Monday, January 28, 2013

The History of Feng Shui

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. Confucius.

Feng Shui is the art of placing a structure so it is in harmony with nature.  It is based upon the belief of  “kanyu”, or geomancy, whereby cultural and social issues are under the influence of cosmological, metaphysical and natural factors.

To use the ancient technique of Feng Shui, you must understand the influence of cosmology upon the earth. You should have knowledge of how astronomy and astrology influence the placement of buildings. You also need to understand the Confucian classics, the weathering process, the forces of nature, the magnetic fields and how these all influence us.  If you think about it, the knowledge required is quite overwhelming.

The history of Feng Shui originated in the West Han dynasty around third century BC. Those who practice it believe that the earth is alive with energy. If people built a structure on a land that has revitalizing energy, then they would prosper. If the structure is placed in a site with bad energy, misfortune will occur.  But originally, Feng Shui was used to help place tombs for those who had passed, rather than for building homes for the living. Back then, practitioners of Feng Shui believed that choosing a good burial site would bring peace and prosperity to those who remained here on Earth.

The instrument used to select the correct burial site was known as the Lou Pan. This invention was traced back to the Yellow Emperor where it is said that the Lady of the Nine Heavens gave him this knowledge.  This ancient compass was originally called the Hin Shi and was described as a square base called a diviner’s board, holding a bowl of water which floated a magnetic south-pointing spoon.

The Hin Shi was later developed into the Lou Pan.  During the Sang Dynasty, it was used to navigate at sea. When it was brought to Europe sometime during the 13th Century, the Lou Pan was better known as the compass which helped navigators explore the rest of the world.
The concept of Feng Shui, soon evolved.  If the Lou Pan could be used to pick good burial sites, then couldn’t it do the same for erecting buildings where people could live? The answer is yes, and so this device began its evolution of use to analyzing the orientations of buildings in relationship to the land.  Feng Shui was even applied to decor with focus on placement in relationship to the main door, and even the bed and the stove.

Since then, both the rich and the poor incorporate Feng Shui into their architecture. Archeological studies have shown that ancient Chinese city planners were made in concentric rectangles surrounded by walls that were then surrounded by lakes, hills, valleys, gardens, courtyards and parks as a way to enhance positive energy.  As for buildings, these were constructed to enhance a healthy relationship between family members and the country.

This is where Yin and Yang comes in. Yin and Yang are considered to be the foundation of the universe. Coming from Taoism, these two are complete opposites, and one cannot exist without the other.  For them, the left side of the building must represent Yang or the male force while Yin or the female force is on the right.  Examples of Yang in the past included sunlit roofs, built areas and an elevation in the front. For Yin, there must be empty areas, shadowed eaves, set back structures and elevations in the back.

The history of Feng Shui was almost forgotten in 1949 during the Revolution. If it wasn’t for the masters who practiced it and shipped it out to Hong Kong or China, we would have never known it existed. Feng Shui made its way to the United States only in the 1970’s. Various articles and shows have focused on it and people now use it to help in the building of structures.

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