As said in my Feng Shui glossary, this is the oldest school of feng shui. The first idea is to locate the place of the ground where the energy converges.
The form school is in fact the analysis of everything that can be seen, while the compass school, like the flying stars, focuses on notions that are invisible to our eyes.
Generally speaking, it is a matter of analysing the external environment of a habitat and determining how the four celestial guardians, the Black Tortoise, the White Tiger, the Green Dragon and the Red Phoenix, characterise themselves.
Of course, these animals are symbolic, they are, in real life, represented by mountains, rivers, buildings, roads… They help to determine whether the location of the habitat is suitable or not.
The 4 celest animals
These four animals have their origin in the four constellations of the sky in ancient China. They therefore have a cardinal orientation and a yin or yang meaning.
The red phoenix: small hill in front of the house, which leaves the view clear or also a stretch of water.
It represents the south, the summer, the fire.
It is associated with openness, with the balance of forces.
“what I show, what is seen”
It is a chi yang.
The black tortoise: protective mountain (building) at the back.
It represents the north, winter, water.
It is associated with support, longevity, protection.
“that which is not visible, unconscious”.
It is a chi yin.
The white tiger: top (building) preferably less high or less advanced than the dragon.
It represents the west, autumn, metal.
It is associated with projects, communication, female power.
It is a chi yin.
The green dragon: top (building) preferably higher or more advanced than the tiger.
It represents the East, spring, wood.
It is associated with health, prosperity, dynamism, father strength.
It is a chi yang.
How to use the school of form?
Attention, although the 4 heavenly creatures each correspond to an orientation, we must be less strict when observing the environment of a house: to find the phoenix, we do not look at what is actually south (cardinal orientation) but what is in front. The turtle must support the back, i.e. the rear of the house. The dragon is what is on the left, while the tiger is represented by what is on the right of the house.
Analysing these environmental forms allows us to estimate whether the habitat is protected and supported. In an urban environment, buildings and man-made structures will play the role of “mountains”. Roads, depending on their size, will play the role of rivers or streams. However, they are said to have less powerful, less determining effects than natural elements.
In feng shui, rivers and streets are analysed in the same way. It is therefore the location of the house in relation to the street that will be analysed by the Feng Shui expert.
It is also necessary to look at the surrounding structures: the presence of a dump, a cemetery, a police station, a railway, a barracks, a high tension line, a church… is not particularly favourable with regard to the nature of the chi they emit.
It is also necessary to look at the location of the house in relation to the relief (house on the top of a mountain, on a hillside, etc.) and the shape of the land.
We also look at the shape of the house (or flat) and the rooms: in Feng Shui, we are not fans of round houses, triangular rooms (attics) or roofs that form waves.
Why de we analyse the environment in Feng Shui?
It is a common mistake to “do Feng Shui” based only on the interior characteristics of the house. However, the external environment is the basis of the millennia-old Feng Shui, in the beginning there was only this.
The celestial animals are symbolic, but give a good representation of what is best as an external environment. Why is this so important, we don’t live in the street or in our garden, after all? Well, because the environment will determine the quality of the Chi, the one that will bathe your property, and the one that will enter the house.
In Feng Shui, it is considered that the quality of the Chi influences the quality of life in a place. Thus, even without knowing Feng Shui, with only common sense, one can make the opposite analysis: the quality of life of a district, a village, a city, is a good indicator of the quality of the energy which is there.
Let’s not forget that there is good in everything, and that it is not a question of defining axioms of types: it is more Feng Shui to live in the country than in the city. The city is more yang of course, but maybe that’s exactly what we need to develop a business or study. Again, it is balance that brings harmony.
The school of form: the origins
In his book “The Essentials of Feng Shui”, Raymond Lo explains that the school of form was originally applied to cemetery Feng Shui. The Chinese are convinced that the place where the ancestors are buried must receive the best energies in order to allow the prosperity of future generations. This tradition has developed a great deal of knowledge about the impact of the shape of landscapes, about which natural formations are favourable or not.
The most famous sentence of the Book of Burials clearly defines the type of landscape that can enjoy good Feng Shui: “the energy of the dragon will be dispersed by the wind and will stop at the water’s edge”. The Dragon refers to the mountain, the site must be protected from the wind, behind, in front and on the sides. A mountain range moves for miles, it is the movement of the dragon. But if we want to benefit from this energy, then the dragon must stop: the most favourable sites are therefore those that allow this stop, such as an open space or a watercourse. It is this axiom that explains the positioning of the celestial animals.
This is why the school of form is based on two types of topology: large areas, natural or otherwise, are mountains, while open spaces are water. The dragon is therefore the land between two spaces of water. We find mountains and water, two fundamental notions associated with the school of flying stars.