Earth represents the origin of all things. It is form-giving and, together with the sky, forms the four cardinal points. The earth represents size and breadth, as well as durability and being down to earth. Colours associated with the element are brown, yellow and ochre.
Metal represents wealth and success. It has a close relationship to the elements earth and fire. The earth from which it is extracted and the fire through which it is formed. Metal is mostly symbolised by round shapes, as well as by the colours white and gold. The corresponding direction is west.
Fire is that which is hot, luminous, bright and burning. Fire is also associated with spirituality and symbolises the spirit. It possesses extraordinary power, but cannot exist by itself, but must be generated by wood. Fire is represented by the colours red and orange and stands for the cardinal direction south.
Wood is characterised by constant growth, expansion and progress. Since it occurs between heaven and earth, it represents animate nature. Wood represents determination and the achievement of goals. Wood has an inner drive and also stands for motivation and creativity. The element is usually symbolised by the colour green and is associated with the East.
Everything that is liquid, runs and evaporates is assigned to water. Water has a collecting effect and therefore represents the concentration of things. The water is naturally transparent and therefore symbolises rationality and clarity. The colour of the element in the Five Elements teachings is black, its cardinal direction is north.