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What is feng shui?

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What is feng shui?
Feng shui (風水: "wind and water") is the Chinese art and science of geomancy which has been practiced for over 3000 years. It has been traditionally used to determine the proper orientation of buildings -- typically tombs and public buildings -- in a balanced and auspicious manner.

In its simplest form, it is the practice of introducing objects, colours, and other elements into an environment to create a positive space. This is a form of sympathetic magick which is accomplished by influencing the movement of qi to attract harmony and prosperity to that environment.

Feng shui masters intuitively know how to adapt an environment to benefit those individuals who live and work within that environment. This creates a healthy and vibrant place to inhabit.

What is qi?

Qi (Chi: 氣) is the universal energy that surrounds us, both the energy present inside the body as well as energy outside the house and inside the house.

The main purpose of feng shui is to channel qi in the positive manner in the home so that it maintains good flow of qi inside each of us. Qi can be of two types:

What are yin and yang?

yin and yang Yin (陰) and Yang (陽) represent the contrary forces in nature. Yin is translated as the feminine, while Yang is masculine. Both are equal and opposite forces.

Chinese Tao Philosophy views them as both interconnected and interdependent:

In short, one cannot exist without the other. They are two halves of the whole of the universe.

Although most people like balance in both themselves and their surroundings, some prefer one extreme over the other. This can be seen by their choice of environment such as home decor or property. A dark, enclosed room is considered yin, while a bright room with ceiling to floor windows is considered yang.

The elements in feng shui

the five elements The practice of feng shui views all things as originating from one of five element groups: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, or Wood. These elements are collectively know as the Wu Xing ("Five Elements": 五行). When the elements are in balance, qi can flow properly. An unbalanced area collects bad qi which will affect those who enter that area.

Each element in the Creative Cycle creates or adds to the next element in the cycle:

By the same token, each element in the Destructive Cycle destroys the next element in the cycle:

This Elemental Cycle illustrates how to balance elements within a room by increasing or decreasing other elements. For example, if a room has too much Wood, add Fire elements. If a room has too little Wood, add more Water elements.

The bagua in feng shui

bagua chart The bagua ("Eight Symbols": 八卦) is a very basic feng shui tool used as a map to determine which parts of a space correlate with particular areas of life. It consists of eight trigrams which have been derived from the ancient I Ching ('Book of Changes') depicting nine life aspirations.

Bagua is used to map out rooms and buildings to define the significant areas and ensure good fortune. To use this method, first determine the overall shape of the building (L-shape, rectangle, T-shape, etc.). Then stand in the primary entrance and fit the entire building onto the map, marking the entrance. If the building is not a square, rectangle, or circle (considered 'complete'), there will be map areas that are outside the building. Indicate that on the map. Repeat for each floor of the building, and don't forget closets, bathrooms, and storage areas. This method can also be applied to a single room.

For missing areas, the preferred method is to symbolically 'build' the room outside (add a garden or deck and decorate appropriately, for example). If this is not possible, add symbolic items for the missing area along the inside of the wall adjoining that area (mirrors, crystals, plants, etc.).

The Eight Symbols of the bagua, plus Center:

Many bagua include special lines called the eight trigrams which represent Heaven, Earth, Thunder, Wind, Water, Fire, Mountain, and Lake.

To read a bagua, stand in the doorway to assess the space. Determine where you are standing on the bagua chart, then "fill in" the rest of the chart. What items are in each area? What issues need to be addressed?

Easy ways to use feng shui at home

An auspicious house is a house where all objects are in harmony with each other. Simply balancing the qi can increase the flow of good luck and fortune into the entire house.

Declutter

Clutter affects qi in a negative way. If it is broken, useless, or you just don't want it around, get rid of it. Set a timer for 15 minutes, clean up one small pile as much as you can, and stop when the timer goes off. Especially when cleaning, slow progress is better than no progress.

Create a welcoming space at the entryway

lucky plant This can attract positive qi to all who dwell within. Place auspicious statuary or live plants at the front door to welcome visitors.

Living plants improve the qi of any room in which they are placed. Especially auspicious plants are plants which tend to grow and offset readily in addition to being easy to propagate. This tendency makes the plants a symbol of luck and abundance. Not only do lucky plants make an excellent housewarming gifts, but if you think your home could use some luck, they can be a great gift to yourself!

Improve both lighting and air quality within the building

Good air flow is essential for good qi. Open the windows to let in natural light and fresh air. Sound devices such as wind chimes keep qi in motion once the air flow is improved. They are commonly used as a quick and easy way to redirect qi in a new direction by cleansing negative qi and attracting positive qi.

The modern world is unbearably noisy in a negative way, even if we try to tune it out. Ambient sounds however increase the vibrational frequency of the area in which the musical device has been placed.

Keep a well-stocked pantry in the kitchen

Create a feeling of abundance and prosperity to know that everyone within can be well-fed.

Use appropriate colours in each space

How to use colours in feng shui Choose suitable feng shui colours based on the room's location within the home. In feng shui, colour can be used to direct qi -- for good or bad -- to a particular space. Certain colours in certain areas are considered auspicious, while that same colour in another area would be inauspicious. Therefore, it is important to choose the proper colour for a space, as that colour can have a huge impact the state of mind of its inhabitants.

To choose a colour, begin with the function of the space. Who uses this space most often, and for what purpose? This will provide a starting point for colour selection.

Colour is an aspect of light. When we refer to "colour", we mean the visible spectrum: Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, and Violet. White is a mixture of all colours, while Black is the absence of colour.

Pure saturated colours are termed "hues". If a colour is mixed with white, this produces a "tint" -- a lighter colour. If a colour is mixed with Black, this produces a "shade" -- a darker colour. Mix a colour with Grey -- a mix of White and Black -- to produce a "tone", a de-saturated colour.

Once you have narrowed down your colour choices, get some paint samples and paint a small swatch of each colour on the wall. Watch how the colours look in different lights and at different times of day before making a final decision.

Note: Keep in mind that as your needs change, the colours used in your environment can be easily changed with a bit of paint. If the colour doesn't work as expected, change it to something more suitable for the space.

Avoid sharp corners and straight lines

Round out the corners with curved furnishings if possible. Live plants and statuary can also be used to round out the corners.

Add auspicious symbols to each area

This is a quick and easy way to direct qi in a desired direction. These symbols include statuary or even natural materials such as crystals and scents such as incense and essential oils.

lucky crystal In feng shui, scent can be used to alter the qi within an environment quickly. Some scents are uplifting while others are nauseating. Therefore, the intentional use of scents in an environment can be a powerful component of feng shui practice.

In addition, crystals are commonly used in feng shui as a quick and easy way to redirect qi in a new direction. They are used to cleanse negative qi and attract positive qi. Placing crystals around the home also raises the vibrational frequency of the room in which the crystal has been placed.

Statuary improves the qi of any room in which they are placed. It is considered an auspicious element in feng shui design, particularly for statues placed at the entrance. While many feng shui statues are intended to attract wealth and prosperity to a household or business, others are used for tranquility and even protection.

Note: Never disrespect your statuary by placing it on the ground. A wooden or metal pedestal for it is best, but at the very least place the statue on a cloth rather than directly on the ground. This goes for garden statuary as well.

Also, the bathroom and bedroom should generally be avoided for the placement of statues.

Balance the Element for your zodiac sign

If you know your Chinese zodiac sign, you will be able to incorporate extra touches to balance the element of your sign. For example, an Earth Pig should include Fire such as ceramics (earth-fired clay) to balance the Earth of the sign. A Water Dragon might need more Wood such as live plants such as to promote growth and stability in his or her life.

Auspicious statuary for feng shui

Lucky Buddha statues

Gautama Buddha is the primary figure in Buddhist philosophy, believed to have achieved enlightenment.

Gautama Buddha (lit. "The Enlightened One") was born a prince named Gautama Siddhārtha in Nepal between 563 and 483 BCE. His birthday is celebrated in many South and South East countries of Asia, and is known by different names. In India and Nepal it is known as Buddha Purnima, while Sri Lankans and Malaysians call it Vesak. In Mandarin Chinese Buddha's birthday is called Fodan and in Tibetan it is Saga Dawa. There is no exact date on which Buddha's birthday is celebrated across Asia, or by Buddhists worldwide. It varies according to the Lunar calendar used by that particular country. In the Gregorian calendar the date usually falls in the month of April or May each year.

He continues to share his insights so that all sentient beings may do likewise.

The Lucky Buddha statue is considered a symbol of enlightenment, inner peace, and tranquility. Statues of Buddha are popular all over the world. From Japan to Afghanistan, each culture has carved Buddha in its own unique style.

lucky buddha symbolism While there are over one hundred traditional poses for Buddha statuary, certain poses are commonly depicted.

The best place for your statue is in a place of reverence, facing east if possible. It should be a high position in the room with no clutter nearby. If you have a home altar, this spot may be a good choice.

Lucky Maneki Neko statues

maneki neko symbolism The maneki neko (招き猫, aka “lucky cat”, “welcoming cat”, “beckoning cat”) is believed to be a symbol of good fortune. They are placed at the entrances of dwellings and businesses in China for this express purpose. The statue is always placed such that it faces the door to greet those who enter.

The colour, pose, and placement determine the intent of each particular statue. It's easy to find a lucky cat statue to suit your particular needs. Consider acquiring several statues in varying poses and colours to cover every possible intent. They display best as a large group anyway!

Every home should have at least one lucky cat statue to welcome guests. They make great gifts for both new homeowners and cat lovers.

maneki neko symbolism The primary accessories of the lucky cat are the collar with its bell, the bib, and the golden coin tablet. Written on either the collar's tag or sometimes directly on the maneki neko statue itself is the word “neko” (猫), meaning "cat".

The coin carried by a maneki neko is a koban coin (10 million ryō) with the kanji for “10 million ryō” (千万両) on it. The ryō was a pre-Meiji era gold coin in Japan. It has since been replaced by the yen.

maneki neko symbolism If the maneki neko’s left paw is up, it is inviting visitors to enter the home or businesss where the statue is in residence. If the right paw is up, it is inviting good fortune to enter the home or business where the statue is in residence. If both paws are up, the statue is considered a symbol of protection for the home or business where the statue is in residence.

Tip: You can sometimes find two-cat pairs to cover both angles.
maneki neko colours Every colour of maneki neko has a particular symbolism. Choose the colour of your maneki neko statue according to your particular needs.

The best place for a lucky cat statue is at the entrance of your home or business. Lucky cats can then greet your visitors as they enter the building. Orient your cat to face the door as much as possible.

The maneki neko is also a protective symbol, so placement at the entry will guard one’s dwelling or business from evil influences.

Lucky Elephant statues

The Lucky Elephant is a symbol of stability, wisdom, and good fortune. Its form is an elephant statue draped with an ornate blanket upon its back. You might also see elephant statues standing on a pile of coins; these are specifically designed to attract wealth, much like a Lucky Toad statue.

lucky elephant symbolism The Lucky Elephant is associated with Buddha who took the form of a white elephant carrying a lotus flower when appearing before his mother Queen Maya prior to his birth.

For the most auspicious pose, the trunk of your lucky elephant should be up to shower blessings of fortune upon all who enter. An elephant with the trunk down is considered ill fortune for the owner of the statue as his or her blessings will drain away easily.

The best place for your elephant is facing the front door of your home or business to bestow blessings and good fortune upon all those who enter. It is considered even more auspicious to have a mirror-image pair of elephants outside flanking the door to provide protection to those within by warding off ill fortune.

Tip: For extra luck, place a small trio of miniature elephants on a table or altar inside such that they are facing toward the front door.

Lucky Money Tree statues

The Lucky Money Tree (搖錢樹, "Money Tree") is a symbol of good fortune and prosperity dating back to the Han Dynasty in China. Cast-bronze Lucky Money Trees are a feature of Han-era tombs in Sichuan. The Lucky Money Tree statue is a tree-shaped statue whose leaves have been replaced with lucky coins.

money tree symbolism You might sometimes see these trees with gemstones such as rose quartz (representing love) or citrine (representing general good fortune) in place of the coins if it is desirable to attract something besides wealth into the home. The base of the tree is generally placed into a bonsai pot filled with rice to stabilize the statue.

The Lucky Money Tree is essentially a visual reminder of the saying "Money grows on trees". A Lucky Money Tree in your home or business serves to attract wealth and prosperity. Touching a "leaf" of the tree brings good fortune.

The Lucky Money Tree gains great prominence at the Chinese New Year when red packets with an auspicious greeting on the exterior are distributed to children, unmarried adults or elders during Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year). These envelopes contain money. The amount of money inside a red packet has to be an even number. Usually the smallest amount in a red packet will be $6 because the number 4 has the same sound as the word "death". Also avoid any numbers with "4" in them (14, 24, 34, etc).

Your Lucky Money Tree should have a position of honour during the festivities, then be placed in the Wealth area of your home once the New Year is past.

Lucky Toad statues

The Jin Chan (金蟾, "Golden Toad") is a symbol of good fortune and prosperity. The Lucky Toad statue is a toad-shaped statue whose back legs are replaced by a tadpole's tail, giving the effect of a three-legged toad. This association with the number "3" is considered auspicious.

Jin Chan symbolism The Toad typically has red eyes and a pattern of seven diamond-shaped spots on its back. The Lucky Toad sits on a pile of coins, and offers a coin in its mouth. Jin Chan is considered a companion of the Immortal Liu Haichan, the God of Wealth. This association with Liu Haichan allows the Lucky Toad to attract wealth and prosperity to the home by symbolizing the flow of money into the home or business. The Lucky Toad is typically gold or red coloured, which are the lucky money colours.

The best spot to place a Lucky Toad is at the entrance of your home or business. A Lucky Toad can then attract wealth into the home or business while deflecting bad luck. It should face the interior of the building rather than the front door so as to encourage wealth into the building. If your toad is intended to draw wealth to a business, consider placing your toad next to the cash register facing into the shop.

How to cleanse a space with feng shui

When might a space require cleansing?

Any and all of these things can cause qi to stagnate. If you have a sense that the qi within an area is stagnant, take time to cleanse the space properly so qi can flow in a desirable direction. This will consecrate the space as a sacred space filled with positive, life-giving qi.

aum Supplies for feng shui cleansing

How to cleanse a space

Further reading

You might also enjoy these books:

The practical encyclopedia of feng shui The Practical Encyclopedia of Feng Shui by Gill Hale (Hermes House, 2000): A good guide to the basics of feng shui in home and office spaces. I especially enjoyed the section on feng shui in the garden. The book covers a bit of everything briefly, so other books may prove necessary for addressing issues in a particular space.   Healing Homes Healing Homes: Feng Shui Here and Now by Dennis Fairchild (Aquarius Rising, 1996): This would have been more useful had the compass method been explained earlier in the book rather than at the end. However, it is overall a good guide to practical feng shui in the home. Includes tips for generating positive qi in each room of the home and adjoining exterior spaces.

These books can be difficult to find since many are out of print. Some great places to buy used books online include:


The Book of Tides
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