Wood is one of the five phases of the five-element doctrine (Wu Xing), which describes the laws of natural phenomena. This theory is applied in practice, for example in acupuncture.
Phase Element Fire | Functional Circuits | Pulse Quality
Wood means to be deeply rooted in the earth, just like a tree, and to strive towards the sky, fire, absolute Yang.
The wood phase within a person guarantees a free and powerful flow of energy. It lets a person turn outward, open to the outside world through his/her eyes, to behold and grasp the environment, and finally engage in it with the help of muscles and tendons. Lorenzen 1994, 216-217
The phase element wood gives a person the impulses that put him in a position to expand to the outside world. In the phase element wood, the individual virtually leaves his position, his very own base. He moves, he uses his muscles and tendons, he sees his environment and reaches for it in every respect. The phase element wood bridges the path from ego to others. Various mechanisms prevent the individual from blocking his life force, hold it inside, thus repeatedly cause disturbances in Qi circulation.
Such as the phase element metal, which – through insufficient flexibility – cannot provide adequate space to the individual’s desire for expansion. Dogmas and habits may also play a role, and so does damage to the phase element metal through loss experiences (see volume 2, the phase element metal). Lorenzen 2002, 185
Functional Circuits and Pulse Quality
There are two functional circuits assigned to the phase element earth: Liver (LIV) and Gallbladder (GB). Below are some quotations.
Functional Circuit Liver (Liver Meridian)
And then comes the mild air, renewing the world of plants and clothing the earth in green. All this corresponds to the character of [the trigram] Sun, the gentle intruder. The nature of Sun is represented by two images: the wind which dissolves winter’s rigid ice, and wood that develops organically. The effect of Sun is that things are flowing into their forms, that they develop and grow into the mold prefigured in the bud. Wilhelm 1989
The liver is the official, who is like a general of the united armed forces. Strategic assessment and planning come from it. Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 8
He decides the input of forces, taking all factors into account[. …] The sensory organ is […] the eye, and this not only in physiological terms[. …]
The liver Gan is the one instance that brings man, an isolated individual at first, into contact with his environment. It is the liver that must ensure for the phase element wood – be it on the physical, mental or emotional level – expansion as well as withdrawal, wakefulness as well as sleep, activity as well as passivity, always considering the respective external conditions and obstacles man may encounter when leaving his position, (sic) the phase element water. This ability to adapt to all circumstances is the liver’s crucial characteristic.
Since environmental influences […] are not always even and only very rarely obey his will, man is forced to react flexible and supple. His ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions is man’s key to true power over all other life forms […] to react flexible “like a bamboo” to any possible adversity: strong and hard when maintaining the direction of growth, fast when aspiring towards the light, flexibly bending to the winds, then again growing into his chosen direction.
The liver ensures that a uniform momentum is maintained not only in outside growth, but also within man’s energetic system. Lorenzen 2002, 212-213
The kidneys – and with them the phase element water – store all what is basics, essential, stable and lasting through the generations of our individual existence. It is in the kidneys where wisdom lies, summary of life and decades of experiences and will power. The kidneys assume the initiation of any action, emanating from personal strength.
Gradually will is taking shape, the image of a realized idea is painted with inner fantasy and through the Hun-soul’s colorful brush.
Ideas become tangible, describable, more and more concrete, and gradually evolve into planning the actual sequence of required operations. Just like a commander is reflecting beyond a specific campaign, beyond his own forces, a strong, harmonious liver should be a “great strategist”. As in chess, the opponent’s next maneuver should be considered Lorenzen 2002, 227
When we have a vision, we have a glimpse of the future. […] The vision of the liver gives hope for the future where we can see our goals. In the Nei Jing [Huangdi Neijing] it is said that the liver is the master planner. […] The assessment of circumstances and plans come from its vision. The liver is always on the point o putting its plan into action […] without getting blocked or obstructed. Kaatz 2005, 217
Functional Circuit Gallbladder (Gallbladder Meridian)
Zhen is like a bud in its protective leaf, just about to break open.
Spring wakens and nature starts to germinate and sprout. This corresponds to the morning of the day. This awakening is a sign of the arousing, Zhen, pouring out of the earth as thunder and electrical power.Wilhelm 1989
Zhen corresponds to the first signs of life after the big yin of winter; it is yang within yin or the young yang (Shao Yang). It is a revolution within nature where [winterly] frozen life suddenly starts to move. The first plants penetrate the ground, the first buds break open[. …] The whole world is in turmoil, seemingly confused and yet pursuing an inner plan. Lorenzen 2002, 9
The gallbladder is the official who is accurate and correct. Judgment and the ability to make decisions come from him. Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 8
All eleven functional circuits receive their directives from the gallbladder. Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 9
It is the gallbladder which decides what is correct (Zheng) and what coincides directly with an issue (Zhong). Here the close relationship between liver and gallbladder is very clear: the liver does indeed develop plans and strategies but it is only the gallbladder who decides on proper implementation and provides the target organs with [adequate] impulses. It [the gallbladder] is the yang aspect of the liver and enables the general’s power output[. …]
The other functional circuits need the gallbladder’s impulse: The heart-emperor addresses the gallbladder and receives from it the correctness of his (non-)actions. Heart and gallbladder are directly related through the organ clock (midnight-midday-rule). The small intestine needs the gallbladder’s help to make decisions in order to separate the clear from the unclear and thus fulfill its duties of differentiation. The bladder orients itself according the the gallbladder’s guidelines which decides how much fluid is retained and how much is evaporated or excreted. And so on[. …]
The gallbladder, by virtue of its ability to judge and decide, gives our life a good direction. Anything that is not correct (Zheng) is bad for our lives and makes us sick. The straightness of our energy (Zheng Qi) describes the proper functioning of our expressions of life, particularly the ability to ward off pathogenic influences (Xie Qi). Lorenzen 2002, 27-28
The three months of spring are called incipient activity and free expression. The union of heaven and earth brings forth new life. Thus, the myriads of things can flourish and develop. One should go to bed at night and get up at dawn. One should pass through the yard with big steps, the hair dissolved and the body completely relaxed, to express one’s will to live. To birth, not to kill, to give and not to take away, to reward and not to punish, that is the right way to live in harmony with the energy of spring. Anyone who behaves contrary to these influences will damage his liver. In summer he will get cold diseases because there is not enough energy for the phase of growth. Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 2
While the liver is known as the great strategist, as the army commander within the governing [yin organ, zàng fu] organs and responsible for the extensive planning, the gallbladder serves as a tactician who gives the immediate instructions according to the situation or – otherwise said – makes decisions. It is the master clock in the interplay of all human functions, it provides impulses, launches movement. Lorenzen 2002, 273
The gallbladder is responsible for hundreds of decisions that direct every activity of the body. It does this with flexibility, direction, a sense of purpose and strength. It is like the bamboo that knows how to bend with the storms. […] It is this ability to move forward no matter what circumstances bring, that is the work of the gallbladder. Kaatz 2005, 171
Pulse Quality Wood
The pulse quality that is associated with phase element wood is Xian Mai, the pulse that is like a string. The pulse quality of the phase element wood is described in the Huangdi Neijing as wiry and full.
This pulse feels like a bowstring, eager to shoot an arrow. It is thin, elastic and springy, like the string of a lute. Lorenzen 2002, 120
Xian Mai is Yang. When examined under the finger it is not sufficient; if pressure decreases it shows abundance. It is like a lute string, from time to time like a belt. Mai Jue, cited after Lorenzen 2002
A string-like pulse in spring occurs because the liver is related to the East and the [phase element] wood. At this time, all things come to life. Just as a tree still has no leaves the pulse bears characteristics of lightness, softness, growth. This is why it is called string-like.
The string-like pulse is the pulse of spring. Nan Jing, zitiert nach Lorenzen 2002