Feng Shui History and Origins
I grew up in families that believe in 风水 Feng Shui. Not only my grandfather and my grandmother that believe on Feng Shui, almost all member from my father’s and mother’s large family also believe on Feng Shui. I personally is one kind of modern people who do not easily believe in such sciences like Feng Shui. I usually need to know fact first before believe in such of sciences. But along with the experience i start to believe there is real truth behind the science of Feng Shui. Therefore, this time I want to write about history and origins of Feng Shui. Feng Shui has a long history, because it is an ancient art and science developed over 5,000 years ago in China. I write this article based on articles and several books I have ever read.
What is Feng Shui?
Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese science of topography that believe how Humans and Heaven (astronomy) and Earth (geography), live in harmony to help improve life by receiving positive 气 Qi. Qi is present in nature as energy that not visible.
If we look the foundation of the word 风水 (Feng Shui), term feng shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English. The meaning of wind and water is :
Qi rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water.
“Wind” denotes the direction from which Qi approach and dissipate.
“Water” depicts the location where Qi gathers.
In Chinese culture wind and water are associated with good health, thus good feng shui came to mean good fortune, while bad feng shui means bad luck, or misfortune. Good Qi is also called Cosmic Dragon Breath. This type of Qi is believed to will bring good fortune and luck to our life. But there are also bad Qi called Sha Qi, that is believed can bring bad luck.
Feng Shui Techniques and Methods
There are a lot of different type of Feng Shui, but its can be divided into two major doctrin, they are :
形式派 Xingshi Pai (“Forms” Methods)
- 峦头派 Luan Dou Pai (environmental analysis without using a compass)
- 形象派/形像派 Xing Xiang Pai (Imaging forms)
- 形法派 Xingfa Pai
理氣派 Liqi Pai (“Compass” Methods)
- 三元派 San Yuan Pai (San Yuan Method)
- 龍門八法 Long Men Ba Fa (Dragon Gate Eight Formation)
- 玄空 Xuan Kong (Time and Space methods)
- 玄空飛星 Xuan Kong Fei Xing (Flying Stars methods of time and directions)
- 玄空大卦 Xuan Kong Da Gua (“Secret Decree” or 64 gua relationships)
- 三合派 San He Pai (San He Method – environmental analysis using a compass)
- Accessing Dragon Methods
- 八宅 Ba Zhai (Eight Mansions)
- 河洛水法 He Luo Shui Fa (Water Methods)
- Local Embrace
Beside two methods above, there some others Feng Shui techniques, which are Four Pillars of Destiny, 四柱命理 (a form of hemerology), Major & Minor Wandering Stars (Constellations), Five phases, 五行 (relationship of the five phases or wuxing), BTB Black (Hat) Tantric Buddhist Sect (Westernised or Modern methods not based on Classical teachings)
History and Origins of Chinese Feng Shui
Feng Shui that known today is a metamorphosis of science since more than 5,000 years ago. It seems that this science has undergone enormous changes if we see its development from era to era. Below, we provide historical information of the development of Chinese Feng Shui that have been investigated by experts from the era to era.
1.Before Qin Dynasty – The Formation Period (16th century – 2nd century BC)
In the period before the Qin dynasty, Feng Shui known as 占卜 Zhan Bu, which is forecasting methods using turtle shells to assess a location favorable or not. This method is the same as the 易经 Yi Jing (I Ching) and forecasting methods are also known as 相地 Xiang Di (Observing the Land) or some call it 相宅 Xiang Zhai (Observing the Dwellings). During the Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC to 246 BC), there is evidence from oracle bones and other artifacts that solar and lunar eclipses had been recorded. Constellations were recorded in the Book of Odes 诗经 (9th century BC). The main method used in this era is still very simple, namely:
1) Evaluate the form of land : upland and lowland.
2) Adequacy and the flow of water in a location.
3) The quality of soil : fertile or not.
4) A place position from downtown.
5) Eligible green (lots of plants / trees) or not.
During this time. Hence yin/yang 阴阳, trigrams of the Ba Gua 八卦 and the five elements 五行 came to have a place in Feng Shui practice.
One of the famous experts who skilled in this art at that time called 方士 Fang Shi / 地理師 Di Li Shi, or someone who studies metaphysics of nature and science. One of the famous feng shui names recorded in the history.
2. Qin and Han dynasties – Development Period (2nd century BC – 2nd century AD)
At this time, the science of Feng Shui began to grow and that time known as 堪輿 Kan Yu. Kan Yu is a term that people understand the will of the universe, so where they live, they have to adapt to the environment which the concept is well known by the term “天人合一 Tian Ren He Yi” or “Man and Heaven combined into One”.
More detailed study of the mountain ranges of China was also carried out and this marked the beginning of the term ‘Dragon Veins’. One important event that could be recorded in this period is the Feng Shui knowledge, 形式派Xingshi Pai (“Forms” Methods) and 理氣派 Liqi Pai (“Compass” Methods) started to split and each began to form its theory.
One of experts in this period are 黄石公 Huang Shi Gong and 张良 Zhang Liang. They are also a military strategist who helped the founding of the Han dynasty.
3. Wei and Jin Dynasty – The term Feng Shui is formed (second century – 4th century AD)
“藏风”、得水, 乘生气 Zang Feng, De Shui, Cheng Sheng Qi“ is a word that supposedly written by 郭璞 Guo Pu in his book 葬書 Zhang Shu (Book of Burial). Guo Pu is a famous Taoism scientist at that time. While the book Zhang Shu discusses about how a deceased person should be buried according to the rules of Feng Shui to provide prosperity for posterity. The main concept of the book Zang Shu seems to have inspired many Feng Shui experts in subsequent periods.
4. Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties – the spread of Feng Shui throughout the territory of China (4th century – 9th century AD)
Sui, Tang and the Five Dynasties (581 – 960 A.D.) were three periods when Feng Shui became more scientific and gradually its activities became increasingly differentiated. During the five dynasties period (907 – 960 A.D.) feng shui practice became differentiated into 阴宅 Yinzhai (residence of the dead) and 阳宅 Yangzhai (residence of the living). At this time the science of Feng Shui has made big improvements compared with the previous period, because:
1) Kingdom System is Meritocracy. So everyone who contribute will be promoted by the empire, so the state examination system had a very important role and that test is certainly related to the natural sciences, including Feng Shui that we know today.
2) 楊筠松 Yang Yun Song, a librarian from Tang dynasty who has formalized 形式派 Xingshi Pai (Form Doctrin).
3) The creation of the basic concept of Feng Shui, which is called the 黄帝宅经 Huang Di Zhai Jing
There are a lot of Feng Shui experts in this period, which are : Qiu Yan Han, Si Ma Tou Tuo, Yang Yun Song, Qiu Ji Ceng, Ceng Wen Chan, Liao Yu, Ying Huang Miau and many others.
5. Song Dynasty – Golden Age of Feng Shui (9th century – 12th century AD)
There are 3 important events that can be taken at this time, namely:
1) The difference between Feng Shui compass doctrine and form doctrine becomes so real.
2) The use of Feng Shui compass (Luo Pan) more common at this time.
3) The compass doctrine became more popular than form doctrine. In this period its recorded more than 120 kinds of Feng Shui compass doctrine.
The Feng Shui experts who appear in this period include: Chen Xi Yi, Wu Jing Luan, Jin Jing Liao, Lai Wen Jun, and many others.
6. Yuan Dynasty – Lost period of Feng Shui (12th century – 13th century AD)
This is the most gloomy period for the science of Feng Shui. Why? Because at this time, the kings of the Yuan dynasty was Mongolian people (foreigners). In this dynasty many Feng Shui books were burned, so we lose the trail for nearly 100 years. No-one expert was recorded at this time.
7. Ming and Qing Dynasty – Feng Shui Science learned by common people (age 13-19 AD)
After Yuan dynasty was overthrown by Ming Dynasty, the science of Feng Shui has begun to grow again. But at this time, Feng Shui has been studied by common people and intellectuals.At this time there are some important events that can be noted:
1) The concept of the 三元九運 San Yuan Jiu Yun (3 era of 9 periods) was introduced.
2) The distinction between 三合 San He and 三元 San Yuan doctrine increasingly apparent.
3) Feng Shui doctrine begun to attack each other.
4) Since the loss period of the 100-year-colonized by the Mongolian people, many doctrine brings back Feng Shui ideology from Tang and Song Dynasty without clear background.
5) In the Qing dynasty, Feng Shui becoming increasingly popular.
Experts available at this time quite a lot, among others: Liu Bo Wen, Leng Qian, Mu Chan Shi Jiang, Jiang Da Hong, Zhang Jiu Yi, Jiang Yao, Zhang Zhong Shan, Wen Ming Yuan, Tai Ma Qing, Shen Zhu Reng, Zhang Xin Yan, and many others.
8. Founding of the PRC – Feng Shui Science studied around the world (19th century – present)
After the founding of PRC, Feng Shui regarded as superstitious and ignorant folk science, so its initially banned by the state for 50 years and is only practiced in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asian countries. Since PRC government is still skeptical of this science, while Chinese people has spread widely throughout the world, then Feng Shui become more popular outside China. Most of them aim to continue the culture and traditions, while others intend to commercialization. With advances in information technology Feng Shui invites enthusiasts from around the world without restriction. Modern experts are recorded in the present (deceased), among others: Tan Yang Wu, You Xi Yan, Rong Bai Yun, Su Zhao Kong.