It is very easy to dismiss feng shui as just another one of those hokey magic tricks that capitalize on Asian mysticism, like fortune telling with tea leaves or palm-reading. After all, some avid followers of feng shui swear that they can change their fortune by re-arranging their furniture.
What a bunch of hooey, right?
Not really. The main problem with the current “image” of feng shui in the West is that it has somehow gained a mystical and mysterious reputation. Westerners have slowly gained more exposure to Chinese culture, and there are many who can say that they are familiar with the idea of feng shui. This “familiarity”, however, is often unfortunately reliant on incomplete information, thus leading to the reputation of feng shui in the West as something magical. In reality, feng shui is both a science and an art designed and utilized to find balance between man and nature.
The term feng shui is a combination of two Chinese characters: feng, or wind; and shui, or water. Literally, feng shui is wind and water, two symbols of good fortune in Chinese culture. This is perhaps one reason why feng shui gained fame as a means to gain great fortune.
Explaining feng shui can be rather difficult. It is, essentially, a cultural phenomenon and the root of Chinese folk practices. More importantly, however, feng shui is a science that deals with the technical and the metaphysical at the same time. At its most basic, it is actually little more than a collection of philosophical and practical instructions on building construction, using common sense knowledge of nature to decide which location is best suited for which purpose.
The central idea of feng shui is to find harmony between man and nature. The Chinese were highly cognizant of their diminutive role in the grand scale of the universe. As such, finding a way to live in balance with the rest of the natural world was seen as a necessity to ensure a happy and peaceful life. The Taoists, in particular, sought to live in accordance with nature, rather than at odds with it. Only then could one actually find “good fortune”.
Widespread recognition of feng shui as an actual practice began with the establishment of cities. The ancient Chinese sought to find the most suitable locations for specific buildings. The castles, of course, were placed center; less desirable establishments such as abattoirs and cemeteries were placed away from the residential areas.
One may say that feng shui is actually scientific, and that its principles are actually reasonable. After all, at its core it is little more than a collection of sound advice on how to build homes, palaces, offices, etc. without going against nature. For example, one key feng shui principle is the removal of any blockage near or in front of your doors. This is not mystical at all; this is sound advice that would make entering and exiting your home easier.
In reality, feng shui is instinctive. Today’s architects and interior designers have in fact recognized the significance of this ancient science, and often use its logical principles to design a home that would make best use of its natural surroundings. As such, windows should be placed in areas that will let natural light in, minimizing the need for artificial light and giving your home a more balanced and relaxed atmosphere.
Feng shui should not be intimidating; one should simply recognize it for what it truly is: good and practical advice.