How did Feng Shui come about?

Originating in China almost 6,000 years ago, Feng Shui, also referred to as “Geomancy”, literally means “wind” (Feng) and “water” (Shui). It is an ancient method of constructing and optimizing residences and businesses to bring about happiness, abundance and harmony. It includes architecture, urban planning, interior design, and garden design.

It is concerned with the placement of objects in relation to the flow of Chi (氣) “natural energy”. Chi’ is a Chinese word that translates to ‘energy.’ Chi’ is in all things. When our Chi’ is depleted (or blocked), our physical body is compromised. The same applies to our outer environments (living spaces). Chi’ that moves too fast, or Chi’ that is blocked in a living space, will cause challenges and feel uncomfortable for the people who live in the home. It also involves the layout, framework, materials and colors of building structures. These rules of thumb allow us to make the most ideal arrangement in any given situation.

In ancient China, farms and villages were auspiciously placed within the protective folds of mountains, shielded from harmful winds and nurtured by the gentle, winding streams. The people who practiced these principles prospered in agriculture and trade and grew strong and powerful. They produced social, cultural and military leaders unlike their neighbors who were exposed to harsh winds and inhospitable terrain. The art of Feng Shui was refined over many centuries, producing an abundance of learned scholars.

Traditionally, Feng Shui was considered a highly guarded secret of the Chinese Imperial Court. All Feng Shui Masters were forbidden to release their potentially powerful knowledge to outsiders. Consequently, knowledge was handed down from father to son within family traditions.

Traditionally, feng shui is used before construction or renovation of rooms and buildings. The ancient Chinese philosophy feng shui, does contain some old wisdom and it should be researched and protected as a heritage of traditional culture and folklore. Widely practiced in China for thousands of years, feng shui has declined in recent years but still exists. Depending on the particular style of feng shui being used, an auspicious site could be determined by reference to local features such as bodies of water, stars, or a compass.

People who believe in feng shui believe that the location and decoration of buildings and tombs can create luck for the occupant’s life and descendants. The ‘surroundings’ is not just limited to the nearby features, such as mountains and rivers or the internal arrangement of the home or office, but also includes astronomical influences.

As for the feng shui instruments and techniques, the magnetic compass was invented for feng shui and has been in use since its invention. Traditional feng shui instrumentation consists of the Luopan or the earlier south-pointing spoon — though a conventional compass could suffice if one understood the differences. Practising Feng Shui masters spent their lives learning about aspects of life and how environments enriched or depleted people’s Chi’ (energy). They studied how to arrange environments to enhance people’s lives as Feng Shui is a combination of art and science.

A couple more tools/principles to explain on include the Bagua, Yin and Yand as well as the 5 elements.

The Bagua is an ancient map of the eight treasures of our lives. It retains the same power and wisdom today that it did 3,000 years ago. It provides us with a simple checklist for creating our best intentions in any area of our life. There are nine sectors (guas) of the Bagua. The eight surrounding guas represent the outside areas of our life. They are Career, Knowledge and Spirituality, Health and Family, Wealth and Prosperity, Fame and Reputation, Love and Marriage, Children and Creativity, and Helpful People and Travel. The ninth gua is located in the center of the Bagua. This is considered our inner core, or our center. From our center, everything goes outward. From our outer world, everything goes inward.

In our living spaces, Feng Shui masters are looking at the Chi’ that nourishes us, which Feng Shui concentrates on enhancing. They are always looking to have balance between two extremes which are referred to as Yin and Yang. Yin relates to the feminine qualities such as curved, soft, short, round, etc. Yang refers to masculine qualities such as straight, hard, tall, angles, etc. When dramatic architecture or design becomes extreme, it can result in a Feng Shui nightmare. Exaggerated forms may be viewed as incredible artistic features, however they do not make a cozy habitat for humans. Balancing the Yin and Yang qualities in spaces creates a “just right feeling”. This creates harmony and a certain human friendly tranquility is born.

Finally, the 5 elements that are considered the building blocks of everything in our world are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Feng Shui observes that human beings are made up of the 5 elements. We therefore feel most comfortable when there is a balance of the elements represented in our living environments.

A lot of feng shui principles are seen as quite down-to-earth. Setting aside the more superstitious elements of feng shui, most of the basic principles of the practice make a lot of practical sense. Scientists have found that color strongly affects our psychology and physiology, something feng shui was onto a long time ago. As for the more mystical elements of feng shui, whether you are skeptical or not of a placebo effect, sometimes just the belief that something will work is what matters most.

Check out my related post: Do you like Jade?

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