Know your inner beast. How Rabbit are you?
Birth in the Rabbit Hour (5-7am)~: family is central to you..
Birth on the Rabbit Day#: hostess with the mostest.
Birth during the Rabbit Month (March)*: fabulous Roladex.
Birth in the Rabbit Year: gentle and decent to a fault.
~ GMT. # You’ll need a Chinese calendar for this. * Caution: Chinese months start later.
Where to do what, when and why
Summary: Here’s where to go for that leap forward.
North East, Wealth Star: Year Star: 4 gip sat, Month Star: 1
Great all year, especially for West Group kua (8,6,7,2). This month’s 1 Water Star brings release and relief. Those qualities of invention, curiosity and academic success that attach to the young female are strong here now. Also to the not-so-young and male. Ways to achieve this include facing North East, locating in the North East of your space and seeking NE-facing buildings.
Top Tip: carry a compass.
Annual Solution: Bright light. Four Plants (eg four bamboos in Water)..
Monthly Enhancement: add Wood eg four bamboos in Water.
Can ‘t start a Fire without a spark.
“One must have chaos within in order to give birth to a dancing star.”
Here comes the Water Rabbit month bringing Hexagram 34 Da Zhuang Great Power, as you can see. The Western mind tends to think of this kind of image as an ego boost but a more grown-up approach is to ask – what next? Great power cannot last. What do we do with it? How do we prepare for the fact that we’re going to meet on the way down those we dealt with on the way up? October and November may bring answers.
Interestingly the Rabbit is the romantic; generally gentle, accommodating and domestic. They are hosts, networkers and getter-onners with people. Despite everything else this remains the likely tenor of this as every Rabbit month. Which is poignant when we consider that in a Rooster year, the Rabbit is pretty sure to experience issues of disloyalty and bad faith. It’s just not fair. But then as far as anyone knows the tao has no moral remit. Rabbit month/Rooster year – broken faith; either or both ways round. Dog: expect to be roped in. And Dragon.
But surely this is the last thing the gentle Rabbit or the fun-loving Rooster want? Of course, but I learned early on in this strange journey, that there’s no irony in real life. When we tell ourselves that despite our perfect behaviour, things just didn’t work out, we’re missing the point. We choose all of it; consciously if we can but unconsciously otherwise. This is the tao.
And it may that for all of us this period of turbulence is bringing up useful lessons. The Rabbit perhaps needs to know their own bitter side and the Rooster the outcome of short-term thinking. And these lessons permeate to the rest of us because we are all living through the same time and place. This is the month of the open and talkative Water Rabbit but also the year of the show-offy Fire Rooster. Now may be the time get to know your inner bunny and your inner turkey.
For the above and other reasons I’ve often referred to 2017 as the Year of the Turkey and there seem to be plenty of such gobblers in public life right now. But this month it might be more accurate to call it the Year of the Chicken. As in two reckless drivers speeding towards one another at colossal combined speed. Remember this may be true globally, domestically and personally. And we can adjust our attitudes, our behaviour and our environments to allow for that. For which, see below of course.
March is also a 7 lo shu month which makes for even more glitter and shiny stuff. Bomber-jacketted Donald Trump playing with his toy planes and aircraft carriers may be typical. If we discount Barack Obama (pause for deep breath) Trump is of course the third consecutive draft-dodging Fire Dog President. Drain the swamp? Pull the world into it more like.
The 7 which defines the month just as the Rabbit does, represents a thousand things in Chinese symbolism. One of which incidentally is the Rooster. 7 is reckoned to be mischievous, interfering, inappropriate, even in the extreme aggressive. Elementally it is generally considered to be yin Metal. But its full name is Red Seven and red is not a Metal colour. Red is passionate, spontaneous, awkward, it’s Fire. 7 also stands for the mouth and the openings of the body.
Taken together what does this mumbo-jumbo mean? Here’s what: the yin metal implies a superficial attitude, attachment to bling and shiny things and variable integrity; Fire brings impatience and attention-seeking behaviour. Not a nourishing cocktail on the face of it. However – stay with me – this year there’s a 1 in the heart of every building. This brings the 7 to the boil. So we can expect communication to be frank, revealing and immediate this month. Home truths are told and emotional and spiritual stuckness expressed. It’s time for frank talk – again globally, personally, domestically, other. If we pay attention longstanding dialogue may complete.
Animal Fortunes for the Rooster year remain on the website all year:
2017: Year of the Turkey. Use wisely.
A subscription to our Monthly and Weekly Bulletins will tell you week by week and month by month, where to do what, when and often why. This can be very useful for planning travel and crucial meetings. Subscriptions (and further info): email@example.com
My Introduction to authentic feng shui is on Audible at:
Richard Ashworth is among the most respected Western Feng Shui Masters. He has worked from the Lebanon to Bermuda and with stars such as Kelly Hoppen and Gillian Anderson and unusually for a Western Master, has addressed the Grand Masters at the International Feng Shui Conference in Singapore. His day job remains “walking round people’s spaces being enigmatic”.
Richard Ashworth © 2017
“One day when you conquer yourself and return to true order, the whole world will revert to humanity.”
The Tiger Month
Animal by Animal
During this Water Tiger Month,
The Rat moves to a distance,
The Ox decelerates,
You Tigers know your rights,
The smart Rabbit is using every moment wisely,
The Dragon begins to relax,
The Snake reaches for the sky,
The Horse may be startled,
The Sheep can advance once more,
The Monkey knows the limits,
The Rooster may still not get it,
The Dog protects the defenceless. Or not,
The Pig sees many more alternatives.
Know your inner beast. How Tiger are you?
Birth in the Tiger Hour (3-5am)~: a risk of children being distant.
Birth on the Tiger Day#: the relentless pursuer of justice.
Birth during the Tiger Month (February)*: work relies on appointment.
Birth in the Tiger Year: vision, patience, familiarity with hierarchies.
~ GMT. # You’ll need a Chinese calendar for this. * Caution: Chinese months start later.
Where to do what, when and why
Summary: Here’s where to go to stimulate creativity.
North, Distant Future: Year Star 6, Moon. Month Star: 4.
The North is helpful pretty much all year with the annual 6 offering supportive authority while the Moon maintains order. This month’s 4 brings curiosity, invention and as the sex-mad Chinese guys have it, scandal. The 4 and the 6 make a “perfect” 10, so facing or locating North will tend to support you whoever you are but especially those with East Group kuas (1, 3, 4 & 9) engaged in imaginative and creative pursuits.
Annual Solution: Large (6kg+) rose quartz, a little Metal, occasional Water.
Monthly Enhancement: Four plants (eg bamboos in Water). Follow the 4.
Shaken but not stirred.
“One day when you conquer yourself and return to true order, the whole world will revert to humanity.”
The Tiger never forgets; a favour, a slight, the right order of things. The Tiger understands power and hierarchies. The Tiger knows that Might may not be Right but it can be pretty persuasive. It’s the Tiger’s neighbour the Rabbit (whose month follows next) who believes that the pen is mightier than the sword; the Tiger is not so sure. These are the keynotes of any Tiger month but especially this one; personally, domestically, internationally.
In February my schedule usually eases up. The changes for the New Year are done, Animal Fortunes are out and I can concentrate on other stuff. I’ve neglected some longstanding clients, I have a book to write and one or two personal annual forecasts to draft. These call for close attention because they have to be accurate and precise. I’ve lost count of the annual forecast events I’ve attended where a Master’s wisdom amounts to: “The people won’t like the government, markets will go up and down and Water Element businesses may do quite well.” Not that much help in navigating the year. My personal forecasts have to be ….well….personal.
Technically this is a Water Tiger month with an 8 lo shu (or magic square). The 8 is hopeful. It means that what happens at the centres of things – nations and cities as well as your home – tend to be purposeful, even if it looks otherwise. It may help to take the longer view and we of course can intervene in a number of ways.
Interestingly there are only a few individual days that are universally helpful – the 12th and the 24th are about it – but many that will boost particular Animals. You need to know about this, especially if you are a Rabbit or Dog (Hello Donald Trump) for which you need my bulletins which will tell you, among much else, that Dragons who are on a roll this year, might reserve the 14th and 18th for a big putsch; Rabbits the 9th and 13th. The Rat gets a pretty good shake throughout, as do certain Tigers.
To summarise we’re entering a competitive time, consistent with the Tiger’s contentious nature and the showiness of the Rooster. What to do about it room by room, building by building is also in my Weekly and Monthly Bulletins which are available at modest cost, by subscription. There’s a sample below of the full What to do where, when and indeed why feature that we send out along with a great deal more information to subscribers every month. Out in the world, expect the above trends to be reflected – there’s little co-operation going on and such as there is may prove quite grudging.
Animal Fortunes for the Rooster year remain on the website all year: 2017: Year of the Turkey. Use wisely.
Richard Ashworth © 2017
What to do where and indeed why in the month of the Water Tiger.
This Tiger month features an 8 lo shu. As a rule the 8 – infinity on its side, the endless knot – is considered fortuitous. It’s Earth, so it needs a bit of attention but it’ll offer help if we treat it right. What would that be? Well, Earth is supported by Fire but we don’t position Fire at the tai chi. As Master Chan Kun Wah used to say: we don’t burn the heart. Fortunately however Wood stimulates Earth, so, all other things being equal, I’d put a little Wood there, in the geometric centre. Some of you will already, for related reasons, have four bamboos in Water there. If so, leave them. Otherwise one plant right at dead centre. Make sure it gets enough light or the metaphor will be all wrong. Wood is always growing, so planks and batons and rolling pins are not what’s intended. One plant in decent light and attended. Abundance is a much bigger issue than simple wealth but expect good things. And in this year of the Watery 1, expect creativity of all sorts, most particularly the written word.
Enhance with: a single healthy plant. Fresh cut flowers will do fine.
Location by Location
North West, Authority: Year Star: 2, Sun, Month Star: 9.
The 9 Star, as you know, represents the near future. Having landed in the NW, it’s now, as you also know, in the realm of the Father. The annual Sun ensures this is a location of healing throughout 2017 whatever else is going on. But right now a house facing NW or with a busy door oriented that way will tend to be characterized by a need to plan. Those in authority would do well to look to the bigger picture and being or facing here will help, also spending time in a NW-facing building. Those who wish to be in a position of authority a little way down the line would do well to plot here now.
Month Solution: Bright light but you’ll risk mild illness along with more positive acquisition. Otherwise……
Annual Solution: Red 6 (six Chinese coins tied up with red thread) and wu lou (gourd) are reckoned effective against the 2.
West, Intervention: Year Star: 3 Year, toe far, tai sui, tin yute. Month Star: 1.
West remains okay to occupy (although a dangerous direction to face) because it’s where the strongest annual energy, the tai sui is coming from. During 2017 the Noble Helper tin yute gwai yan – makes it the place to seek help, when the source may not be clear – as well as the toe far of new relationship – especially for Rat, Dragon and Monkey. For these objectives locate yourself West but don’t face West, employ a West-facing door or occupy a West-facing building. In any case expect some conflict, due to the stroppy 3 Star but (this month) it’s the place for problem-solving discussion.
Month Solution: Metal stuff plus 6-Pipe Metal Windchime or bright light.
Annual Solution: Bright, light, red stuff to express 3’s strop healthily.
North East, Wealth Star: Year Star: 4 gip sat, Month Star: 2.
Much better than 2016 especially if yours is a West Group kua (8,6,7,2). But this month may bring blockage as well as growth of all sorts, positive and negative. It may still not be before March that occupants of the North East, those who face that way or live in NE-facing buildings will experience much advantage. But it will come; those qualities of invention, curiosity and academic success that attach to the young female are here for a while. Er..and scandal. But right now mostly blockage or growth.
Month Solution: Add Metal – Metal stuff plus 6-Pipe Metal Windchime, clockwork music box or mechanical clock, wu lou or Red 6.
Annual Enhancement: Fire, (eg bright light). 4 Plants (eg 4 bamboos in Water).
South, Bright Future: Year Star: 5 wu huang, Month Star: 3.
The 5 is not much fun for anybody and it’s hard to neutralize, though Metal objects and wu lous are reckoned to help. Continue to treat the South with delicacy Don’t over-activate, especially do not dig or drill; even if yours is an East Group kua: 1, 3, 4 & 9. South door much the same effect. Overuse could lead to embarrassment and/or bad publicity; this month for the younger man who is represented by the confrontational 3.
Month Solution: The Fire of bright light will draw out the 3’s aggression but is equally likely to bring on the delay and sickness of the 5. Best to stay out and keep it quiet.
Annual Solution: Metallic objects may soften the 5. I use a chue cure: the t’ang lung, a charm which I have made up for me in very precise dimensions. Worth considering as the South – fame, publicity, promotion – is going to be risky all year.
North, Distant Future: Year Star 6, Moon. Month Star: 4.
The North is better this year with a year-long 6 and the Moon maintaining order. The arriving 4 brings curiosity, invention and as the sex-mad Chinese guys have it, scandal. The 4 and the 6 make a “perfect” 10, so facing or locating North will support anyone. Especially East Group kuas (1, 3, 4 & 9) in imaginative and creative pursuits.
Annual Solution: A large (6kg+) rose quartz, a little Metal, occasional Water.
Monthly Solution: Four plants (eg bamboos in Water). Follow the 4.
South West, Accumulation: Year Star: 7, Month Star: 5.
The 7 which augurs interference, fire and robbery in the worst cases, promises interference all year even for the favoured West Group kuas 2, 6, 7 and 8 And the 5 makes it worse. Poor as a location or facing direction – above all for the older woman.
Annual Solution: Water (not fountain – eg fresh Water changed daily).
Monthly Solution: Metal stuff, a mechanical clock, musical box.
East, Ambition: Year Star: 8 san sha, sui po, Month Star: 6.
Good location favours East Group kuas: 1, 3, 4 & 9 as well as certain Pigs, Dogs and Sheep all year. But because of the baddies above – san sha, sui po – continue to treat gently. The Eldest Son, creativity,learning, training and associated aspirations are favoured here all year. Good direction to face also.
Annual and Monthly Solution: Water (a fountain is good all year).
South East, Determination: Year Star: 9 Dragon Virtue, Month Star: 7.
Best front door and generally the best direction to face all year, especially if you want to be known. Dragon Virtue supports the good reputation of all, kuas 1 3 4 and 9 in particular as well as certain Monkeys, Rats, Snakes, Roosters and Oxen (Dragons may find it competitive – not that that’s necessarily bad). All year the place to be noticed in a positive way. Not at its best this month as there may be frustration due to the 7.
Month Solution: Clockwork (eg a music box).
Annual Enhancement: 4 Plants (eg bamboo stems) or a Water fountain.
A South-Eastern door looks helpful in 2017 – but how do you enhance it? Dragons and Snakes look set but what about Rabbits and the Roosters themselves? How do we capitlaise on the fresh energy? In answer to such questions, here are some ways we might work together this year:
1. A Tune-Up survey brings your work or living space into the Year of the Fire Rooster. Richard identifies the spots that need attention and attends to them or tells you what to do. If we’ve mapped it already, this will take 2-4 hours and we’ll charge you less. Otherwise set the controls for ½ a day.
2. A subscription to our Monthly and Weekly Bulletins will tell you week by week and month by month, where to do what, when and often why. This can be very useful for planning travel and crucial meetings.
3. Studying feng shui or ba zi; we run starter courses on each which are available as a group “live” thing from time to time or (constantly) via Skype/Zoom. Both bought together will cost you less.
4. Hand-drafted ba zi and consultation, one to one. Ba zi of course plots the cycle of time as it applies to you and will tend to show major milestones, preferences and blockages. The ba zi is perhaps the very best device there is for identifying major moments of choice. And doing something about them. A follow-up session, if Richard has already drafted your ba zi is often a good way to start the year.
5. Soul Retainer. For a single annual payment or monthly payments, you receive a Tune-Up, Monthly and Weekly Bulletins and a further four hours one-to-one over the year as well as attendance at next year’s Forecast Weekend.
Prices (and further information): firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Ashworth 2017©
The Fire Rooster
2017 : the Year of the Turkey.
“Meet the New Boss, same as the old boss” – Pete Townsend, “Won’t get fooled again.”
The Fire Rooster is a capricious bird. Blessed with the charm to inspire life-long devotion, he often chooses instead to hold back, satisfied with simply dazzling. So 2017 is likely to be a year when show, publicity and packaging disguise content. It’s a year to ask difficult questions. In any case the Rooster’s yin Metal nature makes it the year both of research and subterfuge.
This quality of making an empty impression indicates the year’s underlying nature. The Dragons (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988) will tend to have something of a free ticket (good news for less balanced ones such as Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin btw). It’s possible they will use it to burst bubbles and highlight what’s worth highlighting. Snakes (1953, 1965, 1977, 1989) however like Tony Blair and Basharat al-Assad prosper beyond all reasonable expectation as do Oxen – among them Barack Obama. It’s the year of the overstayed welcome as well as of the empty posture.
The annual lo shu or “magic square” of the year has at its centre the Watery 1 of communication. So set the controls for a year of talk, negotiation and spin. The trick will be to not allow this jaw-jaw to be empty. The Rabbit has a big role here – to challenge bad faith and half-truth. You’ll win through as long as you stick to what matters. Angelina Jolie, this means you; your time is better spent calling governments on their arms-selling record than your ex on his spliff habit. In 2017 older Dogs will tend to bark less; Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Donald Trump – all born 1946 – will fade away. This is the last wag of the old guard; they are sleeping dogs, let them lie.
In our houses,the Eastern area will call for very careful treatment to forestall a plague of boils, as will the South. This makes it a year of deft manoeuvering for the 50% of us designated East Group by our birth. A saving grace is that a South East door looks handy as does (unusually) Water in the tai chi or “heart” of the house. More I’m not going to give away before December.
Internationally the likely trouble spots are unsurprising: the Far East of course but also Eastern and Southern regions; flooding is likely for instance in East Anglia and hurricanes along the Carolina coast though they’ll tend to be more destructive in the Gulf of Mexico. Eastern Ukraine, the North West frontier (that’s Eastern Afghanistan) are trouble spots, as is Moscow and the Great Barrier Reef. In Europe the turmoil moves East – from for instance Austria to Hungary and Berlin to Warsaw. Not the greatest year in Canary Wharf either. Or the White House. And let’s not forget that it is not simply because turkeys are voting for Christmas worldwide that I’m calling this the year of the turkey. This may well be the year of Turkey.
I could go on. I won’t. I’ll be talking a lot more about all of this at the Pepperpot, Godalming High Street between 10 and 5 on the 3rd December. Join us. The future starts here.
We sold out very quickly last year so please book promptly.
Your place is secured by payment to:
HSBC, Sort: 40 22 12, A/C No: 33662950
via the Paypal button halfway down the Services page of Richard’s website.
Price: £125. Early Bird £85 by 1/11/16.
The Horse Month
Animal by Animal
During this Wood Horse Month,
The Rat may simply wait,
The Ox may be (way) behind the Rat,
The Tiger sees the breaks,
The smart Rabbit rises to the occasion,
The Dragon reins in,
The Snake could be overawed,
The Horse might pace herself,
The unwary Sheep is under a shadow,
The Monkey demands to be noticed,
The Rooster takes time out,
The Dog obtains a boost,
The Pig strikes back.
Know your inner beast. How Horse are you?
Birth in the Horse Hour (11am-1pm)~: performing children.
Birth on the Horse Day#: a tendency to the reckless.
Birth during the Horse Month (June)*: an extroverted vocation.
Birth in the Horse Year: spontaneity in the bloodline.
~ An hour earlier than the clock during British Summertime ie 8-10.
# You’ll need a Chinese calendar. * Caution: Chinese months start later.
Where to do what, when and why
Summary: The peak of Fire ignites the hunters of the Zodiac: Dog and Tiger (for whom it may be the best month of the year, so fill your boots) as well as the faithful Sheep. It is generally less helpful to Rat and Ox. A 7 month tends to harass some more than others of course and those with 3, 2, 6, 7 and 8 kuas are least vulnerable.
West, Intervention: Year Star: 4 Year Sun, Month Star: 9.
The visiting 9 makes for a magical 9:4 he tu combination in the West right now while the romantic power of the toe far or “plum flower” Star is still there, along with the restorative Sun.
Locate to the West of your home, face West or occupy a West-facing building; these are transformative stars.
Along with superior examination results, 9 brings future plans closer. 4 bamboo stems in 4 glasses of Water can help.
Note: If this is all er…Chinese to you, email me your birth details or more drastically, come and study with me.
Hoarse with no name.
Wood Horse month, Monkey year, the turbulence continues while the Solstice approaches. Notice the creeping yin to the foot of the Hexagram at the top of this page; the qi is already descending. As indeed it was at this time of year, three thousand and seventy four years ago.
At that time, May of 1058 BCE, as it happens a Horse year, the Zhou family rose up against the ruling Shang and wrested from them the “Mandate of Heaven,” that is to say the right to rule China. The Zhou were to hold onto the mandate for the following seven hundred years or so. What inspired rebellion against the tyrants at that exact time was the conjunction of the five visible planets in the night sky. This conjunction happens only once every five hundred and sixteen years. Michael Wood illustrates this with a computer simulation in the first episode of his excellent BBC series “The Story of China.”
As above, so below. So much of feng shui is rooted in astrology. You can for instance, find the group of Stars that are reckoned to have inspired the ideograph of the Monkey to the South West of the night sky. They’re part of the constellation shen, that is Orion. The star formation (whose name I’ve not mastered) making up the character for Horse lies to the South.
As does this month’s Hexagram, Kou. As you know, these six-line figures are themselves composed of three-line figures called Trigrams. And each Trigram apart from signifying a member of the Confucian family, a state of being, a location and a million other things, describes a phase of the Moon. Identifying the homes of the Trigrams in the night sky is known as na jia or “assigning the Wood.” Qian (Heaven) for instance with its three unbroken yang lines, stands for the Full Moon and Kun, Earth (three yin lines) for the New Moon. Sometimes these things are hard to observe because of street lights, late-night parties, cats’ eyes and headlamps.
When I was in Menorca writing and researching a couple of years ago, the night sky was almost free of light pollution. And so with feet in the pool and beers in hand, my daughters Jess and Hen and I confirmed that the Moon rose and fell precisely where the na jia indicated. It was, if you will, a sobering moment; there above us was physical evidence of the connectedness of Heaven and Earth. It was as if a huge finger had drawn lines across the Moon.
Just behind the full Moon, the 2016 Solstice falls on June 21st at 06:57, shortly after sunrise. Full Sun and full Moon, full yin and full yang, on a Dog day in a Horse month, it’s almost alight with Fire. And yet the qi is falling. In the Year of the Monkey (who generally stands cautiously clear of the Horse) this makes for quite a chaotic pattern. The Monkey is of course talkative, but this is no month for discussion. Rather it is one of action; some impetuous, some not so well thought-through. Hold tight.
In the desert you can’t remember your name
And this year as I predicted, is definitely shaping up like a Monkey; Paris barricaded, US Presidential nominations haywire, we pretty much already have the Earth Monkey of 1968. All we need is Russian tanks rolling West and British boots on the ground in the Middle East and it’s the Fire Monkey, 1956. Oh and peaking markets. “Déjà vu all over again,” in the words of John Fogerty. As above, so below. My own father’s boots were among those on the ground in the Sinai Desert in 1956.
This Horse month favours Dogs and Sheep and Tigers as ever, although they may present just a little hot-headed. Along with the Horse, they are the hunters of the Zodiac and often the life lesson of the hunter is that life is not as simple as a hunt. The Horse doesn’t much like her own company or talking things out and may fall victim to unforced errors. Let things come to you as they will. The Ox is best lying low but his intimate the Rat, may find that originality is at a rare premium; the smart Rat sticks to their guns. Caution is counselled to Dragons, Snakes will find certain days offer a boost but Rabbits are probably stretched.
As a Dragon, I’ll be tapping the ongoing but quirky support of the Monkey and remaining wary of the rampant Horse.
Richard Ashworth © 2016
Knowing your onions: the yin and yang of feng shui.
“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
Yes we have no tomatoes.
Some ungenerous people say that Bob Dylan made a career out of just two songs: a slow one and a fast one. And one way to look at feng shui is that it is about only two things: the qualities of yin and yang. In a sense the feng shui Master’s task is to limit yang and encourage yin – perhaps by placing stones – or to boost yang by building a Water fountain, thence health, wealth and wisdom.
The Taoist principle is that existence starts with precisely two qualities or essences: yin which is smaller, still, quiet, dark and subtle, essentially feminine and yang which is larger, outgoing, illuminated, unsubtle and broadly masculine. All that there is, hats, hills, oceans, football, turtles, elephants, Donald Trump’s hair piece, your frying pan and the Chuckle Brothers, are made up of some combination of yin and yang.
You’ll recall that in an earlier blog I compared feng shui to salad; planting lettuce in January against a North-facing wall is not only not bright, it violates the laws of feng shui. Now I have to confess: this is not the whole story. The roots, if you will, are much deeper. Having looked at the wu xing or “Five Elements” we need now to consider yin and yang.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door.
Feng shui of course would not be a thing at all if its laws were not universal. The idea that it works in China and not elsewhere is as silly as the idea that its fundamentals are a Chinese thing. Waving Cats belong in Chinese restaurants not your front room. Laws are laws. The builders of Stonehenge, for instance – whoever they were – respected the rule that there is a Ghost Gate North East and a Heaven Gate – a Tiananmen – North West. And the Valley of the Kings straddling the Nile as its celestial counterpart straddles the Milky Way, reflects the Chinese story of the Maiden and the Ox Boy, forever separated by the river of stars between them. And so on. Wherever we travel we find theories of the management of space that map onto one another.
In England I often come across buildings that betray Masonic design. I’m no expert on Masonry but the long eccentric passageways and irregular floor plans are pretty distinctive, quite apart from the symbols over thresholds and fireplaces. Masonic architects are said to have built many of the great mediaeval cathedrals and one stage whisper across the nave at Chartres reveals mastery of acoustics that confirm their designers knew something we still don’t.
Perhaps two things actually: one, that the only constant is change; two, the physical universe is a duality, that is to say made up of two.
And as it happens, classical feng shui comes down two lines of descent; one, as discussed before, by way of early observers who noticed that the cycle of the hours of the day mirrored the cycle of the seasons which led to them giving Animal names to days, hours, months, years and indeed locations. The other branch of the family tree proceeds from the discoveries of the diviners of the Zhou Dynasty. I examined the first group or “school” (known as sam he or “Three Harmony”), in my previous article which also had nothing to with tomatoes. Or to jump the gun, turtles.
Thousands of years ago it was the practice of the Zhou diviners of Northern China to bake river-turtles. Not for nourishment or even for entertainment you understand, but for information; they grilled them if you will, and noted the patterns of cracks created by the heat. Inevitably the river turtle became extinct by the way.
The cracks seem to have fallen into two types – long and short. And the diviners appear to have taken short to mean no and long to mean yes. This probably evolved by trial and error. Before the advent of fast food, microwaves, refrigerators or even farming, if diviners could direct the community to where deer or water lay, they would probably have been well rewarded; the Chinese character for divination – xiang – is actually a picture of an elephant or perhaps a mammoth. Now there’s a square meal. In the great tradition of Chinese history, if the diviners called it wrong they probably lost limbs or disposable organs. In time they clearly got it right. A relatively short time probably.* The turtles of course were beyond caring.
At some point these discoveries map onto ideas about light and dark and become the concepts of yin and yang which are at the core of Taoism. In the beginning, goes the theory, was the mou chi or “great nothingness” and then at some point, it is said the “myriad things” come into being; that is to say, all that exists. The mou chi is not unlike Stephen Hawking’s great “singularity” that (allegedly) precedes the universe; it is followed by the simultaneous birth of two things: yin and yang. One could not logically precede the other because the existence of the “myriad things” requires contrast; we cannot have a depression without a surround, height without base or light without shade. They would not be “myriad” if they weren’t different.
And like so many Chinese ideas, yin/yang theory is an acorn that holds a variety of oaks. It implies for instance the concept of infinity (since contrast is by definition endless) and of relativity (everything is bigger than something and smaller than something else). Chinese thinkers were clear that there are no fixed points long before Newton saw it in the night sky. As Neo says in The Matrix: “there is no spoon.”
Obviously if yin and yang referred to light and shade, they related also to time and place. The night is yin, the day yang; winter yin and summer yang and so on. In time then, inevitably a yin/yang theory of time and place emerged. From this comes the Book of Changes, a work as central to Chinese culture as some combination of Shakespeare, the Bible, Immanuel Kant, Einstein and the Brothers Grimm might be to Western thinking.
What also emerges is a system that identifies the nature of each part of a building. That is to say about half of classical feng shui practice. A skilled sam yuen practitioner can tell you things about each member of the family, what their strengths and weaknesses are and their activities and so on simply by examining your floor plan.
How? Well, somewhere along the line, the diviners’ vocabulary of incisions gave rise to the idea of the Trigram (or three-line figure) and Hexagram (six) which allowed them to offer a spectrum of “maybe” answers beyond the stark yin and yang of yes and no. Perhaps this saved lives and limbs. Perhaps it cost them. Your Alan Sugars are pussycats to bearers of ambiguous counsel compared to mediaeval Chinese Emperors*.
Three unbroken lines absolute yang, clearly meant a big Yes and thus daylight, power, authority, Father and the South. Similarly three broken lines implied the opposite: night, darkness, winter and the North. As well as Woman by the by but let’s not go there. In between these extremes were the various Trigrams that mixed yin and yang. This is called today the “Early Heaven Arrangement” of Trigrams and it’s reckoned to date from the moment of creation. In time a Later Heaven Arrangement emerged which relates to the present.
Accordingly the eight possible Trigrams made up of yin (broken) and yang (unbroken) lines each came to represent not only a compass point but also a member of the Confucian family and the qualities associated. Put simply, every space consists of eight locations or “palaces” each of which represents a member of the family and a type of experience or qi. This applies equally to your bedroom your home, your street, neighbourhood, nation and planet. We can literally say that if there is something happening at say the South West, it relates to Mother, Relationship (with a capital “R”) and associated ideas. We can, as you will be surmising, do a great deal with just this information. Lillian Too built a whole career on it. And let me hasten to add, she’s a dozen sorts of genius. As is Bob Dylan btw.
You put one Trigram on top of another and you have a Hexagram. There are sixty four possible Hexagrams made up of yin and yang lines. Put the sixty four together and you have the Book of Changes,
Fast forward to the 10th Century and we have kan yu or di lin practitioners (that is proto-feng shui Masters) practising both “schools” of thought. A further thousand years and by the early 19th century the modern luo pan (or Chinese compass) is incorporating both theories.
And so today the modern practitioner belongs to both “schools”; the sam yuen theories of Flying Star and Eight House (which are centrally expressions of yin and yang) as well as the sam he or Three Harmony theory of the celestial Animals. Bingo.
Richard Ashworth © 2016.