When Chinese people go shopping, they often say “mai dongxi”, which literally means “to buy east and west”, but nobody would say “mai nanbei”(buy south and north). In China, the five elements are metal, wood, water, fire and earth, which are combined with five directions: east, west, south, north and the center. The east belongs to the wood, and the west to the metal. Wood and metal can be put in the basket and be bought. But fire and water can never be put in the basket. So that’s why we can say to buy east and west, but not to buy south and north. Also there is another saying that goes, in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220A.D.), most merchants were concentrated in the east capital and the east capital. The saying “to buy east” and “to buy west” actually meant to go to the east and west capitals to do shopping. With the passage of time, the term “dongxi” became a synonym for commodities, and the phrase “mai dongxi” came into use ever since.