FENG SHUI: NEW DIMENSIONS IN DESIGN

By Marcia Montenegro (page 3 of 4)

First written in 2001

Around AD 300, feng shui was split into two schools, one based on landscape contours and the other based on the use of a "cosmic compass to chart astrological factors, I Ching hexagrams, the Five Phases, and other elements," with further "metaphysical" elements added around the eleventh century, (Guiley, 201). The first became the Form School and the latter became the Compass School. The Form School depends on intuitive insight and emphasizes the shape and contours of the landscape (Henwood, 12). The Form School might advocate that a small river should be in front of the house; that there should be an open view of the sky; and that the most used door of the dwelling should have "auspicious decors," which are Chinese characters containing "auspicious meanings," ( www.fengshuihelp.com ). [Auspicious means something which bodes good fortune, or luck]. The four mythical animals -- the red bird, the black tortoise, the blue dragon, and the white tiger -- are to be placed symbolically in the front, back, to the left, and to the right of the desired location (Henwood, 15). This can be done with landscape shapes, colors and/or statues. The black tortoise, for example, is ideally a hill at the back of the building (Ibid).

The Compass School, based on a view of the flow of chi as well as the earth's magnetic effects and fields, uses the trigrams (unbroken and broken lines placed in various patterns) of the I Ching (also called The Book of Changes), an intricate divinatory philosophy which developed over a long period time, (Henwood, 12). The trigrams represent the trinity of heaven, earth, and man (Too, 74) and are subdivided into 64 hexagrams, the tool of the I Ching, (Wong, 126). The elements of the compass method are "rooted in a form of Chinese numerology that identifies lucky and unlucky corners of a building according to specific numerical calculations, " (Too, 64). Particular colors are also associated with the compass points (Henwood, 56).

Within the Compass School, one can use a 24 point geomantic compass determing the type of yin and yang flowing in a certain direction (Wong, 139), a bagua (eight basic directions of the compass categorized according to birth time) which can also be called the Nine Palaces [eight directions plus the center] (Wong, 130) , or lucky and unlucky areas of the house can be discerned through birth dates (Henwood, 56). An eight-sided grid, called the Pa Kua, is used symbolizing the eight directions of the compass (Too, 72). The eight directions include four positive (stimulation, success, content, calm) and four negative (depression, lonely, weak, destructive) ( www.fengshuihelp.com ). On one site, if you submit your birth date and time, a chart of your eight gua's, or directions, will come up, showing you in which each of the eight compass directions (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW) the positive and negative forces abide. Another source identifies these eight areas associated with the directions as water, earth, thunder, wind, sky, lake, mountain, and fire (Wong, 130).

The eight directions, or areas, can be depicted in an octagon form or in a square shape [the Luo-shu or ?magic square'] (Henwood, 12, 13). According to legend, the magic square (also called Lo Shu), appeared on the back of a turtle 4,000 years ago (Too, 84). The square, which is comprised of numbers which add up to 15 in any direction, became part of Taoist magical practice [divination and sorcery] (Ibid, 85; Wong, 130).

The compass method may result in the north being "calm"' and the southeast "destructive," while the south is "weak" and the west is "content." Each of these forces has a name and description: for example, "content" is the ?heavenly doctor" and represents an area of stability and health, where the chi communication is positive; "lonely" is "five ghosts" and represents "violently upward chi," bringing irritability ( www.fengshuihelp.com ). Another source classifies the eight directions as prosperity, fame, relationships, creative energy, travel and helpful people, career, knowledge, and family and health (Henwood, 62). In fact, these eight areas are illustrated in bright, cheerful colors as the cover design for Henwood's book.

Henwood gives a formula for calculating one's mingua (destiny) number which determines which direction and which of the five elements are lucky for you (64-66), information which can then be applied in the 8 directional formula (67). What if more than one person lives in the home? Traditionally, the number of the "breadwinner" is used, although each person or breadwinner can use different areas of the house, (Ibid, 67). Conflicts can be modified with the use of "colors and objects associated with the appropriate elements," (Ibid). However, another source indicated that mathematical calculations based on birth times were in order for more than one person in a residence, stating that there is a total of 64 combinations with just 2 people (www.fengshuihelp.com).

New Age ideas blend into some feng shui recommendations. One author gives instructions for meeting "the Spirit of your home," which could be a person, animal, a voice, or a mere presence (Denise Linn, Feng Shui for the Soul [Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 1999], 74). One can also chant the Hindu sacred sound of "Om" and visualize its symbol in order to implant the symbol's energy into the atmosphere (Ibid, 142).

One must also consider the feng shui of ancestors' gravesites as crucial, since such feng shui determines the luck for the descendants (Henry B. Lin, The Art and Science of Feng Shui [St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2000], Ch. 3, "Burial Feng Shui;" Too, 73; Wong, 138).

A Complex Task

Some of the advice seems to be mere common sense, such as dining chairs needing to be comfortable, having a friendly fire in a cold room, and balancing the shapes and sizes of plants (Henwood, 31, 42, 45). However, it can be difficult to find much based on aesthetic principles; virtually all of the advice is based on the flow of chi/qi, the balance of yin and yang, or the directions and elements. Here are some examples (from Henwood):

-Use an even number of chairs in the dining room since even numbers are lucky (31)
-The stove should be positioned towards the east and southeast of the kitchen because that is direction for the wood element (33)
-Flushing the toilet with the lid open increases the chances that "your money will go too" (35)
-Cover your computer screen at night if it is in a bedroom so it won't "act as a mirror and disturb your spirit" in sleep (36)
-Hang curtains at the bottom of stairs, or put a mirror on the landing to draw qi up, so that qi does not flow down and out the door (41)
-To help qi up the stairs, put plants under the stairs or hang art that is "light and bright" to help the qi rise (41)
-Make curved pavements outside or make them appear curved to attract the positive sheng qi (46)
-Place statues of the four animal spirits -- the black tortoise, the azure dragon, the white tiger, and a crane or heron -- in the garden to "help channel beneficial qi into your home" (49)
-Use crystals to draw in qi (57)
-A home's front door should be simple and practical and face the sun so that it will attract "fame, fortune, and longevity" (22)
-Don't have the foot of your bed in line with the door; the bed head should be on the north/south axis to be "in line with the magnetic energy of the earth" (27)
-A pointed roof (associated with fire) against a curved roof shape (associated with metal) is destructive since fire melts metal (72)

Lillian Too suggests that one should use both Form and Compass methods because, no matter how good the Compass method might work out, if there are "harmful configurations" in the landscape, good Feng Shui cannot be achieved (63). Other dangers lurk. The practice of feng shui requires "constant adaptation," because of the continual changes of "the intangible forces," whether man-made or caused by nature (Too, 53).

Undoubtedly, some advice, especially for the outdoor landscaping and gardens, offers ideas which can result in beautiful surroundings (such as balancing the yin of flowers with the yang of a rock garden). But one can design a pleasing environment without using feng shui at all, simply by relying on common sense, personal likes and dislikes, and artistic sensibilities.

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