A Brief and Somewhat Irreverent History of Feng Shui

How Feng Shui Came To Be

In our cave dwelling days no one would have sat eating their mastodon delight with their backs to the cave opening. It's just too disadvantageous a position... they could have turned into dinner for some other big creature or at least be stressed out it might happen. Sitting directly facing the cave opening was better, but being off to the side a bit and perhaps in an alcove would have been better still and is probably where they sat if given the opportunity. Feng shui is partly instinct and this demonstrates just one of the innate feng shui aspects which became codified later.

We Jump to the Present

Stress happens. If we look at cubicles we see workers with their backs to the opening with high stress leading to more heart attack and strokes. Some enlightened companies know better. Another feng shui observation is that places on hills have better chi offering greater advantage. Wealthier people tend to live there whereas low lying places, especially bowl shaped ones, have poor chi (especially financial) and lead to problems. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina it became obvious the lowest elevation areas were where the poorest people had been forced to settle because the best places had been occupied by those who could.

Then there are the places of great advantage. 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto California is known as "the luckiest building in Silicon Valley." It has served as home to blockbuster companies including Logitech, Google, PayPal, Danger Inc. (purchased by Microsoft for about $500 million) and Milo.com (purchased by ebay for $75 million. The building looks nice but ordinary. Feng shui is about so much more than looks. That building is on a power spot.

Back to the Past as Feng Shui (Humans too) Evolved

Somewhere around 3,000 years ago some astute folks in China began tuning into chi. It was observed that some people had better lives because of where they lived and some aspects of their homes. Feng shui was developed as a result. It was observed that the earth and houses have energy systems which affect us. Over the millennia methods have been developed to harmonize the energy. But much of it is so esoteric and hard to understand. It also often involves hanging (why are you not surprised?) Chinese looking things like bamboo flutes, wind chimes with red string and mirrors (called "cures") where most folks wouldn't usually put them. Each of these implements, when properly placed, hung and blessed, adjusts chi so life is better.

The Lineages

As if it isn't confusing enough to have esoteric methods, there are a number of lineages (also known as schools or sects) of feng shui, each of which uses different esoteric methods. This is a FYI in case you are confused by significant differences out there in the feng shui world.

  • The Form Lineage works primarily with the five element system (earth, metal, water, wood and fire) to harmonize chi. The theory is that an excess or deficiency of any of the elements creates problems. In addition to the elements themselves, the Form Lineage sees different shapes and colors as representing each of the elements. While the earliest records of feng shui's development are hazy, this is likely the oldest (or at least the oldest remaining) formal lineage.
  • The Compass Lineage uses a complex instrument called a lopan which has (as you might expect) a compass in the center. Around the compass are concentric rings of Chinese characters each representing an aspect of chi, the home or a person's life. This system also has astrology at its core.
  • The Flying Star Lineage is for those who are truly devoted to their feng shui practice. You enjoy not only running a mile, but you're great with hurdles. Flying Star requires you to (we are not making this up!) rearrange your furniture and certain other belongings every month. This may seem onerous, but at least to this seemingly dark cloud there is a silver lining: Those who use the Flying Star method tend to have less clutter. It's just too hard to ignore unneeded things when you're moving them every month.
  • The Black Hat Lineage was developed mid-20th century to make things easier than the above methods. In its relative simplicity there are no monthly hurdles or compass directions, not much astrology either. But there still are lots of Chinese cures to be hung, Buddhist blessings to be recited and esoteric information digested. It should be noted that Black Hat is an esoteric Chinese term. We did warn you feng shui can be esoteric? Why not start with a lineage's name to prove it. You should know though that it is quite safe and has absolutely nothing to do with western ideas about black hats.

Getting Serious for a Moment

We have shared with you the main lineages. A takeaway we intend is if you want to use one of the older lineages, we encourage you to find one that works for you AND STICK WITH IT. Studying more than one lineage, while usually done with the belief that more knowledge is better, will almost guarantee confusion and walking away from feng shui altogether, or possibly doing yourself harm. Imagine mixing a seafood appetizer, meatloaf entre and angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries all together in one recipe and you have the idea. How would it taste and do you have indigestion from just the thought? Perhaps because of how mixing them is incomprehensible to all but the most experienced, the traditional feng shui lineages tend to not think very well of each other. Even within a lineage there are enough variants that it is best to stick to books and practitioners inspired by only one Master.

And Into the XXI Century

They may work for section titles and building cornerstones but not many people would use Roman Numerals for daily math. We are grateful for a simple system. In 1999 the old idea of harmonizing chi met modern easefulness. A Feng Shui Practitioner saw how his clients' lives improved when they hung the cures he recommended, but also how hard it was for some of his clients to adjust to the Chinese decor, or in some cases to even have the cures in their homes at all. He became a Feng Shui Master when he developed a way to package the chi of thousands of traditional cures in one master cure. This became known as Life Chi Feng Shui. It includes raising the chi of all your water and EMF protection. We won't repeat all the details here as the Life Chi web site is devoted to them. We want to be clear that all versions of feng shui work wonders and encourage you to make the leap. If you're already using one of the older lineages, Life Chi will work with it because it has been designed to harmonize chi regardless of what other chi adjustment system is in use or the household's religion.

Qualified Permission for Reproduction

The above article is to share a bit of feng shui's history and help you steer clear of its pitfalls. It is copyright 2014 Life Chi however you are welcome to reproduce it if you do so in its entirety with the hyperlink active, do not use the nofollow command and include this full notice. Notifying us of the URL you are posting it on would be appreciated. Thanks!

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