Feng Shui, pronounced “foong swee” (Cantonese) or “fong shway” (Mandarin) is the Chinese art of arranging buildings, objects, and space in the environment in order to achieve energy, harmony, and balance. The English translation of Feng shui is “the way of Wind (feng) and Water (shui)” or “the natural forces of the universe.”
As a design philosophy, “good” feng shui is believed to promote health, prosperity, creativity, positive social relationships, self-confidence, contemplation, and respect for others.
An ancient Taoist Chinese theory of design and placement, feng shui grew from observations that an individual’s surroundings elicit positive and negative effects. According to Daoism, everything that exists contains qi (chi), the energy or life force. This qi possesses two properties, yin (receptive) and yang (active) they are opposites and cannot exist without the other. Within the qi, eight constituents compose the universe (the Lake, the Mountain, Fire, Water, Heaven, Thunder, Wind, and Earth). Each trigram, or combination of three yin/yang elements, represents a particular quality and pattern of energy. In turn, the proper arrangement of these energetic qualities would affect not only the qi of the environment, but that of the individual within the environment as well. With feng shui, the goal is to bring both into harmony so as to foster prosperity, health, and well-being with the Wind (feng) dispersing the qi throughout the universe and Water (shui).
The ba gua, or “Sequence of the Later Heaven,” is the arrangement of the energy trigrams so that they exist in harmony and balance. Each trigram has a balancing partner that contributes to universal harmony. For example, Earth is balanced by the Mountain, Fire is balanced by the Water, Wind is balanced by Heaven, and Thunder is balanced by Lake. The ba gau is laid in a circular pattern with Fire at the top, followed by Earth, the Lake, Heaven, Water, the Mountain, Thunder, and Wind (clockwise). The Taiji (or yin-yang symbol) is located in the centre of the trigrams, and represents the unifying force of the universe.
Practitioners of feng shui use the ba gua to determine the energy flow throughout the home and in other living spaces. By corresponding the trigram pattern to the different parts of a room, a practitioner determines whether the room is in harmony with the universe. For example, when analyzing a home office or workspace of a writer or artist, a feng shui specialist would pay particular attention to the portion of the room that corresponds to the Lake of the ba gua, because the Lake represents creative energy. If there is clutter or disorganization in the section of the room that corresponds to the Lake, or if the room is partitioned so that the Lake section is actually occupied by a bookcase or closet, then the environment would be considered to stifle creativity. A feng shui specialist might recommend moving the office to a more hospitable room in the house, or reconstructing the storage space to free up the creative energy in the Lake section of the room. Good health is said to be located in the Wind trigram of the ba gua, so maintaining this space and using it effectively is critical to practitioners of feng shui.