“Feng Shui”: The mysterious heritage of beliefs and customs. 

Associate Professor Pirot Lerdpiriyakamol

         During our student times, the teacher let me read “Saam Kok”, a classic prose-oriented literary work by Chaophraya Phraklung (Hon). We were then so excited with the story of the war between Lao Pee, Sune Kwan, and Jo Sho. Having read this enchanting story, I could not stop reading and continued reading until the end. I was really admired Khong Beng or master Hok Long, the learned man of Mount Kngo Lung Khang.

         To get Khong Beng, Lao Pee had to personally approached him for three times. Lao Pee then had to face self-humiliation and insults from his sworn brothers, Kuan Uo and Tiew Hui. The first confrontation of Lao Pee and Khong Beng is described in Saam Kok as the following.

         “In the morning, Lao Pee led Kuan Ou and Tiew Hui to see Khong Beng at Mount Kngo Lung Khang. At the foothill, they met five people working in the farm. Lao Pee then asked…do you guys know where the master Hok Long is?. The workers then said…Master Hok Long stays at the south side of the Mount, and there is a bush in front of his house. Loa Pee was then really pleased and rushed together with Kuan Ou and Tiew Hui to Khong Beng’s house. Khong Beng also knew that Loa pee was coming to see him. He kept wondering in mind whether Lao Pee would be so reputedly smart, amicable, and diligent. He thought that if he let Lao Pee easily meet him, he would not know if Lao Pee had good perseverance such that it would be worth working with in big matters. He then wished to test Lao Pee and ordered his servants to tell Lao Pee that he was not at home. Then he hid himself in the house.
           When Lao Pee, Kuan Ou, and Tiew Hui arrived, they walked straight to the front door. Lao pee then considered the location of the house and concluded that the house was clean, comfortable with cool wind breezes, well protected from rain in the rainy season, and not cold or dewy in the winter. As such, the house was really a perfect place for the intellectual to reside
(Department of Arts, 2506 B.E.: 675-676)”.

          The Saam Kok is mentioned here in order to make readers to notice that Khong Beng’s house was located in the shadow of the mount. It means that the house was near the mountain and it should be on the flat area at the foothill or in the valley. The mountain is a natural wall to protect the house from the cold wind. Having considered the location and design of Khong Beng’s house, the wind direction and the characteristics of all seasons, Lao Pee concluded that that house was
          “a perfect place for the intellectual to reside”.

          The analyzed consideration of the house designs, location, and the seasons and wind directions had proved that Lao Pee was also an intellectual and capable leader such that he could perform an important Chinese heritage science that has been lasting for thousands of years, the “Huang Jui” or “Feng Shui”.

           “Huang Jui” or “Feng Shui” is a Chinese astrological science for selecting locations of places for the living and the dead ones. It is strictly associated with the environmental balance and compatibility to bring prosperity to the families and their descendants (Nattida Sookmanus, 2539 B.E.:108).
To reach the meaning of “Huang Jui” or Feng Shui”, it needs to separate explanations for these words;
           “Huang” is a Taechew Chinese word, pronounced “Feng” in Mandarin Chinese; meaning, “wind” written as   

            “Jui” is a Taechew Chinese word, pronounced “Shui” in Mandarin Chinese; meaning, “water”, written as       

            As such, the words “Huang Jui” or “Feng Shui” in Chinese literally mean Wind and Water. It was explained by an Feng Shui expert that the Feng Shui is a comparison to the complicated wind blows that we cannot understand and the water flows that we cannot catch. These naturally blowing winds and flowing water all influence the geographical and environmental changes that are important factors to get healthy, wealthy, and prosperous living.
            Feng Shui is therefore a Chinese heritage that is continuously practiced in the knowledge fields of;

            1. Astrology of looks and forecasting.
            2. Philosophy of human and environment
            3. Body of knowledge in Science, Astrology, Arts, and Philosophy.
            4. Science and art in selecting places to live, with a more balanced and better environment.
            5. Science of selecting places for constructing buildings or artificial structures in order to be physically compatible with                surrounding environments

As already mentioned, Feng Shui is a great science and art, belief, knowledge, of Chinese heritage that has also been a continuous practice throughout. Believes in Feng Shui has also been absorbed and blended into those people in Thailand with Chinese origin. It has been continuously and mysteriously an attached matter in people’s daily life until now.
          As aforementioned, Feng Shui is a scientific astrology in selecting location of places for the living and the dead. In Chinese beliefs, the living and the dead are not completely separated. They are still connected. The living people still regularly pay respects to the dead ones, whom were their ancestors. The living ones must pay respect or worship their ancestors especially in Chinese New Year and Cheng Meng festival.
          There are words related to this kind of belief among Thai and Thai-Chinese people. Generally, the word “Huang Sui”, meaning a “grave”, is used for the dead. Normally, each of the “Huang Sui” is closely placed the one another in the Chinese graveyard, for example, in Chol Buri, Sara Buri, or at Wat Don, Bangkok. The word “Huang Jui” or “Feng Shui” is used for the living people. It is a astrological science performed to select good location for housings or other buildings. (This article will mainly describe Feng Shui for the living only. Huang Sui for the dead will be discussed only when necessary because it has very sophisticated detail).

History of Feng Shui
          The Chinese have their own philosophy in considering the world and lives. All things depend on the others. As such, the Universe and the Nature take part in stipulating human’s lives, the Universe creates the nature, and the nature mysteriously changes. The energy of changes is called “Chi”. Therefore, studying Feng Shui is also studying the nature. It is the attempt to find and bring the Chi energy to be closely useful for humans.
           The beliefs in Universe as a center of all things have been the important developed science of Feng Shui. Constructing the Chinese capital also regarded it as the center of the Universe. The royal pavilion and places had to be in the center. The Emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven and the center of power. “Chong Kua”, the original Chinese name of China, also means that the center of powers.
            The beliefs in Universe, the power of changes, and the belief that the nature creates happiness and prosperity have deeply been sciences of Feng Shui accumulated through generations. For the living places, especially the places for the Emperors, the location must be right and accordingly to Feng Shui,.

            The most prominent example of site selection for the Chinese city is the town of Lua Yang, built in Wei period (220-265 A.D.). The good location of this town has the Ei Maang mountain in the North and the Lua Sui River in the South. The palace is located in the North part of the town and lies in the town’s central axis. The town is surrounded by outer walls. The palace is enclosed by the inner walls and canals. The palace’s entrance has a good Feng Shui because of there is an constructed water stream. In the town’s central axis, there are three main gates built to represent the stability and the success of the dynasty. On the left of the second gate, there is an ancestor shrine (Nattida Sookmanus, 2539 B.E.: 111).

          Those who ever visited the People’s Republic of China, the Tien An Men square, the forbidden palace, and the summer palace of the Empress Xu Xi Tai Hao, would have to admit that the structures are so beautiful beyond explanation. Those buildings were constructed by human with highly intellectual. That is, they were built according to every step of Feng Shui. The Empress’s private residence is modest, beautiful, tranquil, comfortable, and in good location complying the Feng Shui, as presented in the plan below.

Tien An Men square

          As previously mentioned, there are beliefs of the Universe, the nature, the mysterious changes, and the Chi energy, which could bring vice and virtue. The Chinese people have studied and learnt the relations between nature and sites for settlement and the living places that are related to directions, mountains, trees, water, and the seasons. In this aspect, it can be seen that Feng Shui is the scientific knowledge that are related to human and the energy of Universe, or Chi, which is influential to changes in of human’s life styles.
          The following paragraphs briefly discuss how the summer palace of the Empress Xu Xi Tai Hao are right according to the Feng Sui.
          Good locations for living, such that they would bring good luck, stability, and prosperity, must possess the environmental conditions of the White Tiger, the Green Dragon, the Black Tortoise, and the Red Swan. These conditions are ideal location of Feng Shui and can be explained as follow.
          The North is the Black Tortoise, referring the mountain that would act as a natural wall against the savage cold wind from Siberia.
          The East is the Green Dragon, referring to the eminent hills or forests with big trees.
          The West is the White Tiger, referring to the eminences or forests with big trees.
Both of the green dragon and the white tiger are regarded as a natural wall that tails to reach the black tortoise (the mountain in the North). The house or the town will be embraced and surrounded by nature. There is stability, warmth in the winter, and cool in the summer. The hill in the West is “Yin” and the hill in the East is “Yang” (to be discussed later).
          The South is the Red Swan, referring to the water, waterways, and open area for agriculture. The south represents the rich of resources, warmth, happiness, and prosperity.
           Having already considered the meaning of the white tiger, the green dragon, the black tortoise, and the red swan, it can be seen that the location of the Empress Xu Xi Tai Hao’s summer palace fits well with Feng Shui. Although there are no hills in either the east or the west, there are big beautiful trees instead. Especially, in the west, there is a natural park with winding streams that can be way to enjoy views of an exquisite flower garden. When facing the lake in the south, the scenic view at dawn and dusk are hardly comparable natural beauty.
          The location of the royal pavilion is also according to principles of Feng Shui, which can be briefly explained.;
The Chinese do not like building multi-storey houses because it is colder on the higher floor. The wall encloses house is in a square or rectangular area. The house faces south. The main building is located on the rear area with its back facing the north. There are secondary buildings on both left and right sides along the wall. Buildings near the wall in the south are usually avoided because they would block the ventilation. A big and beautifully decorated gate to the house is normally at mid-point of the south wall. If the house owner is kind of rich or have leading roles in the town, there would be a big area designed to be a garden or the family’s leisure. The royal pavilion of the Empress Xu Xi Tai Hao was also designed in that manner and a beautiful garden was also located in the center of the palace.
           From the Chinese style of building houses, it can be seen that they have well studied the nature, direction, seasons, and location. The house is warm in the winter, and it is also comfortable in both the summer and rainy season. For example, the very first generation of Chinese people who came to Thailand and settled down on Yaowaraj Road, Rajawong Road, and Charoen Krung Road had built their houses, after they became rich or successful in their business, in the traditional design as houses in China, or according to the Feng Shui, which has been their continuous beliefs and lifestyles.

Feng Shui and the beliefs of Chinese people

         Feng Shui is not only the body of knowledge in the fields of natural science, environment, and relations between human and natural environment, but also in the field of philosophy, the beliefs of Chinese people in the Universe, and the mysterious energy that can change all things. Humans are also under the influence of such energy. This belief is based on;

         1. Based on the Taoism ideology.
            The Taoism ideology considers oneself as a part of the nature. Cyclic changes are processes originated from things that have opposite properties and creates one another. The total outcome is the product of the balanced harmony. From this belief, Feng Shui is the knowledge of searching for the balance, creating a complete harmony with the nature. The study of Yin, Yang, and Chi has the purpose to provide guidelines for human to do things that are harmonized with the nature.
         2. Based on the belief of Yin and Yang.
            The ancient emperor of China named Fu Xi mentioned Yin and Yang in the Ei Jing scripture. It explains that the change of the Universe, the nature, and all other things are always caused by Yin and Yang. Feng Shui considers that Yin and Yang are the opposite type of energy that interchange and support one another. Yin represents the darkness, black, death, badness, and female (In Feng Shui, it is represented by the White tiger). Yang represents the brightness, the Sun, and Male (In Feng Shui, it is represented by the green dragon).

Yin - Yang
The symbol of Yin - Yang

         3. Based on the belief of Chi, the energy of life.
            If all things are composed in Taoism, Yin and Yang are then combined to be Taoism. Chi is the universe energy distributed to all things and, hence, compared as the energy of lives (the breath of the dragon). Chi then has two implicit meanings.
            3.1 Chi means the Universe, which comprises the wind, gas, and energy.
            3.2 Chi means the Human’s Chi, which includes breath, luster, manner, and energy. This Chi enables human to move their body.
            The well-circulated Chi in human represents that the person has good health, both mentally and physically.
             For Chi in the nature, Feng Shui would consider the location. The well-accumulated good Chi would bring happiness, rich, prosperity, honor, and reputation.

         4. Based on the ideas of the Five Elements and the Stars.
            The Chinese people believe that the Five Elements, which are Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, and Wood, are composition of all things. There are nine stars that are related to the Five Elements. These stars are then influential to both the production and destruction of those elements. The Five Elements are related to the human’s horoscope, direction, and seasons, which have become the science of astrology. Especially, in the Feng Shui, the search for good sites or location for living or doing business really needs to involve the horoscope.

          5. Based on the ideas of the Eight Trigrams.
             Ideas of the Eight Trigrams originated from the beliefs in the Universe, the belief that the movements of holy objects in the sky would follow exact rules or numbers. Heaven, Earth, Human and the Nature are interconnected. There is the belief that the nature specifies the direction, then the sky and the earth provide the properties of those directions. This relationship involves Yang, symbolically written as a whole line ( ------ ), and Yin, written as a broken line ( -- -- ). When these lines are paired, they become a trigram symbolizing that the nature produces the directions, then the sky and the earth give properties to the produced directions, as represented in the Eight Trigrams (La-iad Silanoi, 2530 B.E.:32).

The whole and broken lines representing the Eight Trigrams


     (Ch'ien) The South, meaning the Heaven (the sky)

     (K'un) The North, meaning the Earth (the earth)
     (Li) The East, meaning the Fire
     (K'an) The West, meaning the Water
     (Chen) The Northeast, meaning the Thunder
     (Tui) The Southeast, meaning the Steam or the Ocean
     (Ken) The Northwest, meaning the Mountain
     (Sun) The Southwest, meaning the Wind

            The lines -------- and ---- ---- refer Yang and Yin. They are represented in the Eight Trigrams symbolizing the relationship between the nature and human faith. This is a connection between the Universe and the human horoscope. This is the symbol of strong power. It was later modified into the Eight Trigrams, used to protect bad power and evils. This symbol is called the Ba Gua (in Taechew, it is pronounced Poi Koi). The relationship of this cabalistic symbol and Feng Shui is explained as follow.ี้

Ba Gua
Click to see Zoom Pic
(La-iad Silanoi, 2530 B.E.:120)

         6. Based on the belief of worshipping the ancestors.
            The belief in spirits and worshipping the ancestors came before the Taoism and the Confucianism. The Chinese believe that the spirits of the dead are still around. There are three existing spirits. The first spirit is with the dead body (Sua Chueng). The second spirit is at the ancestor plate worshipped at home. The third spirit (Hun) is in the other world, propbably the heaven.
            Worshipping the ancestors originated from the belief that if the ancestors were regularly treated, they would then give protections and would also bring rich and happiness. The worshipping and finding grave location for ancestors are therefore considered important matter. The grave is called “Huang Sui” or Feng Shui for the dead and it will not be discussed at this moment.

  Principles of Feng Shui consideration


30 Jul 2004