Is FengShui Superstition or Not?
Contemporary FengShui has been given a lot of publicity, and public debate as to what it is and how to classify it still rages on. There are those who consider FengShui as an Art, some consider it as a Science, and some take the middle position and consider it both an Art and a Science. Whatever position anyone may take, the indisputable fact remains: Qi will affect anyone and everyone, irrespective of their beliefs; and FengShui will continue to evolve irrespective of whether it is a Science or an Art.
On the surface, in FengShui study and practice, there is no superstition whatsoever. But the word ‘superstition’ has multiple meanings and it could be debatable for some, if they wanted to argue about it. But in this discourse I will not try to debate on the different notions of ‘superstition’ and would rather let the reader decide whichever to believe.
Let us now look at a perspective of FengShui that had perplexed many people – Is FengShui Magic or Miracle?
Now can we define FengShui as Magic or Miracle? Well why not? If a FengShui Master could harness the invisible Qi to correct an adverse household situation, would that be a form of ‘magic’ or ‘miracle?’ He is taking ‘something from nowhere,’ something not seen by naked eyes, something not understood by the uninitiated, something that is ‘not real’ to the non-believers, would that be defined as ‘magic’ or ‘miracle?’ FengShui has never been proven ‘scientifically’ in the context of contemporary mainstream definition of Science. Therefore is FengShui superstition, too?
Well, when we are talking about harnessing Qi, something that is intangible and mysterious, we might as well be talking about the emptiness, the void as in the cosmic universe. Or the concept of Emptiness as in Buddhism, whereby everything can be as seen in conventional reality, the flesh and bones of a person, but in the ultimate reality, that person is ‘Empty’ or ‘Void’ of inherent existence. That person cannot exist all by himself. That person can only exist dependent on a myriad of factors.
That ‘Void’ is something so mysterious and so hard to grasp or comprehended by our simple human minds. This ‘Void’ could have in it a myriad of things going on that our naked eyes cannot see. Also, this ‘Void’ was called by the many ancient Masters of Fengshui and Metaphysics, the XuanKong 玄空.
It is an indescribable ‘place’ or ‘space,’ whichever you like to call it. It is in the Void where things happen, where Qi moves and flows, where different Qi marries to produce ShengQi 生气 or Sha, and where the invisible hands of the power of the Cosmic Universe manipulates it.
These ancient Masters knew that there is something there, that when the harnessing of Qi is done correctly, beneficial things can happen. They knew it worked, based on the Metaphysical formulas passed down from generation to generation. Even contemporary Masters and practitioners, those who have experimented and researched FengShui formulas, and found that it works, are also ‘feeling’ the existence of the ‘Void,’ but, for whatever reasons, many could not or would not talk about it in detail.
As for me, after studying FengShui, practicing it and doing research on it, I also know that the XuanKong does exist. But people like us who are just mere mortals can only get a whiff of it and be satisfied that we have the conviction to believe in its existence. The Mysterious Void or XuanKong, is surely an attractive destination for many who would like to really experience the Truth.
It is a very difficult task to describe XuanKong with mere words, much more difficult to describe it in a short chapter like this. There are books on the concept of Emptiness (or in Fengshui terms XuanKong) in Buddhism that has hundreds of pages, and even after reading the whole book, there is no guarantee that the reader can really understand and experience or realize the Emptiness. Therefore, I will leave it to the reader to explore and research the subject of the XuanKong.
Is believing in the Void or Emptiness superstition?
This too, I am going to leave to the reader to independently form a conclusion as to whether believing in the Void or Emptiness and on the whole, FengShui, is superstition or not. What remains is for the many who appreciate it, who are learning it and are practicing it, to hold an open and logical mind and ponder over its significance.
Let us move on to other things, like the conflicting opinions that certain placement methods as advocated by some FengShui practitioners, especially the New Age FengShui schools, are deemed to be superstition.
Purists and Classical FengShui practitioners disagree that the placement of items such as a Wealth God (CaiShen) statue or a Three-Legged Frog figurine can change an adverse FengShui situation to a better one.
If we base FengShui purely on the perspective of it being ‘the manipulation of the environment to produce beneficial ShengQi,’ then would the placement of, for example, a CaiShen figurine, be enough to produce ShengQi? Can it, by sitting in a certain sector as advocated by certain Masters, produce ShengQi? Is there a reaction within XuanKong produced by the presence of the said figurine in a certain sector of the house?
Logically, it could not generate ShengQi at all, but what it could produce is most probably only an aesthetic perception! These placement methods are, while being quite illogical from the standpoint of ShengQi generation, in actual fact, bordering on the superstitious.
There is no way a figurine, by itself, can react with the Qi flow of the sector where it is placed. The only possibility is that the material of the figurine, especially if it is made up singly of any of the solid state 5 Elements, may have some reaction with the Qi flow to produce either ShengQi or Sha.
This concept comes from the theory of the ‘5 Elements’ Generation and Control Cycles.’ For example in XuanKong FengShui, if a certain sector has an abundance of Earth Qi that could be malevolent, then, placing a substantial amount of metal in that very sector could deplete the malevolent Qi and balance the Qi factor.
What is Real and What is Not Real?
Now, I shall put on my Chinese Metaphysician’s hat and talk about facts as found in Classical FengShui texts, plus some logical rationalization, based on my knowledge of Daoist and Buddhist Metaphysics, on certain FengShui practices that seem like superstition to some.
Is the practice of the placement of items such as a Wealth God (CaiShen) statue, a Three-Legged Frog figurine and a Replica Sailing Ship to enhance an otherwise adverse FengShui situation a superstitious practice?
Probably, yes. It could be superstition. Let us examine further, if we can, remove any doubt and change my previous phrase ‘probably, yes’ to ‘definitely, yes.’
What is in play could most probably be the psychological effect on one’s mind. When one is desperate, one is most probably at the weak and low ebb of one’s emotional scale, where rational thinking has already taken a back seat to the driving force of the desperation to make things change for the better. One is prone to believe erroneous and illogical suggestions that seem to be right and that offer a solution to a situation that is beyond one’s control. One would grab blindly at the nearest offered solution with the fervent hope of rising above the problem. Does this sound logical to you?
Now let us go back to my statement earlier that: ‘In essence, FengShui is nothing more than the ‘method to harness Qi for the benefit of mankind.’
The advocates of placement of figurines would argue that those things that they recommended are just for that, to harness Qi and to block Sha.
That sounds good, a good intention to help change a bad situation to a good one. But stop and think. Is it that simple? Can a Three–Legged Frog figurine bring good fortune to you?
Think. If it can, then there will be no poor people in this world. Everyone would be rich. All you need to do is buy a Three-Legged Frog figurine and place it in your house as recommended. Presto! Tomorrow you will be rich! Is it that easy?
Qi and Sha are intangible things, little understood by many, and invisible to our eyes. Only those well-trained individuals or individuals well endowed with special abilities, can feel it. Some people can feel bad vibes easily and some can feel them only now and then. Some really endowed individuals can even ‘see’ the aura of a place or a person!
Qi, as described in FengShui classical texts, is made up of the 5 Elements. They are everywhere. Correspondingly, Sha is also everywhere, in all directions. It’s a matter of whether where your house sits and faces in relation to the external environment are compatible or not. Are you facing Sha with no external Qi to help overcome the Sha? Are you sitting on a good spot (Xue or dragon’s lair) and getting good internal Qi? Are you sitting on a good Xue but facing Sha? There are so many things to consider, subjectively.
There are so many factors to combine for good house luck. There are so many ways that a good House FengShui formation (局Ju) can go wrong. There are so many overwhelming factors that could not be comprehended by anyone with lesser metaphysical knowledge. What’s more, can an ordinary person comprehend Qi and Sha?
Therefore, can a Three-Legged Frog figurine, irrespective of what material it is made of, change the Qi situation of a house, where the Qi situation is tremendously overwhelming and adverse? Can a ChaiShen statue help you change your house’s luck? Can a Replica Sailing Ship bring money into your house?
To me, logically, a mere figurine can be of no help. Of course the best situation would be to have a FengShui compliant auspicious sitting and facing to receive good Qi into the house. But if you cannot have a good sitting and facing, then there are ways to manage the incoming external Qi and the prevalent internal Qi. There are ways to avoid Sha without resorting to making your home look like a gift and souvenir shop!
The FengShui formation (局Ju) of a house, if adverse, can be corrected with the right means to harness potential external Qi (that are usable and not Sha) and intermingle it with the internal Qi that is prevalent to achieve a certain result. There are ways to correct a bad Fengshui Ju (formation), without having to spend unnecessarily.
These practices are wholesome Traditional methods used only by those well trained and well versed in Traditional and logical FengShui theories and practices. They stick to the practices and remedies as taught in the many FengShui texts that are correct and that are passed down via lineage transmission. To do otherwise would be, as many had termed it, practicing ‘New-Age’ FengShui.
(There is one thing about lineage transmission—many modern day Masters, having learnt FengShui through paying high fees to academies, arrogantly dispute and negate the importance of lineage transmission.)
‘New Age’ FengShui is normally a mixture of various methods that is not of or from one particular School or Method of FengShui and it also incorporate practices that are not Traditional FengShui methods.
This New Age FengShui should not be confused with the traditionally existent (within Chinese communities) JiangHu (Rivers and Lakes) FengShui, which has elements of Daoist practices included in it.
The word JiangHu literelly means Rivers and Lakes. It was so termed in the ancient times because according to history, China’s civilization was centered in the Yellow River (HuangHe 黄河) region. Subsequent developments and evolvements of extended communities were also all centered around Rivers and Lakes. People then depended heavily on the Rivers and Lakes for communication, transport and food – the basic survival needs.
The ancient Chinese believed that their world was the center of the Earth, thus the name ZhongGuo 中国, which means ‘Central country.’ Their seafaring explorers were already able to describe the world as having ‘Five Lakes and Four Oceans.’
To cut the story short, ancient China was filled with all kinds of people of the Arts, Literary, Martial and Metaphysical. These people would be traveling around the country either to seek out Masters and contemporaries, to learn from them and improve whatever they have already learnt, or to seek a living by selling their skills.
Or, in extreme cases, to travel far and wide to seek out contemporaries and challenge them, for the sake of testing one’s own level of skill, or to gain fame and fortune. This is more evident in the field of Martial Arts. When I was a kid I saw a lot of KungFu movies from Hong Kong with this type of theme.
Thus was born the term ‘JiangHu,’ ‘Rivers and Lakes’ – to mean ‘the world of the society of people of the Arts. ’
This type of competition and rivalry is also happening now in the FengShui world – whereby there are many Masters based in the West and certain East Asian countries (especially those who cater to the English speaking market), attacking each other over issues of authenticity of theory and practice. Each one trying to outdo the other, most probably with the intention of gaining fame and fortune thru the ‘business’ of selling courses and seminars.
JiangHu FengShui may or may not practice placement of remedies. There are JiangHu FengShui practitioners who are Daoists and they do recommend placements. They often use more traditionally accepted Daoist items such as BaGua Mirrors to deflect Sha, Calabash or HuLu which is supposed to absorb certain types of Sha and ancient Chinese copper coins that are supposed to balance or deplete certain Qi that are not conducive to the site.
But then again, these items too are supposedly non-FengShui remedy items, and are rather Daoist remedies. Therefore, it is subject to ridicule and debate by the purists.
I have known Daoist JiangHu FengShui practitioners who had audited houses that had adverse conditions (very strong Sha), that are NOT FengShui problems but are more like spiritual problems. They would use talismans to drive off the spirits and placements such as Talismans outside and inside the house, and a BaGua Mirror outside or Coin Sword inside the house to prevent a recurrence of the same problem.
Here, I’d like to point out that these Daoist FengShui Masters would not use BaGua mirrors or Coin Swords straight off the shelves. They would go according to standard Daoist practices and would consecrate these items through some rituals for it to be effective and to bring results.
I have personally experienced such a thing before where a house’s FengShui Ju is supposedly not bad, but the occupants experienced very bad luck. These are spiritual interferences within the house. I find that it is faster and more effective to use a Talisman first to clear off the interference, thereafter to use both a Talisman and FengShui remedies to prevent the problem from recurring.
Although these spiritual interference are not FengShui problems, we still have to find a way to overcome them. Although we should not link the two together and talk about them in the same breath, the reality is that we sometimes do encounter these problems while doing house audits and we should know how to handle the situation well so as not to bring harm to ourselves and at the same time be able to solve the problem for our clients.
Coming back to the New Age FengShui thing; these are mostly self–styled FengShui masters who advocate at least one of the following methods:
- Placement of figurines and objects that are not logical.
- b) Using very simple FengShui theories and methods and combining these with other non-Chinese Metaphysics methods, such as Space Clearing.
- c) Adding a mysterious mythical element into it, such as introducing religious beliefs and the Masters claiming to possess magical powers.
excerpted from Lesson 1, foundation studies of my Professional YangZhai FengShui practitioner’s course.