Category Archives: Feng Shui

The Five Elements Productive Cycle

In the five elements productive cycle each elements produce the other as shown in the diagram.


In this cycle, Fire produces Earth which produce Metal which produce Water which produce Wood which in turn produce Fire forming a cycle.

Try not to think of it as one element producing another. Instead, think of it as one energy influencing another in a promotive or a productive manner!

The five elements productive cycle is quite intuitive and remembering the sequence is quite easy. Think of it like this. Fire burns to produce ash (earth). From Earth you mine Metal. Water condense on cold Metal which implies that metal produce water. Water nourish Wood which burns to produce Fire and the cycle repeats itself.

How do we apply this in Feng Shui?

Classical Feng Shui systems normally divide a house into nine sectors called the Nine Palaces. Using formulas practitioners can find out the prominent energies in each of these sectors. Let’s say the a particular sector has is auspicious. It has wood energy and you want to promote it. If you refer to the diagram above, you will see that water produce wood. Hence it will be good to place water e.g. water fountain in that sector (provided of course there are no other restrictions).

The same element also reinforces. Therefore in the above example you can also use potted plants to strengthen the wood energy in that sector.

(Five Elements Productive Cycle: There is also a destructive or controlling and exhaustive cycle)

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Five Elements or Wu Xing

In the article, “What is Chi?”, we learnt that matter and energy are interchangeable.

The ancient Chinese further believe that this energy or Qi manifest itself in five different forms call ‘Wu Xing’ which refers to the five different energies of Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth and the interaction between them. Many Feng Shui authors refer to Wu Xing as the Feng Shui Five elements.


Actually the term Feng Shui Five Elements is not correct as the principle of the Five Elements is not the sole domain of Feng Shui. It is also used in many other Chinese meta-physical discipline such as Chinese medicine, face reading, martial arts etc.

For example, in Chinese Medicine, the heart is Fire while the liver is Wood. As you might have already guess Wood produces Fire. Therefore if the heart is weak you can strengthen it by strengthening the liver!

The Five Elements are also associated with many other things such as emotion, climate, favour etc. It is also associated with colours. For example Fire is red, metal is white, wood is green, water is blue or black while earth is yellow.

The Five Elements interact with each other in a few ways. The first sequence of interaction is called the promotive or productive cycle where the elements produce one another.

The second sequence is the controlling or more commonly referred to as the destructive cycle. In this sequence the elements control one another. Finally there is the exhaustive cycle. In this sequence the elements reduces the energy of the others hence exhaustive.

In my article, I will explain the interaction of the Feng Shui five elements and give examples of how to apply them.

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Feng Shui Burial Site

Feng Shui was first used to find suitable Feng Shui burial site. This system is called Yin House Feng Shui.

In Yin House Feng Shui, the location of the grave and surrounding environment can have a profound effect on the fortunes and well-being of the descendent. The ancient Chinese believe that souls are connected and families share karma. If the body (or bones) are correctly laid to rest and are able to tap beneficial qi, they can transmit these positive energies to their descendent and enhance their fortunes.

There are plenty of stories on how families have suffered because of an improper Feng Shui burial sites and others who have prospered for several generations because of good yin house Feng Shui.

Yin house Feng Shui is as complicated, maybe even more than Yang House Feng Shui. The natural landscape is very important. The proximity and orientation of nearby hills and mountains can greatly affect the energy in the area and hence the grave. The shape of the hills in particular can effect certain outcome. Unfortunately the interpretation can be very subjective since a dragon to one master may look like a snake to another! Needless to say a lot of experience is needed!

In addition to the surrounding, the orientation of the headstone, outgoing water and the selection of burial date is very important. Luckily the formulas for these are quite well defined and not subject to too much variation in interpretation.

Yin House Feng Shui is still quite seriously practised by some Chinese families. They are even known to dig up a grave and re-locate the body to a auspicious Feng shui burial site if it is deemed necessary. And some of these works like orientating the tombstone are done at odd hours like 3 in the morning!

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Yin Yang Places

A busy highway is considered a very Yang location. A lonely deserted area is very Yin. In Feng Shui, it is not good to live near places that have excessive Yin or Yang energy. Yin Yang must be in balance. This is the reason why you should not buy a home that is facing or located very closed to a busy road.

There are other places with a strong Yin energies. These include places of worship, funerals homes, hospitals etc. As a rule you should not buy a house that is located very closed to them.

Power Plant
Power Plant

What about places with strong Yang energies such as power generation plants or substations, prisons, schools, petrol stations etc? The same rule applies. You should not buy a house that is located very closed to them.

A place with a balance of Yin Yang is ideal.

I would like to make a special mention of cemeteries which are Yin in nature. As cities expand, it is not surprising to find ourselves living very near to cemetery sites. The ancient Feng Shui practitioner do not encourage. They believe that the house of the living should be separated from the house of the dead!

There is another reason why we should not buy a house near a cemetery. As development encroach on their land is it quite possible that some of the coffins especially unmarked ones, are not exhumed and we may end up building a house over it.

This is a taboo and many stories have been told about the bad consequence of having a house built over a coffin!

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Yin Yang Concept

In the study of Chinese medicine, we are well when the Yin and Yang of our body is in a state of balance. But when the body body goes out of balance or when when there is too much Yin or Yang, we fall sick. The aim is to keep the body in balance. This is the basic Yin Yang concept.

This is why watermelon is consumed in Summer while double boiled soup is taken in winter. Watermelon has a cooling effect and it serves to cool the body during the hot summer months. In Winter, the hot double boiled soup provide balance by warming the body.

yin yang
Yin Yang Symbol

But what has this to do with Feng Shui?

Just like our body, we are also striving for balance in our home. For example, the concrete structure of your home is Yang while the plants in the garden is Yin. A good Feng Shui home should ideally have a mix of concrete structure and landscaping.

Here are more example. A large home with very few occupants is considered to be Yin. A house that is brightly lit and painted entirely in white is too yang. A home that is dark with small doors and windows that are closed most of the time is too Yin and considered to be out of balance.

The balance of Yin and Yang is a fundamental requirement in Feng Shui.

This Yin Yang concept is pervasive in Chinese metaphysics and is use in many other disciplines. Let me give you an example from Chinese naming.

In this system we are influenced by elements that are derived from our date of birth. By charting our birth chart we can see the mix of elements that we are ‘made’ of. Let’s say that you have too little water elements in your chart. Water is needed to restore balance. In the system of Chinese naming, one of the technique is to introduce the character ‘water’ or either characters that represent water such as river, lake, sea etc into the name.

This is the basic yin yang concept!

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Yin and Yang Meaning


The ancient Chinese subscribe to a concept called Yin Yang which is a belief that there exist two complementary forces in the universe. One is Yang which represents everything positive or masculine and the other is Yin which is characterized as negative or feminine. One is not better than the other. Instead they are both necessary and a balance of both is highly desirable.

This thinking is different from the duality of most religion where one state overcomes the other e.g. good over evil. In the concept of Yin Yang, too much of either one is bad. The ideal is a balance of both. The hot Saharan desert for example is an example of extreme Yang while the bitter cold Antarctica is extreme Yin. Neither is desirable.

The Tai Chi Symbol

Yin Yang
Yin Yang

The Yin Yang meaning is embodied by the Tai Chi symbol shown on the left. It is a circle made up of two different tadpole or fish like parts, one in black (known as the Yin side) and the other in white (known as the Yang side). You will notice that in Yang (represented by the white tadpole) lies the seed of Yin (represented by the black dot) and vice-versa. In addition Yin and Yang are cyclical. In the symbol you can see that Yang grows but at its height, Yin emerge. Then Yin grows and at its height Yang appears and the cycle repeats itself. Actually another way to look at Yin and Yang is contraction and expansion!

I have given some examples of Yin and Yang states below and I hope they help you get a better grip on this concept or yin yang meaning.

Here goes. Yin is soft while Yang is hard. Yin is stillness while Yang is movement. The sun is yang while the moon is yin. Female is Yin while Man is Yang. Mountain is Yin while the river is Yang. Intuitive is Yin while Logical is Yang. Winter is Yin while Summer is Yang and so on.

Are you getting the idea? Yin Yang meaning?

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What is Chi or Qi?

Chi literally means breathe or air. You should however not think of qi in its literal sense. If you do that you will seriously limit your understanding of Chinese metaphysics. Instead for now, think it it as an invisible ‘energy’.

River bend
River bend

So what really is chi? The ancient Chinese believe in the existence of an invisible life force or energy that permeates the universe. You cannot see it (like radio waves) but it exist in the environment, in things (matter) and in humans.

Let me quote an explanation by Zhang Dai a great scientist who lived during the Song Dynasty. This is what he said.

“The universe is a body of chi. Chi has both positive and negative qualities. When qi spreads out, it permeates all things; when it coalesces (spreads out) it becomes nebulous (gaseous or vague). When it settle into form it becomes matter. When it disintegrates it returns to its original state.”

The explanation appear to imply that all things are a body of energy and that energy and matter are the same and the states are interchangeable.

Since all things are ‘energies’, the idea that one (the environment) can affect another (mankind) when brought in close proximity makes Feng Shui entirely plausible.

Positive Qi is known as Sheng Qi or Living Qi while Negative Qi is called Sha Qi or Killing Qi. In the practice of Feng Shui,  sheng chi can help improve wealth, heath, relationships etc while Shar chi may cause injury, accident, fire, lawsuit, illness and so on.

The whole idea of Feng Shui is to position, orientate and layout our homes and workplaces to accumulate and tap on Sheng (good) chi and avoid or minimize Sha (bad) chi.

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Three Killings or San Sha

he Three Killings consists of the triple combo of Year ‘Sha’, Robbery ‘Sha’and Disaster ‘Sha’. The Year ‘Sha’ energy creates obstacles and set backs, the Robbery ‘Sha’ with money loss and the Disaster ‘Sha’ with accidents and calamities. The energies of Three Killings (San Sha) are directional and they afflict from the four cardinals of north, south, east and west depending on the year (more specifically the earthly branch of the year).

Tyre Puncture
Tyre Puncture

Each year, one cardinal direction of your house (or office) will fall under the influence of Three Killings. The span of influence of Three Killings is quite wide. For example when it comes from the north, it affects not just the north sector but also part of the neighbouring sectors of north west and north east. Mathematically it affects a sector span of 75 degrees.

If the area afflicted by Three Killings is a frequently used space such a bedroom or the main door, then you should reduce the effect of Three Killings by placing an appropriate cure in the area.

Let’s assume that your bedroom is in the north sector of the house. Let’s also assume that the Three Killing energies come from the north in that particular year. If you have space in the north outside your bedroom you can place some plants (or plant a tree) to negate the Three Killings.

Inside the room, you should place a small plant in the north sector of your bedroom. I know a lot has practitioners warn against having a plant in the room but this is an exception and a small indoor plant will not create any problem. The plant should be strengthen with a little water (still water like a glass) and metal e.g. six ancient Chinese coins.

From a Feng Shui perspective, you should not do any major renovation in the area affected by Three Killings as activating the area afflicted by Three Killings can activate the inauspicious effects of Three Killings to the detriment of the occupants of the household.

There is one exception. It is believe that activating a sector afflicted by Three Killings on some special days can actually bring the opposite effect i.e. smooth going and money luck. These are called ‘good san sha’ and are highly auspicious days during the periods when ‘san sha’ is weakest.

How do we know where is ‘san sha’ for a particular year?

Here is how. There are twelve earthly branches. Three branches form a combo, for example ‘Yin-Wu-Xu’, ‘Hai-Mao-Wei’, ‘Shen-Zi-Chen’ and ‘Si-You-Chou’. The branch in the middle of each combo namely ‘Wu’, ‘Mao’, ‘Zi’ and ‘You’ can be considered to be the leader of each combo.

Let’s take the example of 2007 which is ‘Ding Hai’ Year. ‘Hai’ is part of the ‘Hai-Mao-Wei’ combo with ‘Mao’ as the leader. Directly opposite ‘Mao’ is ‘You’ which is located in the west. Hence the Three Killings is located in the west in 2007.

Let’s take another example of 2008 which is ‘Wu Zi’ Year. ‘Zi’ is part of the ‘Shen-Zi-Chen’ combo and happens to the leader. Direction opposite ‘Zi’ is ‘Wu’ which is south. This is why Three Killings or ‘San Sha’ is in the south in 2008.

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Fate, Luck and Feng Shui

What is Fate, Luck and how does Feng Shui influence them?

The ancient Chinese believe that our life potential (fate) is influenced by the cosmic (coming from out of space) energies and earthly (on earth) energies present at the moment of our birth.

The ancient Chinese express time using a combination of heavenly stems (representing the cosmic energies) and earthly branches (representing the earthly energies). Every year, month, day and time is represented by a stem and branch which is often called a pillar. Therefore any particular time (for example your date and time of birth) can be represented by four sets of stems branches (or pillars). Since each pillar is composed of two characters, our date and time of birth is also known as eight characters (or Ba Zi).

Each of the stems and branches represents a type of energy or ‘qi’ prevailing at that time and they can have the qualities similar to metal, wood, water, fire and earth. The stems denote the cosmic energy (from out of space) present at the time while the branches denote the earthly energy.

To help you understand this better, contrast of the energy of spring with the energy of autumn. You would associate spring with the climate ‘becoming warmth and things ‘growing’ while autumn is ‘becoming cold’ and things ‘dying’.

Thus, it is not too difficult to accept the ‘postulation’ that someone born in spring is affected differently from someone born in autumn or summer or winter and hence have a different fate and life path.

The quality of the cosmic energy is more difficult to explain. We believe that it has something to do with planetary movement. For example Jupiter takes 12 years (out time) to go round the sun. Saturn takes 20 etc. For now, just accept that the type of the energy affecting earth changes every two years and the cycle repeats every 10 years.

For example a person born in 1972 or Ren Zi year is influenced by both the cosmic energy of ‘Ren’ and earthly energy of ‘Zi’. Since both the energies of Ren and Zi are like water, we say that his person’s year of birth contribute a significant percentage of water ‘qi’ to his composition.

When we take the year, month, date and time of birth of a person into consideration we can express it as a proportion of energies or ‘qi’. For example three (3) parts water, two (3) parts metal, one (1) part fire, one (2) part earth and no wood!

The different combination of elements (or energies) in your make up influences your physique, personality traits, your physical and mental health, career and wealth potential as well as your relationship with others.

(In practice, you are also influenced by the atomic structure of both your parents and possible other factors like karma).

An ideal fate is one where the elements are in balance. Too much or too little of any elements result in an imbalance which manifest as a negative aspect in ones life e.g. poor spouse relationship, bumpy career path, health problems etc.

In the above example, the person is obviously rich in metal and water ‘qi’. Additional metal or water will create imbalance and manifest in a negative fate or imbue him with many favourable characteristics. On the other hand wood and fire helps to restore balance and would influence him positively.

The cosmic and earthly energies continue to influence us after our birth and we are exposed to the five distinct ‘qi’ types as we transverse from cradle to the tomb. The planetary and earthly movement have remains constant for millions of years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. (When the sun no longer rises in the east or sets in the west, then it is the time to devise a new astrology system!)

When the cosmic and/or earth ‘qi’ are favourable (balance) for our composition (based on our date and time of birth), our life path is positive and favourable. However when the ‘qi’ are unfavourable (out of balance), our life path is negative or unfavourable. The ancients call these ups and downs ‘luck cycle’ or simply ‘luck’. They are measured by decade, year, month and day which explain why an astrologer may remark about a good 10 years or decade or a bad year etc.

Since these cosmic and earthly ‘qi’ are pre-determined, it is possible to predict ones ‘fate’ and ones ‘luck’ at different stages of your life if you have his or her date and time of birth. They ancient Chinese have developed many systems for destiny and luck analysis and the more accurate (and popular) ones such as Ba Zi and Zi Wei Dou Shu can surprisingly reveal a lot. In the hands of a competent astrologer, it can tell you about you about your career (power), wealth, health and relationships as you transverse from cradle to grave.

Knowing your strengths and weakness as well as what lies ahead allows you to make the right decisions and maximize your potential.

So where does Feng Shui come in?

Feng Shui systems can tell us the strengths or weaknesses of a dwelling and allow us to select the right dwellings with the right surroundings to compliment our weakness and boost our strengths.

For example if a person has good relationship and health luck but weak at power and money we can select a house with strong ‘wealth’ potential for him.

It can also tell us the prevailing auspicious and inauspicious energies so that we make the right decisions and not unknowingly be affected by inauspicious prevailing energies.

For example renovation the wrong place at the wrong time and activating the inauspicious energies with dire consequence.

At a personal level, we can also tell from our natal chart the effect of the various directions and sectors on our life path. With this information we can further optimize all aspect of dwelling so that it strengthens our weaknesses and give our strengths a boost at the correct time. Or select the right time to do things!

Astrology and Feng Shui are closely inter-related. It is okay to practice Feng Shui without considering the person’s astrology. It is like seeing a part and not the whole picture.  You will achieve more consistent and better results when your consider both.

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History of Feng Shui

The founding history of Feng Shui is lost in time.

The first historical documented reference to Feng Shui was in an ancient Chinese text dating back to around 200 AD. However artefacts bearing Feng Shui symbols go much further back. Such symbols have also been found in a grave excavated in 1988 that dates back to around 4000 BC. So Feng Shui may have a timeline that date back 6000 years!

Great Wall
Great Wall

There are also claims that it is derived from Vastu which is a ancient Indian art of architecture that dates back thousands of years. This is however not proven.

Feng Shui continue to be developed through centuries of research, analysis and experimentation and new findings were recorded and old theories refined.

The Tang dynasty (618 – 906 AD) mark the coming of age of the Form School which place emphasis on environmental features such as mountains and water (e.g. lakes, river).

Later on, saw the development of a system that is more mathematical and largely based on the numerology of the Yi Jing. This system is favoured in areas where the terrain is flat and featureless and saw tremendous developing using the Sung dynasty (960 – 1279 AD).

Feng Shui remained popular during the Ming (1368 – 1644 AD) and Ching (1644 – 1911) dynasty.

However after the fall of the Ching dynasty, China attempted to catch up with the modernization and industrialization of the west and many non-scientific practices like Feng Shui were marginalized.

When the Communist government took power in 1949, more efforts were made to discredit such practices. Despite this, practitioners continue to practice their trade. However the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976 took its toll on Feng Shui and many such books and paraphernalia were destroyed.

Many practitioners fled with their knowledge to Hong Kong, Taiwan and other overseas Chinese community. It is today alive and widely practised in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia (which has a significant Chinese minority), Singapore and the other expatriate Chinese communities such as London, San Francisco and Vancouver.

Interestingly, it is experiencing a revival in China with the more open and liberal policies of the current Chinese government.

You may be interested to know Feng Shui was previously known as Kan Yu or the study of Heaven and Earth.

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