Understanding Feng Shui

It’s not about furniture or props, it’s about a lifestyle. It’s not a superstition or an esoteric practice, but a widespread understanding based on empirical, practical evidence. Feng shui is about colors, yin and yang, qi, and all the elements that are implicitly embedded in every other form of Chinese Medicine and theory. It hinges on the belief that individuals must actively pursue their happiness and good fortune (Knapp, 1999). In essence, Feng Shui is about harnessing qi in the environment and maximizing its potential(Yap, 2003).

It all about qi.
Much like how qi flows through the body according to meridians, qi also flows through homes and the environment seeking balance(Anderson, 1996). While qi is neither visible nor tangible, masters have learned to identify settings with optimal qi. These ideas are explained in terms of energy, but they actually follow scientific philosophies as well.

For example, principles of the Form School of Feng Shui advise to build a home on the slope of a hill, but not on the zenith or under a cliff; the top of the hill is too yang and under the cliff is too yin. However, this makes practical sense in Western terms as well, because the zenith gets to much sun, creating excess is heat, and is also prone to intense winds. Living under a cliff is very dark, and consequently gloomy, and is also prone to flooding. Therefore, living on the slope of hill is the perfect balance of yin and yang, and logically out of the way of natural disasters(Kohn, 2004). This state of harmony is a goal of Feng Shui and essential for individuals to be at peace. Walters argues that man cannot be content without living in harmony(Walters, 1989).

Anderson found another form of this harmony across villages in China surrounded by trees. “I learned that villages protected the groves of tress that ringed them, because trees attract good influences and also provide shade, firewood, fruit, leaf mold, timber, and other goods,” says Anderson. (Anderson, 1996) Asserting that a “good” site looks like a womb, logic is also served, in that the benefits of trees as listed above serve a community well. As interpreted by Rossbach and Yun, an old Chinese proverb describes the perfect place to live: “The water is clear, the trees are lush, the wind is mild, and the sun is bright.” (Rossbach, Yun, 1994)

The concept of finding a natural area with balanced harmony originally derived from finding ideal locations for graves, as a means to control ancestral spirit. (Kohn, 2004) By strategically placing the graves, the souls would find themselves under the same good influences of nature. (Walters, 1989) According to Fang who studies Chinese thought, “Nature is that infinite realm where in the universal flux of life is revealing itself and fulfilling everything with its intrinsic worth.” (Fang, 1980) Thus Feng Shui is at the heart of the basic Chinese understanding of the world.

Schools of Feng Shui.
As time progressed, Feng Shui began to embody the indoors as well as the outdoors. Thus emerged three schools of study: The Form School, The Compass School, and The Tantric School.
The Form School focuses on the outdoors. It is this school that looks at the mountains and the water and assesses the optimal location to live or build a structure. The Compass School takes into account individual’s date of birth to appropriate auspicious and inauspicious directions. Finally, The Tantric School focuses on buildings’ interior, with emphasis on the Bagua.

The Bagua is a theoretical octagon, with each side representing a different quality: career, knowledge, family & health, wealth, fame, marriage & relationships, children, and helpful people. Career is the base of the Bagua and the others follow clockwise. This octagon is placed over the house and over each room, and treatments based on props and color are matched in each respective area, as a means to develop optimal benefits. (Kohn, 2004) The rest of this paper will focus on The Tantric School, as it is the most widely adopted practice.

Chinese theory and Feng Shui.
Based on The Five Elements and Color Theory alive in Chinese thought, and Feng Shui adapts these principles. First, the five elements correspond to colors; fire is red, earth is yellow, wood is green, metal is white, and water is black. As applied to the home, white is an excellent color for a kitchen, as it is compatible with fire, the kitchen’s basic element. Likewise, green, the color of wood and spring, is good for children, as it makes them feel alive. (Rossbach, Yun, 1994)

The Bagua adapts the whole color spectrum to the five elements, adding Wind, Mountain, and Heaven as well. (See picture)

Color has the inherent power to affect our qi and by placing the appropriate color in the corresponding area of a room, individuals can enhance fortune in that particular area. (Rossbach, Yun, 1994) However, Zamir warns to be weary of Symbolism Feng Shui. Zamir reasons that this form of Feng Shui has achieved a massive appeal as it is a quick fix and appealing to a western culture that perpetuates instant gratification. Symbolism is part of the total Feng Shui practice, but cannot be isolated and expected to achieve miracles(Zamir, 2004).

Nonetheless, Rossbach and Yun argue that color has the power to affect our moods and our mind, improve our effectiveness at work and in society, and foster a better state of physical and mental health. In fact, color is one of the basic remedies in Feng Shui, which is discussed later(Rossbach, Yun, 1994).

Others have even adapted color theory to the Feng Shui of food, suggesting a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables be present at each meal as a means of creating balance(Jacobson, 2004).

Inside the home.
The Feng Shui of the bedroom has received a lot of specific attention, as it is an identity room of individuals. In the bedroom, the most import thing is the bed. It is optimal to be against a solid wall, and should definitely not be aligned between two doors or under a beam. Romance images, such as pictures of birds or happy couples, are recommended for the bedroom as well. Water images above the bed should be avoided, as they suggest drowning in your sleep. (Yap, 2004)

Artwork placed according to the Bagua throughout the home is another excellent way to harness qi. The East and South East directions are in conjunction with the wood element and naturalistic art is best, including pictures of landscapes, gardens, dragons, snakes, and rabbits. Vertical stripes, greens and blues, and wood or cotton fabrics are all beneficial.

The North should feature water elements, including waterfalls, rushing rivers, lakes, beaches, and rain. In addition, blues and blacks, blue flowers, and metal frames.

The North East, South West, and the Center are optimized by the earth element. These areas benefit from depictions of tigers, oxen, monkeys, rams, and mountains. Earth tones are suggested for the d�©cor, such as beige, salmon, pastels, brown, yellow, and rust.

The South is the fire element and decoration should reflect this. This area is enhanced by candles, a fireplace, and pictures of campfires or fireworks. Pictures of happy people, dancers, actors, and the sun and the moon, displayed in wood frames, all enhance this area. Hot colors of pink, purple, and red should also be displayed.

Finally, the West and North West, the metal element, should display items linked to hefty, man-made objects, such as buildings, architecture, automobiles, and transportation. Beneficial animals include the rooster, pig, and dog, and beneficial colors include white, gray, silver, and gold.

In general, abstracts with sharp edges and points should be avoided, as should depictions of disastrous events. Mountains are good to be displayed over a desk, as they denote extra support, and single men should not display too much masculine art and single women should be cautious of too much feminine art(Griffith, 2003). The logic behind the placement of art follows the same association principles as the color theory; color evokes emotion and so do images.

Throughout the home, there are two types of qi that affect its harmony; shaqi and siqi. Shaqi is fast moving qi that whisk away good fortune. Examples of shaqi are a long hallway, a window opposite a door, and a staircase that rises straight up from the front door. The structural issues can be remedied though. Screens, plants, and curtains all slow down this quick, rushing energy.

The opposite of shaqi, is siqi. Siqi is translated as dead qi. It is found in clutter and excess and prevents energy from circulating. (Kohn, 2004) This type of bad qi is easy to remedy, as all it requires is cleaning up and getting rid of unnecessary objects.

Wherever there is negative qi or an unfavorable arrangement of furniture, windows, doors, etc. there is also a remedy. In Feng Shui there are eight categories of remedies:

1. Light- adding light to imbalanced areas through mirrors, reflective surfaces, or extra lighting.
2. Sound- use chimes, bells, metal mobiles, and bamboo tubes to disturb stagnant qi and to attract lucky qi.
3. Color- red and black stimulate the flow of qi.
4. Life- plants work well to fill areas without qi, and animals encourage positive qi as well. Fish in particular symbolize wealth.
5. Movement- flags, silk banners, ribbons, wind chimes, and weather vanes are advised.
6. Stillness- for when qi is moving too fast, statues and rocks help slow it down.
7. Straight Lines- swords, bamboo tubes, scrolls, flutes, and fans are useful.
8. Mechanical and Electrical- this type of equipment can stimulate qi, but sometimes too much, so it should be used with caution (Feng Shui Remedies).

In conclusion
Some people describe Feng Shui as an art, others a science, and some call it a practice. It is easy to justify any of these definitions, but in doing so they would all boil down to assessing the flow of qi and using it to one’s advantage. Objects, food, the outdoors, and colors all factor into Feng Shui, and the more we understand how these facets work together, the easier it will be to lead a balanced life that fosters good fortune.

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