Feng shui is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing the human existence with the surrounding environment. The term feng shui literally translates as wind-water in English. This is a cultural shorthand taken from the passage of the now-lost Classic of Burial recorded in Guo Pus commentary: Feng Shui is one of the Five Arts of Chinese Metaphysics, classified as Physiognomy. The Feng Shui practice was created so humans could work with alleged omnipresent invisible forces that bind the Universe, Earth, and man together, known as qi/chi/energy.
Qi / Chi
Qi is a movable positive or negative life force which plays an essential role in feng shui. In feng shui as in Chinese martial arts, it refers to energy, in the sense of life force or lan vital. A traditional explanation of qi as it relates to feng shui would include the orientation of a structure, its age, and its interaction with the surrounding environment including the local microclimates, the slope of the land, vegetation, and soil quality.
Polarity (Yin & Yang)
Polarity is expressed in feng shui as yin and yang theory. Polarity expressed through yin and yang is similar to a magnetic dipole. That is, it is of two parts: one creating an exertion and one receiving the exertion. Yang acting and yin receiving could be considered an early understanding of chirality. The development of yin yang theory and its corollary, Five Phase Theory (Five Element Theory), have also been linked with astronomical observations of sunspots.
The Five Elements or Forces which, according to the Chinese, are metal, earth, fire, water, and wood are first mentioned in Chinese literature in a chapter of the classic Book of History. They play a very important part in Chinese thought: elements meaning generally not so much the actual substances as the forces essential to human life. Earth is a buffer, or an equilibrium achieved when the polarities cancel each other. While the goal of Chinese medicine is to balance yin and yang in the body, the goal of feng shui has been described as aligning a city, site, building, or object with yin-yang force fields.
Bagua (eight trigrams)
Two diagrams known as bagua (or pa kua) loom large in feng shui, and both predate their mentions in the Yijing (or I Ching). The Lo (River) Chart (Luoshu) was developed first, and is sometimes associated with Later Heaven arrangement of the bagua. The Luoshu and the River Chart (Hetu, sometimes associated with the Earlier Heaven bagua) are linked to astronomical events of the sixth millennium BC, and with the Turtle Calendar from the time of Yao. The Turtle Calendar of Yao (found in the Yaodian section of the Shangshu or Book of Documents) dates to 2300 BC, plus or minus 250 years.
In Yaodian, the cardinal directions are determined by the marker-stars of the mega-constellations known as the Four Celestial Animals:
- East: The Blue Dragon (Spring equinox) - Niao (Bird), a Scorpionis
- South: The Red Phoenix (Summer solstice) - Huo (Fire), a Hydrae
- West: The White Tiger (Autumn equinox) - Mao (Hair ?), ? Tauri (the Pleiades)
- North: The Dark Turtle (Winter solstice) - Xu (Emptiness, Void ?), a Aquarii, Aquarii
The diagrams are also linked with the sifang (four directions) method of divination used during the Shang dynasty. The sifang is much older, however. It was used at Niuheliang, and figured large in Hongshan culture astronomy. And it is this area of China that is linked to Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, who allegedly invented the south-pointing spoon.