Let’s get that last one out of the way first, if you don’t mind. “Feng shui” is not pronounced the way it looks. The closest a westerner can come to the proper Chinese pronunciation is something like “fung shway.” You won’t be exactly there with that pronunciation, but you’ll be close enough, we reckon.
Feng shui is an ancient Chinese philosophical system that has the aim of bringing human existence into harmony with the surrounding environment. In other words, making the intersection of humankind and nature an orderly one, one that works to the best advantage of the human by respecting and acknowledging the invisible principles that govern all life.
What the what?
Don’t worry—we’ll explain it all, we promise.
If, like many people, you are completely in the dark about feng shui but are intrigued by what it suggests, you would likely benefit from some introductory study. There is an excellent blog article called “The World of Feng Shui” by Florence Ng that will give you a detailed overview of the principles involved, and stepping it up with the class, “Classical Feng Shui For Beginners” will help to provide some ideas about how to start harmonizing your existence with the environment.
What is Feng Shui Used For?
We should say from the start that when we say feng shui harmonizes human existence with the environment, we aren’t suggesting anything about saving the environment or sustainability. Feng Shui is not about installing solar panels on your roof or buying local, although those are both good practices and unquestionably, more people should follow them.
Rather, feng shui requires each individual to become aware of a central concept of much of the philosophy of China and other parts of East Asia, the invisible life force known as “qi.” Qi can be positive or negative, and is believed to be the source of all life energy on the planet. Another way to translate “qi” is as “energy flow.” Many martial arts employ the gathering and concentration of qi, and in essence, as strange as this may sound, the closest analogue to the classical conception of qi would be the idea of “the force” as postulated in the Star Wars films. Qi is a living energy that imbues, surrounds, and binds all living things. Sounds like something Obi Wan Kenobi might have said, doesn’t it?
In any case, feng shui works through perceiving qi and then aligning it advantageously in structures through an understanding of heavenly time and earthly space. In the modern method, this is generally accomplished by understanding the bagua, or eight fundamental principles of reality. These principles are connected to the eight cardinal directions.
There are two sets of bagua. When using feng shui in building and decorating residences, the so “King Wen” or “later heaven bagua” are used. This is the form of feng shui most Westerners may be familiar with, and it is this system we will use today.
The eight bagua are as follows. In the south is Li, or fire, connected to radiance, rapidity, and associated with the sun. In the southwest is Kun, or earth, connected to receiving energy and yielding. To the west is Dui, associated with the still waters of lakes and connected to joy and satisfaction. In too great a proportion Dui can lead to stagnation. To the northwest is Qian, source of expansive energy and associated with the sky. To the north is Kan, associated with the rushing water of rivers and oceans, and with the moon, and is considered a source of danger. In the northeast lies Gen, associated with mountains and the stillness and immovability they represent. To the east is Zhen, the thunder, source of excitement and even revolution in too great a proportion. And to the southeast is Zhun, the wind, associated with gentleness, growth, and flexibility.
The most common form of modern feng shui practiced in the West is known as the Eight Life Aspirations method, which simply coordinates the placement and situation of structures for living (and the decorations and furniture within them) with the eight cardinal directions in order to enhance or diminish the qualities associated with those directions. In addition, feng shui takes into account the proportion of the “five elements” in each room of a house (water, wood, fire, earth, and metal) and the relative placements and situation of furniture, doors, windows, mirrors, and many other elements present in every dwelling.
If you’re now completely fascinated by these ideas, you might wish to delve a bit deeper into feng shui. An excellent online course for this purpose is one called “Feng Shui the Easiest Way,” and will take you much deeper than this article can go.
The Kua Number
Numbers intersect with the world of feng shui in several ways. First is the Kua number, which is based on the idea that each person is associated with a number, based on the year in which he or she was born. This number is the Kua number, and can fall into one of two groups, the east group or the west group. The east group consists of the numbers 1, 3, 4, and 9, while the west group consists of 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Once you have found out your Kua number, you can then ascertain which group you fall into, and therefore which directions are best (read: luckiest) for you and your home to face.
Those with east group Kua numbers are better off facing east, southeast, south, and north, while those in the west group are better off facing west, southwest, northwest, and northeast.
Calculating Your Kua Number
There is a simple way, fortunately, to calculate your Kua number. All you need to know is the year of your birth and your gender, and if you don’t know either of those, you may have larger problems than which wall you should hang your mirrors on.
For males born before the year 2000, add the last two numbers of your birth year together. If the sum of those two numbers is a single digit, you can move on to the next step. If the sum is more than nine, you must then add the two numbers of the double-digit sum together until you have a single number. In other words, if you were born in 1923, you would add 2 to 3 and get the sum 5. You could then move on. But if you were born in 1967, you would add 6 to 7 and get the sum 13. You would then have to add 1 to 3, getting the sum 4, before you could move on. Once you have a single digit number, subtract it from 10 to get your Kua number. So the man born in 1967 would subtract 4 from 10 and get the difference 6. That is his Kua number.
For women born before 2000, add the last two numbers of the birth year together, and make it a single digit, just as men do. Then, instead of subtracting that single digit from ten, add 5, and then bring that number to a single digit as well if needed. So a woman born in 1967 would add 6 to 7 to get the sum 13, and then add 1 to 3 to get the sum 4. Then, she would add 5 to 4 and get the sum 9. This is her Kua number.
Feng Shui and House Numbers
Another way in which feng shui connects to numbers is in the number of your home, as expressed in your street address. Each number from 0 to 9 is associated with certain principles, and as in numerology, you must consider each number individually and added together and brought to a single digit, if need be, as done when calculating Kua numbers.
Generally, 0 is connected with nothingness or potential. 1 is associated with unobstructed energy and new beginnings, and 2 with balance, cooperation, and choice. 3 is associated with creativity and family, while 4 connects with stability and security. 5 is the number of resourcefulness and change, while 6 connotes patience and calm. 7 is the number of contemplation and solitude, and 8 is connected to success and abundance. Lastly, 9 as the highest number is associated with achievement and attainment.
So if you lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, you would need to consider the meanings of those 1s and 3s, and then also add up the 1, 3, 1, and 3, which gives you 8. There is a lot to consider, of course, and these ideas are connected to the practice of numerology.
It should be mentioned that in China and Japan the number 4 is considered to be unlucky, since the word for 4 sounds very like the word for “death.” This may or may not factor into your feng shui notions, but since “four” doesn’t sound like “death” in English, you probably shouldn’t let it trouble you.
There is a lot to learn if you want to get started using feng shui, a tremendous amount of background knowledge. After all, we are not only talking about a way to arrange your house, we are talking about a method of looking at the universe, a philosophy. As such, you may find that the deeper you go the more intrigued you become, enchanted by possibilities. If you find yourself in that situation, you may begin to wonder if feng shui can be used to insure romantic or financial success. If so, you can find opportunities for further study in two excellent online classes, “Feng Shui and Love,” and “Receive Support in Business & Life With Feng Shui.”
Remember, as with any system that requires belief, the amount of belief that you put in will potentiate the results. If you think feng shui is bunk and go in with skepticism, you most likely will not find positive results. If you approach feng shui with an open mind, however, you may find yourself a believer.