“Practical Applications of Ancient Classics”
This description of the kingdom of China and its surrounding regions is likely derived from an even earlier geographical source that contains similar passages – the 山海经 Shāhǎijīng ‘Pathways of the Mountains and Seas’ dating from around the 4th century B.C.E. The lines describe a classic nine square grid system that maps the lands. Together with the accompanying lines the verse could be pictorially represented as shown here2.
The ‘Middle Kingdom’ is located in the south-eastern division of the central region (itself divided into nine smaller provinces), the grandfather of all mountains and the mythical centre of the earth, 昆仑 Kūnlún mountain, is therefore to the north-west. A possible modern interpretation of this is also diagrammatically represented below.
Beyond the central divisions, the distant regions and the surrounding seas, lie the expanses. The south of which is particularly interesting in that it is called Duguang but also referred to as the land of ‘Reversed Doors’. The suggestion here is that Duguang the Southern Expanse is below the equator, therefore the people face their doors in a northerly direction (the opposite of the traditional Chinese south facing dwelling) to catch the sun.
It is important to note here that while at face value this may appear to be support of the ‘Southern Hemisphere Considerations’ school of thought, deeper analysis proves otherwise. This is so for a number of reasons –
Firstly this clearly show the Chinese had knowledge of ‘differences’ south of the equator at a very early stage in the cultural development – the Han dynasty, also known as their ‘golden age’ of philosophical thought. It is not known if they had already journeyed so far at this stage in history, but likely, considering the detail of their descriptions of the populations, topography, flora and fauna (no matter how fantastical in interpretation at times) in these ancient guidebooks. With this knowledge in place, there are no records of any attempts made throughout China’s long history to reconcile any changes to the compass, calendar or elements, trigrams, stems and branches.
Secondly, without doubt they had travelled well below the 00 parallel by the time of the 14th Century C.E. The voyages of the great explorer 郑和 Zhèng Hé took Chinese in vast numbers throughout South Asia, Middle East and even the eastern coast of Africa. Still there is no evidence that theories too account for supposed ‘opposite phenomena’ were proposed, nor buildings erected there in such a manner to support this.
Finally this information about the changes of the southern regions was unquestionably in the hands of the Fengshui masters. The most famous commentator and editor of the most popular edition of the aforementioned Shanhaijing ‘Pathways of the Mountains and Seas’ was none other than the grandfather of Fengshui himself 郭璞 Guō Pú. The author of the original Fengshui classic the 葬书 Zàngshū ‘Book of Burial’, himself made no suggestion of any alterations needed for the practice of Fengshui in the Southern Expanses.
With all this evidence of prior knowledge it is hard to believe the Fengshui masters of antiquity, who much like the masters of today, prided themselves on exploring new theories and promoting greater understanding of the art, didn’t have the wisdom to make corrections for the Southern Hemisphere. Are we to believe it took not the combined minds of thousands of years but some self-proclaimed experts from the last decade or two to work this out? This does lead to one last point though, and that is of orienting to the sun. It surely does make sense to face north in the southern hemisphere to attract the most warmth of the sun, as much as it does to face south in the northern hemisphere. On this point many modern practitioners agree, not all southerly directions are automatically auspicious according to the compass school. It is therefore a requirement of form to face the sun and need not have us alter the compass or calendar in any way to match.