Your guide to feng shui
A form of so-called geomancy – a practice that interprets patterns to divine certain outcomes – feng shui is concerned with the arrangement of the surrounding environment to improve harmony. Essentially, it is concerned with energy forces that run through all things. By rearranging the way particular objects are interacted with in daily life, the art is supposedly able to bring about a better harmony between people and their environments. In its earliest incarnations, feng shui was used to work out the best way to orientate a building, for example. These days, especially in Western interpretations of the practice, it is focussed on interior design. However, feng shui gets into many more aspects of the built and planned environment than simply working out the most propitious way to arrange your furniture.
Where is feng shui from?
Known as one of the five arts of Chinese metaphysics, feng shui has a long history. In fact, many Chinese scholars now agree that early tombs and dwellings were arranged according to the practice's principles in pre-history. In short, it dates back to neolithic times in what is now modern China, principally, in Yangshao and Hongshan cultures. It is thought that astronomy was used to help orientate these early cultures with the wider universe. However, the term feng shui – which means wind-water in English – points to a more temporal, rather than a heavenly, interpretation. Dwellings that date back as far as 4,000 BCE seem to have made use of the practice.
What are feng shui's principles?
The idea of the practice is to improve the flow of energy in the human-built world – just as it might flow in nature. As such, one of the key principles is qi, a word that translates as life force or energy which can be both positive and negative. In addition, polarity is another of the main principles. This relies on yin and yang theory which ought to be set out in equilibrium for the most favourable results. Finally, eight diagrams are used which are known as Bagua, symbols that are utilised throughout Taoist cosmology.
Can feng shui help depression?
Insofar as feng shui creates equilibrium, balance and harmony, many people believe it can improve overall mental outlooks. However, little hard science directly relates the practice to specific positive outcomes with anxiety and depression. There again, it has not been shown to generate negative outcomes, either.
What criticisms of feng shui are there?
Because modern feng shui sometimes relies on magnetic readings through a compass, some people believe it is nothing more than a pseudoscience because the polarity of the earth itself alters over time. During the cultural revolution in China, the practice was repressed, and it started to lose followers, especially in urban centres. That said, it is now making a resurgence in China and gaining popularity in the West.