Feng shui

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Feng shui

Feng Shui Luopan Compass
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese: 風水
Simplified Chinese: 风水
Literal meaning: wind-water
Filipino name
Tagalog: pungsoy
Japanese name
Kanji: 風水
Hiragana: ふうすい
Korean name
Hangul: 풍수
Hanja: 風水
Thai name
Thai: ฮวงจุ้ย (Huang Jui)
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese: Phong thủy

Feng shui (traditional Chinese: 風水; simplified Chinese: 风水; pinyin: fēng shuǐ; pronounced /ˈfoŋˌʃueɪ/ fung-shooy in Mandarin, fung-schway in American English) is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics believed to utilize the laws of both Heaven (astronomy) and Earth (geography) to help one improve life by receiving positive qi.[1] The original designation for the discipline is Kan Yu (traditional Chinese: 堪輿; simplified Chinese: 堪舆; pinyin: kānyú; literally: Tao of heaven and earth).[2]

The term feng shui literally translates as "wind-water" in English. This is a cultural shorthand taken from the following passage of the Zhangshu (Book of Burial) by Guo Pu of the Jin Dynasty:[3]

Qi rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water.[3]

Traditional feng shui practice always requires an extremely accurate Chinese compass, or luo pan, in order to determine the directions in finding any auspicious sector in a desired location.

Although feng shui is conceptually similar to its Indian counterpart Vaastu Shastra in that they both try to harmonize the flow of life-energy (qi in Chinese or prana in Sanskrit) through the house, it differs in the details, such as the exact directions in which various objects, rooms, materials etc are to be placed.


[edit] History

[edit] Origins

Currently Yangshao and Hongshan cultures provide the earliest evidence for the practice of feng shui. Until the invention of the magnetic compass, feng shui apparently relied on astronomy to find correlations between humans and the universe.[4]

In 4000 BCE, the doors of Banpo dwellings were aligned to the asterism Yingshi just after the winter solstice -- this sited the homes for solar gain.[5] During the Zhou era, Yingshi was known as Ding and used to indicate the appropriate time to build a capital city, according to the Shijing. The late Yangshao site at Dadiwan (c. 3500-3000 BCE) includes a palace-like building (F901) at the center. The building faces south and borders a large plaza. It is on a north-south axis with another building that apparently housed communal activities. The complex may have been used by regional communities.[6]

A grave at Puyang (c. 3000 BCE) that contains mosaics of the Dragon and Tiger asterisms and Beidou (the Big Dipper, Ladle or Bushel) is oriented along a north-south axis.[7] The presence of both round and square shapes in the Puyang tomb, at Hongshan ceremonial centers and the late Longshan settlement at Lutaigang,[8] suggests that gaitian cosmography (heaven-round, earth-square) was present in Chinese society long before it appeared in the Zhou Bi Suan Jing.[9]

Cosmography that bears a striking resemblance to modern feng shui devices and formulas was found on a jade unearthed at Hanshan and dated around 3000 BCE. The design is linked by archaeologist Li Xueqin to the liuren astrolabe, zhinan zhen, and Luopan.[10]

Beginning with palatial structures at Erlitou,[11] all capital cities of China followed rules of feng shui for their design and layout. These rules were codified during the Zhou era in the Kaogong ji (traditional Chinese: 考工記; simplified Chinese: 考工记; "Manual of Crafts"). Rules for builders were codified in the carpenter's manual Lu ban jing (traditional Chinese: 魯班經; simplified Chinese: 鲁班经; "Lu ban's manuscript"). Graves and tombs also followed rules of feng shui, from Puyang to Mawangdui and beyond. From the earliest records, it seems that the rules for the structures of the graves and dwellings were the same.

[edit] Early instruments and techniques

A feng shui spiral at LA Chinatown's Metro station.

The history of feng shui covers 3,500+ years[12] before the invention of the magnetic compass. It originated in Chinese astronomy.[13] Some current techniques can be traced to Neolithic China,[14] while others were added later (most notably the Han dynasty, the Tang, the Song, and the Ming).[15]

The astronomical history of feng shui is evident in the development of instruments and techniques. According to the Zhouli the original feng shui instrument may have been a gnomon. Chinese used circumpolar stars to determine the north-south axis of settlements. This technique explains why Shang palaces at Xiaotun lie 10° east of due north. In some cases, as Paul Wheatley observed,[16] they bisected the angle between the directions of the rising and setting sun to find north. This technique provided the more precise alignments of the Shang walls at Yanshi and Zhengzhou. Rituals for using a feng shui instrument required a diviner to examine current sky phenomena to set the device and adjust their position in relation to the device.[17]

The oldest examples of instruments used for feng shui are liuren astrolabes, also known as shi. These consist of a lacquered, two-sided board with astronomical sightlines. The earliest examples of liuren astrolabes have been unearthed from tombs that date between 278 BCE and 209 BCE. Along with divination for Da Liu Ren[18] the boards were commonly used to chart the motion of Taiyi through the nine palaces.[19] The markings on a liuren/shi and the first magnetic compasses are virtually identical.[20]

The magnetic compass was invented for feng shui[21] and has been in use since its invention. Traditional feng shui instrumentation consists of the Luopan or the earlier south-pointing spoon (zhinan zhen) -- though a conventional compass could suffice if one understood the differences. A feng shui ruler (a later invention) may also be employed.

[edit] Foundation theories

The goal of feng shui as practiced today is to situate the human built environment on spots with good qi. The "perfect spot" is a location and an axis in time.[citation needed]

[edit] Qi (ch'i)

Qi is a either a movable positive or negative life force which plays an essential role in feng shui. In Chinese martial arts, it refers to internal or physical energy. A traditional explanation of qi as it relates to feng shui would include the orientation of a structure, its age, and its interaction with the surrounding environment including the local microclimates, the slope of the land, vegetation, and soil quality.

According to researcher Stephen L. Field, one use for a Luopan is to detect the flow of qi. Field views feng shui as a form of divination that assesses the quality of the local environment and the effects of space weather, and coined the term qimancy for the concept.[22]

Professor Max Knoll suggested in a 1951 lecture that qi is a form of solar radiation.[23] Compasses reflect local geomagnetism which includes geomagnetically induced currents caused by space weather.[24]

Beliefs from the Axial Age, feng shui among them, hold that the heavens influence life on Earth. This seems preposterous to many people, yet space weather exists and can have profound effects on technology (GPS, power grids, pipelines, communication and navigation systems, surveys), and the internal orienting faculties of birds and other creatures.[25][26][27] There is some evidence that suicide rates in Kirovsk, Russia, fluctuate along with the geomagnetic field.[28] Atmospheric scientists have suggested that space weather creates fluctuations in market prices.[29][30]

[edit] Polarity

Polarity is expressed in feng shui as Yin and Yang Theory. Polarity expressed through yin and yang is similar to a bipolar magnetic field.[citation needed] That is, it is of two parts: one creating an exertion and one receiving the exertion. Yang acting and yin receiving could be considered an early understanding of chirality. The development of Yin Yang Theory and its corollary, Five Phase Theory (Five Element Theory), have also been linked with astronomical observations of sunspots.[31]

The five elements of feng shui (water, wood, fire, earth/soil, metal) are made of yin and yang in precise amounts (Greater wood has less yin than lesser wood, but not as much yin as water, and so forth).[citation needed] Earth is a buffer, or an equilibrium achieved when the polarities cancel each other.[citation needed] While the goal of Chinese medicine is to balance yin and yang in the body, the goal of feng shui has been described as aligning a city, site, building, or object with yin-yang force fields.[32]

[edit] Bagua (eight trigrams)

Two diagrams known as bagua (or pa kua) loom large in feng shui, and both predate their mentions in the Yijing (or I Ching). The Lo (River) Chart (Luoshu, or Later Heaven Sequence) was developed first.[33] The Luoshu and the River Chart (Hetu, or Early Heaven Sequence) are linked to astronomical events of the sixth millennium BCE, and with the Turtle Calendar from the time of Yao.[34] The Turtle Calendar of Yao (found in the Yaodian section of the Shangshu or Book of Documents) dates to 2300 BCE, plus or minus 250 years.[35]

Sources indicate that time, in the form of astronomy and calendars, is at the heart of feng shui.

In Yaodian, the cardinal directions are determined by the marker-stars of the mega-constellations known as the Four Celestial Animals.

East: the Green Dragon (Spring equinox) --- Niao (Bird), α Hydrae

South: the Red Phoenix (Summer solstice) --- Huo (Fire), α Scorpionis

West: the White Tiger (Autumn equinox) --- Xu (Emptiness, Void), α Aquarii, β Aquarii

North: the Dark Turtle (Winter solstice) --- Mao (Hair), η Tauri (the Pleiades)

The diagrams are also linked with the sifang (four directions) method of divination used during the Shang dynasty.[36] The sifang is much older, however. It was used at Niuheliang, and figured large in Hongshan culture's astronomy. And it is this area of China that is linked to Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, who allegedly invented the south-pointing spoon.[37]

A building in Hong Kong with a hollow middle hole, maximizing on fengshui benefits

[edit] School

A school or stream is a set of techniques or methods. The term should not be confused with an actual school -- there are many masters who run schools.

Some claim[38] that authentic masters impart their genuine knowledge only to selected students, such as relatives.

[edit] Classical techniques

Classical feng shui is typically associated with the following techniques. This is not a complete list; it is merely a list of the most common techniques.[39] .[40] .[41]

[edit] Modern developments

One of the grievances mentioned when the anti-Western Boxer Rebellion erupted was that Westerners were violating the basic principles of feng shui in their construction of railroads and other conspicuous public structures throughout China. At the time, Westerners had little idea of, or interest in, such Chinese traditions. After Richard Nixon journeyed to The People's Republic of China in 1972, feng shui became somewhat of an industry.

It has since been reinvented by New Age entrepreneurs for Western consumption. Feng shui speaks to the profound role of magic, mystery, and order in American life.[42] The following list does not exhaust the modern varieties.

Black Sect -- also called BTB Feng Shui, doesn't match documentary or archaeological evidence, or what is known of the history of Tantra in China.[43] It relies on "transcendental" methods, the concept of clutter as metaphor for life circumstances, and the use of affirmations or intentions (what some deride as "happy talk")[44] to achieve results. The BTB bagua was developed by Lin Yun. Each of the eight sectors that were once aligned to compass points now represent a particular area of one's life.

In contemporary China, practitioners of the divination systems of Qi Men Dun Jia and Da Liu Ren adopt these modes of divination for highly detailed and analytic problem-solving in Feng Shui.

[edit] Feng Shui compasses and geomagnetism

Below is an overview of claims about compasses advertised by some New Age practitioners.

Claim: The stability of Magnetic North is critical for the accuracy of divining your fortune with a compass.[45] Feng shui is about using astronomy and cosmography in the placement of cities and buildings -- it is "astro-ecology."[46] The Huangdi shaijing (Yellow Emperor's Siting Classic) explains that feng shui encompasses "a configuration in space, a kind of environmental situation"[47] constantly in flux because its qi is constantly changing. One goal of feng shui is to track qi fluctuations over specific time periods.[48]

In a general sense, all magnetic compasses for feng shui point towards geographic south (thus the literal translations "pointing-south needle" and "pointing-south spoon").[49] It is believed that yang forces flow from south to north[50] -- an uncanny agreement with actual geomagnetic conditions.

Claims such as "The Chinese always place south at the top of the compass but North is still magnetic North" [51] confuse the issue. A compass can read only "a summation of all the natural fields that are at the place of measurement."[52] The misnaming of the poles was noted by Peregrinus in 1269 -- "the Earth's pole in the northern Arctic region is really a magnet's south pole."[53] On Earth the geomagnetic field flows out of the geographic South Pole area, and runs back into the geographic North Pole area -- so geomagnetic north is actually at the geographic South Pole. To avoid confusion, the convention is to call the geomagnetic pole in the Arctic the North Magnetic Pole.

The fact that all five sets[54] of geomagnetic poles wander has not prevented compasses from being useful.[55] For example, compasses are installed in cars,[56] ships,[57] and oil rigs;[58] airport runways are identified by their eastward magnetic declination values to the nearest degree.[59]

Claim: Magnetic North and True North (the Earth’s axis) are not the same.[60]A Luopan compensates for this. On a Luopan the Human Plate Central Needle was added during the Tang dynasty to measure declination and this has been updated as necessary. During the southern Song dynasty the Heaven Plate Seam Needle was added for magnetic deviation and also updated as necessary. The Earth Plate Correct Needle indicates current geomagnetic conditions.

As Joseph Needham remarked in a lecture, "When speaking of magnetism and of the magnetic compass … in China people were worrying about the nature of the declination (why the needle does not usually point exactly to the north) before Europeans had even heard about the polarity." Declination was discovered, says Needham, because "geomancers had been attending most carefully to the positions of their needles.”

Claim: The solar wind vibrates the magnetic pole, moving magnetic north. If you use magnetic north to determine where to put your furniture, the degrees are not critical, the overall direction is. However, if you use magnetic north to find a site location the reading will not be accurate.[61] The nature of qi is that it is constantly changing.[62] Yin Yang Theory posits the universe as being in a constant state of flux or oscillation,[63] which is why feng shui seeks to track the fluctuations of qi.[64] As previously noted, furniture placement is not a major concern for traditional feng shui.[65]

[edit] Feng Shui today

Today, feng shui is practiced not only by the Chinese, but also by Westerners who would like to try their hands at various Asian practices like acupuncture and Zen Buddhism, as well as other Asians. However, with the passage of time and feng shui's popularization in the West, much of the knowledge behind it has been lost in translation, not paid proper attention to, frowned upon, or scorned.

Robert T. Carroll sums up what feng shui has become in some cases:

"… feng shui has become an aspect of interior decorating in the Western world and alleged masters of feng shui now hire themselves out for hefty sums to tell people such as Donald Trump which way his doors and other things should hang. Feng shui has also become another New Age "energy" scam with arrays of metaphysical products … offered for sale to help you improve your health, maximize your potential, and guarantee fulfillment of some fortune cookie philosophy." [66]

Others have noted how, when feng shui is not applied properly, or rather, without common sense, it can even harm the environment, such as was the case of people planting "lucky bamboo" in ecosystems that could not handle them. [67] Still others are simply skeptical.

Nevertheless, even modern feng shui is not always looked at as a superstitious scam. Many people[who?] believe it is important and very helpful in living a prosperous and healthy life either avoiding or blocking negative energies that might otherwise have bad effects. Many of the higher-level forms of feng shui are not so easily practiced without either connections, or a certain amount of wealth because the hiring of an expert, the great altering of architecture or design, and the moving from place to place that is sometimes necessary requires a lot of money. Because of this, some people of the lower classes lose faith in feng shui, saying that it is only a game for the wealthy.[68] Others, however, practice less expensive forms of Feng Shui, including hanging special (but cheap) mirrors, forks, or woks in doorways to deflect negative energy.[69]

Even today feng shui is so important to some people[who?] that they use it for healing purposes, separate from elite medical practice, in addition to using it to guide their businesses and create a peaceful atmosphere in their homes.[70] In 2005, even Disney acknowledged feng shui as an important part of Chinese culture by shifting the main gate to Hong Kong Disneyland by twelve degrees in their building plans, among many other actions suggested by the master planner of architecture and design at Walt Disney Imagineering, Wing Chao, in an effort to incorporate local culture into the theme park.[71]

At Singapore Polytechnic and other institutions like the New York College of Health Professions, many students (including engineers and interior designers) take courses on feng shui every year and go on to become feng shui (or geomancy) consultants.[72]

[edit] Feng Shui in the News

Feng shui has become such a popular practice and is used so often that it has garnered attention from real estate dealers to business giants, and has its own page in the New York Time's "Times Topics." It has also made the news quite a few times because of people’s fascination with the subject. Some articles concerning feng shui that have made the news include:

[edit] Criticism

Victorian-era commentators on feng shui were generally ethnocentric, and as such skeptical and derogatory of what they knew of feng shui.[73]

In 1896 at a meeting of the Educational Association of China, Rev. P.W. Pitcher railed at the "rottenness of the whole scheme of Chinese architecture," and urged fellow missionaries "to erect unabashedly Western edifices of several stories and with towering spires in order to destroy nonsense about fung-shuy." [74]

Sycee-shaped incense used in feng shui

Some modern Christians have a similar opinion of feng shui.[75]

It is entirely inconsistent with Christianity to believe that harmony and balance result from the manipulation and channeling of nonphysical forces or energies, or that such can be done by means of the proper placement of physical objects. Such techniques, in fact, belong to the world of sorcery.[76]

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, feng shui has been officially deemed as a "feudalistic superstitious practice" and a "social evil" according to the state's atheistic Communist ideology and discouraged or even outright banned at times [77][78].

Persecution was the most severe during the Cultural Revolution, when feng shui was classified as a custom under the so-called Four Olds to be wiped out. Feng shui practitioners were beaten and abused by Red Guards and their works burned. After the death of Mao Zedong and the end of the Cultural Revolution, the official attitude became more tolerant but restrictions on feng shui practice are still in place in today's China. It is illegal in the PRC today to register feng shui consultation as a business and similarly advertising feng shui practice is banned, and there have been frequent crackdowns on feng shui practitioners on the grounds of "promoting feudalistic superstitions" such as one in Qingdao in early 2006 when the city's business and industrial administration office shut down an art gallery converted into a feng shui practice [79]. Communist officials who had consulted feng shui were sacked and expelled from the Communist Party [80].

Partly because of the Cultural Revolution, in today's PRC less than one-third of the population believe in feng shui, and the proportion of believers among young urban PRC Chinese is said to be much less than 5% [81]. Among all the ethnic Chinese communities the PRC has the least number of feng shui believers in proportion to the general population. Learning feng shui is considered taboo in today's China.[82] Nevertheless, it is reported that feng shui has gained adherents among Communist Party officials according to a BBC Chinese news commentary in 2006. [83], and since the beginning of Chinese economic reforms the number of feng shui practitioners are increasing. A number of Chinese academics permitted to research on the subject of feng shui are anthropologists or architects by trade, studying the history of feng shui or historical feng shui theories behind the design of heritage buildings, such as Cao Dafeng, the Vice-President of Fudan University[84], and Liu Shenghuan of Tongji University.

Feng shui practitioners have been skeptical of claims and methods in the "cultural supermarket."[85] Mark Johnson[86] made a telling point:

This present state of affairs is ludicrous and confusing. Do we really believe that mirrors and flutes are going to change people's tendencies in any lasting and meaningful way? ... There is a lot of investigation that needs to be done or we will all go down the tubes because of our inability to match our exaggerated claims with lasting changes.

A travelogue-type article from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry explained feng shui initially as "a commonsense alignment of structures to conform to the shape of the land, an idea shared by any sensible architect in a land fraught with typhoons and torrential rains." However, after reading two books (one by field researcher Ole Bruun), the writer's conclusion was that feng shui "is more of a mystical belief in cosmic harmony."[87]

Penn & Teller did an episode of their television show Bullshit! that featured several feng shui practitioners in the US, and was highly critical of the inconsistent (and frequently odd) advice. In the show, the entertainers argue that if feng shui is a science (as the American Institute of Feng Shui, for example, claim [88]), it should feature a consistent method.[89] However, it is important to note that traditional feng shui is very different from the dominant new age methods seen today.

[edit] Current research

A modern "feng shui fountain" at Taipei 101, Taiwan

A growing body of research exists on the traditional forms of feng shui used and taught in Asia.

Landscape ecologists find traditional feng shui an interesting study.[90] In many cases, the only remaining patches of old forest in Asia are "feng shui woods,"[91] often associated with cultural heritage, historical continuity, and the preservation of species.[92] Some researchers interpret the presence of these woods as indicators that the "healthy homes,"[93] sustainability[94] and environmental components of ancient feng shui should not be easily dismissed.[95][96]

Environmental scientists and landscape architects have researched traditional feng shui and its methodologies.[97][98]

Architectural schools study the principles as they applied to ancient vernacular architecture.[99][100][101]

Geographers have analyzed the techniques and methods to help locate historical sites in Victoria, Canada,[102] and archaeological sites in the American Southwest, concluding that ancient Native Americans considered astronomy and landscape features. [103]

Whether it is data on comparisons to scientific models, or the design and siting of buildings,[104] graduate and undergraduate students have been accumulating solid evidence on what researchers call the "exclusive Chinese cultural achievement and experience in architecture"[105] that is feng shui.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

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[edit] Further reading

[edit] Academic works

  • Ole Bruun. “Fengshui and the Chinese Perception of Nature,” in Asian Perceptions of Nature: A Critical Approach, eds. Ole Bruun and Arne Kalland (Surrey: Curzon, 1995) 173-88
  • Ole Bruun. Fengshui in China: Geomantic Divination between State Orthodoxy and Popular Religion. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003.
  • Ole Bruun. An Introduction to Feng Shui. Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Yoon, Hong-key. Culture of Fengshui in Korea: An Exploration of East Asian Geomancy, Lexington Books, 2006.
  • Magnetic alignment in grazing and resting cattle and deer, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published ahead of print August 25, 2008, doi:10.1073/pnas.0803650105
  • Qi Men Dun Jia Feng Shui by Jack Sweeney
  • Da Liu Ren Feng Shui by Jack Sweeney

[edit] New Age variants

  • Bender, Tom, "Building with the Breath of Life: Working with Chi Energy in Our Homes and Communities" Fire River Press, 2000.
  • Bender, Tom, "The Physics of Qi". DVD. Fire River Press, 2007.
  • Drews, Norbert, "Feng Shui Essentials" [1], 2000.
  • Rauch Carter, Karen, "Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life" [2], 2000.
  • Wu, Baolin, Lighting the Eye of the Dragon: Inner Secrets of Taoist Feng Shui, St. Martin's Press, 2000.

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