Classical element

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Many philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements believed to reflect the simplest essential parts and principles of which anything consists or upon which the constitution and fundamental powers of anything are based. Most frequently, classical elements refer to ancient beliefs inspired by natural observation of the phases of matter. Historians trace the evolution of modern theory pertaining to the chemical elements, as well as chemical compounds and mixtures of natural substances to medieval, Islamic and Greek models. Many concepts once thought to be analogous, such as the Chinese Wu Xing, are now understood more figuratively.

Contents

Ancient classic element systems

Babylonian

Greek

Hinduism (Tattva) and
Buddhism (Mahābhūta)

Chinese (Wuxing)

Japanese (Godai)

Tibetan (Bön)

Medieval Alchemy

In classical thought, the four elements Earth, Water, Air, and Fire frequently occur; sometimes including a fifth element or quintessence (after "quint" meaning "fifth") called Aether in ancient Greece.

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