|Feng Shui, as a practical philosophy, exists before the Chinese learn to write. The ancient wise people used the most original and basic binary form of “Yin” and “Yang” to reason the events of the world around them.
The process of prediction & validation had been going on for thousands of years before there was a wisest of all called FuXi (pronounced ‘ph-she’), who put it in writing in the form of Ba-Gua. Although the legend uses “he, him, his ‘ when they refer to FuXi (ph-she) or as ‘father of…’, ‘king of….’ , the archaeologists and historians believe FuXi was a group of women. This group of women were advisers to the chief of the ancient matriarchy tribe lived in today’s northwest China called FuXi.
The images on the left is Ba Gua. The first time Ba Gua became I Ching is yet unknown. Each Gua (quadrant) in I Ching contains six bit positions. You can visually move the two Gua in each of the columns together. They will become one Gua as appears in I Ching. Therefore, I Ching contains total 64 Gua. The name of the Gua in I Ching is difficult to translate to modern Chinese and more difficult to translate to translate into English.
In the 11 century B.C, Wen Wang, the king of Zhou (what is, today, the northwest part China called FuXi) was put in Shang’s royal jail because he was accused of rebelling against the Shang emperor. Worried about the fate of his country, he studied I Ching and extended the interpretation of motion and change to this ancient theory.
According to the history written by his descendants, he successfully predicted the falling of Shang and the raising of Zhou. The famous study notes became official interpretation of I Ching, frequently called, the “Book of Change”. Many cases, I Ching is referred to as ‘Zhou I’, to credit the contribution of the king of Zhou. It views the world in a dynamic way, ‘that in the eyes of time, the world is just an endless cycle’. Historians agree that the interpretation of I Ching was written way before Wen Wang. He did add to it.
I Ching was the most popular book among the Zhou dynasty scholars. The famous ones including Lao Tzu, who started the Tao philosophy, and Confucius. This also marked the first division in I Ching scholars that was ever recorded. Taoism, enriched the theory with the Yin-Yang co-existence and exchange cycle idea and was the first (in writing) to point out that there is no absolute good or bad. The philosophy known as Taoism is heavily rooted in I Ching. On the other hand, Confucius, inspired by the idea of great harmony, dreamed of building a perfect government through the process of building perfect human being. Confucianism has became the main stream philosophy in the beginning of Han dynasty in 206 BC. Many Tao philosophers moved to the mountains and Taoism further split to a secular scholar philosophy and a religious practice.
In the Zhou dynasty, the compass was invented (some believe it was invented earlier but not documented). A sophisticated lunar calendar based on the 10 celestial stems and 12 earthly branches emerged. By marking the compass with the 10 celestial stems and 12 earthly branches, space and time met the first time. The Taoism practitioners used the new invention in their study of I Ching.
In Han dynasty and long after; Taoism was the most fashionable study for well to do Chinese scholars, who had too much time, money and wisdom. They also implemented the application of Taoism and I Ching to the every day practice. The application of object placement inside and outside the house is known as Feng Shui. Because it is rooted in I Ching’s binary language, Eastern Feng Shui is extremely technical. It also took away many people’s dreams by telling them there are certain destinies that are ‘set’ based on their date of birth, which could not be altered. This cut and dry type of Feng Shui is more and more becoming extinct and moving farther away from the Confucians’ wish of constant pursuit for perfection. Although frequently criticized by the students of Confucius, the application reached deeply into people’s everyday life. The palaces and tombs of the royal families built in Tang dynasty (618-907) and all the following dynasties, strictly followed the prescription of the Feng Shui requirement.
When the Buddhism reached China, it soon absorbed the Feng Shui principles combining it with its’ own practices. The historical Buddhism temples, most located in the famous mountains in China, are all build with the idea of Feng Shui in mind.
The United States was first introduced to Feng Shui during the California gold rush of the mid 1800s, when many were seeking their fortunes. Though the Chinese had brought their beliefs in Feng Shui principles to this country, they were foreign and difficult to the early Californians and not accepted. Now, here we are 150 years later being reintroduced to Feng Shui; a simpler way called Western Feng Shui.
The practice of Fengshui (Feng Shui) has been severely undermined in China since the early/mid 20th century. With the invasion of the European countries, Chinese intellectuals begin to question their heritage. Under the banner of ‘learn from the west’, Fengshui (Feng Shui) is regarded as ‘superstition’ by many. In 1949, Feng Shui practice was officially forbidden in the People’s Republic of China, along with other ‘feudalism superstitions’. In other Asian countries, Feng Shui has been widely spread. It no longer just serves the rich. Anyone can buy a book on Feng Shui for about $15.00 to $20.00 and start to make changes in their home. Much information is freely provided on the internet, just like this site. Feng Shui is no longer forbidden in China. I Ching research is now openly applied to Feng Shui and can even been seen in governmental publications.