It would be easy to dismiss feng shui – pronounced ‘foong shway’ (fʊəŋ ʃweɪ) – as yet another piece of new age nonsense. However, the truth is that feng shui is a philosophy and practice which has been around in the Far East for more than 3,000 years, and which offers some practical ways to improve one’s well-being.
Literally translated, feng shui means wind and water. It works on the idea that the place where you live and work, and the way you use and arrange your rooms and furniture, can seriously affect your health, wealth and happiness. In Hong Kong, feng shui is part of everyday life, and most people would not dream of renting a flat or buying a house if this has not been surveyed by a feng shui professional beforehand. Major banks and businesses in the Far East take feng shui so seriously, as to be willing to re-build and re-decorate parts of their offices if they fear that the flow of positive energy is blocked. In the West, many celebrities and business entrepreneurs are known to be supporters of this ancient art – Donald Trump, Madonna and Boy George have all consulted feng shui experts.
So, how does it work? In oriental medicine, the life energy is a life force known as chi, which is made up of yin (female energy), and yang (male energy) qualities. Feng shui practitioners maintain that the chi carried via the wind and water around our environment is very important to our moods, as well as our emotional and psychological well-being. If the chi flows unblocked and balanced in our homes and workplaces, then according to feng shui, we’ll feel much happier and healthier. Blocked chi is a definite no-no, as, much like a blocked drain, it causes the atmosphere to stagnate, which affects the health and positive emotions of the people it surrounds.
What a feng shui consultant does is survey the location of your home or office and the shape of the land, as well as the directions your rooms face, and in what parts of the house different rooms are positioned in relation to each other. S/he will then chart the flow of chi around the house and garden, or workplace. Needless to be said – feng shui experts don’t come cheap. However, fortunately, there are a few general tips that apply to most homes, which are not that hard to apply.
It is, first of all, important to use a compass to be aware of where the north and south directions are, and interpret which way your house is facing. Feng shui experts usually use a bagua, or eight-sided shape, to analyse the energy of any given space in accordance to the natural elements within each direction.
The front door to your home is not only the first thing that visitors see, but also a gateway for the different types of chi, or energies, that can be drawn into your life. It is therefore important that this is not obstructed by such things as, for example, a tree, a high wall, or a post. One could also hang wind chimes and/or small mirrors at the front of the house, to induce a peaceful and balanced atmosphere. Another way to induce a lively ambience and promote energetic chi is to plant shrubs or plants in front of your home.
Once inside the front door, a whole new set of obstacles can disrupt the smooth flow of chi. Bad lighting is a no-no, as are mirrors reflecting the front door itself, which are believed to send positive vibrations right back where they came from. It is also well known to feng shui practitioners that the living/dining room is the most important room in a house, since this is the room where family members usually meet to discuss their day, talk and relax. It is therefore imperative for living rooms to be warm and welcoming. Feng shui also promotes the idea that it’s best for living rooms to be in the southern or western side of the house. Clutter and disorder is another way of blocking chi, therefore make sure all family members help to keep the house tidy. Wooden décor, parquet flooring and wall art also aids in promoting an environment of calm and well-being, as it introduces natural colours and textures. Use cushions, throws or rugs in darker colours to bring more yang into the room. If there are too many dark colours however, decorate with potted plants and flowers to bring out the flow of yin energy.
The kitchen is another focal point within a home, and this is regarded as an important place of well-being by the Chinese, as food represents wealth. However, with fire and water as the main elements, it is all too easy to throw out the balance of yin and yang. It is suggested that the best position for this room within a home is towards the east or south-east of the floor plan. There should be a gap or partition between the stove and the sink or fridge, since this places fire and water directly side by side. Most kitchens are structured so as to put cupboards between the stove and appliances which contain water, since their close proximity could be dangerous electricity-wise.
Colours are very important when it comes to feng shui, as the colour décor we use for our wall-paint, draperies and decorations usually tend to affect not only our moods, but also our emotional responses. Rather than slavishly following any colour ‘rules’ just because they are currently in vogue, decorate with the shades that provoke a peaceful and calming response in you personally. Colours like light blue, green and cream are known to be stress-relievers. Others such as yellow, red and pink are more energetic and promote a stimulating mode of living.