I have an irreverent interest in feng shui, some of us do, and perhaps this is where the problem lies.
Feng shui is much favoured these days even though it’s been on our radar for a very long time. Partly revered as an emblem for the Green design movement, partly dismissed as yesteryear’s folklore, feng shui is routinely believed to be a set of decorating guidelines in order to better our environment. The truth is less simplistic and certainly more comprehensive. Feng shui’s humble beginnings can be traced back to Rural China when farmers needed to understand nature to give them the best chance of successful crops. This knowledge was subsequently developed and transformed by astrologers, astronomers and political advisors within the Imperial Courts of China to reach new heights and help the Emperor assert his power over the country.
The concept of feng shui is astoundingly simple in itself: the world is simply an arrangement of energy – whether human, animal, physical, mineral, energetic, emotional, mental etc. – affecting us positively or negatively. Feng shui, through the combination of various instruments and scientific techniques, seeks to combine the human with nature and help to create a supportive environment for him…or at least, that’s how traditional Feng shui viewed it.
Like most practices stretching over 3,500 years, it had to evolve over time to survive or rather, be relevant to today’s audience. The latest form of contemporary Feng shui, heavily promoted by Western civilisations, has often been accused of violating or at best ignoring the core principles of feng shui, and often reduced its overall application to interior design purposes.
In the early days of my interior design degree, armed with good intentions and the reading of a couple of feng shui books, I designed a loft apartment based on feng shui colours and elements and was keen to demonstrate to my tutor how I mastered the complex use of the Bagua map to indicate where furniture and accessories should be placed. I was so proud of myself but my quest for a brief spell in the spotlight ended up rather unsuccessfully. My whole assignment was reduced to general feng shui tips, not too dissimilar to asking a brain surgeon to give his top tip on how to remove a clot on the brain, knowing very well this information would be useless if you have not gone through medical school! At best, my efforts were essentially tokenistic, at worse, I was a feng shui offender.
I recently read an article about an estate agent who mentioned that more and more Chinese clients are now keen to invest in the London property market and how essential it was for him and his team to know the pitfalls of basement flats and spiral staircases and the benefits of riverside properties when dealing with Chinese clients. Perhaps the spiral staircase bit aside, I’d like to think we all agree with the above statement regardless of our personal beliefs in feng shui!
Feng shui uses powerful techniques and tips inevitably end up sounding rather simplistic because most books fail to grasp the core scientific principles of feng shui which have been reduced to decorating guidelines for the inside and outside of our houses. Nothing wrong with that personally, they certainly offer a useful introduction to the subject. But if you are really serious about feng shui, I believe it is best to leave it to professionals. The heart of feng shui is mastering natural energies, therefore it is exceptionally powerful, which is why the best professionals train for many years to master the skill, understand all scientific aspects and develop their intuition to continually progress and learn more.
Feng shui was essentially created to serve society, and while evolution and adaptation are inevitable over time, it is not in our interest to trample over its core values.