Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy with plenty of practical usage. It adds a new dimension to architecture and interior design not only for the enhancement of aesthetics, but also health, job performance and luck. Due to its metaphysical nature based on ideas about the cosmos, Feng Shui can be interpreted in many ways influenced by various customs across the country. Thus it is not surprising to see plenty of disagreement and confusion about Feng Shui even among the Chinese themselves. To help you understand and make things work better, I have tried to filter out the myths and to emphasize the universal practical aspects. The following are the most relevant points:
The word Feng is translated as wind and Shui as water. Since both elements flow in a natural way, Feng Shui implies something dynamic and changing that is inherent in this world. There exists a third invisible element called Qi (also known as Chi). Qi is considered a form of energy that binds everything together to give the right balance in nature, called the balance of Yin and Yang. When the Qi is gone, all living things will die and non-living things will lose their characteristic properties. When the Qi is hampered or lacking, poor health, poor performance, and bad luck will follow. Enhancing a good flow of Qi to produce the right natural balance is what Feng Shui is all about. Hence the objective is clear, but it is subtle at the same time. That is why there are numerous ways to enhance the Qi flow, or remedy a situation where the Qi is found deficient.
Feng Shui can be made to work for anybody. The more you understand it, the better you can make it work for you. If you practice by following others without any understanding, it will be reduced to mere superstition. Oftentimes, people with insufficient understanding follow the herd, then the result will be confusion and wasting of efforts. Feng Shui is not magic. It cannot make you a lottery winner. It is about cultivating a state of mind, in which you learn to enhance your relationships with the people and things around you, and build confidence in what you want to do.
There are four steps involved:
1. Identify the sources of good and bad Feng Shui in your situation or surrounding.
2. Find ways to enhance the good.
3. Find ways to remedy the bad.
4. Don’t overdo it. More does not mean better. Remember to achieve a natural balance. How? You do it to an extent that you feel good because you want to make it work for you. How you feel depends on both subjective and objective reasons which Feng Shui will accommodate. Feng Shui is not supposed to dictate something unpleasant or unreasonable that will make you unhappy. If that occurs, it will become bad Feng Shui for you!
Different people practice Feng Shui differently depending on their tastes and finances. In the old times, the Chinese emperors built palaces and temples with almost unlimited resources according to the advice of his architects employing Feng Shui concepts. A good example is the Temple of Heaven in Beijing where successive emperors went to pray for good harvest and peace. Note the meticulous design and orientation of the entire estate as shown by the buildings, trees, pathways and decorations. In this case, the architects advised and the emperors decided what to build to enhance the fortunes of the royal family and the country. Nevertheless, the Chinese monarchy and the whole country had gone through several periods of misfortune and tragedy. This shows that Feng Shui has its limits. It also shows that destiny or fate is not determined by one single factor alone.
Another example is the special architecture and interior design of some big companies in major Chinese cities particularly Hong Kong. A few Feng Shui masters are able to secure big contracts by persuading company executives to adopt their ideas for enhancing business and beating the competition. We don’t know how much the executives understand this ancient philosophy. However, if the competitors down the street employ Feng Shui tactics through architecture and interior design, why take the risk of not doing same given the big budget available? So peer pressure plays a part, too. Through the years, we see companies rise and fall. Their futures basically depend on their management, marketing and vision although Feng Shui may help.
What can you do with a small budget? There are lots of things to make yourself feel good. The following are some of my personal experience:
You may notice that the colors of good Feng Shui are usually red, blue, green and yellow as exhibited in the royal palaces in China. However, they are by no means the only ones that suit your taste. The colors you like should be good Feng Shui for you if they strike a balance with your surrounding. How? When we moved into a new neighborhood this summer, we repainted the front door red to brighten up the frontage of the house. The Feng Shui concept is that this will invite more Qi into the home. After a while, some neighbors told us they liked the color. One even suggested that we open the screen door to show it. The red door has sparked an interesting conversation with the neighbors besides the usual handwaving and greeting. Thus the red door has enhanced our frontage and our relationships with the neighbors besides what we think will attract the Qi. So we feel we have done something that is good Feng Shui at a small expense.
The previous house we were living in had a nice backyard but an ugly slanting wooden post installed by the utility and cable companies. We could not do anything about it because they had the public easement. Worse, this eyesore looked like bad Feng Shui to us. One simple remedy was to nail a small one-inch mirror above the back door. The idea was to reflect any bad Feng Shui emanating from that ugly post to prevent it from entering the house through the back door. Thus we employed a low-cost symbolic tactic to remedy the situation rather than complaining about the eyesore everyday. This is one usage regarding mirrors in Feng Shui remedy. How much this had helped we could not verify. At least, we had stopped worrying about that ugly post.
Incidentally, mirrors are used in various way, both symbolic and practical. If facing outside the house (must be small to avoid bad aesthetics), the mirror serves to reflect any bad thing coming into the house. If placed inside, its function is to multiply the good things within the home, for instance, to give the impression of larger space or more customers in a shop or restaurant. In this connection, is it good Feng Shui to have a mirror “multiplying” the toilet? Since the toilet represents drainage, it may not be a good idea to drain more things out of the home than necessary. However, in most bathrooms, it is common to see a reflection of the toilet in the mirror. An easy remedy is to put some live plants or decorative objects near the toilet to beautify a little bit. This is the most you need to do. Remember not to overdo it, else you will go crazy over the toilet.
The couple to whom we sold our previous house happened to believe in Feng Shui to a greater extent. They hired a Feng Shui master for advice. As expected, the higher was the consultation fee, the more expensive would be the remedy that involved remodeling the bedrooms and the baths. The master also suggested that they should not sleep in the master bedroom for fear of causing friction between them. Well, I guess every couple experiences some friction either married or living together, which may be part of the fun. If we cannot manage the friction and let it explode, it will make bad Feng Shui despite all the money spent to remodel the house.
One last example: A company that I worked with was plagued by toxic relationships among the workers due to a layered organization and non-transparent management. Frequent complaints failed to make things better because higher management liked to enclose themselves in comfortable offices and could not see the real situation. One employee finally got fed up. She redecorated her office space using Feng Shui concepts. She employed Chinese characters nicely brush-written to spell out what she wanted to say — “Back stabbing hurts”, “Harmony makes money”, “Bad Qi go away”, and so on. Everybody understood what she meant after seeing her decorations. The work atmosphere began to improve gradually. This Feng Shui tactic was making everybody aware of the real problems in order to cultivate a better working environment. This was much better than complaining in meetings where people usually got defensive, and higher management would likely ignore the problem altogether.