Feng Shui (Fang Shui)
Feng shui (fengshui or fang shui), pronounced in English as ("fung shway") or ("feng shoo-ee"),
is the ancient Chinese practice of placement and arrangement of space to achieve harmony with
the environment. Feng shui literally translates as "wind-water." This is a cultural shorthand
taken from the following passage of the Zhangshu (Book of Burial) by Guo Pu of the Jin Dynasty.
In its traditional form, Feng shui is a discipline with guidelines that are compatible with
many techniques of architectural planning. Space, weather, astronomy, and geomagnetism are basic
components of feng shui. Proponents claim that feng shui has an effect on health, wealth, and
Feng shui (literally "wind water") is part of an ancient Chinese philosophy of nature.
Feng shui is often identified as a form of geomancy, divination by geographic features,
but it is mainly concerned with understanding the relationships between nature and ourselves
so that we might live in harmony within our environment.
Feng shui is related to the very sensible notion that living with rather than against nature
benefits both humans and our environment. It is also related to the equally sensible notion
that our lives are deeply affected by our physical and emotional environs. If we surround
ourselves with symbols of death, contempt, and indifference toward life and nature, with noise
and various forms of ugliness, we will corrupt ourselves in the process. If we surround
ourselves with beauty, gentleness, kindness, sympathy, music, and with various expressions
of the sweetness of life, we ennoble ourselves as well as our environment.
Alleged masters of feng shui, those who understand the five elements and the two energies
such as chi and sha (hard energy, the opposite of chi), are supposed to be able to detect
metaphysical energies and give directions for their optimal flow. Feng shui has become a
kind of architectural acupuncture: wizards and magi insert themselves into buildings or
landscapes and use their metaphysical sensors to detect the flow of good and bad "energy."
These masters for hire declare where bathrooms should go, which way doorways should face,
where mirrors should hang, which room needs green plants and which one needs red flowers,
which direction the head of the bed should face, etc. They decide these things on the basis
of their feel for the flow of chi, electromagnetic fields, or whatever other form of energy
the client will worry about. (If you and your lover are having trouble in the bedroom, call
a feng shui master. You probably need to move a few things around to get the bedroom chi
flowing properly. Only a person with special metaphysical sensors, however, can tell what
really needs to be done.)
In short, feng shui has become an aspect of interior decorating in the Western world and
alleged masters of feng shui now hire themselves out for hefty sums to tell people such
as Donald Trump which way his doors and other things should hang. Feng shui has also become
another New Age "energy" scam with arrays of metaphysical products from paper cutouts of half
moons and planets to octagonal mirrors to wooden flutes offered for sale to help you improve
your health, maximize your potential, and guarantee fulfillment of some fortune cookie philosophy.
According to Sutrisno Murtiyoso of Indonesia, in countries where belief in feng shui is
still very strong, feng shui has become a hodgepodge of superstitions and unverified notions
which are passed off in the university curriculum as scientific principles of architecture or
city planning. Mr. Murtiyoso wrote me about a university lecturer who had written an article
in Indonesia's biggest newspaper "advocating feng shui as a guiding principle to Indonesia's
future architecture." This upset Mr. Murtiyoso: "if it is done by a so-called 'paranormal',
I wouldn't be that mad. But a 'colleague', an architect . . . I just can't imagine how my
people can face the next millennium still under this ancient spell. How can we progress....through
this techno-jungle." If I were Mr. Murtiyoso, I wouldn't worry until the architects start
advocating ignoring the laws of physics in favor of metaphysical principles.
We still bring in our priests to sprinkle holy water and utter incantations at the
dedications of skyscrapers. So far, none have collapsed that I know of. And if being
superstitious were a hindrance to progress, we'd all still be wandering the savannas
with our hirsute ancestors.