First of all, your Chinese is dead on. Feng shui does
indeed literally mean "wind and water," but its true
meaning is more than the sum of its parts. Simply described,
it is a form of divination based on an environment,
or in fancier terms, geomancy.
Some will argue that feng shui is
just another hokey practice full of superstition. But
trust your old Ayi, there is both a science and an art
to feng shui. It starts with qi, or life force, an invisible
phenomenon that pervades everything and affects how
we interact with our environment.
But before you laugh, or pull out
your light saber, remember that both radon and carbon
monoxide are invisible and research shows proper feng
shui has avoided both of their ill effects for centuries.
Through a series of set calculations
and time-proven methodology, the current state of qi
is determined. One of the most important tools is the
luopan, a compass-like device made of a series of concentric,
independently manipulated circles. From there, the geomancer
"sees" an array of solutions. Final selection is based
on a number of factors, including yin and yang, the
eight trigrams (ba gua) and the five elements (wu xing).
The key is to achieve balanced qi,
whether it is within the materials used, the surrounding
landscape or where objects are placed. To do this, the
forces of yang, which represent light, heat, or the
daytime, must accord with its opposing factor, yin,
which embodies all things dark, cold or of the night.
You've probably seen the yin-yang
symbol, which looks like a black tadpole and a white
tadpole curled together. However, potential permutations
are infinitely more complex than black and white.
According to legend, Emperor Fu Hsi,
who reigned some 5,000 years ago, arranged the so-called
ba gua and documented the results in the famous Book
of Changes, or I-Ching. Each arrangement has its own
meaning and can be used for a variety of purposes, including
fortune-telling. However, for feng shui purposes each
gua refines for the geomancer the nature of a given
object in its particular location.
There are five major aspects that
affect the balance of qi. They include architecture,
environment, the five elements, time and people. Modern
renditions of feng shui tend to omit the latter two,
ignoring the very things that can most easily nullify
any given arrangement. As qi is a force that can't be
pinned down, ignoring how it changes from person to
person and moment to moment can lead to flawed decisions.
The five basic Chinese elements -
wood, fire, earth, metal and water - also play a crucial
role. The individual balance of each element and the
way they interact must be taken into account when arranging
any structure, from a house to an office building.
We Chinese have closely guarded the
secrets to feng shui for centuries. A long time ago,
before even your Ayi was born, feng shui played the
role of maintaining and continuing the good fortune
of the Imperial dynasties. As a result, its secrets
were entrusted to only a select few, a legacy of so-called
feng shui masters, who both passed them on to their
children and protected them from outside influences.
The result of all this secrecy was
a lot of misconceptions. But, despite new age culture
and a few charlatans trying to make a quick buck, the
truth is that it's not at all about burning incense,
mirrors on the ceiling and swallowing goldfish. At its
heart it's a system for making the place you live in
feel more comfortable.
Your Ayi consulted a few feng shui
masters of her acquaintance to compile the following
* Go for rounded edges. They are
more attractive and less severe than sharp angles, and
accord with feng shui environmental principles
* Balance light and heat. A room
that is too bright or too hot will not only be uncomfortable
for your body but also bad for your qi.
* Surround yourself with plants.
Not only do they help retain qi by recycling the air
we breathe but they also have a life force all their
own. Plants also solve the problem of staircases leading
to doorways or doors facing windows. By putting the
plant near an opening, qi that might otherwise be lost
will be retained.
* Keep your plants alive. A dead
plant is not only unsightly, but also a source of bad
* Balance yin and yang. If there
is too much yin in your room (ie. dark colors, low light)
then make use of yang materials that embody the fire
element. A candle or the color of red works, but combining
both red and light, such as a table lamp with a red
shade is even better.
* Balance metal and earth. For example,
a room with a clay plant pot should also include something
metal, a bronze plate hanging on the wall for instance.
* Doors facing each other should
be kept closed. This prevent qi from rushing straight
through the house. The front door should be near an
outside source of positive qi.
* Natural colors are best. Just say
no to plastic flowers.
* Do unto others Avoid creating environments
that may be unpleasant for those around you. A toilet
with the lid up or leaving the bathroom door open certainly
falls under this category. As does blowing your nose
using only your hands. (Men should take note of this).