Philosophy of Feng shui

Philosophical roots of Feng Shui
To a Westerner, many of the specific rules and principles that it teaches may not make any sense. This is partly because of the cultural differences in world view and partly because it is a very old tradition. In what has been handed down, superstition may be completely mixed in with what actually works.

Feng shui has been broadly applied from the smallest of spaces – say a bedroom or even the location of a chair.

Its philosophical roots span a whole range of Chinese thoughts from Taoism and Buddhism to rural magic. It operates on many levels: superstitious and practical, sacred and profane, emotional and physical. There are parallels to Western psychology and scientific thought. In practice, Feng Shui is something between a science and an art – a way of thinking (metaphysically); an intuitive ability to interpret and work with the environment, colour, plants, water, space, sound; to find our place in the universe and improve it.

Sheng Chi, Sha Chi
Feng shui is about the flow (Wind) and containment (Water) of chi in our environments. Good Feng Shui involves keeping the chi flowing, but contained. Feng Shui in Cantonese literally means Wind and Water – where Wind disperses and Water contains. It also eliminates and/or deflects the harmful "Sha Chi."

Feng Shui maximises and cultivates the auspicious "Sheng Chi" or positive chi. Feng Shui makes changes, without destroying the harmony and balance of the "San Cai" relationship. The "San Cai" or "Three Gifts" are Heaven Chi, Earth Chi and Human Chi.

The quality of chi flow should be appropriate to the situation and human needs. Good Feng Shui involves understanding the existing and potential chi pattern and takes into consideration the cyclical nature of change.

What is Tao?
For the Chinese, Feng Shui has traditionally been a way of life. It is both a science and an art that has influenced the shape of Chinese cities, palaces, villages and cemeteries. Feng Shui is the study of the heavens and the study of the earth in relation to humans. This force, alive in the Universe, was referred to as "Tao".

Tao reflects the natural way, the eternal rhythm of the universe and the way of humanity within it. As a principle, Tao is wholeness stemming from balance, a harmonious union of interacting opposites. As a process, Tao is constant, cyclical change, opposites spawning each other – like the yearly cycle of summer leading to winter, and returning to summer.

Tao is the central concept of Eastern culture. Traditional worldviews emanating from primitive societies throughout the world are based on the perception of nature as one unending and continuing stream of action rather than as a series of generally unconnected phenomena. The universe is seen as an endless interplay of forces, which have the capacity to transmute themselves from matter to energy and back again in an endless drama of creation and destruction. As an early Chinese thought, Feng Shui is a blending of Taoism and the theory of Yin/Yang, the two polarities of life. "It is the emptiness that makes the cup useful".

[This article was written by Margaret Tanner of Margaret Tanner Interiors. She is a certified Feng Shui practitioner and interior decorator. For a personalised assessment of your home or office, contact Margaret on (021) 709 4678 or e-mail her:]

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