Here are some auspicious days to commence business after the Chinese New Year break in the Year of the Ox (2021).
Saturday 13th Feb 2021 (2nd Lunar Day)
This is a Full day. It is a good day to commence business and also good for those involved in construction activities. Try to start work between 9 am and 11 am. Those born in the year of the Dog should avoid using this date.
Monday 15th Feb 2021 (4th Lunar Day)
This is a Set day. This is a very auspicious day and is good for most activities. Try to start work between 1 pm and 3 pm. Those born in the year of the Rat should avoid using this date.
Sunday 21 February 2021 (10th Lunar Day)
This is an Open Day. This is a very auspicious day and is good for most activities. Since the following Monday is not auspicious, you can do a symbolic start on this day. Try to start work between 11 am and 1 pm. Those born in the year of the Horse should avoid using this date.
Tuesday 23 February 2021 (12th Lunar Day)
This is an Establish Day. It is a good day to commence business and also good for those involved in construction activities. Try to start work between 11 am and 1 pm. Those born in the year of the Monkey should avoid using this date.
In the last article, I shared a method to figure out your animal sign using a finger counting method. In this follow up article, I will expand on it and share with you how to figure out the heavenly stem (and hence element) of the year as well.
To recap, There are 12 earthly branches and each of them is associated with an animal sign. They are Zi (Rat), Chou (Ox), Yin (Tiger), Mao (Rabbit), Chen (Dragon), Si (Snake), Wu (Horse), Wei (Goat), Shen (Monkey), You (Rooster), Xu (Dog) and Hai (Pig). The positions of each of these branch or animal was shown in the previous article.
There are 10 heavenly stems and each of them has a elemental property. The 10 stems are Jia (Wood), Yi (Wood), Bing (Fire), Ding (Fire), Wu (Earth), Ji (Earth), Geng (Metal), Xin (Metal), Ren (Water) and Gui (Water).
Remember the Rat position. Remember 1924, the year of the Rat. Well 1924 is also Jia Zi, the first of the sixty year stem branch or Gan Zhi cycle. In other words if you are born in 1924, your birth year is Jia Zi. Since Jia is wood and Zi is Rat, 1924 is also known as the Wood Rat year. This is repeated 60 years later in 1984, also a Wood Rat year.
So how do we figure the stem for the remaining 59 years?
Here is how. There are 10 heavenly stems. Since 1924 is Jia, so are 1934, 1944, 1954 and every subsequent 10 years. Refer to the diagram on the left above. Starting with 1924, lets count to 10 in a clockwise manner. We arrive at 1934 at the Xu or Dog position. This position which represents the year 1934 is Jia Xu or Wood Dog year. Refer to the diagram on the right above. Now starting at 1934 we count to 10 again in a clockwise manner. We arrive at the Monkey position. This is 1944 or Jia Shen or Wood Monkey year. Repeating the process we can figure out the positions of each of the Jia years to 1984 and beyond. This is shown below.
Now lets run through a couple of examples. Lets figure out the stem branch for someone born in 1956. Locate the position of 1954 (nearest to 1956) on the diagram below (left side). This is Jia Wu. Counting clockwise you arrive in 1956. Stem is Bing (Fire). Branch is Shen or Monkey. 1956 is Bing Shen or Fire Monkey year.
Lets do it for someone born in 1991. Refer to diagram above (right side). Since 1991 is between 1984 and 1994 we start at 1984 which is Jia Zi. Counting clockwise we have Jia (1984), Yi (1985), Bing (1986), Ding (1987) , Wu (1988), Ji (1989) Geng (1990) and Xin (1991). Since that is the Wei or Goat position and Xin is metal, we have Xin Wei or Metal Goat year.
Core Principle 8 定量规定则 Determine the Amount and the Standard
Feng Shui thinking has an affinity with sustainable development; the idea is that the population density of a place should be in proportion to the capacity it can sustain. In Feng Shui, where the water comes in and goes out is called the “Shui Kou”, and there is a standard and a guideline we can adhere to so the resource can keep up with the population growth. Many of the traditional towns and villages kept to this standard to survive.
Chapter 7 of the “Rudiyan Tushuo” 入地眼图说 or “The Illustrated Earth Penetrating Eyes”, entitled “Shui Kou”, ives a rough guide for the type of development a place can handle, it says:
“From 1 to 60-70 miles or 1 to 20-30 miles, if there is an affectionate feeling in the landscape and the Qi is held back, then it should sustain a large to medium size city. If it is only 10 or so miles then it should sustain a large town, if it is 5 to 6 miles then it should sustain a small town and if it is only 1 to 2 miles then it is good for a village. The wealth of a place is determined by the distance (of an open space) and the amount of water (that is available).” 
The open space referred to above is called a “Ming Tang” in Feng Shui . The Ming Tang is likened to the open space in front of the Emperor’s throne. This is where the ministers and the court officials are gathered, and their size and quality will determine the future of a kingdom. Likewise, the size and the quality of a Ming Tang can determine the auspicious and harmfulness of a site. The Ming Tang should not be over or under-sized, and it should have an amount appropriate to the number of dwellers and the functional requirements of the built form.
In other words, we should not waste the land or the resource, nor should we allow an insufficient land size to create unnecessary pressure on the occupants .
Hong Kong is considered to have prosperous Feng Shui because the water of the Zhujiang River enters the harbor at the Tian Men or the “Heaven’s Door” to the NW Qian direction, where it is wide open and leaves at the “Di Fu” or the “Earth’s Gate” to the SE Kun direction where it is narrow and tight; thus holding a large amount of water with a deep harbor. Ref: “Kanyu Guanjian” 堪舆管见or “My Humble Opinions on Kanyu” by Michael Jiang.
A Ming Tang is originally a sacred building where the Emperor paid homage to Heaven, to pray for a good harvest, but later on Feng Shui adopted the term to describe the open space in front of a site for a building, or a tomb, or even a town.
Feng Shui standards and guidelines not only applied to site selection and planning, but they also applied to measurements and to the division of time, like the Luban 鲁班and the Yabai 压白Rulers.
Without a firm amount and a proper standard, no Feng Shui audit or analysis is possible. The major problem facing Feng Shui is that even after 2 – 3,000 years of development, there are no agreed standards between different Liqi Pai and Compass Schools of Feng Shui, thus making it a major impediment to the continued advancement of Feng Shui knowledge in this area. Fortunately, the same difficulty is not evident in the Xingshi Pai or the Form Schools.
Core Principle 9 顺 乘生气原则 Take Advantage of the Sheng Qi
The first sentence in Guo Pu’s 郭璞book “Zang Shu” 葬书, or “The Book of Burial” stated one of the main aims of Feng Shui: “To bury is to “ride” (that is to take advantage) of the Sheng Qi”. What is Sheng Qi and how can one identify it?
A Ming Dynasty Feng Shui master called Jiang Pingjie 蒋平阶, in his book, “Shuilong Jing” 水龙经or “The Water Dragon Classic” (reference) pointed out that the key to discern the moving “Sheng Qi” is to look at the water, he wrote:
“Qi is the mother of water, when water stops, Qi stops. Water in turn follows the Qi flow and when water stops flowing, Qi also. There is a mutual feeling between the mother (Qi) and son (water) and they pursue each other. What we can see on the surface is water, what we cannot see inside is Qi. What is showed and not showed go together and that is the magical effect of making and transforming between the two. So if we want to examine the movement of Qi on the ground, we can look at the coming and going of water and then we will know. The moving Dragon has water at its side (so) when water comes to a halt, Qi also”.
Thus we can see the relationship between the two – the visible form and the invisible Qi. Another way to discern the Sheng Qi is to look at the mountains and valleys, the grass and the trees. According to a Ming Dynasty Feng Shui master called Liao Xiyong 廖希雍, who wrote in his book, “Zang Jing” 葬经 or “The Classic of Burial” (reference):
“Whenever the mountain air is full, the smoke rises, the cloud is steamy and the rocks moist and shining, then the (Sheng) Qi is present. When the cloud and the air are lifeless, the colors dark and dull, the rocks broken and fallen, the soil parched, the earth withered, there is little growth and the water courses all dried up, then the (Sheng) Qi has gone elsewhere’.
proportions and the Three Eras and Nine Periods for a standard to calibrate time, as well as the Twenty-Four Mountains to calculate the orientation of a dwelling, etc.
Thus we can see the Sheng Qi is the life force that makes things grows and Sha Qi is the negative opposite that halts the growth of life. Sheng Qi can be cultivated by adjusting the Yin and Yang balance of a situation, so they are in harmony and mutually supports each other .
The aim of Feng Shui is to locate a building or a tomb in places where there is Sheng Qi so the occupants can take advantage of it .
Core Principle 10 适中居中原则 Suitably Located in the Middle and Residing in the Middle
This principle has 3 layers of meaning:
1) Suitably Located in the Middle.
The reason why the historical capitals in China were never located in the coastal cities like Guangzhou and Shanghai, or towards the borders like Harbin and Kuming, is because a capital needs to be centrally located. In Chapter 156 of “Taiping Yulan” 太平御览, the following advice is given:
“An Emperor is given the mandate to establish a new kingdom. To site a capital it must be located in the center of the land, so it can control the peace of the world, stabilize the Yin and Yang and control the 4 directions to rule the country properly”. The same idea dictates that an urban business center is always located in the middle of a modern city and the best shops are always located in the middle of a shopping mall.
2) Stand out as the main body in a planning arrangement with the auxiliary buildings surrounding the host.
In a traditional Feng Shui landscape, the main buildings are often located along a central axis, which runs from north to south. The north axis is often extended into the mountain range behind and the south open out onto a generous Ming Tang in front, forming the
Song Dynasty scholar Huang Miaoying黄妙应in his article, “Boshan Pian” 博山篇wrote:
“(If) the Qi is not in harmony, then there is no growth and (it is) not a suitable place to “Dian Xue” (to locate the building site)”.
One can do it in a passive way by sitting the built form in a Sheng Qi spot (the Xue), this is called “Cheng Sheng Qi” 乘生气 (to “ride” the Sheng Qi), but we can also do it in a more active way to “Na Sheng Qi” 纳生气 or “to take” the Sheng Qi by orientating and by designing the building so the form and the openings can receive the Sheng Qi in the most efficient way. That is why in Yangzhai Feng Shui, after sitting the building, the design of the internal and external layout becomes an important issue to consider, because it will determine the efficiency of a building to “De Qi” 得气 or to obtain the Sheng Qi to nourish the occupants.
character “Ding” (similar to the capital letter T). The secondary or auxiliary buildings are usually located to the east and west and there is always a meandering watercourse in front.
The ancestral temples, the burial complexes, the imperial gardens of the Ming and Qing dynasties were all planned according to this principle. See Figure 5 below:
3) Neither slanting nor lean against, the building is appropriately located at an advantageous position.
“Residing in the middle” in this case does not mean the building is located dead in the middle of a planning arrangement, but it is “centrally located” at the most beneficial position, so it can take advantage of its surrounding. The location should neither be too Yang nor too Yin, neither too high nor too low, and neither too large nor too small .
Striking a balance between the two extremes of a situation is an important core principle of Feng Shui and that is what we meant by “Suitably Located in the Middle and Residing in the Middle”.
Core Principle 11 审美原则 Aesthetic Appreciations
Since we perceive both the Qi of the Form and the Qi of the Formless with our five senses and our mind, an aesthetic appreciation of a built form in its environment becomes an important part of Feng Shui. Because Qi can exist in the Form and the Formless, there is also the beauty of the Form and the beauty of the Formless.
Beauty of the Form can include the beauty of the natural landscape, the beauty of natural form and materials, the beauty of man-made objects and the beauty of applied colors and lighting. These are the externally beautiful (Wai Mei 外美）and we appreciate them with our five senses, with the eyesight being the most acute.
Beauty of the Formless can include the beauty of balance and harmony, the beauty of being at peace with the world, the beauty of being “Ziran”, the beauty of being true to one’s character or true to the character of a built form and the beauty of “Wuwei”. These are the internally beautiful (Nei Mei 内美) and we appreciate them with our mind.
“Guanshi Dili Zhimeng” 管氏地理指蒙 or “A General Guide to Guan’s Dili (Feng Shui)” has this to say about the location of a “Xue”: “If it is to be located high, then it should not be too dangerously high, If it is to be located low, then it should not be too inconveniently low. If it is to be exposed, then it should not be too blatantly exposed. If it is to be concealed, then it should not be too concealed that it becomes invisible. If it is to be special, then it should not be too special that it becomes strange. If it is to be artful, then it should not be too artful that it becomes cheap looking.”
The opposite of beauty is ugliness, and we need to know what constitute ugliness as well,  if we are to appreciate what is beautiful.
Just like Yin and Yang, the externally beautiful cannot exist without the internally beautiful and vice versa,  so in Feng Shui we need to aim for both. But if the resources are limited in a given situation, then it is necessary to take care of the “Nei Mei” first before spending money on the “Wai Mei”. Laozi said this very clearly in “Daode Jing” 道德经: “Everything has Form but Form comes from the Formless”, so without the beauty of the formless, and in Feng Shui, it means the beauty of the Spirit of a place, the beautiful physical form will always remain a hollow one .
Core Principle 12 绿化原则 Greening the Environment
The amount of trees and wood can give an indication of the quality of the Feng Shui of a site. The “Zang Shu” 葬书or “The Book of Burial” praised the greening of the environment with these words:
“The soil is thick and the water deep, The grass is lush and the forest full. The honored guests take advantage (of the site), It is worth million ounces of gold”.
Trees and woods are the source of Sheng Qi (Life Enhancing Qi) and they can be laid out in such a way to assemble the Qi to nourish the occupants.  They can also protect the house from the cold wind and provide a solid back to the house while embracing the Qi at the front.
Trees can also absorb carbon dioxide, give out oxygen, reduce noise and provide the occupants with shade as well as fruit and vegetables. One can also use trees and woods to reduce dampness, improve the soil quality and generally improve the Feng Shui if they are located in the appropriate parts of the site.
“When the world knows what is beautiful, ugliness appears” – Laozi in “Daode Jing”
“The form cannot escape the eyes, the eyes cannot escape the mind.” – “:A General Guide to Guan’s Feng Shui”
Over the years, the writer has developed a very rough and short checklist for aesthetic appreciation. Originally they were used to appreciate Chinese calligraphy, but the writer has found them to be very useful for everyday objects as well. A thing is consider beautiful when it has the SUISY quality: Simple, Universal, Imaginative, Suggestive, and has Yin/Yang contrast.
Bixia Chen et al. gave a good example of how the planting of the Fukugi trees embraced the Qi for the Bise Village in Okinawa. “A Study on Village Landscape and Layout of Fukugi Habitat Embracing Trees in Okinawa”. Paper presented at the Second International Conference on Scientific Feng Shui and Built Environment, Hong Kong 2006.
The general guideline is not to plant them too close to the house; the distance should be proportional to the size and the height of a tree. On the sunny side it is more desirable to have deciduous varieties while on the shady side they can be evergreens .
Core Principle 13 改造风水原则 Feng Shui can be Transformed and Improved.
The Feng Shui of a place can be remolded to improve its quality. Cai Yuan-Ding 蔡元定in his book, ”Fawei Lun” 发微论 has this to say about Man and Nature:
“The forging and the blending of the mountains and valleys are done by Heaven, but the tailoring and the fashioning of the landscape are done by Man.”
Cai Yuan Ding went on to say the proper way for us to transform Feng Shui is to realize that Nature does not arbitrary set out to fool us humans, nor should we humans set out deliberately to defeat Nature by our will and our prejudices. We should use our knowledge and our know how to mutually respond (Ganyin)  to Nature to ensure that any improvement is long term and viable.
In the process of enhancement, the natural environment should be respected at all times because if we take out more than what the situation requires and destroy nature in the process then whatever improvement we carry out will not benefit us in the long run.
There are many examples in Chinese history where the Feng Shui of a place was transformed and improved to suit human needs without destroying Nature. The Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing is a good case in point. Even though a large area of land was dug up and made into lakes and hills, the general ecology of the environment was preserved and the place was well planned, so after hundreds of years, we are still able to enjoy its beauty and good Feng Shui .
Prof. Wang Yude mentioned in his book that during the early Qin period, the imperial court set the following rule of etiquette concerning trees surrounding a tomb site:
Trees for the tombs of imperial members should be pine trees,
Trees for the tombs of ministers should be cypress trees,
Trees for the tombs of officials should be poplar trees
Trees for the tombs of scholars should be locust trees,
Trees for the tombs of ordinary people should be willow trees.
“One who has “Ganyin” is one who follows the Way of Heaven (Tiandao)” – Famei Lun.
Prof. Wang also gave another example in his book of how a village in Anhui Prtovince (Hong Cun) improved its Feng Shui by re-arranging the houses, re-directed the water course, repaired and built new road and plant trees and shrubs after engaging a Feng Shui expert called He Hede to do the analysis and suggestions. Afterward, the village prospered and even now the place is like a picture card paradise, with many tourists visiting the village each year.
Core Principle 14 阴阳调和辩证原则 Yin Yang Dialectics to Achieve Harmony
Prof. Wang Yude calls the Yin Yang Dialectics the soul of Feng Shui because without Yin and Yang contrast there is no potential for the Qi to flow and therefore no Feng Shui to speak about. To find the balance and harmony in our environment we first need to distinguish what is Yin and what is Yang in a given situation before we can adjust and integrate them to transform the situation.
To help us to do this with a checklist of various Yin and Yang classifications, Cai Yuan-Ding 蔡元定, a Song Dynasty Feng Shui expert, wrote a very useful classic called “Fawei Lun” 发微论or “A Discourse on the Gross and the Subtle” mentioned earlier, where he listed all the important complementary opposites we need to consider when we assess the Feng Shui of a place.
Instead of giving full explanations of these terms, which is not possible under the circumstances, I will list the terms below and suggest that it would be worthwhile for anyone deeply interested in Feng Shui to read this book thoroughly:
1) Yin and Yang 阴与阳. 2) Gang and Rou 刚与柔or Hard and Soft (sometimes translated as Substantial and Insubstantial). 3) You and Wu 有与无or Have and have –not (sometimes translated as Being and Non-being or Form and Formless). 4) Dong and Jing 动与静or Moving and Stationary (sometimes translated as Active and Passive) 5) Ju and San 聚与散or Gather and Dispersed. 6) Gan and Ji 干与技or Stem and Branch. 7) Xing and Shi 形与势or Form and Configuration. 8) Shan and Shui 山与水or Mountain and Water. 9) Wei and Zhu 微与著or Subtle and Stand out. 10) Shen and Qian 深与浅or Deep and Shallow. 11) Sheng and Si 生与死or Alive and dead. 12) Ci and Xiong 雌与雄or Feminine and Masculine (sometimes translated as the animated Yin and Yang).
In practice, when we observe and analyze a situation we can contrast and find the extremes, and by using the Yin Yang dialectics, we can find an appropriate solution lying somewhere within the bound of the two poles. Confucius referred to this idea as being “Zhongyong” 中庸or the Golden Mean and the Golden Mean does not lay dead in the middle but is appropriately situated so the Yin and Yang are balanced and in harmony with each other .
Core Principle 15 合时有情原则 Being Timely and Affectionate
Being timely and affectionate also brings us to the last of the 15 core principles. It is also the one principle that unifies all of the previous ones we have mentioned.
Master Tan Yang-Wu 谈养吾who is also known as Tan Hao-Ran 谈浩然, had a seminally book on Feng Shui published in Hong Kong in 1948, entitled “Da Kuan Kong Liu Fa Ben Yi” 大玄空六法本义or The Original Meanings of Xuan Kong Liu Fa (Six Methods) where he summarized the essence of Xing Shi Pai (Form School) and Liqi Pai (Compass School) Feng Shui as being “Qing” 情 or “(being) affectionate” and “Shi” 时 or “(being) timely” , in a chapter called “Identifying the feelings and affection from mountains and rivers” 辨山情水意 (bian shan qing shui yi) .
Prof. Wang Yude has pointed out further: “Everything has the two poles of opposite and one of unity, from the mutual transformation of Yin and Yang, from the beginning and the end of a life, from being and non-being, from difficulties to achievements, from the front to the back, from the extreme to being overturned, they all have their quality of auspicious and harmfulness, like Wuxing has generation and control (Sheng/Ke 生克), the landscape has beauty and ugliness, the directions have their suitability and avoidance, and the wind can be stored or released and so forth…these ideas are simple and plain, they came from direct observations, guessingly reflecting the objective world, even though they cannot reveal the “Original Character” of a matter fully, it nevertheless made a sizable attempt at looking at the real world we are living in”.
While the “Form” School is concerned mainly with the tangible form of the natural landscape and the man-made environment, the “Compass” School is concerned mainly with the intangible Gua Qi 卦气 of time (Yuanyun 元运 or Cycles of Luck) and orientation. The main aim is to “Quji Bixiong” 趋吉避凶 or to “hasten the auspicious and avoid the harmful”, hence the concept of timeliness as mentioned by Master Tan and because the emphasis of this paper is on the “Form” School, I will not dwell on the meaning of “Shi” any further.
“Mountains and rivers that face me are considered to have affection,
(To) the back of me are considered to have no affection,
I am the host (concerned).
Places to establish a (burial) hole,
Places to erect a dwelling all use me (as a reference).
Facing the left then the affection is to the left,
Facing the right then the affection is to the right,
Like the four limbs of a person,
They all face inward and not outward,
The affection lies within the body.
(Like) the branches and the leaves of a plant,
(They) all sided towards their own body,
(So) the affection also lies within.
When speaking about “Xingshi” (Form School),
There is no other word than “Affection”(Qing),
When speaking about Liqi (Compass School),
There is no other word than “Timely” (Shi).
Being affectionate and timely is considered to be fortunate,
So according to Master Tan, the unchanging principle underlying the Form School Feng Shui is human feelings and affections, which enabled us to connect our body and soul to the environment we live and work in. To him and the writer agrees, Feng Shui in essence, examines and contemplates this intimate relationship between Man and Nature.
After writing a thick book of 542 pages on the philosophy and aesthetics of architecture(45), the author Zhao Xinshen 赵鑫珊has this to say in his Epilogue:
“In the writing process I cannot avoid the “Qing” word, therefore I often wrote with emotion. If architecture cannot get entangled with human feelings and affections, then it loses its life force, its enchantment and its meaning, as well as its reason for being; it becomes just an empty space of pure physics and geometry”.
Likewise, if we have to reduce the core principles of Feng Shui into just one word, then we cannot avoid the “Qing” word as well. In the final analysis, without a mutual response or “Ganying” 感应, between man and his environment – that is without “Qing” 情, there is no Feng Shui to speak about.
Perhaps the popular Chinese sentiment, expressed in this saying, “Sanshui Youqing, Renjian Youai” 山水有情，人间有爱 or “There is Affection in the Natural Environment and Love in the Human World”, is the best way to describe the well-spring that continues its supply of meanings to the core principles of Feng Shui.
Missing affection and time is considered to be unfortunate. (Whether speaking) with Form Experts or with Compass Experts, (Whether) speaking with thousands and thousands of words, One should know they do not go beyond the scope of these two words “Qing” and “Shi”. Large results follow generous affections, Small results follow meager affections, The size of the result, Is related to the form and the configuration (Xingshi), The extend of the development, Is related to the management of the Qi (Liqi). They are the unchanging principles” 45 “Man – House – World. Architectural Philosophy and Architectural Aesthetics”, by Zhao Xinshen,.Publiched by Baihua Literature and Art Publishing House, Tianjin 2004.
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Howard Choy, Feng Shui Architect
Howard Choy (Cai Hong 蔡洪b. 1949) is a qualified and practicing Feng Shui Architect. He graduated from University of NSW in 1974 with a B.Sc. (Arch) and a B.Arch. degree. Howard was born in China and migrated to Australia at an early age, yet managed to keep his language and culture intact through his life long involvement with Tai Chi and Qigong. Feng Shui provided the perfect vehicle for him to combine his passion for Chinese qi energetics with his professional practice.
Howard has written 4 books on Feng Shui and Qigong and numerous articles for various magazines and journals worldwide. He has worked as the principal consulting Feng Shui Architect on the capital upgrading of the Chinese Garden in Darling Harbour, after having successfully completed the Feng Shui urban renewal for Sydney’s Chinatown in 2001 for the Sydney Olympic Games.
The increasing corruption of Feng Shui in modern times has been partly due to practitioners moving away or forgetting the basics of Feng Shui. By examining what are the core principles, we can work towards establishing a set of guidelines for the sound practice of Feng Shui to arrest the corruption and the danger of Feng Shui becoming a real superstition.
There are many references by modern scholars and experts on the subject, such as Prof. Wang Yude 王玉德 of Central China Normal University in Wuhan, who has written about the basic principles of Kanyu (Feng Shui), and a collection of excellent research papers edited by Prof. Wang Qiheng 王其亨of Tianjin University, in a book entitled “Research of Feng Shui Theory”, in which the Classics are cited and traditional buildings are researched for an answer to the correct practice of Feng Shui.
This paper will attempt to examine some of these citations for a preliminary investigation of what constituted the core principles of Feng Shui.
Core principles, appropriate response, yin and yang balance, the spirit of the site, topography, Feng Shui standards, Chinese aesthetics, dialectics and methodology.
The Chinese have been using Feng Shui for the past 6000 years , yet we are still debating whether it is a science or a superstition worth preserving. Prof. Yu Kong-Jian 俞孔坚 made the following comment in the conclusion his book, “In Search of an Origin for the Ideal Landscape – the Cultural Significance of Feng Shui”: “Is it a science? Is it a superstition? Merciful Buddha! Why bother passing judgment on it? Feng Shui is a cultural phenomenon, its true meaning lies in what it reflects in its ideal landscape – a kind of blue print for a cultural and living model for us.” 
Practising Feng Shui Architect, director of Feng Shiui Architects Py. Ltd. Sydney and arqitetur.ac Berlin. Brunnenstr. 181, 10119 Berlin Germany. +49/30/28385-855, Fax –857. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Websites: http://www.feng-shui-architects.com and http://arqitektur.com
This assumption is based on archeological excavation of the Banpo Neolithic Village near Xian built more than 6000 years ago, showing evidence of the use of Feng Shui in the location and the layout of the settlement.
The writer has done all the translations from Chinese to English using the Chinese (Simplied) – Microsoft Pinyin IME 3.0 program.
Prof Yu is right; instead of trying to put Feng Shui into a pigeonhole, it is far more productive to study it seriously and see what it can offer us, otherwise Feng Shui will always remain a puzzle to us and open to continual fraud and further corruption. What better place to start than to examine its core principles. These principles came about because the Chinese have used Feng Shui to manage their environment over hundreds and thousands of years, and this allowed them to collect many valuable experiences and insights.
The following paper uses Prof. Wang Yu-De’s work as a starting point4. Prof. Wang first wrote about the 10 core principles  of Feng Shui in his book, “Zhonghua Kanyu Shu” 中华堪舆术or “The Chinese Art of Kanyu”, published in Taiwan in 1995, to which I have added a further 5 principles based on my own research and experience, working as a Feng Shui architect and teacher .
THE CORE PRINCIPLES OF FENG SHUI
Core Principle 1 整体系统原则 An Integrated and Holistic System
In the Feng Shui paradigm , our environment is considered to be an integral system as a whole, with Man at the center, including all things “under Heaven and on Earth”. Each of the individual components does not stand-alone; they are mutually connected, mutually restrained, mutually dependent, mutually opposing and mutually transforming.
Because everything is inter-related, Feng Shui enable us to use such ideas as the theory of Yin and Yang 阴阳, Wuxing 五行 (Five Elements) and the concept of Qi 气 to observe and to describe the relationship between the parts and the whole. When there is synergy between these, the Chinese say it has Sheng Qi , and when the synergy is missing or out of balance, it has Sha Qi 煞气or Blocked Qi.
The inter-relationship between the macrocosm of the environment and the microcosm of the body is clearly stated in the “Huangdi Zhaijing’ 黄帝宅经 or “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Dwellings”:
Principles 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 and 13 are based on Prof. Wang work.
The emphasis of this paper is on the Xingshi Pai or the Form School of Feng Shui, for those who are interested in the core principles relating to the Liqi Pai or the Compass School of Feng Shui, please refer to Liqi books like the ones written by Nanhai Zhuren 南海主人called “Kanyuxue Yuanli” 堪舆学原理or “The Principles of Kanyu Study”.
For a more detail explanation of the Feng Shui paradigm, please refer to my paper, “Towards an Inter-cultural Approach to Modern Architecture and Planning using Feng Shui” presented at the Second International Conference on Scientific Feng Shui and the Built Environment, Hong Kong 1996.
More explanation on the concept of Sheng Qi will be given in Core Principle 9. 2
“The terrain is the body, the spring is the blood, the soil is the skin, the grasses are the hairs, the house is the clothing, and the doors are the accessories. If they are properly related to each other in a dignified way, then it is considered most auspicious.”
Qing Dynasty Feng Shui Master Yao Ting-Yi 姚廷奕 in his book “Yang Zhai Ji Cheng” 阳宅集成or “The Complete Collections for Yang Dwellings” also emphasized the functional character of an integrated approach to Feng Shui, where all of the components of a house and its environment are related to each other in an appropriate way .
The idea of an integrated and holistic universe is expressed in the Chinese saying “Tian Ren He Yi” 天人合一 or “Man and Heaven combined into One”. The authors of the book, “Geomancy and the Selection of Architecture Placement in China” summarized the development of this philosophical concept from the Zhou to Song Dynasty and concluded that it has three relevant implications for us to consider: 1) Man is part of Nature; therefore we are responsible to each other. 2) Nature has its universal laws and Man should follow them. 3) Human nature and the Dao are the same, so we should be “Ziran”  in our behavior.
In Feng Shui terms, this means that we should work with Nature rather than against her, it also means that we not only need to consider the individual parts but also their relationship to each other and to the whole, so our actions are always integrated and holistic in principle and in practice. The Daoist called this “Wuwei” 无为10, which is at the core of Feng Shui practices and it also brings us to the second principle:
Core Principle 2 因地制宜原则 Being Suitable and Appropriate to the Restriction and Limitation of the Site 
Yang Dwellings need to select the (right) topography, Back to the mountain and facing water is called “Renxin” 人心 (the will of the people), The contour of the Coming-Dragon holds its head high and graceful, The water should embrace to form a ring shape, A “Ming-Tang” 明堂is prosperous when it is large and generous, The wide-open “Shui Kuo” 水口can store 10,000 ounces of gold, The “Door Sha” 门 煞 (should be) free of obstacles, (and) A bright and airy courtyard brings prosperity to the house.”
What is “Ziran” 自然? Dai Jianye 戴建业in his book, “Laozi – Ziran Rensheng” 老子- 自然人生or “Laozi – the Ziran Way of Life” told an interesting fable to explain the meaning of being “Ziran”: “The Spirit of the Rivers was like us, he did not know what is “Ziran“ 自然, so one day he decided to ask the Spirit of the Northern Ocean for an answer. The Spirit of the Northern Ocean explained by making a comparison between the behavior of animals and human. He said the horses and the cows are born with four legs and that is “Ziran”. But when man came along and put a bridle on the horse’s head, and a rope through the cow’s nose, and metal shoes on their feet, then that is not “Ziran”. Man being selfish destroyed “Ziran”, and only when man ceases to be greedy and pretentious, and carefully observe the Way of Heaven (Tiandao天道), can he return to his innate character (“Benxing” 本性) and being “Ziran”.”
“Wuwei” doe not mean do nothing, but doing with appropriate and responsive actions.
Every site has its limitation and advantages. Some places are only suitable for residential use while others are more suitable for commerce or manufacturing, so there is a need to determine what a site is best suitable for, to allow the resultant development to be “Ziran” and not forced or out of balance with its neighbor.
In the “Book of Zhou Yi” 周易 (The Book of Change), under the commentary for the hexagram Da Zhuang 大壮, it is suggested that in a given situation it is always best to “Shi Xing Er Zhi” 适形而之or “aim for an appropriate form” (literally: “stop at a suitable shape”) and the “Shi Ji” 史 记or “A Record of History”, tells the story of how Jiang Taigong 姜太公, the Duke of Qin, used this principle to overcome the limitation of a site .
The landmass of China is extremely large and the topography as well as the weather pattern varies markedly from place to place, so there are many building forms to fit in with the local conditions. Prof. Cheng Jianjun 程建军 in his book, “Fengshui yu Jianzhu” 风水与建筑or “Feng Shui and Architecture” illustrated a variety of residential building types one can find all over China. See the illustration below (Figure 1):
“The Duke looked at the surrounding environment, realizing that the land is exhausted and the people are poor, so he suggested to Nu Gong 奴功, to abandon farming and concentrate on handicraft, fishing and making sea salt instead.”
When the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Taizu 朱太祖wanted to develop Wudangshan as a Royal and Daoist temple prescient, he forbade any excavation or removal of trees or soil from the site. Subsequently all the buildings were designed to fit in with the topography of the land to follow the slope of the ground, without any damage to the environment .
Within the same site, the location to “Dian Xue” 点穴, or to pin point the exact spot to build, should also be done according to the terrain and the usage. Prof. Wang Yude quoted the “Shuilong Jing” 水龙经 or “The Water Dragon Classic” to support this “Contextualist” approach to site selection: “Site selection is not easy because the “wind” and the “earth” of the four directions are all different and the terrain of the land is not the same. One can locate the “Xue” half way up the mountain or deep into the valley, or on a flat ground or between rock formations, or even under water…”
Core Principles 3 依山傍水原则 Bound by Mountains and Near Water
This principle has evolved through two different considerations: one is physical, as mentioned in Prof. Wang Yule’s book, “The Chinese Art of Kanyu” and the other is cultural, as mentioned in Prof. Yu Kongjian’s book, “In Search of an Origin for the Ideal Landscape”.
Physically, mountains are the “skeletons” of the land, they not only provide us with protection from the weather and from our predators ; they also provide us with food and resources. Water is the source of life and means of transportation, without water we cannot survive, so from as early as the Neolithic times, Chinese have preferred to live in a place, which is “bound by mountains and near water”. Much of the archeological evidence of primitive settlements in China shows this tendency.
Culturally, the Chinese prefer a landscape strategy that is hidden in nature and is a part of it rather than being exposed and set oneself above nature. Prof Yu’s diagram below (Figure 2) clearly showed the Chinese preference of being bounded by mountains and not locating his house right on top of a hill.
Wudangshan is an interesting example of how conservation and ecology played an important part in Feng Shui. Since the Daoist followed the principle of “Daofa Ziran” 道法自然or “The method of Dao is Ziran”, so to find the “Original Character” (Benxing) of a site and not to destroy it but to work with it is very similar to ecological principles. “Bound by mountains and near water” also has a military advantage, it can take the initiative to attack but it can also be easily defended. During the Warring States period, the kingdom of Jin moved its capital 11 times and each time is was “bound by mountains and near water”, therefore we can see this criteria for site selection is of paramount importance to the prosperity of a nation.
Most of the ancient and modern cities in China are also “bound by mountains and near water”; the larger cities like Shanghai and Wuhan are either near the sea or near the junction of two or more rivers. In Feng Shui terms, it is said where the “Shui Kou” (“Water Mouth”) meets, it is also a place where it is “De Qi” or where the Sheng Qi is obtained, so naturally people will want to settle there.
In the “Chengma” 乘马 chapter of “Guanzi” 管子 (reference) it is written: “Whenever we locate a capital, it is either at the front of a mountain range or on a broad plain. It must be elevated and near a sufficient source of water supply. The drainage must be clean and respond to the natural conditions of the site and the terrain of the land. Therefore, the layout of the city need not be too regular, and the roads need not to be too straight.” 
Core Principle 4 负阴抱阳原则 Carry the Yin and Embrace the Yang
Master Wang Tingzhi 王亭之, a famous Feng Shui master from Hong Kong, once wrote these words in his book, Feng Shui Pingtan” 风水平谈 or “A Casual Conversation on Feng Shui”: “Not knowing the “Shui Kuo” is not knowing Feng Shui”. Since he is the current grandmaster of Zhongzhou Pai Xuan Kong Feng Shui 中州派and their birthplace was in LuoYang 洛 阳where the three rivers meet, they placed a high regard on “Shui Kou” and has a unique Liqi formulae called “Pai Long Jue” 排龙诀 to calculate the influence of a “Shui Kuo” on a dwelling.
Prof. Wang Yude also pointed out that “bound by mountains and near water” can have two meanings, it can be “Tu Bao Wu” 土包屋or “Earth Wrapping the Houses” and the “earth” can be man-made like planting trees behind the houses. It can also be “Wu Bao Tu “屋包土or “Houses wrapping the Earth” and the “wrapping” can be done by the houses or the houses “wrapped’ in such a way that they become a mountain.
A Feng Shui house should be protected from the cold wind and facing the warm sun The phrase “Cang Feng Ju Qi” 藏凤聚气or “Hide from the Wind and Gather the Qi” is often used in conjunction with the phrase “Fu Yin Bao Yang” (Carry the Yin and Embrace the Yang) because both aim to find an ideal Feng Shui spot (Xue) where the Yin and Yang are balanced and where the Sheng Qi is assembled. This gives rise to the Siling” 四灵or the Four Mythical Animals” model (Figure 3), where the embrace of the four sides of the Azure Dragon to the left , the White Tiger to the right, the Red Bird in front and the Black Turtle at the back, gives the occupants a sense that the environment is embracing them and protecting them. The site is then considered to “You Qing” 有情, that is it has feeling and affection, and is most desirable.
Some writers  have also called this principle “Zuo Bei Chao Nan” 座北朝南or “Sitting on the North and Facing South”, because China is located in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is recommended that a house should sit on the shadier side to the north and facing the warmer side to the south, so that it can take advantage of China being generally higher to the NW and lower to the SE, to protect the house from the cold wind coming from the higher directions.(18)
Unlike the west, which tends to look in, the Chinese often describe his orientation by imagining he is standing on the spot looking out.
An example is the writer Hui Yuan 慧缘, who wrote the article, “The 10 Major Principles of Landscape Feng Shui”.
He Guangting 何光廷, a Feng Shui master of the late Qing period, wrote in his book, “Dixue Zhizheng” 地学指正 or “The Correct Guide to the Study of Dixue (Feng Shui)”: “Wind cannot be avoided in the flat plain, but it has Yin Yang difference. Those that face east and south will receive the warm and hot wind (and) we called it the Yang Wind; those that face west and north will receive the cool and cold wind (and) we called it the Yin Wind. If there is no protection nearby, then the wind will penetrate the bones, and bring the owners increasing defeat and fewer off-springs.”
Core Principle 5 观形察势原则 Observe the Form and Examine the Configuration
Feng Shui is derived from the earlier art of “Xiangdi” 相地or “Observing the Land” and “Xiangzhai” 相宅or “Observing the Dwellings” , so observation and investigation of the landform to locate the correct site for a dwelling is one of the core principles of Feng Shui.
The procedure to “Xiangdi” was described in a “Luan Tou” 峦头 or “Mountain Tops” (another name for the Form School) method called “Dili Wujue” 地理五诀or “The Five Formulae for Dili (Feng Shui)”  These are namely: the “Long Fa” 龙法or the “Dragon Method”, the “Sha Fa” 砂法or the “Sands Method”, the “Xue Fa” 穴法or the “Acu-point Method”, the “Shui Fa” 水法or the “Water Method” and the “Xiang Fa” 向法or the “Facing Method” .
The procedure to “Xiangzhai” was described in “Xing Fa” or the “Form Method” of looking at the “Six External Matters” and the “Six Internal Matters” of a house. 
Prof. Wang Yude said when people live in a place like this, it is beneficial to health and well being, he said in a situation like this, the occupants can receive the “Ling Qi” 灵气or the “Wondrous Spirit” of the mountains and valleys and the light and warmth of the sun and moon, What more can one ask for?
Ref: He Xiaoxin, 何晓昕 “Fengshui Tanyuan” 风水探源, or “The Source of Feng Shui”, p10 and p66.
Ref: “Zhongguo Gudai Fengshui yu Jianzhu Xuanzhi” 中国古代风水与建筑选址or “Geomancy and the Selection of Architectural Placement in Ancient China” by Yi Ding 一丁, Yu Lu 雨露and Hong Yong, 洪涌who were all PhD students of Prof. Yu Xixian 于希贤from Beijing University.
This is also known as the landscape techniques of how to “Mi Long” 觅龙 (to seek the Dragon), how to “Cha Sha”21 察砂 (to examine the Sands), how to “Dian Xue” 点穴 (to pin-point the Feng Shui Spot or the Acu-point for burial or building), how to “Guan Shui” 观水 (to observe the Water) and to “Zhai Xiang” 择向 (to select the facing) respectively.
Ref: “Sanyuan Xuankong Lilun yu Shizheng” 三元玄空理论与实证 or “The Theory and Case Studies for Sanyuan Xuankong Feng Shui” by Qin Ruisheng 秦瑞生 of Taiwan.
The “Six External matters” are road and laneway, pond and well, toilet and urinal, animal enclosure, temple and alter, and bridge and overpass. Nowadays, the toilet and urinal is no longer outside and we seldom see an animal enclosure, pond or well. Instead we are more concerned with our privacy and disturbance from our neighbors.
The ‘Six Internal Matters” are gate and door, Ming Tang or light well and courtyard, living space, sleeping area, the kitchen and stove and the rice-grinder. Again, we do not have a rice-grinder any more and we are more concerned with our study and working from home. Moreover, the toilet and urinal with the utilities area have become an internal concern rather than an external one .
However, according to Prof. Wang Qiheng in his article, “The Xingshi Principles in the Feng Shui Theory and Design of Exterior Space of Old Chinese Buildings” , the Xingshi principles  are in fact an old Chinese theory of design of exterior space. They are systematic and scientific and have high theoretical and practical value. As Prof Wang said at the end of his article, “…the “Xingshi” theories not only can be used for reference in the study of the history and philosophy of traditional Chinese architecture and planning but they could also be used to explore the possible development of a theory on the practice of modern architecture with a Chinese characteristic.”
According to Prof. Wang Qiheng, “Xing” refers “Form” and “Shi” refers to “Configuration” . They are the complementary opposites such as the near and the far, the small and the big, the individual and the group, the parts and the whole, the visible and the invisible, that make up a space. In practice they are mutually opposing and mutually generating at the same time.
“Xing” and “Shi” co-exist in a complex spatial arrangement, and by observing the Form (Xing) and examining the Configuration (Shi) in their various layers of relationship, we can begin to understand the “Original Character” (Benxing) of a site, and thus be able to create a building that will fit in naturally, and in a holistic way. That is being “Ziran” and “Wuwei” at the same time.
Prof. Wang Qiheng summarizes his approach with the following saying: “Ju Qiaoxing ye Zhanshi” 聚巧形而展势or “Gather the (individual) Form skillfully to show off the (whole) Arrangement”. By doing so, he says that there are not only “Space for Man” (“Rende Kongjian” 人的空间) but also “Space for the Spirit” (“Shende Kongjian” 神的空间) in a piece of architecture or planning.
These are all concerns covered in the Xingshi Pai 形势派or the Form School of Feng Shui, the other being the Liqi 理气派or Compass School of Feng Shui, where it is more concerned with the effect of direction, time and the cycle of luck in a building.
Ref: “Fengshui Lilun Yuanjiu” or “Rsearch of Feng Shui Theory”, edited by Wang Qiheng and published by Tianjin University Publications, 1992.
When we look closer at Prof. Wang’s Xingshi theories, they are generally very similar to some of the Feng Shui core principles being considered in this paper.
“A distance of a thousand feet represents the general configuration and a distance of a hundred feet represents the concrete form.” (“Qianche Weishi, Baiche Weixing” 千尺为势, 百尺为形)
Here the practical application of Feng Shui for an environmental designer is at its most beneficial, for we can use Feng Shui to look deeply and holistically at a situation and this allows the designer to have a comprehensive appreciation of what he or she is dealing with .
Core Principle 6 地质检验原则 Examine the Geology of the Land
According to Prof. Wang Yude, the Chinese had a means of examining the geology of the land as early as 2000 years ago. This was called “Tu Yi Fa” 土宜法or “The Method to Test the Suitability of the Soil”. In “Si Tu” 司徒chapter of the “Zhou Li” 周礼or “The Rites of Zhou”, it was written that one should: “Use the method of ”Tu Yi” to distinguish the 12 types of soil, in order to know their advantage and harmfulness, so as to benefit the people and the domesticated animals, the plants and the vegetables.”
In “Shen Bao Jing” 神宝经or “The Classic of Spiritual Treasures”, a Ming Dynasty Feng Shui book, it is recommended that: “The soil should be firm and not loose; the Sheng Qi will not return to a soil that is stubbornly hard and the True Yang (the essential ingredients) will not reside in a soil that is loose and dispersed.”
This is something worthwhile for the architects and the environmental designers interested in Feng Shui to investigate further. Perhaps one day in the near future, as hinted by Prof. Wang Qiheng, we can use Feng Shui as an inspiration, to make a breakthrough and create a new holistic modern Chinese architecture, not unlike the influence of Zen Buddhism in the creation of a modern Japanese architecture. Let us hope it will not be just another stylistic trend from the Orient, but a genuine innovation with its root firmly based on the sound traditional Feng Shui principles.
The ancient Chinese reckoned that there are four ways in which the geology of the land could affect the inhabitants:
The soil could contain certain trace elements such as zinc, molybdenum, selenium and fluorine that could be exposed to the light and air to form chemical compounds that could adversely affect the health and well being of the inhabitants. This type of occurrence was recorded as early as 1000 years ago in the “Shan Hai Jing” 山海经 and in later books such as the “Er Tan” 耳谈or “An Earful of Conversation” by Wang Tong-Gui 王同轨of Ming Dynasty, which states that a: “Place where tin is produced is not suitable for agriculture, therefore the inhabitants are usually poor and has to emigrate to survive”.
Places with excessive dampness and rotten smell will affect people’s joints and cause rheumatic illness, also heart disease and skin irritations. Mildew and rot is a natural breeding ground for gems and is a source of various types of sickness, therefore it is not suitable for human habitation.
The influence of harmful radiations could also cause discomfort for the inhabitants. According to some Feng Shui practitioners, within 3 meters below the surface of a house, if there are underground streams, junctions between two or more subterranean water courses, hollow cavities or if the ground is composed of intricate layers of geology, then these unusual formations could radiate disturbing long-length waves, contaminated radiations and harmful particle streams that could affect the inhabitants and give rise to headaches, insomnia and even the lost of the function of some internal organs.
Geomagnetic influences could also affect the well being of the inhabitants. Our planet is enveloped in a field of magnetic radiation; we do not physically feel its presence but it affects us nevertheless. A strong magnetic field could cure but it could harm as well. Generally speaking, it is better to avoid sitting or facing a strong magnetic field of influence. (28)
“Examine the geology of the land” is not the same as geomancy or dowsing in the west even though the two often get mixed up. Feng Shui practitioners rely on observation of what is above to make an assessment of what is below. They carry out physical testing, instead of using a dowsing rod or a pendulum to do their work.
Core Principle 7 水质分析原则 Analyze the Quality of Water
The quality of water (especially drinking water) often determines the quality of life because plants need to be watered and humans need to drink constantly. Water can also bring disease and sickness, as well as being used for defense and transportation.
In the “Jin Shu” 尽数chapter of the “Lushi Chunqiu” 鲁氏春秋or “The Spring and Autumn Annals of the Lu Family”, it is written:
“Running water is never stale and a moving door hinge is never worm eaten, because they are always active…
(Places with) soft water tend to have more bald and infantile people,
(Places with) heavy water tend to have more cancerous and injured people,
(Places with) sweet tasting water tend to have more refine and beautiful people,
(Places with) pungent smelling water tend to have more ulcerous and paralyzed people,
(Places with) bitter tasting water tend to have more distorted and disabled people.”
In other words, different kinds of sickness are often associated with the different qualities of drinking water available and when the quality is good and free flowing, then the
Yang Jun-Song 杨筠松of Tang Dynasty wrote in his “Shier Zhangfa” 十二仗法or “The Methods of the 12 Rods” (some translated it as “The 12 Methods of Burial”): “Directly rushing at or sitting on the middle of a Sha (that is a strong magnetic field) is not recommended. The suitable Qi is often located to the two sides. It is most essential to “open the rod” (that is to bury) slightly to two or three feet either side of the vein”. A strong magnetic field often attracts thunder and lightning as well, so even if the soil is lush, it is not a suitable place for settlement.
inhabitants will tend to be healthy and well. The quality of water can also have a curative benefit because of the trace elements and the mineral content in it. Hot springs and health spas often attract human settlements nearby and they are considered to be places with good Feng Shui.
This is an entry level book on 8-Mansions fengshui by the Hong Kong master and prolific writer Bai heming (白鹤鸣), first published in 1996. It is not meant to be an academic treatise, but the writing style is clear, concise and easily understood.
” … Every Star is affected by the element of the Palace it enters, and the Star’s positive or negative character is enhanced or reduced, according to the general theory of interactions between elements. For example, if the shengqi Star of a qian house or qian person enters dui Palace, and as shengqi is of Wood element whereas dui is Metal, the benevolent shengqi Star is countered by the Palace element, and that reduces its benevolence. Another example: the negative jueming Star of a kun house or kun person enters kan Palace. jueming Star is Metal, whereas kan Palace is Water. As the jueming Star is being depleted, its capacity to do harm is diminished. In general, positive Stars entering favourable Palaces (being grown or supported) will become more positive, and conversely if they enter unfavourable Palaces (being countered or depleted) they will become less positive. Likewise, negative Stars entering favourable Palaces (being grown or supported) will become more negative, and in unfavourable Palaces (being countered or depleted), their capacity to do harm will be reduced. This concept is similar to the strength of stars in different palaces according to Purple Star destiny analysis… “
In addition, the author drew up a chart showing the varying strengths of the 8 Wandering Stars in different Palaces. In the chart he indicated a Star countering the Palace element as being neutral, and said the Star is not much affected. This view is unique.
The author went on to detail the steps a student should take in assessing the effect of the Wandering Stars:
The reader should first understand the intrinsic positive or negative nature of each Star. This is very important. A positive Star will always be a positive Star. Under no circumstances will it turn negative. Likewise, a negative Star is always a negative Star. It cannot turn positive;
Examine the distribution of 8-Mansions Wandering Star map of the house. Study the interplay between the Star’s intrinsic element and the Palace element in each Palace to evaluate the relative strength of the Stars;
Consider the timeliness of the Stars according to the Stems and Branches of years and months to predict when the positive or negative nature of a particular Star is likely to strike.
Bai’s view is simply and clearly stated. Some of his interpretations are fairly novel, for instance, the introduction of a ‘neutral’ state. In the old classics, it’s either positive or negative and nothing in between. Bai’s assertion that a positive Star cannot turn negative is very logical. However, his reference to Purple Star principles runs contrary to what I’ve been taught: according to the zhong zhou School (中州派) of Purple Star destiny analysis, a negative Star entering a harmonious Palace will be placated and hence behave relatively well, whereas the same Star entering a hostile Palace will turn rebellious and ferocious.
Bai’s approach casts the Star as the main player, i.e. the effect of the Palace element on the Star element is paramount. Point No. 3 will be discussed later under “The Time Dimension”.
The Complete Book of 8-Mansions Techniques (八宅造福周书)
This is a modern book by Taiwanese master Huang yifeng (黄一凤), published in 1998. Despite it being a modern work, the author chose to write in classical prose, putting style before readability. Notwithstanding that inconvenience, the book does have some interesting things to say about Stars and Palaces.
” … Palace can mean a door, house or room. Star refers to the 3 positive Stars shengqi, tianyi and yannian, and the 4 negative Stars jueming, wugui, huohai and liusha. When a Stars flies into a mutual growth Palace or a mutually supportive Palace, then a positive Star becomes more positive, and a negative Star becomes less negative. It’s like a malicious person becoming more civil and less inclined to cause trouble. If the Star and Palace counter each other, then positive loses its positive nature, and negative becomes even more negative. In this case, Star countering Palace is worse than Palace countering Star. Palace is the host, and Star the guest. It is permissible for the host to triumph over the guest, but not for the guest to intimidate the host… “
Huang takes the view that a negative Star becomes less negative in a growth or supportive environment, which is in direct opposition to Bai’s view. Huang considers it less serious for the host Palace to counter the guest Star. Note the use of the term “loses its positive nature”. Does that mean becoming negative or just neutral?
Mastery Journal Vol-2 Issue-9, 29-Oct-2004
That issue carried an article by Master Jayne Goodrick entitled “Elementally, My Dear Boy!” Master Jayne takes the view that a negative Star (jueming in her example) will be less damaging when it is supported by the Palace (dui), than would be the case if the Star were to land at a hostile Palace (zhen).
Debating Various Aspects of yang Dwellings (阳宅诸说辨正)
This book by Taiwanese master Xie mingrui (谢明瑞), published in 2001, sets out to explain/argue various teachings of yang house fengshui. On the topic of elemental interplay between Palace and Star, the author has this to say:
” … What is meant by elemental interplay? If Palace and Star are both yin, their elements are also yin, or if they are all yang, like tianyi and yannian are both yang and their Palaces are also yang, then even if the elements counter each other, the issue of elemental interplay does not arise. Such a situation is called “Palace and Star walking the same path” (宫星同道). Elemental interplay only comes into being when opposite polarities counter each other. For example, shengqi is yang Wood. A gen gua person has kun as his shengqi. In this case a yang Wood Star counters the yin Earth of kun Palace. Star countering Palace is called external countering internal. Another example: a qian gua person has his shengqi at dui. shengqi is yang Wood, whereas dui Palace is yin Metal. This case of yin Metal countering yang Wood is called Palace countering Star, or internal countering external. Half negative. In the case of a yang house sitting kun facing gen, and the owner is a West group person of gen gua, kun is by right his shengqi, but shengqi is yang Wood and kun Palace is yin Earth. yang Wood countering yin Earth at a yin Palace is called external countering internal, which is totally negative… If a gen sitting house opens the main door at its shengqi location kun, the yin Earth of kun is countered by shengqi’s yang Wood. As kun represents the spleen and stomach, these organs are prone to illness, and the victim will be the mother as kun also represents the mother. If the stove is turned to face qian, then the severity will be lessened, as qian is tianyi to gen.”
Two points stand out:
The issue of polarity has now surfaced. We are told that the whole matter of elemental interplay between Palace and Star only applies if the Palace and Star are of opposite polarities;
Xie rates Star countering Palace (so-called external) as being more onerous than Palace countering Star (so-called internal). Website www.fengshui-chinese.com (术数纵横网页)
The owner of the website posted an interesting article on this topic in Nov-2004. Briefly, his stand on the matter is:
Palace countering Star, so-called “internal”, is more damaging than Star countering Palace, so-called “external”. However, the author makes the point that both cases are negative;
A yang Star entering a yang Palace, and likewise a yin Star entering a yin Palace, are excluded from elemental interplay considerations. It’s called “Palace and Star walking the same path”;
Only when a Star enters a Palace of the opposite polarity is it necessary to invoke the elemental interplay (growth/counter) issue. The polarity issue also surfaces here. The author goes on to list the positive and negative Palaces for each of the 8 house gua after accounting for elemental interplay.
The conclusion is that only dui, xun and kun houses manage to retain 4 favourable Palaces; kan, zhen, li houses are left with 3; whereas qian and gen houses have only 2 favourable Palaces left. House hunters beware.
The Time Dimension
When would a Wandering Star, positive or negative, be most likely to manifest its character? There seems to be fairly universal agreement on the Wood, Metal, Water and Fire Stars:
Most active years, months
shengqi Greedy Wolf (Wood) Left & Right Assistants (Wood)
hai (亥), mao (卯), wei (未), jia (甲), yi (乙)
yannian Military Arts (Metal) jueming Broken Soldier (Metal)
si (巳), you (酉), chou (丑), geng (庚), xin (辛)
liusha Literary Arts (Water)
shen (申), zi (子), chen (辰), ren (壬), gui (癸)
wugui Chastity (Fire)
yin (寅), wu (午), xu (戌), bing (丙), ding (丁)
For the Earth Stars, there are two differing views:
The Bright Mirror even contradicted itself in respect of the Earth Stars. In one part of the text, it says the 4 Earth Branches, meaning chen, xu, chou, wei; but in another part, it says shen, zi, chen. I believe the latter is a transliteration error, which is not uncommon with old texts.
The reference list is by no means exhaustive, but I would think sufficient for us to form what the legal fraternity would call “a considered opinion”. The purists could well choose to follow the classics closely and disregard modern views that are ultra vires the old texts, for after all, are we not practising classical fengshui?
My preferred approach is to take into account all views and evaluate them on a scale of logic and reason ability, even though such a scale is invariably subjective to an extent. Taking stock of what we have thus far, I would table the following inferences which appear logical and reasonable, at least to me:
The positive Stars are strong if they are in Palaces of growth and support. Other than Bai heming, the other writers do not differentiate between Palace growing Star and Star growing Palace. They use the term “mutual growth” (相生), i.e. positive both ways. Hence I would disregard the issue of resource depletion in this context. (Support means both Palace and Star have the same element.)
There is disagreement over which is more onerous: Palace countering Star, or Star countering Palace. On balance, I would take the view that Palace countering Star is worse. When the Star is countered, it is under attack. That would put it in dire straits. On the other hand, if the Star is attacking the Palace, it is the aggressor. To be aggressive, it must be fairly strong in the first place.
Simple as it may sound, the concept that positive Stars can never become negative, and vice versa, is in fact quite profound. The classics only mention positive and negative (吉凶), implying that what is not positive is automatically negative. However, the laws of physics tell us that if a positively charged particle loses its positive charge, it becomes discharged, i.e. neutral. It does not take on a negative charge. For all their brilliance, the ancient Chinese did not invent the zero in mathematics, a discrete entity in between positive and negative numbers. (The all-important zero was a Middle Eastern import.) Perhaps that explains the rather intransigent mind set of the classical writers. If we follow through this line of logic, a positive Star if countered will be incapacitated partially or totally, but it should not turn negative.
The classics do not say much about the negative Stars in this respect. Modern writers are divided on the question of whether a negative Star will behave better, or worse, when it is grown or supported by the Palace. (Like the positive Stars, we would not differentiate between growing and being grown.) In the old days, perhaps the question was of little practical significance as the important living quarters were not located in the negative Palaces. Maybe that’s why the classics ignored it. In a modern house, it is not uncommon to find an important room at a negative Star location. So the question becomes relevant. Drawing on the principles of Purple Star destiny analysis, a negative Star entering a harmonious Palace (mutual growth or support) is likely to behave less negatively, the rationale being that the Star is placated in its comfort zone. But of course it is still negative by nature and will not turn positive.
Conversely, a negative Star being countered will turn even more malicious, not unlike a hoodlum showing his ugly side when ruffled or challenged. This is also in line with Purple Star principles. As to whether Palace countering negative Star is more onerous than the other way around, it hardly matters. Bad is bad enough.
The view that only opposite polarities between Palace and Star will invoke elemental interplay is, to my mind, inadequately substantiated. I won’t buy it yet. It is interesting the 2 authors who mentioned “Palace and Star walking the same path” come from Taiwan. Perhaps this calls for more research using Taiwanese material.
The classics go to some length in describing the individual family members who will be impacted by the arrival of certain Stars at certain Palaces, such as:
Greedy Wolf affects the eldest son, positively when the Star is strong, negatively when it is countered;
The classics go to some length in describing the individual family members who will be impacted by the arrival of certain Stars at certain Palaces, such as:
Greedy Wolf affects the eldest son, positively when the Star is strong, negatively when it is countered;
Hugh Door affects the middle son;
Military Arts affects the youngest son;
Broken Soldier and Chastity harm the eldest son;
Literary Arts harms the middle son;
Rewards harms the youngest son;
Hugh Door affects the middle son;
Military Arts affects the youngest son;
Broken Soldier and Chastity harm the eldest son;
Literary Arts harms the middle son;
Rewards harms the youngest son;
A Star countering a Palace, or Palace countering the Star, will harm the family member associated with the Palace (qian = father, kun = mother, etc.). In interpreting a chart, do bear in mind that the chart merely indicates the potential for an event to happen. For the event to materialize, external features (luantou) must support it. Moreover, old texts tend to be alarmist in character. I would take the predictions of death and doom with a pinch of salt.
The analysis also provides the expected timing of an event. The Wood, Fire, Metal and Water Stars are most active during the years and months associated with the respective elements (3-Harmonies Branches, also the Stems). There is a controversy over Earth Stars. I’m inclined to go along with the Earth frame Branches (chen, xu, chou, wei) and the Earth Stems (wu, ji).
Elemental interplay between Palace and Star is a useful analytical tool in advanced level 8 Mansions fengshui. 8-Mansions is often labelled as inadequate or old fashioned compared with newer techniques. That is grossly unfair. This time tested technique has many hidden jewels if only one cares to look for them.
(From the ramblings of one hhc, a fengshui crazee!)
Location location location, that’s the battle cry of today’s real estate business. Interestingly the same could have been an issue with the Wandering Stars of 8-Mansions fengshui, albeit in a different context.
Of late much interest has been expressed, under various forums, on the interplay of elements between the Wandering Stars and the Palaces they land on. The discussions prompted me to look up what the classical texts and other writers have to say, and in the process unearthed a plethora of divergent interpretations. I am happy to share my findings herein, and in the concluding paragraphs, table my own view and the reasoning behind.
As this paper is an attempt, feeble as it may be, at academic research, I dearly welcome comments and criticisms, all in the spirit of advancing our knowledge of 8-Mansions fengshui. Chinese writers are fond of using the phrase “throw out a brick to attract jade”. Whilst this may be labelled “unrealistic profit expectations” in today’s world, it’s a nice thought.
The classical name of the topic being discussed is “gong xing sheng ke” (宫星生克), which may be simply translated as “elemental interplay between Palace and Star”.
Whereas the 8 Wandering Stars: shengqi, tianyi, yannian, fuwei, huohai, liusha, wugui and jueming are taught at a fairly basic level in the study of 8-Mansions, less attention is paid to the fact that these Stars have intrinsic elements, and that the interplay between the element of the visiting Star and the element of the host Palace will affect the strength of the Star.
The 8 Wandering Stars, the heavenly stars associated with them, their respective metaphysical elements and polarity are tabulated below:
Wandering Star (游星)
Heavenly Star (天星)
Greedy Wolf (贪狼)
Hugh Door (巨门)
Military Arts (武曲)
Left & Right Assistants (辅弼)
Literary Arts (文曲)
Broken Soldier (破军)
The first 4 (shengqi, tianyi, yannian, fuwei) are the good guys, and the other 4 the baddies. That’s common knowledge, but how good or how bad? That will depend on where the Star lands in the luoshu (洛书) diagram, i.e. which Palace. The extent to which the Palace, as host, affects the Star, as visitor, is open to interpretation, and opinions do diverge widely between writers.
The luoshu Palaces need no introduction, but the following table is included for easy reference:
This is what the classics, and other masters more learned than I, have to say:
8-Mansions Bright Mirror (八宅明镜):
Probably the best known of the 8-Mansions classics, the work is often attributed to the Taoist monk Ruo guan (箬冠道师) who lived in the early Qing Dynasty. The version that survived has a preface dated 1790 in which the writer said he obtained a copy from Ruo, but did not say Ruo actually wrote it.
” … Palace is internal, Star external. Partially negative if internal counters external, totally negative if external counters internal. yang Star countering yin Palace will harm females, whereas yin Star countering yang Palace will harm males. Example: if Rewards yin earth Star enters Kan, a yang (water) Palace denoting the middle male, the latter is affected negatively… Greedy Wolf… is in positive territory at kan, li, zhen and xun. At qian and dui, it is countered internally and turns negative. At kun and gen, it is engaged in external battle and its benevolence is reduced… Hugh Door… in positive territory at qian, dui, kun and li… countered internally at zhen and xun… external battle at kan… Military Arts… in positive territory at qian, dui, gen and kun… countered internally at li… external battle at zhen and xun… “
Note that Bright Mirror has contradicted itself. The first paragraph says Star countering Palace is more onerous, whereas the later paragraphs say otherwise.
We can summarize Bright Mirror’s stand as follows:
If the Palace grows the Star, or the Star grows the Palace, or the elements are mutually supportive (same), a positive Star stays positive;
If a negative Star enters a Palace of opposite polarity, the family member associated with the Palace is affected negatively.
Bright Mirror does not address the following issues:
What if a negative Star enters a Palace that grows, or is grown by, or supports the Star’s element? Will the negative Star flex its negative muscles more vigorously, or will it become more civil in a harmonious environment?
What about negative Star and Palace having the same polarity? Will the associated family member be affected?
Golden Light Star Arrivals Classic (金光斗临经)
First published in 1779, this is another Qing Dynasty classic that is often regarded, jointly with Bright Mirror, as the definitive manuals of 8-Mansions fengshui. The 2 classics cover much common ground (wonder who copied from whom?), except Golden Light makes more use of case studies.
Surprisingly I am unable to find in Golden Light any meaningful discussion on elemental interplay between Palace and Star.
Collection of Classics on the Physiognomy of Dwellings (相宅经纂)
Purportedly written by Zeng yihang (憎一行), the venerable Tang Dynasty scholar monk and astronomer, as early as AD632, this collection of papers was edited and re-published in 1844 during the Qing Dynasty. It is a noteworthy precursor to Bright Mirror.
” … Greedy Wolf resides at the North, owner prosperous. Hugh Door arrives at Fire (South), descendants strong. Military Arts best at Earth locations (North-east, South-west). Each residing at its home location is also beneficial (GW at E & SE, etc). Only for liusha Literary Arts Water, the Central Palace being countered is not harmful (meaning unclear)… Greedy Wolf prospers the eldest son, Hugh Door the middle son. Military Arts enriches the youngest son. Literary Arts spoils the middle son, as does Rewards the youngest son. Broken Soldier and Chastity impoverish the eldest son… Greedy Wolf (Wood Star) should not enter qian or dui (Metal Palaces), the eldest son dies young, the old man is harmed. Abundant fields and silk worms but nobody to manage them. The widow watches over an empty house. Hugh Door and Rewards (Earth Stars) should not enter zhen or xun (Wood Palaces) the family fortune will be diminished first and then the old man harmed. Hugh Door entering zhen brings death to the middle son; Rewards entering xun hurts the women folk. Literary Arts (Water Star) should not enter gen or kun (Earth Palaces), the women and the old man will be harmed most. gen countering Literary Arts will harm the male; whereas kun countering Literary Arts will harm the women. Chastity (Fire Star) entering kan (Water Palace), the home of water, will lead to repeated deaths by drowning in the well or river. The eldest son loses his mind amongst thieves and robbers. Soldiers suffer a painful death under the knife and sword. Military Arts and Broken Soldier (Metal Stars) entering li (Fire Palace) leads to difficult births, diseases and ill-fated deaths. Military Arts being countered spoils the youngest son; Broken Soldier being countered impacts the eldest son negatively. Left and Right Assistants (Wood Star) entering qian or dui (Metal Palaces) dwindle the family size and fortune over time. The Central Palace is the most dangerous, requiring the old mother to take control of family matters (implying the males have all died, but relevance is unclear)… … Positive for yannian Military Arts Metal to reside at the West, and negative for tianyi Hugh Door Earth to sit East. wugui Chastity fears kan, qian and dui, never positive. liusha Literary Arts worries about kun, gen and li, always negative. Military Arts and Broken Soldier regard zhen, xun and li as their nemeses. Greedy Wolf is the enemy of kun, gen and the Central Palace. He who is grown prospers; he who is countered dies… He who does battle turns negative; he who receives support stays positive… “
Physiognomy of Dwellings’ position may be summarized as follows:
The positive Stars (Greedy Wolf, Huge Door, Military Arts) impact the family members associated with them positively or negatively depending on whether the Star enters a friendly or hostile Palace. In this context, Greedy Wolf impacts the eldest son, Huge Door the middle son and Military Arts the youngest son;
The negative Stars Broken Soldier and Chastity harm the eldest son, whereas Literary Arts injures the middle son, and Rewards the youngest son; (We know that Palaces have family members associated with them. Now it appears Stars too have their favourite sons.)
Stars do not like to counter or be countered by the Palaces;
The only favourable situations are when the Palace grows or supports the positive Star. Nothing is said about the negative Stars being grown or supported;
From the semantics, it is evident this classic considers the situation of Palace countering Star more onerous than the other way around.
Daily Flying Stars are governed by 2 cardinal rules:
Starting from the onset of Winter Solstice (冬至) and until Summer Solstice (夏至) the following year, the Stars progress in a forward order (… 7,8,9,1, 2, 3, …), one day at a time; and starting from Summer Solstice up to the next Winter Solstice, the Stars progress in a reverse order (… 3,2,1,9,8,7,…).
On the first 甲子 day after Winter Solstice, Star #1 will preside; and on the first 甲子 day after Summer Solstice, Star #9 will preside.
Now Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice do not, as a rule, fall on a 甲子 day. In order for the days between Winter Solstice and the next 甲子 day to abide by the 2 cardinal rules above, those days require the following treatment:
Starting at the said甲子 day and counting backwards, the Stars regress in a reverse order (1,9,8,7, …) up to Winter Solstice. On the day of Winter Solstice, there will be an abrupt break in the sequencing of Stars. The new Star takes over at the exact moment of Winter Solstice.
Likewise, the period between Summer Solstice and the next 甲子 day has to be treated as follows:
Starting at the said 甲子 day and counting backwards, the Stars regress in a forward order (9,1,2,3,…) up to Summer Solstice. Similarly there is a break in the sequencing of Stars on Summer Solstice day.
To find the Daily Flying Star at any of the 9 Palaces of the luoshu (洛书) chart, enter the presiding Star at the Central Palace and then fly the Stars according to the luoshu path.
In the period between Winter Solstice and the next Summer Solstice (in the following year), the Stars fly in the forward order. There appears to be universal agreement on that.
The dispute between different Xuan Kong (玄空) schools lies in the flight pattern of the Daily Stars in the period between Summer Solstice and the next Winter Solstice. Some schools advocate that the Stars will always fly in the forward order, whereas other schools adopt a reverse flight order in this period.
There may be yet other schools that teach differently.
There is a growing tendency towards cremation, especially in territories where land is at a premium. How does fengshui affect cremations?
Actually cremations are not new to fengshui. One of the early Qing emperors, shun zhi (顺治) (1638~1662), was cremated and his ashes interred in an elaborate tomb built according to traditional fengshui requirements. The Qing Dynasty continued to survive for 249 years after him.
It was also usual for high ranking Buddhist monks to be cremated and their ashes buried. The burial sites also observed traditional fengshui requirements, except the focus was placed on perpetuating and propagating the monks’ reputation and teachings, rather than prospering their off-spring which they obviously did not have.
The short answer is that as long as the ashes are returned to the earth, the same mechanism of ‘signal’ generation still applies. Some of the memorial parks do make provisions for urn burial.
The Feng Shui Master’s Job
In modern society, people’s expectations and priorities have changed. Fewer people are interested in perpetuating their bloodline for multiple generations. People are more interested in financial well-being, and quickly. So yin house fengshui has also changed with the times.
The land form behind a tomb affects descendent luck, whereas the land form in front, especially water, affects money luck. In the past when descendent luck had priority, much attention was paid to the landform at the back of the tomb. Entities like ‘Incoming Dragon’ (入首龙) and ‘Dragon Vein’ (龙脉) were the primary considerations. These days, attention is often focused on the landform in front, where the money is. (The term ‘landform’ covers both hills and water.)
Having located an area of acceptable landform, the fengshui master will set about to personalize the orientation of the casket and the tombstone for the deceased, using the deceased’s birth data as reference. The alignment is done down to an accuracy of ±1.5° on the compass.
Technically there are 2 alignments: one for the casket, another for the tombstone. The casket is aligned to optimize reception of the qi inside the earth. This qi flows along a ‘Dragon Vein’, and the casket is aligned to receive the qi at a particular angle.
The tombstone acts as the qi mouth of a tomb, in much the same way as the door is the qi mouth of a yang house. So the tombstone is aligned to receive the optimum external qi, typically determined by the presence of water in the vicinity.
Today, the process is often simplified. This degree of fine tuning is rare. More often than not, both casket and tombstone are aligned in the same direction. In fact the massive earthworks at some of the modern memorial parks have all but obliterated the ‘Dragon Veins’.
Notwithstanding that, it is vital to ensure that the alignment of casket and tombstone is compatible with the deceased person’s favorable elements, as determined from his birth data. (The 5 metaphysical elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water make up the cornerstones of all branches of Chinese metaphysics.)
There are 2 main streams of classical fengshui: san yuan (三元) and san he (三合). These days, san yuan is used almost universally for yang houses, while san he is still used for yin house. San he provides long lasting effects, whereas san yuan provides quicker but more transient results. There are of course masters who use san yuan for yin house as well.
A point to note: as there is usually only one chamber in a tomb, popular qi distribution techniques like 8-Mansions and Flying Stars are not applicable to yin house fengshui. Direction becomes the sole variable that the fengshui master can manipulate to optimize the receipt of qi. For this reason, alignments are carried out to a finer degree in yin houses. This is the major difference between yin house and yang house fengshui. The landform principles are the same.
Two other tasks that the fengshui master often does are to locate the Earth Deity (后土) within the burial plot if the deity is installed, and locate the drainage exit if the area in front of the tomb is enclosed. There are prescribed formulae for doing this.
A professional fengshui master should then provide a written report to the client detailing his recommendations, and provide clear instructions to the tomb construction crew in the form of a drawing. If the burial plot is purchased in advance for future use, the fengshui master’s scope of work ends here.
The next stage, often considered a new job, is to attend to a burial. The work includes selecting a suitable date and time for burial, checking beforehand that the burial site has been prepared according to the fengshui prescription, and then ensuring that the casket is lowered into the burial pit at the selected time, is placed centrally in the pit and aligned correctly.
In the old days, it is not uncommon for sealed caskets to be kept aside for many months until a favorable date arrives. This practice is seldom possible in modern times. The fengshui master is usually given only a few days in which to select a usable date and time. It usually means compromises. With modern technology, it is possible to refrigerate the body and delay the funeral service for a few weeks, but that decision has to be taken by the family.
From the fengshui perspective, the erection of the tombstone (立碑) is another important event. There is more time to select a good date for that. Erecting the tombstone may be compared with ‘topping off’ a yang house. There is another traditional ceremony called ‘Prospering the Tomb’ (旺山), which is akin to a house warming party.
Many people feel uneasy about visiting burial places. Such feelings are understandable but really quite unnecessary. Perhaps some of the older cemeteries may be disorderly and poorly maintained and therefore appear unfriendly, but modern memorial parks are orderly and well maintained. Some of the newer ones are even designed in the style of a recreational park. There is no element of eeriness there.
What about ghosts? Classical fengshui does not concern itself with ghosts. Neither does it deny the existence of ghosts. Certainly not many people have actually seen ghosts at a burial ground, let alone been harmed by them.
A modern memorial park is not unlike a housing estate. Walking along a pathway inspecting the graves is like walking along a road in the housing estate looking at the houses. Do we expect the owner to come out to chase us away for admiring his house? If not, why then should we be afraid the ghost will come out to haunt us?
Of course if we want to transgress over a grave, it would be common courtesy to ask first politely. Surely we would do the same if we wish to go up to a house to ask for information or whatever, wouldn’t we?
Buying land in advance
Just as writing a will is no longer a taboo, purchasing a burial plot in advance for future use has become popular in recent times. Actually it is not something new. It was standard practice for the emperors and wealthy people in the old days.
Just as having a will properly drawn up will facilitate the distribution of our estate, having a pre-purchased burial plot constitutes prudent action to make our eventual demise less of a burden to our surviving family members.
Another way to look at it is that most people want to provide the best to their children and grandchildren out of love. Why should this love not continue after death?
Some people even buy burial plots for investment, hoping to make a profit out of it. But that’s another story…
from the ramblings of one hhc, a fengshui crazee
Appendix-1: Historical tombs
The following historically significant tombs will be discussed at the lecture. They have become popular tourist attractions, but Mastery Academy’s students visited them for a different purpose: to evaluate the tomb fengshui and how it affected descendent luck.
The 1st Chinese ruler who proclaimed himself Emperor was Shi Huangdi (秦始皇) (260~210 BCE). He literally created a mountain for his tomb. If ever fengshui was used, it must have been very rudimentary at the time. The tomb was badly sited. The Dragon was clearly passing behind. The Qin Dynasty lasted barely 4 years after his death.
The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, zhu yuan zhang (朱元璋) (1328~1398), was buried in Nanjing at the Meridian Spot of a powerful Dragon. The Dragon had 16 humps behind the tomb. That indicated the Ming Dynasty would last for 16 generations (total 276 years), which it did. This was in spite of the fact that 14 out of the 16 emperors were very mediocre, and a few were downright incompetent!
On the other hand, the father of modern China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen (孙逸仙) (1866~1925) was buried at the same Dragon but missed the Meridian Spot. He had no notable descendents, and the regime he founded, Nationalist China, was overrun by Communist China barely 24 years after Sun’s demise.
Nurhachi (努尔哈赤) (1559~1626) was the leader of the tiny nu zhen tribe (女真族), who united the diverse Manchu tribes of Northeastern China and built a powerful political and military machinery that later conquered the whole country and established the Qing Dynasty. He was buried at a Meridian Spot near Shenyang. That Dragon had 13 humps behind the tomb, which indicated the Qing Dynasty would last for 13 generations, which it did. Now it should be noted that the Manchus were an ethnic minority in China. The fact that they managed to overcome the Han ethnic majority and ruled China for 295 years was an unusual historical event. They couldn’t have done it without extraordinary fengshui help.
The first Qing emperor who entered the central plains of China and set up capital in Beijing was shun zhi (顺治) (1638~1662). He died of smallpox and was cremated, but the ashes were buried in a conventional tomb located at the Qing Eastern Imperial Tombs area near Beijing. The Qing Dynasty continued for another 249 years after shun zhi.
One of the most successful emperors of the Qing Dynasty, and arguably of all time, was qian long (乾隆) (1711~1799). He was buried at a Meridian Spot, but chose to face a ‘Death & Emptiness Line’. Whilst the Qing Dynasty continued for another 112 years, the dynasty started its decline after qian long, and his descendents were very mediocre, downright incompetent, or died young.
The founding Chairman of the Peoples Republic of China, mao ze dong (毛泽东) (1893~1976), clearly benefited from his grandfather’s burial in the hills near Changsha. The tomb was set in an area of superlative fengshui, with landforms of emperor producing quality. However multiple humps of the Dragon behind the tomb were absent. Hence Chairman Mao ruled like an emperor, but his reign lasted only one generation.
Synopsis: The need to be buried at a site with good fengshui is traditionally very important to the Chinese. This paper and the concurrent lecture set out to explain the underlying rationale, separating fengshui requirements from cultural rituals. Some desirable and undesirable landforms for burial are described. Several examples of old imperial tombs and tombs of more recent Chinese leaders or their ancestors are cited. The paper then moves on to discuss burial options in modern times – to what extent fengshui requirements can still be observed, how to go about it, and what is the fengshui master’s role in all this?
[ This paper is not sponsored by any memorial park or any other player in the bereavement industry, and is therefore devoid of any obligation to promote any provider of burial land or services. It is intended purely as an introduction to yin house fengshui for the lay person.]
What is Yin House Feng Shui?
The last 10 years or so saw a revival of interest in fengshui and its propagation to many parts of the world. Thus far, this interest seems to be focused on the residential and occupational properties of living persons. These are called yang dwellings or yang houses. There is another side of fengshui that deals with burial sites, which are dwellings for the dead. We call this yin dwelling or yin house fengshui.
Fengshui scholars are still debating which came first, yang house or yin house, but that doesn’t concern us. What we need to know is that yang house and yin house fengshui are but 2 sides of the same coin. The underlying principles are the same. Only the application differs.
One of the first fengshui books ever written was the ‘Burial Book’ (葬书) by guo pu (郭璞) (276~324). It was not until some 500 years later, in the Tang Dynasty, that other fengshui classics started to appear. The Burial Book described various landforms suitable or unsuitable for burial. By extension, the same landforms also constitute good or bad fengshui for yang houses. The Burial Book has been translated into English by Dr. Stephen Field, a scholar of early Chinese history.
To most people, it is important to live in a house with good fengshui so that we can tap into the right kind of earth energy that will help to make our lives more fulfilling. But why worry about where we’re buried after we’re dead?
Let’s think about it: surely human life is not only flesh and bones? There is an energy aspect to life. Some call it spirit or soul. Others call it human qi. What happens to this energy when a person dies? We know from science that energy cannot be created or destroyed, merely transformed (the First Law of Thermodynamics). Where would this energy go?
Different religions give different answers. It is not for us to comment on religious beliefs. From the fengshui perspective, we say it is the earth’s energy that originally gave rise to all life forms, so when a life expires, the remains should be returned to the earth, to be ‘recycled’ so to speak.
Recycling doesn’t mean re-birth or reincarnation. In fengshui we don’t talk about reincarnation. Neither are we concerned with the soul going to heaven or hell. Those topics are outside fengshui’s scope of reference.
Recycling in the fengshui context means the energy aspect of life is transformed to something else. Death is just a transition point. If the human remains are interred at a good location at the correct time (time being the heavenly component of the Heaven-Earth-Man trinity), then a chain reaction will be set off in which the earth’s productive capacity is modulated by the human qi interred, and a ‘signal’ of sorts is generated. The deceased person’s descendants have an affinity, or linkage, with this ‘signal’. We can think of it as a ‘DNA signature’ of sorts. Only the descendants having the same ‘DNA signature’ will be able to pick up this ‘signal’, in much the same way that only a specific tuning of the radio will be able to receive a specific broadcast frequency.
If the burial site is good, the ‘signal’ generated will be positive and the descendants picking up this ‘signal’ will be blessed with good health and good fortune. Conversely if the burial site is bad, a negative ‘signal’ is generated and the descendants will be impacted negatively.
Feng Shui Fundamentals
Now what makes a burial site good or bad? To be able to ascertain that requires fengshui expertise, a deeper discussion of which is beyond the scope of this paper.
Briefly, if the yang and yin qi at a particular spot on the land are well balanced and harmonious, we have what is called sheng qi (生气), or vitality. The ‘signal’ that we spoke of will be positive and strong. That makes a good burial site.
Conversely, if the earth qi at a burial site is out of balance or subjected to aggressive sha qi (煞气) (opposite of sheng qi), then the ‘signal’ generated will be weak or downright negative. That makes the site a bad choice.
The ‘Burial Book’ and other fengshui classics provide instructions on what landforms to look for, or avoid, in selecting burial sites. [Some basic rules drawn from the ‘Burial Book’ will be shared at the lecture.]
Feng Shui vs. Culture
Death is never a pleasant matter to deal with, but nobody can escape death eventually and most people have to deal with the death of family members and friends in their lifetime. In Chinese culture, the matter of burial was traditionally handled by Daoist priests. Some Daoist priests also studied fengshui and often applied some fengshui knowledge when they provided burial services. So many people are led to believe Daoism and fengshui are closely inter-related. Actually they are not. Daoism is a religion, whereas fengshui is an intellectual pursuit that tries to make use of natural forces for the benefit of mankind, much like an applied science.
For royalty and high society in ancient China, fengshui masters and Daoist priests have always performed different functions. A fengshui master was engaged by a rich family and he spent months, if not years, walking the mountains to find an ideal spot for use as the family’s burial ground. This task was called ‘seeking the Dragon and marking the Spot’ (寻龙点穴).
On the other hand, the Daoist priests presided over the funeral rituals that were of religious or cultural origin.
Strictly speaking, the fengshui master’s work is limited to finding a suitable burial spot, orientating the casket and tombstone, a couple of other lesser matters having to do with location, and selecting an appropriate date and time for burial and tombstone erection. Anything else is not fengshui.
All matters concerning funeral logistics, role playing, prayers, offerings, and other rituals are cultural or religious in origin. They are unrelated to fengshui.
As such, fengshui principles may be applied by people of all religions. There should not be any conflict with their religious beliefs.
In old China, one of the first tasks an emperor did after he ascended the throne was to find a superior burial site for himself, and tomb construction was often carried out during his lifetime. This was to ensure that the emperor’s bloodline will be blessed with the good fortune to continue ruling the empire.
The imperial fengshui department was an important ministry. The grandiose Ming and Qing Dynasty imperial tombs near Beijing provided examples of the extent to which the emperors went in the matter of their burial.
[Some interesting case histories will be brought up at the lecture. See Appendix-1.]
Modern burial grounds
Whilst imperial tombs provided examples of superlative yin house fengshui, we must be down to earth and face the fact that in this modern day and age, it is hardly possible to replicate the grandiose fengshui of imperial tombs. What then should we look for in a burial site?
First of all, the practice of ‘seeking the Dragon and marking the Spot’ as described in the classics is no longer practical. Just imagine the expense of hiring a fengshui master for months and have him wander all over the country looking for Meridian Spots (穴位). Even if one such Spot is found and the land can be acquired, what are the chances of obtaining government approval for burial?
Modern Chinese burial grounds in Malaysia come in 2 forms: highly developed memorial parks that are not unlike normal housing estates (except one doesn’t get noisy neighbours); and old style cemeteries usually managed by local Chinese clan associations. Some of these burial grounds are supported by superior landforms. It is rare, but not impossible, to find a memorial park or cemetery that sits on a Meridian Spot. In any case, after the developer’s bull-dozers have done their job, any Meridian Spot that could have existed would have been rendered quite unrecognisable.
Although we can no longer pin-point a Meridian Spot accurately, we would still call an area of superior fengshui a ‘Meridian Spot Vicinity’ (穴场). The idea is to find a burial plot within such a vicinity. Of course the occupant will now have to share whatever fengshui benefits with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other residents. That is unavoidable, and not unlike the crowded living conditions that modern city dwellers have to endure.
Of course there are better plots and lesser plots within a memorial park, depending on the micro land form around the plots. The memorial park developer usually prices the plots according to size and locality, ranging from a few thousand Ringgit to several hundred thousand Ringgit per plot.