Feng shui means "wind and water," and is an ancient Chinese practice that aims to maximize the beneficial movement of qi (the life force present in all things) through a space. Traditional (classical) feng shui is a Chinese science that addresses the design and layout of cities, villages, dwellings, buildings, home decorations and furniture in order to harness beneficial qi from one's surroundings. Feng shui addresses the yang aspect (living things) but can also be applied to the yin aspect - as seen in the careful construction of graves and tombs. Rules for yang dwellings differ from those applied to yin houses (houses of the dead).
During the Zhou Dynasty (from 11th Century B.C. to 256 B.C.), the fortune of a dwelling was determined by Zhai Bu divination. For example, to determine the favor of a gravesite, Zhai Bu was used to see if there was an underground spring below the burial site. If there was such an area it was not a suitable site for burial. This practice became the beginning form of feng shui.
During the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.), the study of the I Ching (a Chinese book of ancient origin consisting of 64 interrelated hexagrams along with commentaries attributed to Confucius) became very popular. Chinese cosmology and philosophy like Confucianism, Daoism, the theories of yin and yang, the five elements (wood, earth, water, fire and metal), and the ba gua (a map of the energetic influences of a space) began to take shape. By the time of the Han dynasty (206-220 A.D.) practitioners maintained written records of feng shui consultations. The study of feng shui at that time was initially linked with the study of I Ching. The popularity of the I Ching and feng shui reached their peak during the Han Dynasty.
The word "feng shui" first appeared during the Jin Dynasty. Guo Pu, who lived from 276-324 A.D., wrote in his book Zhang Shu, also known as or the Book of Burial, "the dead should take advantage of the sheng qi, the wind will disperse the qi and the water will contain it." The ancients said that one should try to gather the qi so that it will not disperse. The aim is to keep it flowing but contained. Hence it is called "feng shui."
Traditional feng shui schools can be separated into two groups: san he (three harmonies) and san yuan (three cycles: the creative cycle, the reducing cycle and the controlling cycle). The former group emphasizes the effect of surrounding landforms while the latter gives more weight to the factor of time.
The goal of feng shui is to create an attractive, safe and nurturing space in which an individual can live and work more comfortably and productively. Today, feng shui is practiced as a complementary therapy and used in health care setting design and hospital constructions.
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