by Master Hung Hin Cheong
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.
Click here for part 2
(Article kind courtesy of Master HC Hung)