feng shui

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feng shui

the Chinese art of determining the most propitious design and placement of a grave, building, room, etc., so that the maximum harmony is achieved between the flow of chi of the environment and that of the user, believed to bring good fortune
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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Custom-made home showing signs of the usage of feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of aligning objects or living spaces with natural geographic features and energy fields to ensure harmony and good fortune. AP/Wide World Photos.

Feng Shui

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Chinese tradition of feng shui and its Japanese equivalent kaso involve specialists who are called upon to design or redesign habitable structures in ways that will promote harmony and balance. Corporations in the West have recently discovered the tradition and increasingly employs feng shui consultants to create more psychologically friendly office spaces and reception areas.

When you walk into a space of any kind, your body receives thousands of unconscious signals, making you feel comfortable or uncomfortable. You might say something like, "This place has a nice feel" or a "conducive spirit."

The practitioner would say you are expressing exactly what feng shui is all about. The analogy of wind and water is often used. An obstruction causes both to change their movement and break their natural motion.

The sense of flow and natural movement was originally attributed to spirits. Furniture or architecture would obstruct spiritual entities, causing blockage and a feeling of tenseness or anxiety. But consultants now try to explain the feng shui concept in terms American business will understand. They seem to be succeeding. Office buildings and hospitals report increased efficiency and profitability when people sense the calmness of a strategically placed water garden or sculpture. Clients feel more at ease after a simple rearranging of furniture. Workers take fewer sick days. Peaceful surroundings promote wa, camaraderie between employees and company spirit.

Stripped of what American businesses might call the "smoke and mirrors" of Eastern spirituality, feng shui has been shown to improve the bottom line. It thus becomes yet another example of Eastern wisdom that, in terms of Western sensibilities, was way ahead of its time, a concept that was widely misunderstood in the West until it could be explained in a new context.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

Feng Shui

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Feng shui (literally wind/water) is a form of geomancy (the art of divination utilizing geological and environmental features) developed in China. It studies both the natural and humanly constructed elements of any environment. A specialist in feng shui observes any given environment—for example, an office space in a high-rise building, the landscape of a mountain valley, a building as a whole—and the manner in which the people inhabiting that environment interact with it. Based upon that observation, the specialist makes recommendations on improving the relationship of the people with their surroundings.

Feng shui developed as an art and science in ancient China. The accumulated knowledge was passed through a set of elite lineage holders into the modern world, but like many ancient secrets, in the twentieth century it became the subject of numerous books and papers. While the basic principles of feng shui may be learned from a book, proficiency requires practice and the development of a certain level of intuition in applying the principles. Thus a role remains for master practitioners to ply their trade.

Basic to understanding feng shui is the foundational principle of yin and yang. This desire to balance opposites and thus bring harmony is a foundation of Chinese thought. Yin/yang calls to mind a variety of polarities: male/female, light/dark, cold/hot, etc. Each opposite implies the other, and each half of a polarity always contains the seed of the other half.

Feng shui also draws on an understanding of the five elemental energies—earth, metal, fire,water, and wood—each of which would be in interaction in any given environment. Feng shui assumes that a variety of energies not visible to the average person are operating in the environment, and the harmonious flow of these subtle energies affect the happiness, well-being, creativity, and even the health of the inhabitants of the environment.

Long the exclusive practice of the Chinese, in the twentieth century feng shui has become popular around the world. In Chinese society, buildings would be erected and internal space shaped with reference to providing the most harmonious situation. Architects and others responsible for putting up structures in the increasingly secularized societies dominated by Chinese in Asia will have their buildings and other structures criticized if deemed to be ignoring the analysis of feng shui. Furthermore, any veil that descends upon those who inhabit structures with “bad” feng shui will be blamed on the builders ignoring traditional wisdom.


Carter, Karen Rauch. Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui to GetLove, Money, Respect and Happiness. New York: Fireside, 2000.
Collins, Terah Kathryn. The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Creating Balance, Harmony, and Prosperity in Your Environment. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 1996.
Sang, Larry. Principles of Feng Shui. Monterey Park, CA: American Feng Shui Institute, 1995.
Wong, Eva. A Master Course in Feng-Shui. Boston: Shambhala, 2001.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.