Feng Shui: How Wind and Water Influence Chinese Design

Posted by Amanda Mailer & Shengfei Zhu on December 02, 2013

Feng shui (风水) is Chinese traditional geomancy that reads the Earth through signs in the environment formed by soil, rocks, sand or water. Feng shui is an art that is believed to improve or harm health and wealth, or even influence fate.

Basics

Feng (wind) and Shui (water) are two essential concepts in Chinese geomancy theory. Feng shui is related to fortune caused by location and based mainly on the Taoist understanding of nature. Depending on its location, a grave, a house, a city or even a region will bring about good or ill luck for its inhabitants. 

For example, if a house is built on a triangular land, it’s said that fire and quarrels are much easier to occur.

From the basic viewpoint of feng shui, the environment is full of chi(气) or air, like a vital energy. Chi is a basic element of the world, appraising how well land and water cooperate. The tenet of feng shui is to find and readjust chi

According to the famous politician and thinker Guanzhong(管仲), chi comes into being from the balance of yin and yang(阴阳).

Wind is thought to be one of the forms of chi. A place with good chi should be able to protect against wind. A stream of gentle and circuitous water is another must, which is believed to contribute to keeping wealth and chi in storage.

Nevertheless, a perfect location is impossible to find so people have adopted many approaches to transform feng shui – for example by channeling or storing water, piling up higher land behind their building or setting up something ‘magical’ (pagodas and mirrors are most common) to protect houses from evil.

Feng Shui Today

Feng shui would probably impress us today at first encounter as a puzzling and ridiculous hybrid of physics, geography, philosophy, religion, esthetics, psychology, sociology and many other things. 

No matter how absurd it may be, how seriously it has been taken or how much rebuke it has faced, the practice of feng shui has lasted for more than a thousand years and still flourishes among the people of the nation. 

Especially in rural areas, the feng shui of a new house or grave is now still routinely and cautiously considered before construction starts.

So far, Chinese people have granted great authority to feng shui with respect to disease, accidents, the gender of the next generation and almost all unpredictable, but crucial, things. 

Feng Shui in Interior Design

It is a reflection of the decrease in people’s living space, and the growing distance between people and nature, that feng shui has shifted its main focus from choosing structural location to guiding interior design.

What kind of artwork to choose, how many to hang, and how high, all depend on following principles according to feng shui.

Every position in a house hides different meanings. Proper arrangement of furniture and decorations can promote potential luck. For example, it is best to avoid the following situations:

the mirror against the window;
the bedroom door facing a kitchen, a toilet, or another bedroom’s door;
a big piece of furniture in a small room;
a bedroom decorated with a statue or picture of a god;
a sharp angle of furniture pointing at the bed;
the beam in a house facing people directly;
something reflective hanging in the bedroom

And positive choices like these are appropriate:

the room facing north has furniture of light color;
the desk in a study is against the door, not under the window;
the bed in on the east side;
when hanging suits or jackets, put lightly-colored ones to the right, accenting colors from right to left;
irritable men sleep in the northwest room;
strong and aggressive women sleep in the southwest room

Chinese people can list many feng shui tips, which are associated with almost all aspects of everyday life. Vacuum storage bags are popular to contain quilts; but in feng shui, a bulky quilt full of air is more likely to absorb fortune.

And there is a key prop – mirror. It is said that the people in the mirror will share the luck with the people before the mirror, and lessen it, especially when sleeping. So, the best place to put the mirror is in the bedroom, under cover.

Bonsai is another common ornament: no matter if it is in the study, living room or bedroom—the withered plant is completely taboo.

In general, people should prevent their fortune from being damaged and promote it by placing something lucky in their homes.

Rearranging a room for more feng shui? Check out our latest silk art collections for decorating ideas. 

Also see: Bring the 5 Feng Shui Elements to your Home with Color

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