A Brief History
Feng Shui has been practised in China at least since the Tang Dynasty.
The most ancient master in this art is generally believed to be Yang Yun Sang who is universally acknowledged as the Founder of Feng Shui.
Master Yang left a legacy of classic that have been preserved and continuously studied to this day.
He was the principal advisor of the court of the Emperor Hi Tsang (A.D. 888), and his books on Feng Shui made up the major texts on which succeeding generations of practitioners based their art.
Master Yang’s emphasis was on the shape of the mountains, the direction of water courses, and above all, on locating and understanding the influence of the Dragon, Cha’s most revered celestial creature.
His doctrines were detailed in three famous classic works that wholly describe Feng Shui practice in terms of colourful Dragon metaphors.
The first of these, “Han Lung Ching”, contains the “Art of Rousing the Dragon”.
The second, “Ching Nang Ao Chih”, comprises the methods of determining the location of the Dragon’s lair.
While the third book is “I Lung Ching”, translated under the title “Canons approximating Dragons”.
This third book provides the methods and techniques on how to find the Dragon in areas where they do not prominently stand forth.
Modern science has only recently discovered that the earth’s atmosphere is crowded with powerful but invisible energy waves and lines that enable us to enjoy telephones and radios, fax machines and satellite communications.
The ancient Chinese scientists discovered the existence of these energy lines many centuries ago.
They described these invisible atmospheric lines of energy in symbolic terms, referring to them as the Dragon’s cosmic breath if they were beneficial and as its killing breath if they were unfavourable.
Feng Shui was the name given to the practice of beneficially harnessing these energy forces.
People of Chinese origin have long known about Feng Shui. Over the centuries it has been passed by word of mouth from generation to generation, so that those ignorant of its philosophical underpinnings, have come to regard it as superstitious practice.
Feng Shui is the art of living in harmony with the land, such that one derives the greatest benefits, peace and prosperity from being in perfect equilibrium with Nature.
Feng Shui holds out the promise of a life of meaningful abundance to those who follow its principles and precepts when building their homes and workplaces.
Perhaps it is knowledge and practice of this ancient science that has enabled Chinese immigrants and their families all over the world to succeed and flourish, building respectable businesses for themselves, and living in harmonious interface with their neighbours in their adoptive lands.
Feng Shui cannot be viewed narrowly either as a science, with “magical” formular, nor as a art based totally on instincts.
It is a flexible mixture of both, and to practice it effectively, conceptual principles extracted from ancient classical manuals must be applied in consonance with the thinking man’s intuition and personal judgements.
To further complicate the practice, there are also elements of superstitious beliefs superimposed on the whole body of Feng Shi principles.
These cannot be ignored nor forgotten.
Indeed, today’s Feng Shui veterans frequently and successfully employ symbolism and village-type superstition.
Form & Compass School Feng Shui
Master Yang’s principles came to be regarded as the “Form School” of Feng Shui, which rationalises good or bad sites in terms of Dragon symbolism. According to this school, good Feng Shui locations require the presence of the Dragon, and where there is the true Dragon, there will also be found the White Tiger.
Feng Shui Masters who subscribe to the Form School begin their search for favourable locations by first searching for the Dragon. Emphasis was thus put on landforms, shapes of hills and mountains, waterways, their orientations and directions.
While Dragon symbolism was the principle mainstay of the Form School, there eventually emerged a second major system that approached the practice of Feng Shui from quite different perspectives. This second system laid stress on metaphysical speculations, using the symbols of the I Ching – or Book of Changes, and the Trigrams and the Hexagrams – three and six-lined symbols to calculate good and bad Feng Shui.
The Trigrams were placed around an eight-sided octagonal symbol called the Pa Kua, and according to where each of these eight Trigrams were placed, other corresponding attributes and symbols were further identified. These refer to colours, to different members of the family, to specific compass directions, to one of the five elements and to other attributes.
Each of these symbols and attributes were supposed to offer “clues” for designing homes, for allocating different rooms, for different purposes and for assigning different members of the family to different corners of the home in order to maximise auspicious Feng Shui for the entire family.
This second major system came to be collectively referred to as the Compass School of Feng Shui, and depending on which branch of this school is being practised, the calculations took on different equations and methods.
Certain branches of Compass School also emphasized the influence of the planets on the quality of locations. In contrast to the Form School, it assigned only minor importance to landscape configurations, relying heavily instead on complex calculations of actual dimensions, compass directions and sectors of main entrances and important rooms.
By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, the two schools had merged completely. Theories of the Form School including beliefs in Dragon symbolism gained wider acceptability and practice amongst followers of the Compass School. Today, Feng Shui practitioners in Hong Kong and Taiwan customarily practise a hazy combination of both schools.
Between the two schools, the Form School, with its heavy emphasis on the natural landscape, requires a greater amount of intuitive insight. It is therefore considered harder to practice even though the Green Dragon/White Tiger symbolisms are relatively easy to comprehend. The Compass School method is harder to learn and its formulae more difficult to grasp, but once mastered, is considered easier to practice due to its more precise methodologies.