Metal 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
Metal, as an element of Chinese nature philosophy, here is described as a quality that can flexibly adapt to a mold (ie, as molten metal) and then become hard and thus useful. Changeability and alteration between solid and liquid states corresponds to metal and accounts for its benefit. Lorenzen 1994, 21, 205-219
In our lifelong process of transformation this means that metal enables us to learn. To make experiences not only through understanding, analysis, ratio […] but the metal phase enables us to distill something out of our environment and for ourselves. Lorenzen 1994, 21, 205-219
In the metal phase man keeps that relationship, he gets his power from differentiation, from the existence of limits. It lives off the setting and leaving one’s own identity. Lorenzen 1994, 21, 205-219
Through the ability of differentiation and elimination the metal phase gives us clarity and order, rewarding us with orientation and security. Lorenzen 1994, 21, 205-219
Just like a farmer who in autumn sorts the fruits of his work and only brings the good, the useful into the barn, leaving the other out on the field. If this can not happen due to a weakness in metal, a person is blocked in his ability to learn, to gain experience, to deal with the environment and develop further through intensive involvement. Lorenzen 1994, 21, 205-219
Just as autumn takes over late summer’s ripe fruits and brings them into the barn for winter, the metal phase receives from the earth phase that what has ripened and has been worked through, but also the useless to be sorted out and discarded. The treasures of life, however, are stored in the treasury of our self-image, our identity, and consequently will move on to the water phase, serving us as a basis for future existence, unfolding in the wood phase. Lorenzen 1994, 21, 205-219
The phase element wood is tamed and channeled through the phase element metal. Only a harmonious interplay between both aspects, between expansion and collection, between chaos and order, between initial act and re-action, leads to truly creative power, to the development life itself. Lorenzen 1994, 217
Functional Circuits and Pulse Quality
Two functional circuits are assigned to the phase element metal: Lung (LU) and Large Intenstine (LI).
Functional Circuit Large Intestine (Meridian)
The large intestine is responsible for free passage. Change and transformation are coming from it! Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 8
What a tremendous duty for the large intestine! While heralding the teachings of the right path, the large intestine carries along residual waste. The passing and elimination of waste goes beyond substance: emotions, thoughts, relationships are also changing and must go their natural way. They, too, must be discarded if they have become worthless for us. Lorenzen 1994, 47-49, 332
Only if man properly digests influences and eliminates useless parts, change and transformation can happen! This function of the large intestine is expressed in the binomial Bian Hua:
Bian: refers to a change along a line, a spatial motion while an item is modified quantitatively[. …]
Hua: refers to change that results in a qualitative transformation[. …] The now worthless is excreted through the rectum and loses its relationship with the organism. Lorenzen 1994, 47-49, 332
As the yang aspect of the metal element, the large intestine has also something to do with our paternal power, with authority and dignity, with honor and disgrace. The teaching of these values is closely connected with male role models and father figures. Within the trigrams of the I Ching we encounter it in qian = the creative, as paternal power. Lorenzen 1994, 47-49, 332
Just like lung and skin, the large intestine is a functional circuit that belongs to the phase element metal and forms a boundary layer between interior and exterior. It is also a place of confrontation to engage with invading pathogenic factors of any kind, penetrating from the exterior. Lorenzen 1994, 47-49, 332
The Nei Jing [Huangdi Neijing] describes the large intestine as the officer who is in charge of the drainage of dregs and who is responsible for the transportation and transforming of the residues of the body. The large intestine is the collector of what is unusable and when it has gathered together these wastes, it then lets go of them and sends them out of the body to be composted into the earth again. […] Without letting go of our rubbish, we are unable to be fertilized in the way that is necessary to create new growth. When we are locked into old beliefs this meridian helps us to let go so we can see new possibilities and move on. Kaatz 2005, 415
Functional Circuit Lung (Lung Meridian)
Our lungs are our largest contact organ (skin surface: 1.5 to 2 m² vs. 80-120 m² surface of the alveoli). They border us from our environment and simultaneously allow constant communication. With every inhale we open ourselves to take in non-self, and with every exhale we give our self to the environment.
Our ability to breathe is the practical implementation of the Dui [trigram] principle: releasing and receiving.
The lung has the office of State Minister and Chancellor. It is the source of orderly rhythm. Huangdi Neijing Suwen, Chap. 8
It is the lungs which receive the Qi of heaven and distribute its rhythmic impulses throughout the body. Lorenzen 1994, 24
The lung is the main place of exchange. It is in the lungs where the clear energy of heaven, Qing Qi, is absorbed and the turbid energy of man, Zhuo Qi, is excreted. This is done by means of rhythmic breathing. Lorenzen 1994, 37
Quite in contrast for example the opening movement of the lungs, phase element metal: the nose opens inwardly, making us perceive sensations, subtle impulses, that often enough touch us very deeply. Lorenzen 1994, 217
Just as life itself, the lungs are determined by their ability to absorb and release. To excrete what is useless and to keep what is valuable […] can only be done because there is a boundary.
This boundary – the moment of change – harbors the greatest potential, the largest force. In that sense, perceiving boundaries, detachment and isolation as an existential crisis,
bears the greatest potential for the development of man. Always providing that he is – through a well balanced phase element metal – able to learn his lessons and obtain experiences, and thus increase his phase element water. Lorenzen 1994, 221
For Tun Wei (regency), however, the heart-[meridian] Emperor needs the executive lung-[meridian] Minister. The heart controls the lungs through the Ke-cycle, both functional circuits are closely linked. Both organs are located in privileged location within the body, within the celestial realm of the upper burner. The lungs dominate Qi, the heart rules the blood; Qi follows blood just like a shadow follows a body. Lorenzen 1994, 39
The lungs are responsible for distribution and descending. Lorenzen 1994, 286
The lungs are said to be the receivers of heavenly Qi drawing in the inspiration of heaven itself. […] By breathing in, we take in a penetration of vital energy. This inspires each breath providing us with guidance for life. […] When life is filled with this vibrant energy we are inspired by what is around us and able to feel a depth of wisdom within ourselves. Our lives can then be guided by the infinite Tao. Kaatz 2005, 401
Pulse Quality Metal
The pulse quality that is associated with phase element metal is
Fu Mai, the pulse that is hairy: superficial, late, short.
The Fu Mai is a Yang-pulse. It is a pulse that feels strong when lifting (the finger), but weak when pressing firmly. It is even and moves like a gentle breeze that lifts the back feathers of a bird. Extremely lightweight and superficial as the seed of an elm tree or a piece of wood at the water surface. Just as if you rolled an onion skin between your fingers. By its nature Fu Mai may seem weak, but it is clearly palpable and superficial. Bin Hu, cited after Lorenzen 1994, 155-156
In autumn the pulse is hairy (Mao Mai) because it corresponds to the lung, the Western region and the metal phase. It is the time when everything comes to an end. In autumn all flowers and leaves of plants and trees fall down. Only branches remain. They resemble fine hair. Therefore, the pulse is weak (in autumn), lightweight and superficial. It is called Mao (Mai). Nan Jing Chap. 15, cited after Lorenzen 1994, 155-156