Like any science, Feng Shui is a complex system built on incredibly simple basic principles. At the root of it is the Compass – North, South, East and West, plus also all the intermediate directions, North-East, South-East, South-West, and North-West. The ancient sages observed the track of the sun across the sky through the days and through the seasons. Each of the directions was accorded a name to represent the energy that came from that direction.
If this sounds a little fluffy to you, remember to take the word ‘energy’ literally. This is not an imprecise term in this context. For example, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, passing through the South on its way. It reaches its highest point in the South. When I say ‘energy’, we can clearly see that the quality and strength of the sun’s rays are different from any given direction. To the South is given the name Li, meaning Fire. It is also seen as the height of Summer. Colours for the South are bright reds and oranges, of course.
East, the direction of the sun’s rising, is seen as the direction of the energy of Spring, again, not unreasonably since the Sun rises directly in the East on the first day of Spring. Naturally, the East represents new growth, new life, flowers, and greenery. It is given the name Chen, which also signifies thunder as the powerful force of nature which engenders life.
North, not unreasonably, is the direction associated with Winter, it’s given the name of Kan, and it symbolises water, coldness and is also associated with darker colours. The West, the place of the setting sun, is called Tui, meaning lake, and is associated with joyousness.
The ancient Chinese took these basic principles and expanded on them so that each direction also represents a member of the family. Each direction also has a guardian animal associated with it, and certain geographical forms associated with it. Thus Feng Shui becomes the science of house placement and a guidance system for where things should be placed in the home. In short, whenever you can reinforce the underlying energies of the directions in your home, you should.
Thus, in the south is a good place for a fire or a source of light. Both the East and the South-East are great places for house plants. It can help you choose a good colour for your front door, based on what direction it faces. There are also guidelines for how to correct imbalances since most of us are not in a position to build their entire house from scratch.
These principles are further extended to the passage of time on a much longer scale. They divined twelve signs to denote the cycle of years. Each person has an animal associated with the year in which they were born. Personalised Feng Shui involves discovering this sign, and each person has a number associated with them from one to nine, called the Bagua or Pa Kua number. This number denotes whether they are an East or West person. What this then means is that certain directions are deemed ‘lucky’ and others ‘unlucky’. Once you know this, you can begin to position furniture like your bed in a way that is most appropriate for you. There is a great deal to this, as you might imagine since the Chinese have been applying and developing this science for the past 5,000 years!