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Western Five Elements

Posted: Dec 18, 2007 3:20 pm
by initiate
Hello -
I am looking for individual characters representing the western version of the five elements - ether (space), air, water, fire, and earth.

I've found earth, fire, and water from the Chinese Five elements. Is the character you have for Nothing/Void the best approximation for the Ether Element? And would Qi be the best approximation of the air element? Or are there other characters?

Thank you.

Doug M.

Posted: Dec 23, 2007 1:43 am
by Gary
I must have missed this post - sorry for the late reply...

Image (Qi / Chi) is an option, as it does mean "vapor, gas, steam". But consider it carefully, as it's also used to mean "life energy" or the essence of one's being.

If you are trying to get just a single-character to mean "nothingness" then Image is an option. However, the two character form ImageImage is probably closer to your desired meaning. The character Image alone means "empty". This is also the first character of "karate" which means "empty hand" (no weapon in your hand). It's also an option if you want "empty" versus "nothing".

Let me know if

Posted: Dec 23, 2007 9:35 am
by initiate
Actually, the double meaning of chi or air works very well for my purposes, as these elements spring from the alchemical tradition, have psychological as well as physical correspondences, and are actively used to represent different forms or faces of health, vitality, and physical expression in therapies like polarity therapy.
So, thank you!
I'll be placing an order with you soon. Are all of your products in calligraphy hand-lettered scrolls? Do you offer any carvings, or tiles, or metalwork of these characters?

Posted: Dec 25, 2007 3:25 pm
by Gary
All of the artwork we offer is 100% hand painted. This includes all calligraphy.

I don't have tiles or other media, however, if you need patterns (large images) of certain characters, we do offer that service (it falls under our tattoo service).

Let me know what order you want the elements to be in (if you want them on one scroll).

Otherwise, you can find all of these ready for single-character scrolls here:

Earth in Chinese and Japanese
Fire in Chinese and Japanese
The element of water in Chinese and Japanese
Vapor, steam, energy, essence, gas, or air in Chinese and Japanese
Concepts of nothingness in Chinese and Japanese

As you choose, I would use the traditional form of Qi/Chi, as it is the oldest, and before the reforms in Mainland China, and Japan after the war, they both used the same form. In Japan, they replaced the rice-radical that sits under (as if in a pot) with two strokes that form an X. In the mainland they just removed the rice-radical completely.

Image Traditional Chinese/ Japanese Form

Image Modern Japanese

Image Simplified Chinese

In the traditional form the rice-radical represents boiling rice in a pot, and the rest of the character represents the steam rising from the pot. This steam idea is where the concept of energy, essence, and air came from. Some "ancient scientists" even believed that the steam was the soul, in visible form, escaping from the rice (or from a body as you burned it).

This character has been used in many ways, so the context in which you use it does matter. For example, it's used a parts of words to describe many kinds of weather formations and conditions.

It's "Ki" (pronounced like "key") in Japanese, and is parts of words like "Aikido", "Reiki" (a healing art), and Yuuki (courage).

In Chinese it's Romanized as Qi or Chi, and you can see it in Tai Chi / Tai Qi, Qi Gong / Chi Kung, and Chinese doctors may speak in terms of your level or Chi/Qi or how it is flowing through your body.