The Five Arts Of Chinese Metaphysics

When the topic of Chinese metaphysics is discussed, people often talk about feng shui, face reading, bazi, and maybe palmistry.

But these are actually just branches that are attached to the bulk of Chinese metaphysics, which is called the five arts (五術).

It can also be called ming bo xiang yi shan (命卜相醫山) which can serve as an acronym to the 5 arts and literally translates to destiny, divination, physiognomy, medicine, mountain.

It should be clear that the 5 arts consist of:

  1. Destiny study (命學)
  2. Divination techniques (卜筮)
  3. Physiognomy study (相學)
  4. Medical study (醫學)
  5. Spirituality (仙學)

The range of knowledge is so wide that It is near impossible for any one person to be an expert in all 5 areas of study. It would even take most people a life time to get close to mastering just one art.


Destiny research and analysis have been practiced through Chinese history, especially by royalty and the elite.

A person’s destiny for example, can be mapped based on his or her birth data. And this can be used to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.

Or it can be simply be used to see whether someone might be a benefactor or enemy.

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The most common astrology concepts that are practiced today for destiny readings are bazi (八字) and purple star astrology (紫微斗數). And to a lesser extent, the heaven star technique (天星).


Divination is a practice used to predict outcomes of events.

It can also be used when someone is seeking guidance on what to do.

Qi men dun jia (奇門遁甲) for example, is a divination method that was often used for strategic military decisions. Da liu ren (大六壬) and Taiyi shen shu (太乙) are the two other divination arts that are highly revered by the Chinese, with the former often said to be the highest level of divination study.

The I-Ching is also commonly used when a person is seeking answers to life questions.


Physiognomy is the study of body aspects that tell an observer about an individual.

This garners the most interest as it consist of the art of face reading, palm reading, and astronomy.

New students of Chinese metaphysics are also often surprised to find that feng shui falls under this category.

Feng shui can be described as something like face reading a house or place of residence.


This category consist of the studies on the human body.

A lot of concepts and theories are based around the balance of yin and yang. Including chi and how it interacts and moves about in the human body.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based around these concepts. So is acupuncture.

Research and studies are also strongly linked with the bagua, I-Ching, and the relationship between the 5 elements.


Although the word used to label this art is shan (山) which means mountain, the concepts around it are about intangible forces like manifestation, zen, spirituality, rituals, magic, and even the casting of spells.

The focus is not on harming people or raise evil, but mostly to call for happiness, longevity, and wealth.

Most, if not all, martial arts that originate from China have a strong focus on this aspect as it is strongly believe that the first step to being a conqueror is to conquer oneself first.

As a whole, the 5 arts is like an oriental version of the theory of everything.

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