Some Basic Principles of Feng Shui

Feng shui is an ancient art and science that was formalized over 3,000 years ago in China. In literal translation feng means “wind” and shui means “water.” In Chinese culture, wind and water are associated with good health, thus good feng shui came to mean good fortune. Conversely, bad feng shui means bad luck or misfortune.

Some elements of feng shui practice date back at least 6,000 years, and it contains elements of various branches of scholarly study, including physics, philosophy, astronomy, and astrology. It is related closely to the Taoist vision and understanding of nature, particularly the idea that the land is alive and filled with chi or energy.

Feng shui is sometimes thought to be the art of placement—understanding how the placement of yourself and objects within a space affects your life in various areas of experience. It is a complex body of knowledge that teaches you how to balance and harmonize with the energies in any given space—be it a home, office, or garden. Its aim is to assure good fortune for the people inhabiting a space. Although regarded by some in the scientific community as a pseudo-science, feng shui has had an impact on the aesthetics of interior design and the architectural layout of living and working spaces both in its native eastern and, more recently, western cultures.

Since good fortune comes in many forms, including better health, a successful career, or fulfilling love life, feng shui practice includes detailed tips for almost every area of your life. The main tools used in analyzing the feng shui of any space are the feng shui compass and the bagua.

Two Basic Feng Shui Principles

Concepts shared between feng shui astrological weight and Taoism include the polarities of yin and yang—the polar opposites that cannot exist without the other—and the theory of the five elements. These are founding principles of feng shui.

Yin and Yang

The core of the Taoist theory of yin and yang is the belief that a balance of the feminine (yin) and the masculine (yang) is necessary to maintain a good flow of chi and a content, ​successful life.

In Taoist and feng shui theory, yin and yang are opposites that are dependent upon one another and which must always be in balance. The principle of duality—the idea that all things are balanced blends of two things—is at the root of yin/yang theory. While most other spiritual philosophies believe in opposing dualities, such as good vs. evil, the Chinese Taoist system believes that balance and equilibrium between opposites is the desirable state. Discord occurs when one principle outweighs the other.

Five Elements

By tradition, feng shui practice holds that all things consist of varying degrees of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each is represented by certain colors that can help you bring harmony to a particular space.

The five elements can interact in any number of ways, some constructive and some destructive. In the constructive cycle, for example, water provides moisture for trees (wood) to grow; wood then becomes a fuel for fire; the residue of fire is ash or soil; the ash/soil is the essence of earth minerals that form metals; and as metal cool, they allow water to condense, completing the cycle. In a destructive cycle, on the other hand, metal can cut wood; and wood can grow over and consume soil.

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