Although the exact origins of five-spice powder are lost to history, there is some thought that the Chinese were attempting to produce a 'wonder powder' encompassing all of the five elements. All of the five flavors - sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty - are found in five-spice powder.
Five-spice powder is a mixture of five spices used primarily in Chinese cuisine but also used in other Asian and Arabic cookery. Add it whenever you want to lend flavor to stir-fries, soups and red-cooked dishes. It works well with meats, and makes an excellent marinade. Just remember to use sparingly - a little goes a long way.