The Arrangement: Feng Shui for Harmony and Good Fortune

by Celeste Heiter, Mar 1, 2002 | Destinations: China / Beijing

Even before Marco Polo returned from his travels with silk, spaghetti and fireworks, the secrets of ancient China fascinated people of the west. And although the ingenuity of the Chinese people has contributed a wealth of technology and invention to human civilization throughout history, much of China's wisdom regarding the nature of man's existence on earth remains a mystery. In recent years however, Westerners have become increasingly curious and open-minded regarding some of China's more esoteric arts. Currently growing in popularity and practical application in everyday life is feng shui, the Chinese art of placement and arrangement of the elements of an environment for good fortune and a harmonious flow of energy.

Pronounced fung schway, the term literally means wind-water, based upon the principle that water and wind were two essential components in early man's search for hospitable and productive environments in which to settle. The concepts used in feng shui can be applied to every stage of developing an environment, from choosing a building site and orienting a structure on it, to landscaping and the placement of furnishings and accessories inside. Feng shui can also be used to correct design flaws and problems that may already be present in an existing environment.

The art of feng shui involves a combination of mysticism, intuition and common sense. It is based on the concept of Qi (pronounced chee), the life energy which the Chinese believe is present in the earth itself and in every object and living creature on the planet. This life energy flows dynamically from its source and may influence its surroundings in either a positive or negative way according to its placement or relationship to the rest of the environment.

To analyze an environment, a hexagram called the Ba-Gua is transposed over a scale drawing of the layout of the home or building. Beginning with the lower center and moving in a counter-clockwise direction, each side of the hexagram represents one of the eight elements of life: career, knowledge, family, wealth, fame, marriage, children, and benefactors. Each of these elements corresponds to a specific room or area in the environment. According to the principles of feng shui, if that room is awkwardly arranged or lacking in some way, it may negatively affect the corresponding aspect of life.

For example, the upper right angle of the Ba-Gua hexagram represents marriage. In homes where that area is empty, neglected or ill-furnished, the marriage itself may reflect similar problems. In a home where the upper left, an area which corresponds to wealth, is poorly developed, its occupants may suffer financial hardship.

Mysticism and fortune-telling aside, the principles employed in feng shui also seem to work from a purely common-sensical point of view. A front door that opens directly into a view of the bathroom has obvious problems. A pillar, tree, or stone placed in front of an entrance may obstruct the flow of energy into and out of a home or business. A home located at a Y- or T-intersection may be negatively influenced by the excessive energy of traffic flowing directly at it, while a similar location may be excellent for a business.

To correct or enhance an environmental area, a variety of items can be incorporated. These items fall into ten categories: light producing or refracting objects such as mirrors and crystals; sound producing objects such as wind chimes or music; living things in the form of plants and animals; heavy objects such as statues and stones; carefully chosen colors to create a specific mood; moving objects such as flags or mobiles; water in fountains or fish tanks, fire energy produced by candles and electrical appliances; Chinese flutes which influence an environment according to how and where they are placed; and other elements, including fragrances and textures which can help to bring harmony and positive energy to an environment.

The key to effective feng shui is awareness, and mindful observation of each area of an environment will reveal both its weaknesses and its assets. A problem may be something as simple and obvious as a plant that needs more room to grow, or it may be the more subtle influence of a badly directed angle from an adjacent building. Elements such as windows, exposed beams or garden views can become assets to an environment when they are positively enhanced according to the principles of feng shui.

With the increased interest in feng shui, a growing number of information sources are available, from books and detailed articles in popular magazines to professional consultants. For the resourceful do-it-yourselfer, a trip to the library may yield enough information to effect a noticeable improvement in your home or business. However for those who are building or purchasing a home or business, or for those embarking upon a significant remodeling or redecorating project, an appointment with a feng shui consultant may ultimately prove to be time and money well spent.

It's difficult to say how or why feng shui works. As with acupuncture, t'ai chi and other Chinese arts, feng shui functions in the realm of the subtle, in ways which cannot necessarily be measured or defined in conventional western terms. In the immortal words of author Antoine de Saint Exupéry, "L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Feng Shui Books:

Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter

Essential Feng Shui by Lillian Too

The Personal Feng Shui Manual by Master Lam Kam Chuen