At the basis of all sciences and arts created in the broad sense of China, there are just a few basic theoretical concepts, such as the dao (tao), yin yang, the five elements, the eight ba gua or the qi (chi) energy. These concepts are not only common for sometimes very different fields, but also significantly affect other areas of culture by creating a mega region which remains under the influence of the country once called the Middle Kingdom. Writing therefore, for any field relating to China, we move well beyond the areas designated on the political map of the world. This is also worth remembering when we discuss issues related to Feng Shui, especially because that is the name of the science closest to the European geomancy.
The origins of Feng Shui date back to distant antiquity, which unfortunately does not facilitate easy research. Due to the quantity and quality of interpretation accrued over five thousand years and because it is difficult to separate the simple truth from free variations on this and related topics, the trouble navigating the area defined by Chinese geomancy may discourage many. Then of course we must add the fact that this very science has been hidden almost from the very beginning, in a variety of ways, including the false concepts created to deliberately deceive.
Even in relation to the very name of Feng Shui, there are some misunderstandings. Usually practitioners are talking about wind and water, while the old texts tend to interpret “feng” as meaning the direction and “shui” as water. Thus Chinese geomancy is about the direction (or directions) of water which flow, or are located near our homes. So the name of this original Chinese science shows us the place of it in a group of various sciences and arts which are similar or are related to dowsing.
The second important feature of Feng Shui (which is rarely mentioned) is the fact that this system was created primarily in order to bury dead ancestors and only later found use in establishing cities and organizing houses. The cemetery version of Feng Shui is called yin domain and the version ‘for living’ domain is yang. Thus, at the root of the classical understanding of Feng Shui is the belief that people living in a given historical moment are a continuation of the ‘family’ energy; the quality of which depends not only on the present, but also from the near and distant past. This is the point from which arose the cult of the ancestors in China, (primarily male ancestors) and the belief in the influence on the present from the previous generations.
Feng Shui has never been and still is not, a speculative science. However like all sciences, it is based on the observation of nature or the proximal and distal human environment. We can find in it a typical Taoist approach, in which the only way to verify the claims is to find their manifestation in nature, which is everyday life, because it belongs to nature. Therefore we must strongly emphasize that authentic Chinese Feng Shui does not depend on intuition, magical abilities or any other paranormal. Feng Shui, like any self-respecting science, has its initial assumptions, characteristics of the research tools, faculty and global organizations.
The basic tool of Feng Shui is a compass or luo pan, which can be called an ancient computer providing various pieces of information related to the study of place; regardless of whether this place is for the construction of a tomb, a city hall or a multi-family building.
Chinese geomancy is older than we know and was widely used before the invention of any compass. However it can be said that the achievements of Feng Shui are greater in terms of reliable, comprehensive, and above all true analysis of a site because of the lo pan. Here you see a modern, not very complicated, version of the 11 rings San He compass. The signature on it was made by late Grand Master Yap Cheng Hai in 2001.
Data collection (the same as collecting data in any field, including medical diagnostics) is a real challenge because if the data is more accurate, then the consultation is more efficient.
The data must relate to the three main areas of Feng Shui, which are HEAVEN, EARTH and MAN. The Heaven data is concerned with the influence of the celestial heaven on the buildings that we study. The technique which allows the data to be collected is called Xuan Kong, or Wandering Star (not Flying Star as only airplanes, kites or balloons fly, never the Sun or other stars) and enables the practitioner to create a ‘birth chart’ of a building for the purpose of suggesting changes.
According to classical Chinese Feng Shui, it is not possible to do the analysis of a building without the use of the compass, just as we cannot do anything without preparing the birth chart of any situation. We know that the moment of birth for a man is his only constant feature, never being subject to change and the one constant data we can rely on in any kind of calculations.
Unfortunately the knowledge that every house and every place has its own birth chart is no longer common knowledge. In Feng Shui, sublime celestial impact analysis takes the form of numerology analyzes because the influence of Heaven is encoded in numbers. This analysis is called the ‘time aspect’ of Feng Shui and for a clever consultant it provides a very efficient access to various solutions.
Here I present an example of a birth chart of a building which was built in Period 7 (1984 to 2003) and is facing the first or second sub sector of East.
The data relating to the Earth includes the kind of vegetation in the area, the geographical directions and of course the geographical orientation of the building or pavilion. The geographical directions can be approached from the perspective of the overall details. In the most general terms we can look at the front of a house or plot of land via a larger 180 degree perspective and then we can also look at it in a more detailed perspective or micro sector of 1 degree. It all depends on which of the techniques on the compass we apply. Very often the effectiveness of the actions of the Feng Shui sien sheng or Feng Shui practitioner depends on the degree of detailed techniques that he or she utilizes for the project.
Human data are the values associated with each of us and are not subject to change. According to Chinese sources, this data is the moment of our birth and our gender. Based on these sets of data we can calculate which one of nine trigrams or magic squares somebody belongs to, which in turn defines the favorable and unfavorable directions for each of us and the hierarchy of these directions. Furthermore belonging to one of the signs of the Chinese zodiac can also give us information about unfavorable places when we plan to build a home. I should also mention that the aforementioned magic square provides the basis on which are developed many of the techniques of detailed Feng Shui, which are a common tool to many cultures and gives Feng Shui greater prominence.
Without solid data the Feng Shui expert does not have a leg to stand. No one who practices authentic Feng Shui is should give any advice if there is not a sound theory standing behind it, which is described and supported in classical textbooks.
The popularity of the so-called ‘intuitive approach’ in Feng Shui is one big hoax, behind of which is hidden ignorance. Even hundreds of books and thousands of articles written for the glory of intuitive Feng Shui (which are readily available), cannot change the vision of true Chinese geomancy. Can anyone with full credibility intuitively determine which planets act on the analyzed space (Heaven data), whether the data of entry to the building is south or north (Earth data), or what zodiac sign and element a man is using in an apartment or an office (Human data)?
Extending the Feng Shui consultation to include the use of a pendulum or divining rod, to tell us whether we can apply the remedy or not, may have some meaning in other sciences, but not in the practice of authentic Feng Shui. If we want to talk about intuition in Chinese geomancy, then surely we can only do so if we accept that it plays a role in other sciences such as mathematics, physics and geography, which clearly it does not.
Collecting the data, its analysis and the selection of the most effective methods for improving the environment is an exact science and only in the action of its practice does it take on the characteristics of art. As such the professional Feng Shui expert should confine themselves to upholding the principles of this great Chinese science and leave all the creative work to those other professionals, the architects, interior decorators and landscapers.
For laymen in Feng Shui, collecting data and analyzing it is often difficult and time consuming. However for a skilled expert it is only a matter of reading the appropriate indications on his lo pan, of which the most important are the three rings: EARTH, MAN and HEAVEN. If you look at the Chinese lo pan pictured you will see that the most important ring is the one with 24 sectors, each consisting of 15 degrees. If you look carefully you will notice that there are the same three rings made of 24 sectors. Reading from the center, the first is the Earth ring, next the Human ring and the third one is the Heaven ring.
The way of reading data from the surrounding space is very interesting. On the first 24 sector ring we measure everything that is related to the building we are assessing, on the second ring we measure nearby mountains and on the third ring we measure nearby water. As you can see the Human ring is set 7.5 degrees back from the Earth ring and the Heaven ring is set 7.5 degrees ahead. Old texts say that in relation to the EARTH, the MAN is slower but the Heaven is faster. The rest of the rings on any San He lo pan then show in what geographical direction (in relation to the building we assessing) any natural or artificial objects should be located. There is nothing on a San He lo pan regarding interior arrangement.
Focusing on the three main rings (which are located on each professional lo pan), we approach the core of what Feng Shui is really about, namely assessing and developing the relationship of external objects in the environment with the building itself. Despite some popular beliefs, the interior design of a home is not the most important factor for this science.
Ancient Chinese texts say that a good Feng Shui house or pavilion is primarily determined by the environment and not only by the interior design. If want to express this in proportions then it would be 7:3 in favor of the environment. This means that houses get life energy mostly from the surrounding mountains and rivers and much less from their interior arrangement. The buildings we use are not batteries, which produce good or bad energy. Let no one be surprised that in ancient times Chinese Feng Shui experts were engaged not for doing the arrangement of interior or garden, but only to find the best spot according to their knowledge. In turn the knowledge they represented gave their clients a guarantee of a happy residence, which usually meant prosperity, health, fame and especially important, a male offspring.
Saying that the environment is the most important factor for Feng Shui does not exhaust the list of matters within the responsibility of the interests of this science. Only consultants who are able to benefit from the power of the environment limit all their activities to the relationship of any building with surrounding hills and flowing or standing water. Those who, for one reason or another could not resist happiness of the house on objects in the environment, with a certain resignation focused on inside activities, with the conviction that never will reach maximum results.
Here I present from various sources some important rules concerning the environment and the interior of a building. The proportion between the rules governing the environment and the rules regarding the interior design might give you a lot to think about.
- The plot for construction of a house should be friendly, with fertile vegetation and nice views.
- Mountainous and hilly areas are better than lowland areas, as property takes natural energy from mountains and rivers.
- It is good for the land to be near a flowing watercourse. In Feng Shui there is a different approach to standing water and water which you can measure its flow. Water flow is more important.
- The classic Feng Shui arrangement requires that in front of a house there should be an open space and in the back there should be a mountain, hill, forest or row of tall trees giving support.
- Towards the building for any purpose should not be pointed a ‘poison arrow’, which are the corners of adjacent buildings, the layout of streets in the shape of a T or a single tree etc.
- Arrivals to any building should be meandering and never straight. This effect can be achieved by a meandering form or pattern with the path.
- Regular shapes for buildings are always better than incomplete or weird.
- The same applies to roof slopes and shapes of rooms and furniture. The simplicity and general harmony of a building should be paramount. Feng Shui is not a place for an ideological approach to the principles of shaping space.
- Moderately sharp roofs are preferred over flat roofs. Skylights are less favorable than dormers.
- Better to have a garage in a separate building or outbuilding than within the building. Beware of free-standing garages resembling so-called funeral houses.
- The front of the house or pathways should not be blocked. The ‘Bright Hall area in front of the entrance should encourage the flow of chi energy.
- The front door should be on the front wall of the house. However this does not mean that the front of the house is where the main entrance is located.
- The front door should be significant and clearly labeled. Two doors on one front wall are considered to be unfavorable.
- A house or flat should have an entrance hall. Without the hall it is like a man without a nose.
- From the inside to the front door should not be pointing any ‘poison arrows such as sharp decorative objects.
- The house should be located so that its birth chart will have the best possible arrangement of stars. A special arrangement of stars brings happiness for several generations.
- The most important person (usually the father of the family) should enter the home in one of his four auspicious directions. The rule for calculating these directions belongs to ‘personal’ Feng Shui.
- Arrangement of rooms in a home should be made in accordance with ba zhai or personal Feng Shui.
- The choice of remedies usually depends on the area in which the problem is to be found or on what stars prevail in the room. One should always take into account the birth chart of the home.
- Dates to carry out important matters relating to the various areas of our lives are recognized as important and include signing contracts, setting the kitchen stove and moving in. These should be determined according to the Tong Shu or Chinese Almanac.
The principles of classical Feng Shui have survived more than five thousand years, which in itself must mean that the truth defends itself. The truth derives its credibility from the laws of nature and also from the function of the human-being. The truth, despite some modern and simplified attempts at distortion, still defends itself today and continues to be unchanged.
Only this guarantees us the correct and true continuity of learning and enables us to use Feng Shui for therapeutic purposes. The authentic Feng Shui is not the only method available to help people to be happy, but it is one which provides us with a great opportunity to improve the quality of life of everyone. Probably this intrinsic value of Feng Shui is the most attractive for everyone and not just for those who were born in the Middle Kingdom.