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Fengshui vs. Sustainability

Updated: May 21, 2023


Feng Shui is essentially a sophisticated body of knowledge, akin to big data, gathered by ancient Chinese scholars. This knowledge analyzes the relationship between natural and built environments, and its implementation, typically carried out by specialized experts known as Feng Shui Masters, brings tranquility, boosts productivity, and enhances fortune for individuals.

While Feng Shui is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, the scientific principles underpinning it are not widely known, with some aspects still shrouded in mystery.


I recall a project in southern China that was highly praised by a renowned Feng Shui master after we suggested some adjustments to the site-building layout. This positive feedback piqued my interest in the intersection of Feng Shui and scientific principles.


Historically, our ancestors designed cities and buildings with larger windows facing the summer sun and smaller ones facing the winter sun. These strategies were implemented to guard against rain splash and strong winds, allow natural ventilation, prevent fires, stay close to water and nature, avoid sources of pollution, and enjoy convenient transportation. All these aspects align seamlessly with our modern understanding of sustainable living.


In essence, Feng Shui masters are akin to scientists as they consider a multitude of disciplines including geophysics, hydrogeology, cosmic astrology, meteorology, environmental landscape science, architecture, ecology, and human life informatics. This multidisciplinary approach might be why Feng Shui is often seen as mysterious. In this article, I aim to align Feng Shui principles with sustainability knowledge. Please note that this article only covers those aspects of Feng Shui theory that can be explained by science. For further consultation related to Feng Shui, please engage a certified Feng Shui master.


Feng Shui principles deal with good energy (qi), bad energy (sha), and the use of objects to manipulate these energies. The foundational elements of Feng Shui are the four compass points: North, South, East, and West.


The four compass points



Each compass point is represented by a different symbol in Feng Shui:







North is symbolized by a black turtle with a snake on its back, called Xuan Wu 玄武. It represents water and winter, a time for collection and storage. Thus, this is viewed as the "back" of our homes and should be designed high. From a sustainability perspective, the project site should shield against the cold winter wind, hence the design should be "closed" to block this wind.


South is represented by a red finch or Phoenix, called Zhu Que 朱雀. It symbolizes fire and summer, a time for openness and warmth. Hence, the south side should be an open space, welcoming fortune and promoting wealth. In sustainable design strategy, the project will typically open the south or southeast side to channel wind into the development for better ventilation, creating a comfortable outdoor environment for occupants.


East is represented by a green dragon, called Qing Long 青龙, symbolizing wood and spring, the beginning of life in China. In sustainable design, the morning sun is at the East and the afternoon Sun is at the West. The afternoon sun is hot and accumulates heat in the development, which should be shaded to prevent heat gain during summertime.


West is represented by a white tiger, called Bai Hu 白虎. It symbolizes gold and autumn, the season of harvest. From a sustainability point of view, the afternoon sun is usually hotter and shines for a longer time, creating more shade at west will help to reduce the heat gain into the room during summertime.


On the project site, Feng Shui examines the interplay among different elements, including the type of buildings, roads, bodies of water, and the surrounding natural environment. Below is a simplified illustration to explain how the principles of Feng Shui align with scientific theory:

In the illustrations provided, Case 1 depicts a main road in close proximity to the house, a scenario that can be beneficial if the road is at a comfortable distance. However, if it's too close, the "encircling" effect could induce pressure on the residents of the building. From a sustainability perspective, traffic generates noise, pollution, and disturbances. The nearer the main traffic flow to the building, the greater the adverse impact.


Cases 2 and 5 illustrate situations where the main road is excessively close to the house, and its curvature might increase the risk of car accidents, which could psychologically distress the residents. Case 3 shares similarities with Case 2 in terms of potential disturbance, but also introduces a closed loop that could symbolize "confusion" or feeling "stuck in a cycle". Case 4 represents a "dead end" in Feng Shui, when a car is faced with a towering dead end.


During the sustainable design process, consultants conduct a traffic pollution analysis to determine the potential vehicle emissions and their impact on the buildings. If a building is situated in a less desirable location, the project might take into consideration measures such as planting trees, constructing multi-storey car parks, and deploying structures not constantly inhabited, all to mitigate traffic and noise pollution.


Yin and Yang

In traditional Chinese philosophy, yin and yang embody the fundamental relationships, as well as the natural laws and truths of reality. Yin and yang serve as beautiful representations of our understanding and recognition of the world as humans. Our ancestors realized and comprehended the balanced nature of existence, where opposing forces counterbalance and support one another, resulting in harmony. This concept can be seen in various aspects of life such as Heaven and Earth, Day and Night, Sun and Moon, Cold and Hot, Winter and Summer, Male and Female, Up and Down, Life and Death, and more.


Everything in the universe exists in a relational context, where change is the only constant, and human capacity to challenge this natural law is extremely limited. Consequently, it is imperative for us to learn to accept and agree with the existence of these "opposites" and the dynamism they bring.


In the realms of science and sustainability, the design process also seeks to achieve this "balance", reflecting the natural law: introducing wind might bring rain; allowing light might induce heat; admitting air could mean allowing pollutants; incorporating nature could lead to noise and disturbances; introducing energy might increase costs; earning awards could invite criticism, etc. Therefore, in the consultancy lexicon, one of the most commonly used phrases is: "it depends"...


Creating this balance is an art rooted in science, and the beauty lies in the process itself. Here's to enjoying a life of balance!


Cheers ^^

 

Reference:


Picture from: wechat 菩提之门


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