be aware of the importance of letting go. 

Our ideas, our emotions, our food, even the stages in the growth of our spirit, all have their hour and then have no more to offer.  Once they are finished we have to be able to let go and move on.

Worsley, J.R. (1998), p50

Without clarity provided by ‘letting go’ our judgement can be impaired and we can fail to recognise the quality of our decisions.  Our self-esteem can suffer and we can forget to nourish our bodies properly.  We could potentially swing towards the side of excessive sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

Patients with a Metal (Causative Factor) CF may portray an external stillness about them.  An outward sense of everything being in it’s proper place.  A shiny exterior which often belies the tumultuous interior.  This reflects the other direction in which Metal can take us where we present a peacock style appearance to the world.  This can include being festooned with “shiny” jewellery.  They may look for respect.

Associated with the Metal Element we have the Lung (Fei) and Large Intestine (Da Shang) Officials.  The Lung plays an important role in receiving Qi and the Large Intestine in “letting go” for our body, mind and spirit.  

The Lung (Fei) Official

The Lung Official is the Official who receives the pure qi energy from the heavens.  It is the Yin/Zang organ of the Metal Element.

In ancient texts, the Chinese, probably because the writers were more function oriented, usually spoke of the Lung as a single organ.  From the Nei Jing onwards, however, they often say that the Lung is divided into two parts.

Hicks, Angela; Hicks, John; Mole Peter (2004), p138

The Lungs are considered to be ‘tender’, ‘delicate’ or ‘fragile’ organ.  This is because, of all the internal organs, it is the first one to be attacked by external pathogenic factors. 

The functions of the Lungs are listed in Table 2.

1 They govern Qi and respiration
2 They control channels and blood vessels
3 They control diffusing and descending of
     Qi and Body Fluids
4 They regulate all physiological activities
5 They regulate Water passages
6 They control the skin and the space
     between skin and muscles
7 They manifest in the body hair
8 They open into the nose
9 They control nasal mucus
10 They house the Corporeal Soul
11 They are affected by worry, grief and
Table 2 – The Functions of the Lungs -  Maciocia, Giovanni (2005), p 139

Some of these functions are discussed in below.

1 They govern Qi and respiration
In terms of governing Qi and respiration this refers to the inhalation of  ‘pure Qi’ (air) and exhalation of ‘dirty Qi’.  The Lungs also govern Qi by the process of forming Qi.  Food-Qi (Gu Qi) extracted by the spleen is directed to the lungs where it combines with the inhaled air to form what is referred to as Gathering Qi (Zong Qi).

6 They control the skin and the space between skin and muscles
The space between the skin and muscles is called the “Cou Li” space.  This is the space where Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) flows.  Strong Lung Qi provides a body with a good resistance to attack by external pathogenic factors.

10 They house the Corporeal Soul
The Corporeal Soul (Po) is called the ‘entering and exiting of Essence (Jing)’.
The Po allows the Jing to play a role in all physiological processes.

11 They are affected by worry, grief and sadness
Worry is said to ‘knot’ Qi.  This manifests in shoulder and chest tension.  Grief and sadness are said to deplete the Qi.  This manifests in the Lung pulse becoming weak and fine (thin), the complexion becoming white and the tone of voice being feeble and weepy

The Lungs hold the office of minister and chancellor.  The regulation of life-giving networks stem from it.

                                                                                Su Wen 8

This quotation refers to the role (Minister) which the Lung plays in conversing with the sovereign (Heart).  The Lung takes instructions and carries  them out.  There is an interdependence here which is key as the Heart controls blood and the Lung Qi, two of the key ‘substances’ that constitute a person.

The Lung is a canopy for the zang.

                                                                                Larre, Claude & De La Valle, Elizabeth Rochat (1992), p44

This is a reference to Su Wen chapter 46.  This exemplifies the importance of the Lung’s role in attracting influence of Heaven and transmitting it to the other organs.

Some examples of points on the Lung meridian which describe their possible application in supporting the body, mind and spirit and also reflect their relationship to the Metal Element are listed in Table 3 below:

Example point application

LU 1

Middle Palace
Helps connect patient with Heavenly Qi and inspiration.

LU 2

Cloud Door
If patient is feeling lost.

LU 5

Outside Marsh
Helps patient to know themselves better.

LU 6

Greatest Hole
If patient feels they have no point or purpose and are unable to cope with outside world.

LU 8

Meridian Gutter
Helps bring patient into the present and relate to the future.
Table 3 – Example of points and their application on Lung meridian

Hopefully the reader thus far has gained a sense of the importance of the role of the Lung Official in establishing and sustaining the spirit and the guidance and authority it brings to our lives. 

The other half of the Metal Element Officials team is the Large Intestine Official.  Whilst the Lung supports the intake of new and pure Qi to maintain balance it is important that we have a way to eliminate, or “let go” at the appropriate time.  This “letting go” is the function of the Large Intestine Official.

The Large Intestine/Colon (Da Chang) Official

The Large Intestine Official is the Official of drainage and dregs.  It is the Yang/Fu organ of the Metal Element.

The functions of the Large Intestine are listed below in Table 4.

1 Controls passage and conduction
2 Transforms stools and reabsorbs fluids
Table 4 – The Functions of the Large Intestine -  Maciocia, Giovanni (2005), p 195

This Official takes away the waste not only from that which is left over from the digestive process but also from all the Officials.  If this Official is not functioning properly then all the Officials are at risk of becoming sick as rubbish in any of the Officials will limit their physical function.  This will also manifest in the mind and spirit just as much.  Room needs to be made for anything new and vital.

When we come across someone whose words and whose mind are poisoned and filthy we may be in the presence of a person whose garbage is not being taken away.

Worsley, J.R. (1998), p155

Some examples of points on the Large Intestine meridian which describe their possible application in supporting the body, mind and spirit and also reflect their relationship to the Metal Element are listed in Table 5.

Example point application

LI 1

Merchant Yang
Helps patient if they can’t see through their rubbish..

LI 2

Second Interval
Helps patient who is rigid and needs to let go by assisting lubrication and thus helping patient to move more freely and live in accordance with Dao.

LI 4

Joining of the Valleys
(Great Eliminator)
Unblocks the constipation at body, mind and spirit level of patient and remove toxins.

LI 11

Crooked Pond
Helps ground patient with a Metal CF who may be too “up in the clouds” .
Table 5 – Example of points and their application on Large Intestine meridian

In conclusion in this paper we have looked at the importance of the energetic of the Metal Element which when in balance provides us with the ability to be inspired with fresh ideas but to be able to do this we also need to let go of the dregs!.  These abilities we examined are provided by the two related Metal Officials of Lung (Fei) and Large Intestine (Da Chang).  The Lung contacts Heaven, the Large Intestine in the final stage in the digestive process, contacts the Earth.


Hicks, Angela; Hicks, John; Mole Peter (2004) Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture
Churchill Livingstone

Larre, Claude & De La Valle, Elizabeth Rochat (1992) Chinese Medicine from The Classics - The Lung
Monkey Press

Maciocia, Giovanni (2005) The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, 2nd Ed.
Churchill Livingstone

Worsley, J.R. (1998) Classical Five-Element Acupuncture™ Volume III The Five Elements and The Officials.
J.R. & J.B. Worsley


College of Traditional Acupuncture (2005) Blue Group S2005 Session Five Notes.

Connelly, Dianne M. (1994) Traditional Acupuncture The Law of the Five Elements.  2nd Edition.
Maryland, U.S.A.: Tai Sophia Institute

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