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Feng Shui and Classical Chinese Philosophy

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Chinese Feng Shui is a very comprehensive doctrine with a long history. It includes elements of classical Chinese philosophy, traditional Chinese medicine, geography, etc. In this short article, I will explain how the concept of water in classical Chinese philosophy influenced Feng Shui.

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“Yi Jing” (or translated as “I CHING” or Book of Changs) is the oldest and most famous philosophical book in China, “Yi Jing” is a mystical book because all it has are 64 hexagrams (see the picture ) with very simple notes.

These 64 unique symbols are called “GUA” (卦). 64 GUAs represent 64 major life phenomena. Each GUA consists of 6 lines, total of 384 lines that represent 384 humans’ life events, conditions, situations, etc. This kind of 6-line GUA is called “Six Yao Gua” (hexagram). The Yao means one line. There are two types of Yao (line), one is a solid line (─), called “Yang Yao”, and one is a broken line (− −), called Yin Yao. Simply speaking, Yang Yao represents active energy in the universe and Yin Yao represents passive energy.

Each of 64 Six-Yao-Gua (hexagram) is composed of two trigrams, and each trigram is called “Three Yao Gua”. There are eight basic trigrams in “YI JING”, called Eight Trigrams or Ba Gua (八卦). They represent respectively Heaven (universe), Earth, Wind, Thunder, Water, Fire, Mountain and Lake (See 1st pic of photos)

The first Hexagram in “Yi Jing” is Qian GUA (picture of 6-yao Qian, see 2nd pic of photos), Qian is the name of this GUA. Qian consists of two trigrams of Heaven (picture of 3-yao QIan, see 3rd pic of photos ), in other words, two trigrams of Heaven are overlapped to create a hexagram of Heaven. It indicates the perpetual motion .

The second hexagram is Kun (picture of 6-yao Kun Gua, see 4th pic of photos) that is composed of two trigrams of Earth (picture of 3-yao Kun, see 5th pic of photo), indicating the Earth where humans live.

Heaven GUA (Hexagram Qian) and Earth GUA (Hexagram Kun) are followed directly by six Hexagrams. These six Hexagrams represent the six initial developmental phases in human evolution: beginning, enlighten waiting, litigation, war, and cooperation. The interesting thing is that all of these six Hexagrams consist the trigram of “Water” GUA (picture of 3-yao “Water” Gua, see 6th pic of photos), called Kan Gua.

Let’s take a look at these six Hexagrams as following:

Zhun Gua (Zhun is the name of the GUA), (see 7th pic of photos, move your mouse pointer to one picture to get name of Gua). It symbolizes Beginning and represents the birth of humans. “Water” gua is on top, and “Thunder” gua is at bottom.

Meng Gua, it symbolizes Enlighten (see 8th pic of photos). “Water” gua is at bottom, and “Mountain” gua is on top.

Xu Gua, (see 9th pic of photos), it symbolizes “waiting for the opportunity”. “Water” gua is on top, and “Heaven” guais at bottom.

Song Gua, it symbolizes litigation (see 10th pic of photos). “Water” gua is at bottom, and “Heaven” gua is on top.

Shi Gua, it symbolizes war and the art of managing people (see 11th pic of photos). “Water” gua is on top, and “Earth” gua is at bottom.

Bi Gua, it symbolizes peace is to be cherished (see 12th pic of photos). “Water” gua is on top, and “Earth” gua is at bottom.

These six GUAs are all associated with “Water” Gua.

Since “YI JING” was originally used for divination, so water GUA in these six GUA indicates that the element of water has a fatal influence on humans, and this thought deeply influenced Feng Shui.

In the initial stage of Feng Shui, Water was one of original five Feng Shui elements, and others were outer environment, nearby environment, sunlight and Yin-Yang.

In the Book of Burial, Guo Pu (276-324) first introduced the term of Feng Shui. The word of Feng indicates Qi (Qi is the vital life energy of humans) in his book, and the word of Shui means water where Qi exists. In his book, he wrote “Water is the first consideration, followed by protecting Qi from dispersal” This sentence highlights the importance of Water in Feng Shui.

In order to truly understand Feng Shui, we need to learn Chinese philosophy because the theory of the 64 Guas not only is one of theoretical foundations of Feng Shui, but also is often used as an analysis tool in daily Feng Shui activities.

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