Feng Shui is an ancient art that studies the environment and its impact on human beings. More concretely, it is a set of methods and techniques that allow to arrange a place in order to harmonize the energy flows.
For several months now, I have been publishing articles in the blog presenting in detail the different fundamental principles defining Feng Shui. Today, I propose to summarize them for you to have an overview. If you are interested in a particular concept, do not hesitate to follow the link to the detailed article to get more information.
Feng Shui, an ancient art
At the very beginning of history, 6000 years ago, people practiced Yin Feng Shui: it did not concern the living but the dead. It was used to find the ideal location for graves and cemeteries. Feng Shui masters did not serve the common man. Only the emperor, the imperial family, the elite and the aristocracy could consult them. It was a secret art, the transmission of which was extremely regulated. Woe betide the Feng Shui master who disobeyed and helped ordinary people, he risked execution! How lucky you are today to have only to contact me to appraise your home 🙂
Little by little, this knowledge, born from numerous observations made by primitive people (habitats protected from floods, violent winds, wild animals, but with easy access to water and food), developed to integrate more abstract notions: the influence of the stars, of orientation, of nature, of temporality… At the same time, the practice of Feng Shui was extended to living spaces.
When the imperial system fell, as a result of the Chinese revolution of 1911, Feng Shui masters found themselves without an employer! They had to renew their clientele, offering their services to businessmen in particular. Unfortunately, with the arrival of Mao and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China (1949), Feng Shui was gradually discouraged and then banned. Considered an esoteric practice, it fled China and many masters found refuge in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and even the United States.
Today, in Asia, Feng Shui (pronounced fong choue) has become part of the daily life of a large number of people. It is freely taught in schools, and is beginning to make a comeback in its country of origin. It has also reached the West, sometimes surrounded by a certain mysticism. To make it accessible, some principles have been oversimplified, which has led to misunderstandings and misleading methodologies that make people believe in miracles. But that’s another story…
Feng Shui has its origins in the principles of the Tao: vital energy, balance between yin and yang, cycles of the 5 elements… Let’s look at them in detail.
The notion of Chi is really at the base of all Feng Shui analysis. It is the vital breath that is at the heart of things and beings, and which is at the origin of all life. When the Feng Shui expert wants to harmonise the energies, what he is really doing is identifying the quality of the Chi, and also the way it circulates in the environment. Chi is in constant motion. It can be influenced by the landscape, but also, within our homes, by the arrangement of furniture or the magnetic orientation of rooms.
As mentioned in my article on Chi, there are mainly 2 types of Chi:
- the “nice” one, which only brings positive energies, the Chi of growth: the sheng chi
- the less nice one, which attacks our senses, the “killer” Chi: the shar chi
But we can add :
- wang chi : the vibrant, prosperous chi
- tui chi : weakening,
- lethargic chi
- si chi : stagnant shi
For example, a Feng Shui master will use the flying star diagram of the home to determine where wang chi, the sector of prosperity, is located.
Finally, I am currently reading Susan Shumsky’s “Chakra Energy”, and when I read her definition of “prana”, I thought that was also a nice way to describe Chi.
“Prana is the medium through which consciousness expresses itself in a myriad of life forms throughout the cosmos. It is a pure, universal, primal energy that gives life to matter – the power that is present in all things, animate and inanimate. [Prana is in the air, but it is not oxygen or any other physical constituent of the air. It is in every particle of creation, but it is not a particle. Prana is entirely immaterial. [Prana is the universal energy that breathes life into matter. It is a powerful, formless, all-pervading energy that sustains both living individuals and the cosmic order – the power in all that is animate and inanimate. Individual prana is the life principle fundamental to all animate life. Cosmic prana is a universal energy that unifies the living and non-living into a coordinated whole.”
The Yin and the Yang
When we talk about yin and yang, everyone has in mind the famous symbol, a circle enclosing a black comma containing a white dot and a white comma containing a black dot. The yin and yang balance in feng shui is fundamental. In my detailed article, I explain how we moved from Wuji to Taiji, and especially how this symbol is powerful.
Yin and Yang represent the two opposing forces of the chi of the universe. There is duality: in all yang, there is yin and vice versa. They are the two aspects of everything. Everything seeks the balance of these two forces to find harmony. The Feng Shui expert will therefore seek to achieve this balance, where perfection lies.
The yang represents the masculine, the sky, the heat, the movement, the solid, the positive polarity, the exterior, the visible…
Yin represents, among other things, the feminine, the earth, the moon, the cold, the calm, the dark, the negative polarity, the interior, the invisible…
In Feng Shui, these two forces are observed in the environment (water is yang, the mountain is yin) as well as inside the house (a long and dark corridor is yin, a brightly lit room is yang). A room is considered to be yin (bedroom) or yang (living room), so we will try to match the energy according to the function of each room: yin energies are used for yin activities or areas, and vice versa.
Objects are also “classified” as yin/yang by their nature: TV, computer, halogen lamp… are rather yang. Their use is therefore not recommended in yin areas.
For example, this explains why it is recommended not to put a TV or a computer in a bedroom. It is a room that must remain yin to promote rest.
The Bagua and the 8 trigrams
Bagua (or Pakua) is a mathematical model at the heart of Chinese metaphysics and traditional Feng Shui. In my article on the 8 trigrams, I make the link with the computer binary model.
The 8 trigrams are symbols made up of lines: the masculine Yang is represented with a continuous line. The feminine Yin is represented with a broken line. As we have seen, taiji gives the yin and the yang. By adding a level, one can either add a yang line or a yin line, which can therefore produce 4 different pairs, or bigrams. Then a third line, either yin or yang, is added to each of these 4 bigrams. This produces 8 symbols, the 8 trigrams. Each trigram represents a pattern of movement and change.
The bagua is, together with the compass, the indispensable tool of the Feng Shui expert. It combines the concepts of cardinal directions, yin and yang, elements (see next paragraph), numerology, seasons and trigrams in a single representation. It allows to identify the characteristics of each zone and thus to bring to light possible problems and especially their solution.
The 8 trigrams are like a family and each has a different personality: Qian the creative, whose element is the great metal, represents the father, the husband. The mother, for her part, is found in the Kun trigram, the receptive one. Her element is the great earth. The trigrams are also linked to a multitude of phenomena because they are the symbols representing the transitory phases of all possible situations, whether they relate to nature or to man: they are thus associated with the seasons, colours, animals, organs (they are also present in Chinese medicine)…
In concrete terms, placing the bagua on the floor plan of a house allows the Feng Shui expert to determine the characteristics of the sectors (North, North-West, West…) and thus to define the appropriate arrangements. Moreover, as each trigram is associated with a number, the meaning of this trigram is also applicable to this number: this is what allows the analysis of the flying stars (where the numbers represent the different energies).
The 5 elements
For the Chinese, the 5 elements are 5 types of Chi but also 5 phases of this energy: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. They form the basic components of all materials. From the natural substance, a dynamic property is defined which is then used to categorise objects, phenomena, seasons, weather, tastes, organs, emotions…
This principle, called Wu Xing, is the result, as for the other principles, of a long work of observation carried out by the ancients.
In my article on the 5 Chinese elements, you will see that the 5 elements are not only linked to physical elements. They are also associated with events, feelings, tastes… with more abstract issues. According to this theory, everything can be classified according to these 5 elements. They are therefore the essential components of all life, and also closely related to the notions explained above. This is why everything can be combined in Bagua.
Each phase interacts with the other elements. These interactions have been studied and we distinguish 3 cycles:
- the production cycle
- the destruction cycle
- the control cycle
The production cycle is a harmonious movement in which each element gives birth to the next element and reinforces it. This relationship is called the mother-child relationship: each element is the son of the phase that produces it and the mother of the phase it produces.
The cycle of destruction is also called the cycle of domination. It is a cycle of imbalance where each element weakens or even destroys the next element (even if, technically, the energy cannot be truly destroyed).
Finally, in the control cycle, sometimes called the weakening cycle, each element reduces the power of the next element. We can see from the diagram that it actually runs in the opposite direction to the birth cycle.
Let’s go back to the Pakua on the map: in addition to the sectors defined according to the cardinal orientations and the trigrams, we can add the characteristics of the different elements.
For example, the element of a kitchen located in the East will be Wood. We can therefore nourish this zone by bringing wood to it, whether in terms of material (wooden furniture, wooden table, wicker baskets…) or colour (brown, green…). We should also avoid placing the metal phase there, which destroys the wood.
The Kua number (or Ming Gua)
The last basic notion essential to any feng shui expertise is closer to the world of astrology. The Kua number or Ming Gua is a number derived from the year of birth. Ming means “life”. Gua means “trigram”.
The Ming Gua is therefore the Ba Gua trigram of an individual’s life. It is expressed in numbers.
To know the calculation formula, I invite you to read my article “the kua number, what is it? Men and women do not share the same formula (again this story of yin, yang and polarity!).
Why is it necessary in Feng Shui? In Feng Shui, the human being is at the heart of the practice, the person always remains at the centre of the subject: the expert harmonizes the energy with the only aim of improving the life of the inhabitants of the place, to help them to solve a problem, to allow them to be prosperous… It is besides for that that everything starts with the filling of a detailed questionnaire filled by each one: the expert must know the aspirations and objectives of each individual to be able to give recommendations which will be beneficial for each one. For a Feng Shui expertise to be effective and meaningful, you must know what you want. It must fulfill life objectives.
Since Ming Gua is, as its name indicates, a number… you can imagine that here again, we will find the link between numbers, elements and trigrams… Moreover, each Kua number has orientations considered favourable or unfavourable. Thus, when the household is made up of several people, we will try to allocate the rooms in such a way as to allow each sleeper to place his bed in a favourable orientation. In the same way, the arrangement of the desk, the sofa, the cooker, etc. should be studied.
For the Flying Stars School, the analysis will go further than the directions, we will also look at the location. For example, a room being a yin room, we will try to locate which is the mountain star. If the room contains the most auspicious star of the current period, i.e. 8, it will interact in a beneficial way, but differently according to the Kua numbers: people of Kua 2 or 8, having the same earth element, will be in harmony; Kua 6 and 7 (metal) will increase their chances of success because earth produces metal, etc.
The Kua number only needs the year of birth. This means that all people of the same sex born in the same year (according to the Chinese calendar) will have the same Kua number. Also, the Kua Number is not enough for a “divinatory” practice, it is necessary to go much further, notably with the study of the Four Pillars of Destiny (Bazi), for which one will add the month, the year and even the hour of birth.
The cosmic trinity
To complete the picture, it seems important to me to add to the astrological dimension already mentioned through the number Kua, another notion: that of the cosmic trinity.
In China, success comes from a combination of 3 factors: luck linked to the sky, luck linked to man and luck linked to the earth.
The luck of the sky is the one given to us at our birth (astrological chart but also sex, family and social environment…). Nothing can be changed.
Man’s luck is that which he can control, that which he can act upon through his choices, actions, convictions and behaviour (use of his intelligence, skills, interpersonal skills, personal development, etc.).
Finally, the earth’s luck comes from the environment. It is only on this last one that Feng Shui can act, by creating the most favourable living environment possible. It is therefore only 33% of the success equation. But, as we are in resonance with our habitats, favouring our environment will have a favourable impact on the “human luck” dimension because we will have better health, beautiful relationships, more perseverance and determination.
Thus, according to these precepts, we can act on 2/3 of our potential destiny, via our life choices, and via the places in which we evolve. The key to success, to be able to seize the opportunities generated by a favourable environment, is to have a constructive and positive attitude, to make changes in consciousness, with one’s objectives in mind.
Defining Feng Shui is not an easy task, especially since the term is nowadays overused: I sometimes read, especially on the net, aberrations labelled “feng shui arrangements” which make me jump. Many people think they know what Feng Shui is and are surprised when we start to explain the fundamental principles and the approach which can be quite complex. It is not for nothing that we talk about expertise…
In this article, we have seen the founding notions. They form the basis of knowledge. They form the framework of any Feng Shui analysis. But each house is unique, each has its own aspirations. So there is no miracle recipe that can simply be applied, no matter how rigorous you are. For it to be beneficial, really, you have to adapt to the environment, the plan, the personalities… in short, add a strong element of observation and intuition.
Feng Shui, when done in the traditional way and in all its dimensions, gives tangible results. It really helps to lay a favourable foundation for prosperity, health, relationships… Einstein understood that “everything is energy”. Without naming it, he was aware of Chi. In his book “Authentic Feng Shui”, Joey Yap tells us: “The philosophy of Feng Shui is really simple. Find the right Chi. Tap into the right Chi. Circulate the right Chi.”
That’s a good summary!