Feng Shui in the Far East Essay
Feng Shui has been practiced in China for centuries. Throughout ancient China,
masters of Feng Shui “were highly respected meteorologists, astronomers, and other
scientists and who were charged with sustaining the good fortune and prosperity of the
royal court. It has been guardedly passed down the generations through very specific
lineages” (Feng Shui Advisors). It was widely practiced in modern-day China until the
Cultural Revolution when Chairman Mao utilized mass force to destroy those with different ideas (Craze 9). It has evolved to be both a science and/or an art, depending on whose opinion is being given or taken. The science comes from the calculations and methodology used to analyze the space/site that one lives or works in. Some consider it an art because there are many aspects to it, and, ultimately, it is up to the person living/working in the space to determine whether it “feels right” for him/her. Chuen states, “It is an analytical system developed, not by one person, but by a centuries-old cumulative tradition based on meticulous observation and experimentation” (8). Feng Shui is also described as an “art of arranging one’s life in accordance with the forces of the universe,” and it “stretches back over at least 7000 years and probably far further” (Chuen 14). Feng Shui literally stands for wind and water: two of the most basic forms of life’s energy. “Without air we die within seconds.” “While we can live weeks without food, without water we soon perish” (Chuen 14).
The I Ching, or “Book of Changes” is an ancient Chinese divination manual and book of wisdom. It is a sacred text that ancestors of ancient China received through their meditative and spiritual practices. Made up of eight trigrams, or gua (kua) and sixty-four hexagrams (combinations of two trigrams) the symbols of the I Ching are known for its oracular qualities (Chuen 24). Each of the eight trigrams, or gua (kua) is associated with an element and a set of specific qualities, polarities, colors, etc. The I Ching, combined with the five elements theory, form the foundation of many Chinese arts, including martial arts, medicine, music, and of course Feng Shui. The I Ching is important to Feng Shui because it contains the “64 hexagrams that are important as they combine the eight house directions with the eight enrichments to arrive at 64 different readings for home arrangements” (Craze 50).
There are many different aspects to Feng Shui, making it very difficult to understand; however, there are a few basic elements of Feng Shui that one can easily understand and incorporate into his/her life. There are three types of Feng Shui. First there is Compass or Lo P’an Feng Shui. “This approach relies heavily on the use of a traditional Feng Shui compass, called a lo p’an’.” “The compass consists of 64 rings,” and is used “to determine whether your house is right’ for you” (Craze 10). The second type is Directional or Pah Kwa Feng Shui. “This type of Feng Shui makes use of the direction your house faces to derive information, as well as dividing the house into eight areas, or enrichmentsthe pah kwa’ (sometimes spelled bagua’)that govern every area of your life, including relationships, family, career, and health” (Craze 11). The third type is Intuitive or Yin Yang Feng Shui. “This school of Feng Shui deals with the way energy flows in and around your home and how you fit in with that energy” (Craze 11).
The purpose of this paper is to explain some basic principles of Feng Shui while showing how the topic is relevant to the geography of Asia. Since there are numerous principles to Feng Shui, I have researched and will explain some of the very basics of it. For example, what ch’i is, the eight remedies, the four compass directions and what they represent, the five elements and what they represent, the eight types of ch’i (cosmic life force/energy) and their effects, the four/five symbolic animals, and how to apply all of this to one’s home. Even within these topics, there are contradicting beliefs and practices, so I will explain it the way it was described by the majority of the people I researched.
I have researched the topic of Feng Shui on the Internet and at the library. I also bought two books about Feng Shui. One is Feng Shui Handbook: how to Create a Healthier Living and Working Environment by Master Lam Kam Chuen. The other book is Feng Shui Made Easy: An introduction to the basics of the ancient art of feng shui by Richard Craze. I watch decorating shows almost every day, and they often contain segments on how to decorate using Feng Shui. In our textbook Dragons and Tigers: A Geography of South, East and Southeast Asia there is a small part dedicated to explaining the basics of Feng Shui. From all of the above sources, I chose to explain the very basics of Feng Shui because, after researching the topic, I found that there are very extensive principles regarding Feng Shui.
I have done my study by going to the library, searching the Internet, watching television shows, reading my textbook (Dragons and Tigers) and I also bought two books
about Feng Shui. I analyzed all of the material I found on Feng Shui, and I presented the problem and findings in this paper. There wasn’t much information at the library, so I went to the bookstore and bought the two books on Feng Shui. I compared and contrasted the information in the two books, and most of it was the same; however, within the two books there are contradictory statements about the number of symbolic animals there are.
I have watched several decorating show in the past few years that presented discussions and basic tutorials on how to arrange one’s home using some fundamental principles of Feng Shui. This past acquaintance with the topic helped me better understand some of the principles of Feng Shui. It also helped me grasp the principles that I was not familiar with before.
I obtained information about Feng Shui from the Internet, and I compared that information with that from the two books I bought. I also found some informative pictures on the Internet that helped explain some of the principles of Feng Shui.
“East Asia has its own geographic tradition'”Feng Shui (Weightman 228). Many important sites and buildings in Asia were designed using the principles of Feng Shui. Some of these buildings/sites include The Heavenly Altar in Beijing, The Taj Mahal, and The Forbidden City. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and The Bank of China are two modern structures designed using Feng Shui principles. “The Hyatt Hotel in Singapore has reported considerable upturn in business since it adapted its building to improve the feng shui” (Craze 55). Many other buildings (and their grounds) in the Far East are designed using Feng Shui principles because Feng Shui is such a large part of their culture. Since Feng Shui originated in Asia, one cannot study the geography of Asia without discovering the ancient art/science of Feng Shui.
Ch’i is the cosmic life force or positive energy that the principles of Feng Shui are based on. “If the energy we receive is stagnant or unhealthy, it will affect us in a detrimental way, and we will suffer from bad luck, loss of money, poor-quality relationships, and ill-health” (Craze 6). We must “correct the flow of energy and make it healthy again” (Craze 6). There are eight remedies that correspond to eight compass directions that are used to correct bad ch’i. They are (1) light (South) which includes mirrors and candles, (2) color (Northeast), (3) sound (Northwest) which includes wind chimes, bells, or any other device that produces some type of sound, (4) life (Southeast) which includes live plants and pets, (5) movement (North) including flags blowing in the wind and flowing water, (6) functional objects (East) like televisions and computers, (7) stillness (West) such as statues and ornaments, and (8) straight lines (Southwest) like scrolls and swords (Craze 12-3). All of these remedies are associated with different “enrichment areas where it functions best” (Craze 14).
The four Compass Directions are very important in Feng Shui. “West is an area of unpredictabilityIt contains warfare and strength, anger, suddenness, and potential violence.” “The ch’i from the west is unpredictable.” “South represents luckfame and fortune, happiness, light, joy, and hopeand the ch’i that comes from the south is invigorating.” “North represents the hidden, mysterious, coldness, sleep, ritual, nurture, and caringand the ch’i from the north is protective and nurturing.” East is an area of “protection, culture, wisdomand represents new growth, kindness, and learningand the ch’i from the east is expansive and mature” (Craze 16-7).
Yin and yang are very important elements in Feng Shui. Yin and yang “shouldn’t be seen as opposites, although they do have certain characteristics that might be taken that way: the yang principle is known as the male principle, whereas the yin is the female. “However, nothing is ever entirely one or the other” (Chuen 30). The Yin and Yang symbol represents harmony and balance. Weightman states, “Yin and yang are two opposing, yet complementary, primordial forces that govern the universe and symbolize harmony” (226). “Nothing is fundamentally Yin or Yang in and of itself” (Chuen 19).
Figure 2 (Feng Shui Advisors, 1999)
In fact, the dark Yin contains a white dot of Yang, and the white Yang contains a dark dot of Yin (Figure 2).
The five elements are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. The last number in the year of a person’s birth dictates which element the person will be represented by. The numbers 0 and 1 are represented by metal, 2 and 3 by water, 4 and 5 by wood, 6 and 7 by fire, and 8 and 9 are represented by earth. For example, if your year of birth were 1973 then you would be water. If your year of birth were 1969 they you would be represented by earth. Each person, depending on what element he/she is represented by, has different characteristics. A person represented by water is known as “the thinker, and loves knowledge and intellectual pursuits, hates to be vulnerable, and should avoid cold.” A person represented by wood is known as “the explorer, and loves to be busy and purposeful, hates to lose, and should avoid windy places.” “The catalyst” is a person represented by metal who “loves to be precise and controlling, hates disorder and clutter, and should avoid dryness.” The earth person is “the diplomat and loves people and to be of use, hates being ignored, and should avoid damp.” A person represented by fire is “the adventurer, and loves change, hates boredom, and should avoid heat” (Craze 27). All elements are connected and can “help or hinder the other elements” (Craze 28).
Figure 1 (Feng Shui Advisors, 1999)
Figure 1 shows how each element is connected. Fire helps earth and hinders metal. Earth helps metal and hinders water. Metal helps water and hinders wood. Water helps wood and hinders fire. Wood helps earth and hinders water (Craze 29).
There are eight types of ch’i and corresponding sha (unhealthy/negative ch’i). Each type of ch’i and sha corresponds to the eight compass directions. To the North is “nurturing ch’i” which in its negative form is “lingering sha which produces feelings of lethargy.” To the Northeast is “flourishing ch’i” or its negative form “stagnating sha which causes poor health.” East represents “growing ch’i” or “overpowering sha that produces feelings of egotism and vanity.” Southeast represents “creative ch’i” or “provoking sha which causes feelings of irritability and headaches.” To the South is “vigorous ch’i” or in its harmful form “accelerating sha which causes feelings of exhaustion.” To the Southwest is “soothing ch’i” or in its unhealthy form “disruptive sha which causes feelings of anger.” To the West is “changeable ch’i” or “dangerous sha” which causes one to act in an impulsive way. Northwest represents “expansive ch’i” or in its negative form “unpredictable sha which causes restlessness” (Craze 33). The eight types of ch’i are important in Feng Shui because, depending on which way one’s from door opens, that type of ch’i will enter one’s home. “If the ch’i has been allowed to stagnate or become blocked, or encouraged to flow too quickly” then it will affect one’s life in every way (Craze 34).
In the two books that I purchased, there are contradictory statements about how many symbolic animals there are. Craze states there are four, and they each represent one of the four compass directions. Chuen, on the other hand, states there are five animals, and “the location of the human being at any moment determines the directions and relationships of the rest of the surrounding world” (38). For example, the person is represented by the snake, which stays “alert, stable, and ready to act in a flashand is protected by the four outlying creatures, but is also able to direct them” (Chuen 39). The phoenix is in front of the person, the tiger is on the right, the dragon on the left, and the tortoise is behind the person (Chuen 38). Each of the animals has different characteristics. The phoenix is a mythical bird that “represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it.” The tiger “is always ready to detect the presence of any threatand also represents the danger of violence within our nature.” The dragon “receives the information gathered by the phoenix, reflects upon it, and makes important decisions” (Chuen 39). The tortoise “is characterized by stability,” and also “provides security, longevity, and freedom from the fear of attack from the rear” (Chuen 38).
When researching the Far East, one will always come across literature about Feng Shui (whether it be the basic or in depth principles). All of the elements that I have mentioned are the basics of Feng Shui. In accordance with these principles, and many more, one can “determine the proper sitting of buildings,” including private homes and office buildings, “and even interior design and placement of furniture” (Weightman 228). For example, if you look out your front door and see something you do not like (a factory, a prison, streetlights, a school, or any other thing that would disrupt the ch’I) then, “depending on your house’s direction, you will need a remedy to counteract any negative energy coming toward you from such locations” (Craze 38-9). While in your home, “nobody should be able to walk behind you without your seeing them, so lots of mirrors are important” (Chuen 62). In the bedroom, “there should be no beams above the bed” (which produces poor health) nor should the bed be directly opposite the door (Chuen 58). There are numerous other examples of how the principles I have mentioned can help determine the placement of your house and the furniture inside; however, there are so many that I could not possibly list them all here. However, if one uses the basic principles that I have written about with common sense, then he/she should be able to begin enhancing their home using Feng Shui.
There are numerous elements of Feng Shui, and one would have to study the art/science for a very long time in order to become an expert. However, with learning a few of the basics, one could begin incorporating Feng Shui into his/her life almost immediately. While doing my research, I came across many contradictions and disagreements between researchers and authors of Feng Shui literature. This was an enormous problem for me because half of what I read said one thing, and half said something different. I believe that the discrepancy may have come when the principles and rules of Feng Shui were translated from Chinese to English. For future study, one could compare all of the different discrepancies, and try to find the original belief or principle.
Chuen, Master L.K. (1996). Feng Shui Handbook: How to Create a Healthier Living and Working Environment. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc.
Craze, R. (1999). Feng Shui Made Easy: An introduction to the basics of the ancient are of feng shui. New York: Godsfield Press.
Feng Shui Advisors. (1999). What is Feng Shui: A brief Feng Shui introduction. Internet Source. Last Modified 03/09/2002. Internet Explorer April 2, 2002. Available: http://www.168fengshui.com/Articles/whatis.htm
Weightman, B. (2002). Dragons and Tigers: A Geography of South, East and Southeast Asia. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc