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Feng Shui: The Eight Directions and the Five Elements 101

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

Using Feng Shui for an environment, such as a home or business, provides an opportunity to improve the relationships where we live and work. Feng Shui looks at the immediate environment like a microcosm of all of nature. It analyzes the directions (N, E, S, W) and the five elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood) in the natural world. Feng Shui then connects these areas in nature to areas in human experience. The ultimate goal is to create energy patterns in people and their immediate surroundings, similar to those that are organic on earth. By reflecting the natural world, one can be in their most harmonious state.


There are 8 main directions used in Feng Shui. They are East, North East, North, North West, West, South West, South and South East. Each direction symbolizes a different area of life.

  • East-- Family & Community

  • Northeast-- Knowledge & Self Cultivation

  • North-- Career & Business Mission

  • Northwest-- Helpful People & Travel

  • West-- Creativity & Inner Child

  • Southwest-- Love & Marriage

  • South-- Fame & Reputation

  • Southeast-- Wealth & Abundance

Feng Shui believes that by establishing balance in a particular direction of the environment, it will also help that area of life. For example, by creating balanced energy in the East direction, one would also have benefits in their Family and Community area. Similarly, if a person is having difficulties with their Love life, they may want to look to the Southwest area of the home. (These areas can be adjusted when using Feng Shui for a business. For example, the Southwest area could be interpreted as relationships with Business Partners versus Love and Marriage.)

Why life areas are attributed to particular directions:

Directions are not arbitrarily placed with an area of human experience, but have been deeply studied as to how they relate. The East has been analyzed as to why it would impact the Family and Community sector, for example. And the West as to why it would affect one's Creativity, etc. The connections between life and direction, have been made by observing the tendencies in nature.

Let's take a closer look at one example: The North portion of our earth is different from the South geographically, and therefore in what energies find themselves supported there. As the North is often colder, energies associated with cold, such as stillness, are home there. The winter season, which the North is associated with, is a time when nature rests, hibernates and uses the resources accumulated from the prior seasons. As a result in Feng Shui, the North is associated with one's Career and Life's Journey, the Water element and blue and black colors.

Another example: The South is home to energies that have an affinity with warmth and as a result, is represented by the summer season. In the summer, there is more activity as people stay up later and wake up earlier. In Feng Shui, the South is associated with Reputation and how one shines their light in the world, the Fire element and red, burnt orange and strong purple colors.

A Feng Shui practitioner assesses if each direction of a personal environment is being supported as it would be in nature. If the South area has too many water elements, for example, then this would be over-controlling this direction's energy flow. Because the South is home to the Fire element and water puts out fire, one may experience difficulty in the South area, Reputation, as a result.

To recap, each direction's application to human life, is based off the natural tendencies in that direction as observed in nature. There can be more discussion on why the Career would make itself home in the North, for instance, but this is the basic premise of attraction. Many cultures, such as the Hawaiians, also understood the energy of the directions at a very deep level. Even when looking at the types of communities that thrive in the direction of the rising sun versus the setting sun, one can easily see the spectrum of energies that are natural there and deduce their own conclusions. Understanding the personalities of the directions at a deep level, requires sincere contemplation.


The Directions & the Five Elements

Feng Shui is dynamic. It doesn't only look to the North and isolate a problem in that area and then look separately at the South. It embraces the energetic properties of all of the directions simultaneously and analyzes the many possible combinations of energy compatibilities. One way Feng Shui connects the qualities of each direction, in order to see the whole picture of the environment, is through the 5-element cycle. The 5 elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. The 5-elements are natural occurrences and have intrinsic relationships with each other. For example, the relationship between Water and Fire. Where the directions are more stationary placements, the 5-elements are what move through them.

5 Element Cycle

Feng Shui uses the connections between the directions and the elements, in order to create harmonious energy flow throughout the entirety of the environment.

The elements are associated with a direction as follows:

  • Wood: East and Southeast

  • Fire: South

  • Earth: Southwest and Northeast

  • Metal: West and Northwest

  • Water: North

Lets take a quick look at the thinking of why a direction is correlated with a particular element:

Take for example how the Wood element relates to the East direction. The Wood element encompasses trees and plants, which grow freely and abundantly in nature. It is correlated with the East, because this is the direction of the rising sun and therefore embodies a similar energy of expansion and growth. Subsequently, the East is also related to the Spring season. On the other hand, Metal is related to the West because both take on a condensing energy, as shown with the hardened minerals in the Metal element and in the setting sun of the West. The West is related to the Fall season. As a result, a Feng Shui practitioner may look to the West area of the environment and incorporate Metal elements.


One can dive more into the specifics of each direction's correlation with an element more on their own. Further study on the properties of the elements are essential. For now, this presents the fundamental ways of thinking used in Feng Shui. There are potentially many layers which explain all of the approaches, but in simplicity, everything originates back to what is observed in nature. Feng Shui uses the directions and the elemental cycle in order to create harmonious and natural balances of energy in environments. The application of Feng Shui is essentially weaving a thread through all of the areas of your life to see if there is any resistance.

If you mirror nature, energy flow is effortless.


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