Thursday, January 26, 2006

A note on Fengshui

According to Chinese tradition the five factors which can affect the welfare (well-being) of a person in order of importance are:
Luck or Fortune
Geomancy or Fengshui
Virtues (Tao Te)

Notwithstanding whether a person is rich or poor, through his or her own actions, life can change for better or worse. It does make sense if we look at these factors in this way: A young child or person is brought up and taught virtues at home, and then encouraged to study extensively to gain knowledge and a good qualification to obtain works. With works a person can become great. Whether a person can become great, healthy and wealthy would depend on fate, luck and at times Fengshui. Being polite humble sincere and earnest, the person may find a good teacher or mentor to help in his or her progress in studies or work.

Aware that these five factors affect their well being, down the millenniums the Chinese up till today have been fascinated with the study of various types of divinations which can predict fate, fortune and provide good Fengshui. Those in their middle age and elderly Chinese be they rich, educated, illiterate or poor would know something about fortune telling and Fengshui. In a way it has become part of their culture to possess some basic knowledge of these studies. Also because of this fascination, fortune tellers and Fengshui masters in the Far East and South East Asia can make a living out of their profession.

Recently one was given a newspaper article written by a quite well known and young Fengshui master for reading. In the article, the Fengshui master wrote about his trip with his Western students to the Ming tombs in China. It was interesting as he gave a guided tour to his students and tested them on their skills and learning of Fengshui on some of the thirteen tombs; and on how to recognize the lay of the land and of each tomb, thereafter explaining the technicalities and some history on each Ming emperor.

Near the end of a seemingly well written Fengshui article he passed the following remarks:
“By the time Shen Zong died and was buried, the Ming tombs were overcrowded and the veins exhausted. The only thing that remained for the tombs to tap was what I like to call ‘leftover veins’.
What should the emperors have done instead? They should have ‘patched the dragon’ by looking for new mountains and new veins to tap into instead of recycling the same old vein and exhausting the energies.
While the reign of Shen Zong was a prosperous period for the Ming Dynasty, the emperors that followed did badly, with short reigns and disasters plaguing the country. The powerful Fengshui of Yong Le was simply not enough to see the dynasty pass its 16th emperor.
With such poor Fengshui and ‘a dragon that was not patched properly and sufficiently’, the end arrived soon.”

After reading these remarks, I put the newspaper article down and shook my head. Ah, such arrogance. Perhaps this young Fengshui master had overestimated his own ability and the importance of Fengshui. Surely the Ming emperors must have expert Fengshui masters during those days and age to take care of the layout and building of the Royal tombs. It is presumptuous to think there are no more real masters in such arts in China then or now? Where did he learn his Fengshui from?

And what has Fengshui got to do with the length of a reign, disasters and a change of Dynasty? Even the wise Chuko Liang also known as Kungming could only lament when his well thought out plan to burn the entrapped Sima Yi and sons failed because of unexpected rain that extinguished the ever enclosing fierce fire and saved them from certain death. Kungming only realized it near his death bed and said, ‘It was Heaven’s Will!’ Sima Yen, the grandson of Sima Yi, went on to found the Jin Dynasty which ruled China or large parts of it for 155 years.

Do note that there were also many wise advisers and strategists during the so called ‘Three Kingdoms’ era. Wang Bi who lived during that time and recognized by later generations as wise for his interpretations and deep understanding of the Confucian books, the Zhouyi and TTC was not even featured as such or made comparable to these advisers and strategists in 'The Romance of the Three Kingdoms'.

If this young Fengshui master ever happens to read this entry, perhaps he can get hold of a copy of ‘The Mandate of Heaven’ written by Steve Marshall and learn something about the reasons for a change in dynasty, and what is considered proper research and circumspection. Perhaps in his eagerness to impress his students and the general public, he has forgotten the often quoted Chinese saying: ‘Heaven beyond Heaven; Man above Man’.

One knows little about Fengshui and is not too duly concerned about the lack of such knowledge, because by studying the Confucian Books and the Yi one can learn something about mastering and/or changing fate. Of course twitching Fengshui is much easier than mastering and/or changing fate. But which has more relevance and importance to our own welfare; I put the question to you?


Caelum Rainieri said...

Overall, an excellent post, Allan. I think that thoughtful people struggle with the question of how action interacts with Fate on a perpetual basis. Perhaps right action, as described in the Yijing, moves us toward a unification with our Fate, while wrong action moves us away. And the role of Fengshui, or other forms of magic, is to help push us in the right direction, to help reduce the chance for wrong decisions leading to wrong actions, and a more difficult life.

Allan said...

Welcome Caelum!

You are certainly correct in saying that wrong actions, especially those that injure or harm people, lead us away from Fate. Therefore the ancients exhort people to be good, kind and charitable through cultivation benefiting humanity.

Steve said...

In the case of the fall of the Ming dynasty, it put down to an argument over a woman.

Allan said...

Yes, Steve. It certainly can be seen that way. The Ming emperor, his general, and the rebel king all seem to want to hold on to this dazzling beauty by whatever means. Perhaps all three did not take Laozi and lessons from history seriously. Dynasties fall through the ineptness of Man, for ‘Man plans (but) Heaven accords’.