, Research Paper
The Ancient Art of Feng Shui
The History of Feng Shui
Feng Shui has been practiced in China for thousands of years and is believed to have started in 2953 B.C. when Hu of Hsia found a tortoise that had a perfect “magic square” on its back. From this discovery evolved the I Ching, the oldest book in Chinese history, and possibly the world (Webster 1). This book contains the first written instructions on the theory of Feng Shui. Feng Shui was seen as a sacred power, so much so that in ancient China, only the privileged class had access to the knowledge. There are even stories of members of the Imperial family who went out of their way to obscure the texts in order to prevent those who might be a threat to them from obtaining the sacred knowledge. The first Ming emperor even ordered that the country be flooded with books containing misleading theories and incorrect guidelines on Feng Shui (Too 2). When Chiang Kai Shek fled the mainland he took thousands of books on Feng Shui with him to Taiwan and used its principles in building a regime there. From there it traveled to Hong Kong and eventually to the Western World through Marco Polo (Cassidy). Modern Feng Shui is based on the commentaries from Wang Chi and other scholars from the Sung dynasty, 1126-960 B.C. (Webster 3).
What is Feng Shui?
Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art of living in harmony with nature and your surroundings, in order to maximize your health, prosperity and luck. It literally translates as “wind and water” and it involves the placement of buildings in relation to their surroundings, and the placement of furniture within the building in order to maximize the ch’i, the original energy source on the earth, from which everything else was created (Webster 4). As the dragon is seen as the most revered celestial creature of Chinese philosophy, ch’i has been called the breath of the dragon. Ch’i is an invisible energy that circulates throughout the world but also gathers in certain areas. The basic idea of Feng Shui is to harness as much ch’i as possible by allowing it to gather where you are, whether it is in your home or in your office. Ch’i is the life force that is all living things, and can be found, in its perfection wherever things are done perfectly. An artist who creates a masterpiece is creating ch’i. Through Feng Shui, we are looking for places where ch’i is accumulated or where it is formed. For example, ch’i is scattered by strong winds, so a windy location is not a good source of ch’i. However, ch’i is bound by water, so a location near water is full of the accumulated life force. According to Feng Shui mythology, the first time that ch’i moved it created yang, the male principle, and when it rested, it created yin, the female principle. After these very important creations ch’i then created the rest of the universe. The theory of the yin and the yang are of vital importance to Feng Shui (Webster 6).
Yin and Yang
Yin and yang are the two opposing energies involved with Feng Shui and neither one can survive without the other. In fact nothing is completely yin or completely yang, everything is a combination of both energies. This is illustrated is the popular yin yang symbol in which a small circle of black is located in the large white shape and a small white circle is inside the black (Feng Shui Society). This symbol is called the Taichi symbol of completeness due to its perfect balance of the yin and the yang. Together, yin and yang make up Tao, the way. The entire universe is made up of yin and yang energies constantly interacting with each other, and perfect harmony is established through a perfect balance. Since ch’i is the life force and it created the yin and yang, neither yin nor yang can be evil or good. They just are (Webster 7). It is only when you have an unbalanced amount of the two that your ch’i become negatively affected. According to Feng Shui, mountains, hills and other raised areas (even tall buildings) represent yang energy, while valleys, rivers and streams represent yin energy. As a result, earth that is completely flat is said to contain too much yin, and a hilly area with no water or plants contains too much yang energy, both would produce bad ch’i. A gently rolling countryside with a slow flowing stream would represent a good balance of yin and yang. Lillian Too goes so far as to say that the most important rule of Feng Shui when choosing land is “mountain behind water in front” (15). There are two schools of Feng Shui, the Compass School and the Form School.
Through the development of Feng Shui, some scholars believed that the aspects of Chinese astrology should be incorporated with the basic principles. The Compass School was developed after the Sung dynasty and took into account personal information regarding your astrological sign in order to find the location that will optimize your ch’i (Too 28). These scholars used the tortoise shell that inspired Wu of Hsia to create the pa-kua symbol. This symbol showed all 8 possible combinations of yin and yang. From this symbol they devised a compass that showed where each symbol (i.e. the person who represents that symbol) should be located in the home in order for them to be the most productive, healthy and prosperous.
A person’s individual symbol is determined by his or her year of birth. A person born in 1979 is a Chen and, according to the compass should be in the east side of the house, as the Chinese compass has south at its top. From your pa-kua symbol you can then see what element you represent. The five elements are Fire, Earth, Wood, Metal and Water. After determining your element, you then are told which materials you should surround yourself with (Webster 18).
The form school of Feng Shui focuses mainly on the location of the building in the environment. According to the Form school there are three different types of hills. The first type are Black Turtle hills which are mountains. Ideally, these should be in the back of the house on the north side. Green Dragon hills, named for the steep inclines which resemble a curling dragon hump, should be on the left of the house in the east. White Tiger hills are shorter and more rounded than Dragon hills and, according to the Form School, should be located on the right or west of the house. These hills prevent the ch’i from flowing away from the dwelling. Finally, a Red Phoenix foot stool should ideally be located in front of the house on the south side. This is a very small rolling hill or mound with a river hugging the Phoenix hill in order to maintain a constant flow of ch’i into the house (Too 14). Your house should be nestled amongst large hills behind and to the side and fairly open in the front, a site resembling an armchair, which represents a life of comfort. This configuration is the perfect situation according to the Form School. It is seen as so auspicious that rich Chinese tycoons will actually redesign the contours of the land in order to place the family mansion in an ideal location according to Feng Shui (Webster 32).
The Practice of Feng Shui
A certain amount of mystery surrounds the practice of Feng Shui. Understanding its many principles requires an acceptance of some fundamental Chinese theories about the Universe. These theories often seem strange of out of date to many modern day thinkers as to how the world works. This is why Feng Shui has taken so long to become popular in the Western World. Feng Shui is practiced even today. Upon the Chinese retaking Hong Kong in 1997, the Chinese governor refused to move from his house into either the colonial Governor’s mansion or the Governor’s office because he believed that they both had bad ch’i, and he would not live or work anywhere that was not checked and approved by his Feng Shui master in order to ensure that he would be prosperous in his new post (Cassidy). “The key to Feng Shui is balance; coordinating time, placement, space and energy to the maximum effect, based on the interplay between people and their universe” (Feng Shui Innovations).
Although it is one of the oldest known disciplines, Feng Shui is relevant today, combining a sense of design and environment that brings prosperity, health and success to business environments and residential, family dwellings. It is the art of placement, a science and a philosophy that was meant to bring harmony through the observance of our environments and how the balance of the energies created can affect all the aspects of our lives. “All we do is connected to Mother Earth and Ch’i, the Natural Order or Energy which permeates the universe” (Feng Shui Innovations). Within the past ten years there has been an amazing amount of interest in this science in the western world as people, for various reasons, look for answers, and search for a way to be in harmony with the world. An ancient Chinese saying lists the five basic principles of successful living: “First comes destiny, and then comes luck. Third comes Feng Shui, and with that comes philanthropy and education” (Webster 33).
Cassidy, William L. “www.qi-whiz.com”.
Feng Shui Innovations. “www.fengshui-innovations.com”.
Feng Shui Society. “www.fengshuisociety.org.uk/”.
Too, Lillian. Basic Feng Shui. Oriental Publications, Australia:1997.
Webster, Daniel. Feng Shui for Beginners. Llewellyn Publication, St.
Xing, Wu. The Feng Shui Workbook. Tuttle Pub., Boston:1998.