Feng shui (风水) is becoming more and more popular in Western and celebrity culture. With people such as Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Johnny Depp, and Richard Branson as firm believers it is steadily becoming a trendy living concept. With all that hype that surrounds all ancient wisdom’s of non Western culture, that celebrities seem to follow until it gets too mainstream (i.e. kabbalah) is it really just one of those trends or does it have substance to it? Kabbalah is now mainly out of fashion in the celebrity world, but to really sell the beliefs and superstitions of other countries to Americans you have to go more exotic, leading to places like China with thousands of year’s history, and therefore wisdom. There are actually entire websites dedicated to “Feng Shui Tips to Paint a Front Door Facing East” and “Feng Shui Cures for the wrong Placement of a Front Door”. It makes me wonder what the whole idea of feng shui is and how it all started.
Feng shui is the ancient Chinese art and science of locating a sacred place on earth. The literal translation of feng shui is “wind” and “water”, two of the most basic elements of nature. Feng shui is based on the point of view the Chinese employed to make sense of the universe, and it is based on their unique spiritual view of the world.
In nature they sensed chi energy, the breath of life in all things. By recognizing chi in a landscape, they would determine which locations would be safe from danger, provide lush vegetation or harmoniously align with the geomagnetism of the earth. Through this observation Chinese invented the magnetic compass. The philosophy of this balance of nature became the religion of Taoism. The many ways to interpret chi in a landscape are specific to each environment and certain land formations were named after animals. Azure Dragon, white Tiger, red Phoenix and black turtle are exampled of these. Taoist observations reached the conclusion that curved, flowing lines slow chi and bring abundance. Harmonious chi moved in a graceful line, as if following the natural course of a river. Sharp, straight lines bring sha chi or bad chi.
An example of this is the Great Wall of China, first constructed during the Qin Dynasty (221 B. C.-206 B.C.). The massive wall winds through the countryside along the mountain ridges known as “Dragon’s Veins”. The positioning of many ancient buildings in China show the use and importance of feng shui in the construction of them and all capital cities followed the rules of feng shui for their design and layout. Beijing is a great example of a city selected as the capital for its great feng shui. It is surrounded by mountains—one of the most important criteria according to feng shui theory. Beijing is sandwiched between the Xishan and Yanshan mountain ranges to the left and to the right, which apparently symbolizes people throughout China supporting the capital. Translate this criteria to the modern day and it just means pollution being unable to escape. Beijing has been choking on pollution since about mid-January, and authorities seem to be unable to take efficient measures to resolve this issue.
Beijing’s ideal feng shui position. Sandwiched by mountains left and right.
Beijing’s ideal pollution trapping position. Sandwiched between mountains left and right.
One of the fundamental principles of feng shui is Yin and Yang. It represents balance and continuous change. Yin and Yang are dependent opposites, which must always be in balance. The opposites flow in a natural cycle always replacing the other. The concept of duality, the principle that things have two states is the root of Yin and Yang. Interestingly, most other beliefs focus on a kind of duality where one is dominant over the other, the “good” and “bad” principle if you will. The Chinese believe that the equilibrium between the two is the most desirable.
Usually people who believe in feng shui get practitioners to analyze their homes or offices in order to make sure that they obtain good chi and if that is not the case they’re able to change the interior to make sure they obtain the optimum amount of chi. Followers of feng shui believe that it can influence health factors, prosperity and general well-being. They believe the way we arrange things and the colors we use in our lives can affect our relationships and the course our lives take. As mentioned before, one of the key aspects is balance, which is translated into having the perfect place for books, beds, laptops and even bins.
Not so feng shui
Feng shui is related to the premise that we should live with the environment rather than against it, which benefits humans and nature. It is also related to the sensible notion that our lives are affected by our physical and emotional environs. If we surround ourselves with beauty, gentleness, kindness and music, this is going to reflect on us. Similarly if we surround ourselves with symbols of death, contempt and darkness we also corrupt ourselves in the process. Feng shui seems to have become a kind of architectural acupuncture, and so-called feng shui Masters will hire themselves out for hefty sums to celebrities just to tell them which way their doors should face and which room needs red flowers and which room needs blue flowers.
It seems that feng shui is based on rules which are practical but sometimes pretty obvious— “Don’t clutter your room”, “Don’t block the door” and don’t paint your bedroom in super bright colors where you can’t sleep. Most of it is about the balance of chi and optimizing the positive energy you can receive from the environment you surround yourself in, which seems like something that makes sense. If your home or office is balanced and not cluttered it seems that you would be less likely to get distracted and more likely to be relaxed and therefore more efficient at work.
And instead of hiring a feng shui master, you can just have a look at our guide to Feng Shui Your Bedroom!