by Anne Batty
Feng Shui - words often foreign to the Western ear. An ancient Chinese dialect that speaks to many of mystery and mysticism. A practice whose secrets people have attempted to understand for 4,000 years, and one whose Masters have devoted lifetimes to.
In ancient Chinese beliefs the practice of feng shui - pronounced "fung shway"- lies somewhere between science and art. Its philosophical roots span a whole range of Chinese thought from religion (Taoism and Buddhism) to science (astronomy, geology, magnetism, and alchemy) to rural magic (astrology, shamanism, fortune telling). While in truth. it operates on many levels: superstitions/practical; sacred/profane; emotional/physical.
Known also as the sacred art of positioning, history shows that the roots of feng shui grew out of a primitive agrarian way of life. For the Chinese saw a magical link between man and nature, feeling they shared a fate with the earth. Believing that when the creation was healthy and prospered, they thrived; but when the b lance was destroyed, they suffered. To them every physical thing was alive (endowed with living energy - Chi) and every created thing was dependent on everything else.
While there are several ancient feng shui texts in existence, for the most part it is a profession that has been passed down orally, often from father to son. The Masters of this ancient practice claim the qualities of priest, philosopher, psychologist, scientist, physician and counselor, applying wisdom, intuition, investigation and diagnosis to their interpretations.
As Priests, they assert the ability to read and interpret both visible and invisible signs and positive forces in the cosmos, thus enabling them to define man¹s place in the universe. As doctors and scientists they claim capability to detect the earth¹s pulse, determining where and in what environment man can live the most healthy, productive, prosperous and happy life.
Simply put, feng shui is about striking a balance between humans and their environment. It is based on the Taoist philosophies of nature including the Yin-Yang and Five Element Theories.
The Yin and Yang are described as being the two opposing primordial forces depending on one another to govern the universe and symbolize harmony, continually interacting to create cyclical change. (Without light there is no dark; without hot there is no cold; without life there is no death) Like a magnet¹s positive and negative poles, yin and yang unite.
The Five Elements are considered by the Chinese to be the building blocks of everything physical on earth, manifesting themselves in countless ways and combinations around us. The elders observe that because humans are composed of a combination of elements they are typically most comfortable when some combination of all five elements are also represented in their environment.
Therefore, the theory states that the unifying of the Yin-Yang,
feminine-masculine opposites and the inclusion of the Five Elements of
nature wood, fire, earth, metal, and water - in one¹s environment, are key to creating the harmony necessary for a healthy, peaceful and prosperous life. For the ancients it is the ability to define, assess and balance these elements (revealed only to the practiced eye of the practitioner) that is necessary to bring the environment into perfect elemental balance.
The Yin and Yang are labeled as follows:
The Five Elements are found in:
Wooden furniture and accessories
Wooden paneling, siding, roofing and decks
All indoor and outdoor plants and flowers, including silk, plastic and dried materials
All types of plant-based cloth and textiles, such as cotton and rayon
Floral-print upholstery, wall coverings, draperies and linens
Art depicting landscapes, gardens, plants and flowers
The columnar shape, like the trunk of a tree, found in columns, beams,
pedestals, poles and stripes
The green and blue spectrum of colors
All lighting, including electric, oil, candles, natural sunlight and
Things made from animals, such as fur, leather, bone, feathers and wool
Pets and wildlife
Art that depicts people and/or animals
Shapes such as triangles, pyramids or cones
The red spectrum of colors
Adobe, bricks and tile
Ceramic or earthenware objects
Shapes such as squares, rectangles and long flat surfaces
The yellow and earth-tone spectrum of colors
Art depicting earthy landscapes of desert fields and so on
All types of metals, including stainless steel, copper, brass, iron, silver,
aluminum and gold
All rocks and stones, such as marble, granite and flagstone
Natural crystals, rocks and gemstones
Art and sculpture made from metal or stone
The white and light pastel spectrum of colors
The shapes of the circle, oval and arch
Streams, rivers, pools, fountains and water features of all kinds
Reflective surfaces such as cut crystal, glass and mirrors
Flowing, free-form and asymmetrical shapes
The black and dark-tone spectrum of colors, such as charcoal and midnight blue
Each of the five elements is said to feed/sustain the other in perfect
Water nurtures wood Wood consumes earth
Wood feeds fire Earth dams water
Fire makes earth Water extinguishes fire
Earth creates metal Fire melts metal
Metal holds water
Metal melts wood
Feng Shui seems a complex practice. It certainly proves itself an ancient and foreign language composed of symbols, shapes, interpretations and theories. Definitely on the mysterious side. Most possibly just a collection of Chinese folklore. But just maybe, the understanding and deeper meaning of this ancient practice eludes us, and hovering just a click of the mental dial away is the key to something that will help us better understand ourselves and the world in which we live.
Sr. Editor Anne Batty will explore the relationship of Chi (living energy) to Feng Shui in the next issue.