What Is Feng-Shui?: The Classic Nineteenth-Century Interpretation

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Feng shui is often identified as a form of geomancy, or divination by geographic features, but it is mainly concerned with understanding the relationships between nature and human beings, in order to create harmony. Early feng shui relied on astronomy to find correlations between humans and the universe [4] Chinese often used the celestial pole, determined by the pole stars, to locate the north-south axis of settlements.

In some cases, as Paul Wheatley observed [5] , they bisected the angle between the directions of the rising and setting sun to find north. Centuries before, the asterism Yingshi was known as Ding and was used to indicate the appropriate time to build a capital city, according to the Shijing.

Apparently an astronomical alignment ensured that Banpo village homes were sited so that they received the maximum heat from the sun solar gain. Cosmography that bears a striking resemblance to modern feng shui compasses and computations was found on a jade unearthed at Hanshan c. The design is linked by the contemporary Chinese historian, Li Xueqin, to the liuren astrolabe, zhinan zhen, and Luopan. All capital cities of China followed rules of Feng Shui for their design and layout. These rules were codified during the Zhou era — 26 B. Rules for builders were codified in the "Lu ban jing" Carpenter's Manual.

Graves and tombs also followed rules of feng shui. From the earliest records, it seems that the rules for the structures of the graves and dwellings were the same. Feng shui devices existed before the invention of the magnetic compass, which occurred comparatively late in the long history of feng shui. According to the Zhouli, the original device may have been a gnomon, although Yao, Huangdi, and other figures were said to possess devices such as a south-pointing chariot.

One was the luopan, a reticulated plate used to correlate the solar and lunar calendars and for astronomical observation. These consist of a lacquered, two-sided board with astronomical sightlines. Liuren astrolabes have been unearthed from tombs that date between B.


What Is Feng-Shui?: The Classic Nineteenth-Century Interpretation

The markings are virtually unchanged from the astrolabe to the first magnetic compasses. Some feng shui disciplines required the use of the magnetic compass. The history of the Luopan compass goes back to the Zhou dynasty B. The compass consists of a magnetic needle that points towards magnetic North, not true North.

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The foundation of the I-ching is in the trigrams. In traditional compass techniques, these trigrams are used for divination. The traditional luopan has thirty-six rings inscribed with information. The trigrams occupy the first circle of the luopan. 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. Some areas are not suitable for human settlement and should be left in their natural state. Some current techniques can be traced to Neolithic China, while others were added in later times most notably during the Han dynasty, the Tang, and the Ming. Today, to determine a perfect spot, local manifestations of qi must be assessed for quality. Quality is determined by observations and by using a compass luopan.

Qi is a difficult word to translate and is often left untranslated. A luopan is used for many purposes, including the detection of the flow of qi. Compasses reflect local geomagnetism which includes geomagnetically induced currents caused by space weather. Beliefs developed during the Axial Age the period from - B. Polarity is expressed in feng shui as Yin and Yang. The polarity within feng shui is buildings of the living yang and buildings of the dead yin. The stability of Magnetic North is critical for the accuracy of reading a compass.

Earth has an electromagnetic field. Our solar sun also has an electromagnetic field. Our solar sun goes through year cycles of solar fluctuations called solar flares that create solar wind. This solar wind creates a vibration that disturbs the electromagnetic field of the earth. Magnet North moves an average of 40 kilometers every year. In the last years Magnetic North has moved approximately kilometers.

Due to solar flares, Magnetic North is always in constant movement, creating conflicting readings on a compass. It seems clear from many sources 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. The bagua diagrams are also linked with the sifang four directions method of divination used during the Shang dynasty.

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It was used at Niuheliang, and figured large in the astronomy of the Hongshan culture. This area of China is also linked to Huangdi, the legendary Yellow Emperor, who allegedly invented the south-pointing spoon. There are many 'masters' of the different feng shui schools. However, some maintain that authentic masters impart their genuine knowledge of feng shui only to a few selected students. Feng shui was being practiced at least 3, years before the invention of the magnetic compass, [26] Folk feng shui developed thousands of years ago in small villages of the Orient, whose livelihoods were dependent on it.

Villagers studied the formations of the land and ways of the wind and water to determine the best setting for their survival. Good feng shui would produce bountiful harvests, healthy livestock and abundant life. Harsh winds would destroy their crops, leaving no food for their family or their animals, and level their homes.

The elements, water, rain, wind, fog, and sun were believed to be manifestations of the energy of heaven and earth. Early shaman-kings were believed to have knowledge of landforms and weather, that could be used to drive back the elements that threatened a village. This divination by the study of land forms was the beginning and foundation of feng shui. The use of the compass and magnetic north originated after the use of landform techniques. In his fieldwork in China, Ole Bruun [28] noted that traditional methods of feng shui increasingly referred to as "classical feng shui" which are practiced and taught in Asia, all use a compass.

Classical feng shui has some features similar to those found in the archaeological record, and in Chinese history and literature, but the application of classical feng shui is not identical to that of ancient feng shui techniques. Classical feng shui is typically associated with the following list of the most common techniques.

When the anti-Western Boxer Rebellion broke out in China in , one of the Chinese grievances was that Westerners were violating the basic principles of feng shui in their construction of railroads and other conspicuous public structures throughout China. At that time, Westerners had little knowledge of, or interest in, such Chinese traditions. Since Richard Nixon visited the People's Republic of China in , there has been substantial interest in the subject of feng shui in the West, and it has been reinvented by New Age entrepreneurs for Western consumption.

A new version of feng shui was developed in the early s by Thomas Lin Yun Rinpoche, who came to the U. Kyng, became the first school of its type in the United Kingdom. This relationship is said to create a unique 'viewpoint' that can then be used to create a greater sense of harmony both inwardly and outwardly. Shen Dao's unique compass uses the former heavenly sequence and expands the Ba Gua into over harmonics that help to fine tune its results.

Victorian-era commentators on feng shui were generally ethnocentric, and as such skeptical and derogatory of what little they knew of feng shui. 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. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in , feng shui has been officially deemed a "feudalistic superstitious practice" and a "social evil" according to the state's atheistic Communist ideology, and has been discouraged or even sometimes banned outright.

Persecution was the severest 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 the practice of feng shui are still in place in today's China.

It is illegal in the PRC today to register feng shui consultation as a business, and the advertising of feng shui practice is banned. There have been frequent crackdowns on feng shui practitioners on the grounds that they are "promoting feudalistic superstitions," such as one in Qingdao in early , when the city's business and industrial administration office shut down an art gallery converted into a feng shui practice [38]. Communist officials who had consulted feng shui lost their jobs and were expelled from the Communist Party [39]. 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 percent [40].

Among all the ethnic Chinese communities worldwide, 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. A number of Chinese anthropologists and architects, such as Cao Dafeng, the Vice-President of Fudan University, and Liu Shenghuan of Tongji University, have been permitted to research the subject of feng shui, and to study the history of feng shui or the historical feng shui theories behind the design of heritage buildings.

Chinese feng shui practitioners are skeptical of the methods employed and the claims made by Western practitioners. Skeptics in the West dismiss feng shui as "a mystical belief in cosmic harmony" [44] and argue that if feng shui is a science, as some claim, it should feature a consistent methodology. Claims about the alleged benefits of crystals , wind chimes, table fountains, and mirrored balls, on personal life, finances, and relationships are often dismissed as pseudoscience, reliance on the placebo effect, or even outright fraud. Landscape ecologists find traditional feng shui an interesting study.

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