|When a modern new skyscraper goes up in Taiwan, the owners routinely consult a feng-shui geomancer or xiansheng to determine the optimum position for the main entrance. Geomancy (feng-shui) is the branch of classical cosmology which helps man build his dwellings in optimum harmony with the elements of his or her natural environment. The Chinese exponents of feng-shui say that where you live and how you allocate and arrange the rooms or elements of your home or workplace can significantly affect the harmony of your health, wealth and happiness. By acknowledging and augmenting the all-prevalent life energy or Chi you can affect the whole tenor of your well-being. Move the furniture, change the color scheme, avoid the elemental conflicts such as placing water (i.e. the refrigerator) next to fire (i.e. the stove). Such conflicts encourage harmful Sha or the opposing force to Chi and thus must be avoided.Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary defines this ancient system as such:|
“Feng Shui is the art of locating tombs, cities and houses auspiciously. Mountains, hills, water courses, groves and neighboring buildings can be useful either in channeling the male Yang influences or in deflecting them.”
While feng-shui is thousands of years old and seemingly steeped in esoteric rules, it contains much common sense useful to and understood by anyone. For example, feng-shui says the best site for a home to take advantage of the vital Chi is to put that home on a south-facing slope and preferably between two hills of unequal size (the Azure Dragon and the White Tiger) to best channel the Chi. Ideally, a river will be running along one side of the structure. The river should then turn in front of the building and then disappear.
Looked at another way, such a home on the south slope gets the maximum hours of sunlight, is shielded from the chilly, health-sapping north wind and has a good supply of water for drinking and cleaning. By then conveniently disappearing under the ground and gravel, the river carries away effluents and other “dirty” water. (If the water doesn’t want to disappear, feng-shui says this requirement can be satisfied by using a small brick wall, or hedge or shrubs to screen the river as it passes the boundary.)
Even if the building’s owners don’t really believe in feng-shui, they will still follow the geomancer’s advice because they know perfectly well that many prospective buyers and renters will consult their own geomancers about the building prior to moving in. The xiansheng considers four factors: the Chi or “breath of life” potential of the neighborhood; the site orientation or the importance of the direction in which the building faces; the five elements — fire, water, wood, metal, earth — and their mutual influence upon a location; the power of water and its significance in relation to the property.
Over the years, several major new buildings in downtown Taipei have remained unoccupied and their owners have gone broke because they failed to follow the dictates of Chinese geomancy during construction.
One Chinese restaurateur endured heavy financial losses for two years, despite excellent food and service and massive advertising campaigns. Finally, in sheer desperation, he consulted a geomancer, who coolly informed him that the position of his main entrance caused money to flow out rather than into his restaurant. He spent a small fortune to tear down and reconstruct the entrance according to the geomancer’s instructions, and before long you couldn’t find a seat in the place at night! Even the massive Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei, with its extensive gardens and numerous gates, was all laid out according to the laws of Chinese geomancy to provide maximum harmony with the elements and spirits to the cosmos.
Conversely, other building fronts are unhappily positioned for easy ingress by sources of evil. The following are some basic laws of feng-shui necessary to avoid Sha:
- A straight road leading directly to the home, with people coming and going, or a small stream flowing in a straight course from it, dissipate the good influences.
- The front entrance should not face the upstairs stairway.
- The front door should not have a view of the back door (through hallway).
- Heavy beams in the rec room are a burden and interfere with Chi.
- To have the right side low and the left side high are both unlucky signs. The Dragon should be on the left and the smaller White Tiger should be on the left, therefore be it a grave or a home, the hills to the left should be higher than those to the right.
- Houses or buildings on triangular plots of land are ill-omened as the strange shape attracts Sha.
- Water is very important and its positioning is vital to good Chi and to confound Sha.
There are ways to rectify the defects:
Avoid building on the junction of a T-street or at the end of a cul-de-sac will be on the receiving end of the straight-flowing Sha; a dead-end street only traps the bad Sha. If the left is too low, plant trees to raise the height. Alter the stream or river to give it bends and curves. Don’t make the bends too sharp or the Chi will “run off” and dissipate. The vitality of water is best conserved in a gently meandering stream. A pool of water (aka a fishpond) is especially useful to conserve Chi. If your neighbor builds a house higher than yours, add to the height of yours so your view of the stars in not obstructed. (Of course, this could lead to some problems with the zoning authorities.) If the plot is triangular, placing the door on the side of the triangle rather than on the point will counter the ill-omen.
There are other ways to improve the natural benefits:
In properties which back onto a river, the entrance must be at the rear of allow Chi to gain entrance. If the ground slopes upward from the front of a building, then again the entrance should be at the back. Properties facing open space to the south (a valley, a section of land such as a heath or even the sea) are especially good as the resulting gentle winds from the south usher the Chi and allow it to enter unhindered.
The Chinese also believe that a house with a front slightly lower than the back is useful in dispersing the influence of Sha. Similarly, a large tree immediately opposite the front door is ill-omened as it deflects the entrance of wealth. Again, both of these concepts might seem strange to Western architecture and West Coast philosophy and has caused some problems in regards to new owners and the neighborhood’s dismay about sudden tree clearings.
The neighborhood also affects Chi in other ways. In a built-up area, the positioning of a home in relation to other properties can be very important. If a corner of a neighboring building such as a block of condos or terrace of homes “points” to the home in question, this “secret arrow” can direct harmful Sha straight into the home. These “arrows” supposedly also create an unhealthy environment in which illness is a constant factor.
Sharp angles can be especially unlucky on an office or commercial building as these angles and straight edges drive off money, whereas curves attract money. Then again, the flat edges of buildings which lead toward the front of your property are fine conductors of Chi. But then again, if there is a road in front of the place which turns at a sharp angle, this can bring about the same unhappy effect as a “secret arrow”. To counter this, a driveway leading up to a front door should always approach in a gentle sweep to so gentle in the good influences.
Whether you believe in it or not, feng-shui is seen by millions as an ancient science full of philosophy and practical wisdom. As such, it can’t be summed up in a few pages such as these. If interested in learning more, read (as we have done) the very fine book: The Way of Feng Shui: Harmony, Health, Wealth and Happiness by Philippa Waring.