Feng shui (pronounced “fung-shway”), literally “wind and water,” is a 3,500-year-old Chinese body of knowledge, the “science of placement,” that advances the proposition that the buildings humans use can affect the quality of their lives. The design system is directed to allow users of an environment to benefit from qi, or chi, the flow of natural life energy. According to feng shui, every element in the physical world has its own type of energy, or “life force.” The energy types correspond to elemental materials in nature, such as fire, water, earth, metal, and wood. Feng shui masters hold that chi can cause disorder and destruction unless corrected. Once chi flows properly, balance results and the obstacles and impediments in relationships, careers, family, health, and wealth-building are under control.
Feng shui is becoming popular in the West, believed to assist individuals and workers improve their quality of life. By understanding the flow of chi in an environment, feng shui practitioners claim they can learn what is lacking and make simple physical changes to improve life. In a business setting, feng shui attempts to helps owners and employees work smarter, not harder, by aligning the energy in a work space. Some Western architects incorporate feng shui techniques into their building and space designs to create a dynamic and harmonious environment to maximize productivity.
Feng shui can be used to select the location for a new facility. Paint palettes, building materials, lighting, furniture, orientation of the building and objects, and even retail product placement are designed using feng shui principles. In some cases, the beginning of construction and grand opening are decisions based on feng shui concepts. Office layout, location of work spaces (particularly desks), use of water (fish tanks, fountains), landscaping, and reflecting surfaces receive special attention from feng shui concepts.
In Asia, feng shui influences the design of most buildings and workplaces in China, including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Singapore. The CocaCola Company, Donald Trump, Universal Studios, Virgin Atlantic, and Merrill Lynch have incorporated feng shui concepts into their buildings. At Hong Kong Disneyland, examples of feng shui design include a ballroom of 888 square meters, because eight is a number of fortune; there are no fourth-floor buttons in elevators, because pronunciation of the number four is like the Chinese word for death; cash registers are close to corners or along walls, where their placement is believed to increase prosperity; the theme park opened on September 12, told by its feng shui consultant that it was a lucky day.
Examples of using feng shui might include placing the most powerful employee farthest from the ingress door. No doorways should face each other, all corners should be rounded. Desks should be placed as far back from the entry door as possible and oriented to the door, but not directly across from the door. Plants must be healthy, water features available. The placement of mirrors is deliberate and important. For each feng shui principle, there is a corresponding rationale.
In searching for a home, some tips are that buyers should not buy if the main door is obstructed by a lamp post, a tree or an electrical pole; if the door is tilted in any way; if a beam runs across the door, inside or out; if the door is below a second floor bathroom. A kitchen should not be located in the center of the house, or where the kitchen has a stove in the center (island). Open man-made drains directly in front of a house are considered bad luck. Property where the road curves into the house, like a blade, is to be avoided, as well as alleys, narrow or wide, opposite the property. Irregularly-shaped bedrooms should be avoided; the best kind of bedroom is a square with no sloping ceilings or low ceilings.
The philosophy of feng shui has six schools of thought: the Form School, East-West School, Flying Stars School, Black Sect Tradition, Advanced Water Dragon School, and Four Pillar Astrology. The Form School concentrates on the observation of the environment inside and outside. The outside focus is on four animals (turtle, dragon, phoenix, and tiger); colors; mountains, rivers, and trees; and neighboring buildings and streets. On the inside, the School concentrates on pathways, furniture placement, color schemes, and walls and windows and their placement. East-West School determines specific locations and orientations, based on compass readings, for beds, desks, and people using a room.
The Flying Stars School is an advanced school based on compass readings, and includes consideration of the year the home or office was built. This School is the only one that takes the time factor into consideration. A Flying Stars consultant claims to be able to tell what has happened in the past and avoid similar patterns in the future. Corrections are based on five elements (water, wood, fire, earth, and metal) to restore energy balance. The Advanced Water Dragon School is more advanced, very specialized and more detailed than the Flying Star School. Four Pillar Astrology is not so much a feng shui school, but uses astrology in combination with feng shui to personalize adjustments.
Black Sect feng shui is a combination of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist, Taoist, and folk wisdom, coupled with modern psychology and design principles. It includes individual meditation by the user, holding that the spiritual precedes the physical, and must also be adjusted for perfect harmony. It adjusts environments and the people in them.
- Linda Cahan, Feng Shui for Retailers (ST Media Group International, 2005);
- Feng Shui Times, www. fengshuitimes.com (cited March 2009);
- Evelyn Lip, Feng Shui for Success in Business (Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2008);
- “Make Feng Shui Work for You,” Career World (v.37/1, 2008);
- Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior (Prentice Hall, 2009);
- Kevin Walters, “What Can We Learn from an Ancient Chinese Practice? The Relevance of Feng Shui,” Planning (v.73/11, 2007);
- Darrin Zeer, Office Feng Shui: Creating Harmony in Your Work Space (Chronicle Books, 2004).
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