Feng Shui – Ancient Taoist Art
Feng shui (fʌŋˈʃweɪ, fung-shway, formerly (ˈfʌŋʃuː.i) fung-shoo-ee; Chinese: 風水, pronounced [fə́ŋʂwèi]) (or Fung shui) is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics believed to use the laws of both Heaven (astronomy) and Earth (geography) to help one improve life by receiving positive qi. The original designation for the discipline is Kan Yu (simplified Chinese: 堪舆; traditional Chinese: 堪輿; pinyin: kānyú; literally: Tao of heaven and earth). Feng Shui is traditional taoist pratice.
The term feng shui literally translates as „wind-water” in English. This is a cultural shorthand taken from the following passage of the Zangshu (Book of Burial) by Guo Pu of the Jin Dynasty: Qi rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water.
Historically, feng shui was widely used to orient buildings—often spiritually significant structures such as tombs, but also dwellings and other structures—in an auspicious manner. Depending on the particular style of feng shui being used, an auspicious site could be determined by reference to local features such as bodies of water, stars, or a compass. Feng shui was suppressed in China during the cultural revolution in the 1960s, but has since seen an increase in popularity.
Feng Shui is a part of Chinese spiritual world concepts which are cultural practices or methods found in Chinese culture. Some fit in the realms of a particular religion, others do not. In general these concepts were uniquely evolved from the Chinese values of filial piety, tacit acknowledgment of the co-existence of the living and the deceased, and the belief in causality and reincarnation, with or without religious overtones.
Feng Shui is a lyrical phrase that poetically evokes the heart of this ancient practice. Wind and water are, first and foremost, natural elements (two of the five elements that comprise all of nature). Wind is the earth’s breath, and water is the invigorating lifeblood of everything that exists on our planet. Both wind and water have tremendous energy that drives Feng Shui’s practices and techniques to fill your life with positive energies. Feng Shui, at its very core is a means of arranging the basic elements of life—and all the things that you surround yourself with on a daily basis—to create the optimal and harmonious flow of vital life energy, just like the flow of water and wind.
Feng Shui is very magic and spiritual. It is a collection of practical, time-tested solutions based on the fundamental properties of elements that are used to change the negative aspects and introduce the positive aspects of each element to your living environment—and change your life for the better. Feng Shui has had a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the globe—and you can have its benefits work for you! By simply changing the interior of your home, changing the colors of your walls, or relocating the furniture in your bedroom, you can enjoy the positive effects of Feng Shui.
Feng Shui is based on the Taoist vision and understanding of nature, particularly on the idea that the land is alive and filled with Chi, or energy. The ancient Chinese believed that the land’s energy could either make or break the kingdom, so to speak. The theories of yin and yang, as well as the five feng shui elements, are some of the basic aspects of a feng shui analysis that come from Taoism. Feng means wind and shui means water. In Chinese culture wind and water are associated with good health, thus good feng shui came to mean good fortune, while bad feng shui means bad luck, or misfortune.
Feng Shui – The ancient Taoist doctrine of China
Feng Shui is an ancient taoist art related to the law and order of the universe and the power of nature. It was first developed some 6,000 years ago. It’s a system based on the elements of astronomy, astrology, geology, physics, mathematics, philosophy, psychology and intuition. What Feng Shui is related to is all that matter a great deal to people: their environment, places, people, time and the interaction between the potential factors. Through the knowledge of Feng Shui, people are believed to be able to make themselves more compatible with nature, their surroundings and their own everyday life, so that they can make an impact on their finances, health, and emotions. Obviously, it’s a theory to trigger awareness of the relations between human beings and nature. Only when the world is well-manipulated, can it be well availed of and become productive and favorable to humans.
The Chinese term 'Feng Shui’ simply means 'Wind and Water.’ The concept of them goes throughout the theory and its practice. The ancient Chinese believed a kind of underlying essence of force of things that tends to be dispelled at the chance of wind, while checked at the chance of water. In ancient China, people would act in virtue of the theory in the hope of promoting prosperity, good health and relationships. Here are some ways Feng Shui is supposed to be able to help you:
– getting a job, raise or promotion;
– improving health;
– getting married;
– getting pregnant or preventing miscarriages;
– protecting a couple from divorce;
– creating more harmonious family relationships;
– feeling free from job impression;
– improving business better;
– preventing accidents;
– feeling more safe in life.
Believe it or not, it is trusted by a considerable number of people. They believe they are always lucky in life by virtue of Feng Shui. A vital term 'Qi’ can’t be missed if you want to take further inquiry into the theory. Qi means the energy which governs our spirit, our health, surroundings, even the physical state and the luck or the fate. Simply, it is the underlying essence of every thing. And a Feng Shui practitioner’s goal is to adjust the underlying environmental force (Qi) to best suit you.
Like acupuncture, feng shui is based on the principle of qi, an energy that fills our spacesand makes it feel “alive”. You may have heard the expression that the space has “good feng shui” or even walked into a space yourself and had a good or bad feeling when you did. One of the objects of feng shui is to create a free path for the qi to flow throughout your home. Picture qi as a gentle stream flowing through your home. By doing a simple walk through your home you can see where the stream flows smoothly and where clutter and objects get in its way.
An important principle of feng shui is the theory of yin and yang or balance. This theory believes that everything in the universe consists of two opposing energies – yin and yang. Yin and yang cannot exist without one another. Simple examples of yin and yang are night and day, hot or cold, relaxed or uptight, happy or sad. Creating a home that has a balance of yin and yang is very important in feng shui. For example, yin energy should be prominent in your bedroom. Yin is relaxing and soothing and will support your body’s ability to sleep. Yin colors and sounds will be very helpful in the bedroom. On the other hand, Yang dominant items like the television and computer in the yin space of the bedroom can lead to insomnia and difficulty relaxing. Keeping the yang items in their appropriate places (the living room and kitchen), will help to bring sanctity and balance to your home.
Feng Shui also views the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) as very important to be included in a home design. According to Feng Shui teachers “when all 5 are included in your home design, health and happiness are best held in place”. Each element can be expressed in a variety of ways. This can include items that are made out of an element (wood or metal), objects that are associated with an element (plants are associated with earth) or colors that take on an element (red is associated with fire, white is associated with metal).
Feng Shui views all things and creatures as part of a natural order that is constantly moving and changing. Feng Shui divides our never- ending universe into more manageable units — like human beings and their homes, property, offices, living rooms, and bedrooms. Feng Shui allows you to design your personal space according to the same universal principles of energy flow that governs the wind, fire, earth, metal and water.
There is an old Chinese saying, „That if you want to change your life, move 27 objects in your house.” What this means is that life is a vital force, which is constantly moving. Subtle and invisible energies (Ch’i pronounced CHEE) are continually flowing around us. When these energies are flowing in harmony and balance, we become keenly aware of the positive effects and thereby feel uplifted, motivated and productive.
Conversely, when there is an obstruction of energy, we find ourselves out of balance, stuck and working harder than necessary to achieve our desired goals. Feng Shui (pronounced FUNG SHWAY) is the ancient Chinese art of placement that enables energy to move freely and in harmony with your surroundings. It is based on Tao religion, mysticism and supersition of ancient wise Taoists. At it’s most basic level, it’s about helping people. By clearing negative or blocked energies, Feng Shui can redirect the Ch’i (Qi) surrounding you, so that it flows freely in a positive direction, which brings balance, harmony and prosperity to you and your environment. Think of yourself as a boat. It is simply easier and more effective to sail with the current and wind than against it. We’ve all heard of the saying, „Go with the flow.” This is the basic concept of Feng Shui.
Taoism traditional practices and beliefs
– Ancestral worship (拜祖) – A practice to honor the deeds and memories of the deceased. This is an extension to the filial piety from the teachings of Confucius and Laozi. Elders, seniors, extended families and particularly parents are to be respected, heeded and looked after. Respects continue after their deaths. In addition to the Qingming and Chongyang festivals, descendants should pay tribute to ancestors during the Zhongyuanjie, more commonly known as the Ghost Festival. In addition to providing a tombstone or urn cover, descendants are traditionally expected to install an altar (神台) in their home to pay homage regularly each day with joss sticks and tea. The ancestors, including parents and grandparents, are worshiped or venerated as if they are still living.
– Three Realms (三曹) – the belief that Heaven, the living and the deceased exist side by side, heaven a place for saints or rested souls, hell for the criminous deceased. Three wun seven pak (三魂七魄) explains a person’s existence. The three realms is where a person exists, and the seven states are what makes a person exist. The Pumi people, for example, are a supporter of this concept.
– Jian (間) – The living world where people exist in reality is referred to as Yang Jian (陽間). The underworld where spirits exist after death is regarded as Yin Jian (陰間), though this is not necessarily a negative place such as hell or diyu.
– Fan Tai Shui (犯太歲) – is when an individual faces major obstacles in health, job and studies. The obstacles last for a single Chinese calendar year. An example is when Hong Kong Feng shui master Raymond Lo tried to explain the occurrences in 2008 in relation to People’s Republic of China leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. Within the animal astrology the horse clashes with the rat, causing a turbulent year. Both Hu and Wen are born in 1942, the year of the horse, which clashes with 2008 the year of the rat. Hence 2008 in China was one of the most turbulent year with Tibetan unrest, Sichuan earthquake and many more events.
– Zung Saang Gei (種生基) – is when a piece of hair is placed in a particular fung shui location in an attempt to extend a person’s life. A publicised example is actress celebrity Tina Leung who performed this practice in 1998 at a place in Guangxi Beihai xingdaohu (星島湖). The maximum that she could extend was 12 years, hence she died exactly in 2010.
– Peach wood sword (桃木劍) – the definitive weapon used for demon exorcism during Taoist exorcism. The ones from Long Mountain in Jiangxi province are particularly valued as the premium quality peach wood swords.
– Stone tablets (石敢當) – the tablets are placed at main doors, junctions of small avenues, three-way junctions, river banks or ponds to gather positive energy and ward off evil spirit. Sometimes it is used to block natural mishaps such as natural disasters.
– Tai mountain stone tablets (泰山石敢當) – the most powerful of the stone tablets are made from stones coming from Mount Tai. These stone tablets are shaped like the mountain forming the 5 fingers shape. The ones inscribed with (泰山石敢當) go with along with the legend of the fight between war deity Chi You and the Yellow Emperor. Supposedly goddess Nüwa dropped the tablet with the inscription on Chi You and scared him off. Yellow Emperor have since put the same inscription everywhere to scare off Chi You.
– Spirit tablet – a spiritual home in your house for ancestor spirits.
– Guiren (貴人) – Someone who can help you. Or is destined to help you.
– Xiaoren (小人) – Someone who can hurt you. Or is destined to hurt you.
Simple methods such as kau cim can usually inform you whether a guiren or xiaoren is visible in your near future.
Origins of Feng Shui
Currently Yangshao and Hongshan cultures provide the earliest evidence for the origin of feng shui. Until the invention of the magnetic compass, feng shui apparently relied on astronomy to find correlations between humans and the universe.
In 4000 BC, the doors of Banpo dwellings were aligned to the asterism Yingshi just after the winter solstice—this sited the homes for solar gain. During the Zhou era, Yingshi was known as Ding and used to indicate the appropriate time to build a capital city, according to the Shijing. The late Yangshao site at Dadiwan (c. 3500-3000 BC) includes a palace-like building (F901) at the center. The building faces south and borders a large plaza. It is on a north-south axis with another building that apparently housed communal activities. The complex may have been used by regional communities.
A grave at Puyang (c. 4000 BC) that contains mosaics—actually a Chinese star map of the Dragon and Tiger asterisms and Beidou (the Big Dipper, Ladle or Bushel) – is oriented along a north-south axis. The presence of both round and square shapes in the Puyang tomb, at Hongshan ceremonial centers and the late Longshan settlement at Lutaigang, suggests that gaitian cosmography (heaven-round, earth-square) was present in Chinese society long before it appeared in the Zhou Bi Suan Jing. Cosmography that bears a striking resemblance to modern feng shui devices and formulas was found on a jade unearthed at Hanshan and dated around 3000 BC. The design is linked by archaeologist Li Xueqin to the liuren astrolabe, zhinan zhen, and Luopan.
Beginning with palatial structures at Erlitou, all capital cities of China followed rules of feng shui for their design and layout. These rules were codified during the Zhou era in the Kaogong ji (simplified Chinese: 考工记; traditional Chinese: 考工記; „Manual of Crafts”). Rules for builders were codified in the carpenter’s manual Lu ban jing (simplified Chinese: 鲁班经; traditional Chinese: 魯班經; „Lu ban’s manuscript”). Graves and tombs also followed rules of feng shui, from Puyang to Mawangdui and beyond. From the earliest records, it seems that the rules for the structures of the graves and dwellings were the same.
Early Feng Shui instruments and techniques
The history of feng shui covers 3,500+ years before the invention of the magnetic compass. It originated in Chinese astronomy. Some current techniques can be traced to Neolithic China, while others were added later (most notably the Han dynasty, the Tang, the Song, and the Ming).
The astronomical history of feng shui is evident in the development of instruments and techniques. According to the Zhouli the original feng shui instrument may have been a gnomon. Chinese used circumpolar stars to determine the north-south axis of settlements. This technique explains why Shang palaces at Xiaotun lie 10° east of due north. In some cases, as Paul Wheatley observed, they bisected the angle between the directions of the rising and setting sun to find north. This technique provided the more precise alignments of the Shang walls at Yanshi and Zhengzhou. Rituals for using a feng shui instrument required a diviner to examine current sky phenomena to set the device and adjust their position in relation to the device.
The oldest examples of instruments used for feng shui are liuren astrolabes, also known as shi. These consist of a lacquered, two-sided board with astronomical sightlines. The earliest examples of liuren astrolabes have been unearthed from tombs that date between 278 BC and 209 BC. Along with divination for Da Liu Ren the boards were commonly used to chart the motion of Taiyi through the nine palaces.
The markings on a liuren/shi and the first magnetic compasses are virtually identical. The magnetic compass was invented for feng shui and has been in use since its invention. Traditional feng shui instrumentation consists of the Luopan or the earlier south-pointing spoon (指南針 zhinan zhen)—though a conventional compass could suffice if one understood the differences. A feng shui ruler (a later invention) may also be employed.
Foundation theories of Feng Shui
The goal of feng shui as practiced today is to situate the human built environment on spots with good qi. The „perfect spot” is a location and an axis in time.
Qi (Ch’i) – Life Energy
Qi (pronounced „chee” in English) is a movable positive or negative life force which plays an essential role in feng shui. In feng shui as in Chinese martial arts, it refers to 'energy’, in the sense of 'life force’ or élan vital. A traditional explanation of qi as it relates to feng shui would include the orientation of a structure, its age, and its interaction with the surrounding environment including the local microclimates, the slope of the land, vegetation, and soil quality. The Book of Burial says that burial takes advantage of „vital qi.” Wu Yuanyin (Qing dynasty) said that vital qi was „congealed qi,” which is the state of qi that engenders life. The goal of feng shui is to take advantage of vital qi by appropriate siting of graves and structures.
One use for a Luopan is to detect the flow of qi. Magnetic compasses reflect local geomagnetism which includes geomagnetically induced currents caused by space weather. Professor Max Knoll suggested in a 1951 lecture that qi is a form of solar radiation. As space weather changes over time, and the quality of qi rises and falls over time, feng shui with a compass might be considered a form of divination that assesses the quality of the local environment—including the effects of space weather.
Polarity – Yin/Yang
Polarity is expressed in feng shui as Yin and Yang Theory. Polarity expressed through yin and yang is similar to a magnetic dipole. That is, it is of two parts: one creating an exertion and one receiving the exertion. Yang acting and yin receiving could be considered an early understanding of chirality. The development of Yin Yang Theory and its corollary, Five Phase Theory (Five Element Theory), have also been linked with astronomical observations of sunspots.
The Five Elements or Forces (wu xing) – which, according to the Chinese, are metal, earth, fire, water, and wood – are first mentioned in Chinese literature in a chapter of the classic Book of History. They play a very important part in Chinese thought: ‘elements’ meaning generally not so much the actual substances as the forces essential to human, life. Earth is a buffer, or an equilibrium achieved when the polarities cancel each other. While the goal of Chinese medicine is to balance yin and yang in the body, the goal of feng shui has been described as aligning a city, site, building, or object with yin-yang force fields.
Bagua (Eight trigrams)
Two diagrams known as bagua (or pa kua) loom large in feng shui, and both predate their mentions in the Yijing (or I Ching). The Lo (River) Chart (Luoshu) was developed first, and is sometimes associated with Later Heaven arrangement of the bagua. The Luoshu and the River Chart (Hetu, sometimes associated with the Earlier Heaven bagua) are linked to astronomical events of the sixth millennium BC, and with the Turtle Calendar from the time of Yao. The Turtle Calendar of Yao (found in the Yaodian section of the Shangshu or Book of Documents) dates to 2300 BC, plus or minus 250 years.
In Yaodian, the cardinal directions are determined by the marker-stars of the mega-constellations known as the Four Celestial Animals: East – The Green Dragon (Spring equinox)—Niao (Bird 鸟), α HydraeSouth – The Red Phoenix (Summer solstice)—Huo (Fire 火), α ScorpionisWest – The White Tiger (Autumn equinox)—Xu (Emptiness, Void), α Aquarii, β AquariiNorth – The Dark Turtle (Winter solstice)—Mao (Hair 毛), η Tauri (the Pleiades)
The diagrams are also linked with the sifang (four directions) method of divination used during the Shang dynasty. The sifang is much older, however. It was used at Niuheliang, and figured large in Hongshan culture’s astronomy. And it is this area of China that is linked to Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, who allegedly invented the south-pointing spoon.
Feng Shui Schools
A school or stream is a set of techniques or methods. The term should not be confused with an actual school — there are many masters who run schools. Some claim that authentic masters impart their genuine knowledge only to selected students, such as relatives.
Feng Shui Techniques
Archaeological discoveries from Neolithic China and the literature of ancient China together give us an idea of the origins of feng shui techniques. In premodern China, Yin feng shui (for tombs) had as much importance as Yang feng shui (for homes). For both types one had to determine direction by observing the skies (what Wang Wei called the Ancestral Hall Method; later identified by Ding Juipu as Liqi pai, which westerners mistakenly label „compass school”), and to determine the Yin and Yang of the land (what Wang Wei called the Kiangxi method and Ding Juipu called Xingshi pai, which westerners mistakenly label „form school”).
Feng shui is typically associated with the following techniques. This is not a complete list; it is merely a list of the most common techniques.
Xingshi Pai („Forms” Methods)
Luan Dou Pai, 峦头派, Pinyin: luán tóu pài, (environmental analysis without using a compass)
Xing Xiang Pai, 形象派 or 形像派, Pinyin: xíng xiàng pài, (Imaging forms)
Xingfa Pai, 形法派, Pinyin: xíng fǎ pài
Liqi Pai („Compass” Methods)
San Yuan Method, 三元派 (Pinyin: sān yuán pài)
Dragon Gate Eight Formation, 龍門八法 (Pinyin: lóng mén bā fǎ)
Xuan Kong, 玄空 (time and space methods)
Xuan Kong Fei Xing 玄空飛星 (Flying Stars methods of time and directions)
Xuan Kong Da Gua, 玄空大卦 („Secret Decree” or 64 gua relationships)
San He Method, 三合派 (environmental analysis using a compass)
Accessing Dragon Methods
Ba Zhai, 八宅 (Eight Mansions)
Water Methods, 河洛水法
Four Pillars of Destiny, 四柱命理 (a form of hemerology)
Major & Minor Wandering Stars (Constellations)
Five phases, 五行 (relationship of the five phases or wuxing)
BTB Black (Hat) Tantric Buddhist Group (Westernised or Modern methods not based on Classical teachings).
Today, feng shui is practiced not only by the Chinese, but also by Westerners. However, with the passage of time and feng shui’s popularization in the West, much of the knowledge behind it has been lost in translation, not paid proper attention to, frowned upon, or scorned. One of the grievances mentioned at the start of the anti-Western Boxer Rebellion, was that Westerner developers were violating the basic principles of feng shui in their construction of railroads and other conspicuous public structures throughout China. After Richard Nixon journeyed to the People’s Republic of China in 1972, feng shui became marketable in the United States of America.
It has since been reinvented by New Age entrepreneurs for Western consumption. Feng shui speaks to the profound role of magic, mystery, and order in American life. The following list does not exhaust the modern varieties, mostly one much more missinterpreted than other new. Black Sect — also called BTB Feng Shui — does not match documentary or archaeological evidence, or what is known of the history of Tantra in China. It relies on „transcendental” methods, the concept of clutter as metaphor for life circumstances, and the use of affirmations or intentions to achieve results. The BTB Ba gua was developed by Lin Yun. Each of the eight sectors that were once aligned to compass points now represents a particular area of one’s life. In contemporary China, practitioners of the divination systems of Qi Men Dun Jia and Da Liu Ren adopt these modes of divination for highly detailed and analytic problem-solving in Feng Shui.
Robert T. Carroll sums up what feng shui has become in some cases: „… feng shui has become an aspect of interior decorating in the Western world and alleged masters of feng shui now hire themselves out for hefty sums to tell people such as Donald Trump which way his doors and other things should hang. Feng shui has also become another New Age „energy” scam with arrays of metaphysical products… offered for sale to help you improve your health, maximize your potential, and guarantee fulfillment of some fortune cookie philosophy.” Others have noted how, when feng shui is not applied properly, or rather, without common sense, it can even harm the environment, such as was the case of people planting „lucky bamboo” in ecosystems that could not handle them.
Taoism or Shenism – Chinese folk religion
Some forms of Taoism may be traced to prehistoric folk religions in China that later coalesced into a Taoist tradition. Lao-Tzu is traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism and is closely associated in this context with „original”, or „primordial”, Taoism. Lao-Tzu received imperial recognition as a divinity in the mid-2nd century BCE. Taoism gained official status in China during the Tang Dynasty, whose emperors claimed Lao-Tzu as their relative. Several Song emperors, most notably Huizong, were active in promoting Taoism, collecting Taoist texts and publishing editions of the Daozang.
Aspects of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism were consciously synthesized in the Neo-Confucian school, which eventually became Imperial orthodoxy for state bureaucratic purposes. The Qing Dynasty, however, much favored Confucian classics and rejected Taoist works. During the 18th century, the imperial library was constituted, but excluded virtually all Taoist books. By the beginning of the 20th century, Taoism had fallen so much from favor, that only one complete copy of the Daozang still remained, at the White Cloud Monastery in Beijing. Taoism is one of five religions recognized by the People’s Republic of China and regulates its activities through a state bureaucracy (the China Taoist Association).
Chinese folk religion and spiritual traditions (simplified Chinese: 中国民间宗教 or 中国民间信仰; traditional Chinese: 中國民間宗教 or 中國民間信仰; pinyin: Zhōngguó mínjiān zōngjiào or Zhōngguó mínjiān xìnyăng) or, controversially, Shenism (pinyin: Shénjiào, 神教) are labels used to describe the collection of ethnic religious traditions which have been a main belief system in China and among Han Chinese ethnic groups for most of the civilization’s history until today. Shenism comprises Chinese mythology and includes the worship of shens (神, shén; „deities”, „spirits”, „awarenesses”, „consciousnesses”, „archetypes”, „angels”) which can be nature deities, Taizu or clan deities, city deities, national deities, cultural heroes and demigods, dragons and ancestors. „Shenism” is a term was first published by A.J.A Elliot in 1955, and is described as a misleading terminology among scholars.
It is sometimes considered a type of Taoism, a Folk Taoism, since over the centuries institutional Taoism has been attempting to assimilate or administrate local religions. More accurately, Taoism can be defined as a branch of Shenism, since it sprang out of folk religion and Chinese philosophy. Chinese folk religion is sometimes seen as a constituent part of Chinese traditional religion, but more often, the two are regarded as synonymous. Unlike Taoism, the religious aspects found in Confucianism (worship of Confucius and his disciples, worship of Tian, rituals and sacrifices) never became doctrinally and institutionally independent and have thus remained for centuries part of Shenism.
With around 454 million adherents, or about 6.6% of the world population, Chinese folk religion is one of the major religious traditions in the world. In China more than 30% of the population adheres to Shenism or Taoism.
Despite being heavily suppressed during the last two centuries of the history of China, from the Taiping Movement to the Cultural Revolution, it is experiencing a major revival nowadays in both Mainland China and Taiwan. Various forms have received support by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, such as Mazuism in Southern China (officially about 160 million Chinese are Mazuists), Huangdi worship, Black Dragon worship in Shaanxi, and Caishen worship.
Chinese folk religion retains traces of some of ancestral primal religious belief systems such as animism and shamanism, which include the veneration of (and communication with) the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the Heaven, and various stars, as well as communication with animals. It has been practiced by the Chinese people for thousands of years, and since the start of the Common Era alongside Buddhism, Taoism and various other religions.
Rituals, devotional worship, myths sacred reinactment, festivals and various other practices associated with different folk gods and goddesses form an important part of Chinese culture today. The veneration of secondary gods does not conflict with an individual’s chosen religion, but is accepted as a complementary adjunct, particularly to Taoism. Some mythical figures in folk culture have been integrated into Chinese Buddhism, as in the case of Miao Shan. She is generally thought to have influenced the beliefs about the Buddhist bodhisattva Guanyin. This bodhisattva originally was based upon the Indian counterpart Avalokiteśvara. Androgynous in India, this bodhisattva over centuries became a female figure in China and Japan. Guanyin is one of the most popular bodishisattvas to which people pray.
There are many free folk religion texts such as Journeys to the Underworld distributed in temples, or sold in gods material shops or vegetarian shops. Temples for Shenist worship are different from Taoist temples and Buddhist monasteries, being administered by local managers, associations and worship communities.
In China more than 30% of the population adheres to Shenism or Taoism. In Taiwan, Shenism is highly institutionalised under the label and the institutions of „Taoism”, which is adhered by 33% of the population. With around 400 million adherents Chinese folk religion is one of the major religions in the world, comprising about 6% of world population. In Singapore about 8.5% of the total population is Taoist, and 10% of the Chinese Singaporeans identify as Taoists. In Malaysia, 10.6% of Chinese Malaysians are Shenists-Taoists, corresponding to 3% of the whole country population. In Indonesia, Taosu Agung Kusumo, leader of the Majelis Agama Tao Indonesia, claims there are 5 million Taoist followers in the country as of 2009.
Taoism – Heavenly Way of Gods
Taoism (also spelled Daoism) refers to a philosophical, quasi-scientific and religious tradition that has influenced the people of East Asia for more than 4.5 millennia. The word 道, Tao (or Dao, depending on the romanization scheme), is often translated as „path” or „way”, but with a myriad of nuances in mythology and Chinese philosophy.
Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation, and humility, while Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, the relationship between humanity and the cosmos (天人相应); health and longevity; and wu wei (action through inaction). Harmony with the Universe, or the source thereof (Tao), is the intended result of many Taoist rules and practices.Reverence for ancestor spirits and immortals is common in popular Taoism. Organized Taoism distinguishes its ritual activity from that of the folk religion, which some professional Taoists (Dàoshi) view as debased. Chinese alchemy (including Neidan), astrology, cuisine, Zen Buddhism, several Chinese martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, Feng Shui, and many styles of Qigong have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history.
In English, the words „Daoism” and „Taoism” are the subject of an ongoing controversy over the preferred romanization. The root Chinese word 道 „way, path” is romanized tao in the older Wade–Giles system and dào in the modern Pinyin system. In linguistic terminology, English Taoism/Daoism is a calque formed from the Chinese loanword tao/dao 道 „way; route; principle” and the native suffix -ism. The sometimes heated arguments over Taoism vs. Daoism involve sinology, phonemes, loanwords, and politics – not to mention whether Taoism should be pronounced /ˈtaʊ.ɪzəm/ or /ˈdaʊ.ɪzəm/.
Daoism is consistently pronounced /ˈdaʊ.ɪzəm/, but English speakers disagree whether Taoism should be /ˈdaʊ.ɪzəm/ or /ˈtaʊ.ɪzəm/. In theory, both Wade-Giles tao and Pinyin dao are articulated identically, as are Taoism and Daoism. An investment book titled The Tao Jones Averages (a pun on the Dow Jones Indexes) illustrates this /daʊ/ pronunciation’s widespread familiarity. In speech, Tao and Taoism are often pronounced /ˈtaʊ/ and ˈtaʊ.ɪzəm/, reading the Chinese unaspirated lenis („weak”) /t/ as the English voiceless stop consonant /t/. Lexicography shows American and British English differences in pronouncing Taoism. A study of major English dictionaries published in Great Britain and the United States found the most common Taoism glosses were /taʊ.ɪzəm/ in British sources and /daʊ.ɪzəm, taʊ.ɪzəm/ in American ones.
Taoist beliefs include teachings based on revelations from various sources. Therefore, different branches of Taoism often have differing beliefs, especially concerning nature. Nevertheless, there are certain core beliefs that nearly all the sects share. These relate to the symbology of the Tai-Chi, or Yin Yang symbol, and the notion of wu-wei (action through inaction) which seek to counterbalance Yin with Yang at every opportunity. Generally speaking, Taoists believe in embodiment and pragmatism, engaging practice to actualize the natural order within themselves. Also, they believe that life should be peaceful and filled with joy.
Taoist theology emphasizes various themes found in the Daodejing and Zhuangzi, such as naturalness, vitality, peace, „non-action” (wu wei, or „effortless effort”—see below), emptiness (refinement), detachment, flexibility, receptiveness, spontaneity, the relativism of human ways of life, ways of speaking and guiding behavior.
Tao literally means „way”, but can also be interpreted as road, channel, path, doctrine, or line. Wing-tsit Chan stated that Tao meant a system of morality to Confucianists, but that it meant the natural, eternal, spontaneous, indescribable way things began and pursued their course to Taoists. Hansen disagrees that these were separate meanings and attributes. Cane asserts Tao can be roughly stated to be the flow of the universe, or the force behind the natural order, equating it with the influence that keeps the universe balanced and ordered. Martinson says that Tao is associated with nature, due to a belief that nature demonstrates the Tao. The flow of Qi, as the essential energy of action and existence, is often compared to the universal order of Tao. Tao is compared to what it is not, which according to Keller is similar to the negative theology of Western scholars. It is often considered to be the source of both existence and non-existence. LaFargue asserts that Tao is rarely an object of worship, being treated more like the Indian concepts of atman and dharma.
Tao is also associated with the complex concept of De (德) „power; virtue; integrity”, that is, the active expression of Tao. De is the active living, or cultivation, of that „way”. (De is also spelled 'Teh’ or 'Te’ in some transliteration schemes).
Wu wei (simplified Chinese: 无为; traditional Chinese: 無爲; pinyin: wúwéi or traditional Chinese: 無為) is a central concept in Taoism. The literal meaning of wu wei is „without action”. It is often expressed by the paradox wei wu wei, meaning „action without action” or „effortless doing”. The practice and efficacy of wu wei are fundamental in Taoist thought, most prominently emphasized in philosophical Taoism. The goal of wu wei is alignment with Tao, revealing the soft and invisible power within all things. It is believed by Taoists that masters of wu wei can observe and follow this invisible potential, the innate in-action of the Way. In ancient Taoist texts, wu wei is associated with water through its yielding nature. Taoist philosophy proposes that the universe works harmoniously according to its own ways. When someone exerts their will against the world, they disrupt that harmony. Taoism does not identify one’s will as the root problem. Rather, it asserts that one must place their will in harmony with the natural universe.
Pu (simplified Chinese: 朴; traditional Chinese: 樸; pinyin: pǔ, pú; Wade–Giles: p’u; lit. „uncut wood”) is translated „uncarved block”, „unhewn log”, or „simplicity”. It is a metaphor for the state of wu wei (無爲) and the principle of jian (儉). It represents a passive state of receptiveness. Pu is a symbol for a state of pure potential and perception without prejudice. In this state, Taoists believe everything is seen as it is, without preconceptions or illusion. Pu is usually seen as keeping oneself in the primordial state of tao. It is believed to be the true nature of the mind, unburdened by knowledge or experiences. In the state of pu, there is no right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. There is only pure experience, or awareness, free from learned labels and definitions. It is this state of being that is the goal of following wu wei.
Taoists believe that man is a microcosm for the universe. The body ties directly into the Chinese five elements. The five organs correlate with the five elements, the five directions and the seasons. Akin to the Hermetic maxim of „as above, so below”, Taoism posits that man may gain knowledge of the universe by understanding himself. In Taoism, even beyond Chinese folk religion, various rituals, exercises, and substances are said to positively affect one’s physical and mental health. They are also intended to align oneself spiritually with cosmic forces, or enable ecstatic spiritual journeys. These concepts seem basic to Taoism in its elite forms. Internal alchemy and various spiritual practices are used by some Taoists to improve health and extend life, theoretically even to the point of physical immortality.
The Three Jewels, or Three Treasures, (Chinese: 三寶; pinyin: sānbǎo; Wade-Giles: san-pao) are basic virtues in Taoism. The Three Jewels are compassion, moderation, and humility. They are also translated as kindness, simplicity (or the absence of excess), and modesty. Arthur Waley describes them as „the three rules that formed the practical, political side of the author’s teaching”. He correlated the Three Treasures with „abstention from aggressive war and capital punishment”, „absolute simplicity of living”, and „refusal to assert active authority”.
Taoistic Spiritual Master (Guru) is Taoshi. Numbering in the tens of thousands, the Sanju Taoshi perform rituals for their local communities. Quanzhen taoistic clergy take vows of celibacy, but Zhengyi taoisti clergy are often married, and often reside at home. They are called sanju Taoshi, or „Taoist priests who live at home.” Most taoist priests are living in celibacy, partiular in taoistic monasteries.
The traditional Chinese religion is polytheistic. Its many deities are part of a heavenly hierarchy that mirrors the bureaucracy of Imperial China. According to their beliefs, Chinese deities may be promoted or demoted for their actions. Some deities are also simply exalted humans, such as Guan Yu, the god of honor and piety. The particular deities worshipped vary according to geographical regions and historical periods in China, though the general pattern of worship is more constant.
There are disagreements regarding the proper composition of this pantheon. Popular Taoism typically presents the Jade Emperor as the official head deity. Intellectual („elite”) Taoists, such as the Celestial Masters Order, usually present Laozi (Laojun, „Lord Lao”) and the Three Pure Ones at the top of the pantheon of deities.
While a number of immortals or other mysterious figures appear in the Zhuangzi, and to a lesser extent in the Tao Te Ching, these have generally not become the objects of worship. Traditional conceptions of Tao are not to be confused with the Western concepts of theism and monotheism. Being one with the Tao does not indicate a union with an eternal spirit in the Hindu sense, but rather living in accordance with nature.
Characteristics of gods and goddesses
There are hundreds of local gods and goddess as well as demigods. After apotheosis, historical figures noted for their bravery or virtue are also venerated and honored as ancestral „saints”, xians, or heightened to the status of shens, deities. The following list represents some commonly worshipped deities.
– Pangu (盘古), the creator god in certain myths. He is usually depicted as a primitive, hairy giant with horns on his head and clad in furs. Pangu set about the task of creating the world: he separated Yin from Yang with a swing of his giant axe, creating the Earth (murky Yin) and the Sky (clear Yang).
– Fuxi (伏羲), also known as Paoxi, a divine patriarch reputed to have taught to humanity writing, fishing, and hunting. Cangjie is also said to have invented writing.
– Nüwa (女娲), also Nügua, an ancient mother goddess, attributed for the creation of mankind. In later traditions she is described as the twin sister or/and wife of Fuxi.
– Shennong (神农), also identified as Yandi (炎帝), a divine patriarch said to have taught the ancient Chinese the practices of agriculture. He is often represented as a human with bull horns.
– Huangdi (黃帝), or „Yellow Emperor”, the divine patriarch of the Huaxia culture lineage. He is regarded as the founder of the whole Chinese civilization.
– Guan Yu (关羽), also known with the templar names of Guandi and Guan Gong, the red-faced, bearded hero of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and symbol of loyalty. He is the patron god of policemen, war, fortune, and law, as he shows forgiveness, and often also serves as Wu Sheng.
– Baosheng Dadi (保生大帝), a divine physician, whose powers extend to raising the dead. Worship is especially prevalent in Fujian and Taiwan.
– Caishen (财神 „God of Wealth”), who oversees the gaining and distribution of wealth through fortune. He is often the deified manifestation of certain historical personalities such as Zhao Gongming or Bi Gan. His shape is sometimes that of a giant blue whiskered cat.
– Shoushen (寿神 „God of Longevity”), who stands for a healthy and long life. He is portrayed as an old balding man with a walking stick in his right hand and a peach in his left.
– Fushen (福神 „God of Happiness”), he looks like a traditional Chinese feudal lord with red clothing. He symbolizes happiness and joy.
– Lushen (禄神 „God of Prosperity”), a god of success in work and life. In ancient times he was the patron god of success in imperial bureaucracy.
– The Baxian (八仙), the „Eight Immortals”, are important literary and artistic figures who were deified after death and became objects of worship. In Taoism they’re worshipped as xians.
– Huye (虎爺), a guardian spirit, often found at the bottom of Taoist temple shrines. Worshipers revere the tiger spirit to curse spiritual enemies. Rituals include stomping an effigy of a spiritual enemy in front of the tiger spirit, as well as sacrificing meat offerings, paper gold, and others.
– The Jiuhuang Dadi (九皇大帝) refer to spirits of nine emperors, worshiped as emanations of Mazu, patron goddess of sailors. A festival is held over the first nine days of the ninth lunar month to celebrate the return from heaven to earth of the Nine Emperor spirits. This is celebrated primarily in Malaysia.
– Mazu (妈祖 „Ancient Mother”), the patroness, also considered as the goddess of sailors. Shrines can be found in coastal areas of Eastern and South-Eastern China. Today, belief in Mazu is especially popular in the South and South-East, including Fujian (福建), Guangdong (廣東), Hainan (海南), Taiwan (台灣), Hong Kong (香港), and Vietnam (越南).
– Qiye (七爺) and Baye (八爺), two generals and best friends, often seen as giant puppets in street parades. 8 is black, because he drowned rather than miss his appointment to meet with 7, even though a flood was coming. 7 has his tongue sticking out, because he hanged himself in mourning for 8.
– Shangdi (上帝) is originally the supreme god, synonymous with the concept of Tian. This title/name was later applied to the supreme deity of various religions, including Yu Huang Dadi and the Christian God.
– Cheng Huang (城隍), commonly known as „City God” in English, a class of protective deities: each city has a Cheng Huang who looks after the fortunes of the city and judges the dead. Usually these are famous or noble persons from the city who were deified after death. The Cheng Huang Miao (城隍廟) or „City God Temple” was often the focal point of a town in ancient times.
– Tudi Gong (土地公 „God of the Earth”), a genius loci who protects a local place (especially hills), and whose statue may be found in roadside shrines. He is also the god of wealth, by virtue of his connection with the earth, and therefore, minerals and buried treasure.
– Wenchangdi (文昌帝), god of students, scholars, and examination. He is worshiped by students who wish to pass their examinations. Inept examiners in ancient times sometimes sought „divine guidance” from him to decide rank between students.
– Xi Wangmu (西王母), the „Queen Mother of the West”, also known as Yaochi Jinmu (瑤池金母 „Golden Mother of the Jade Pond”), a mother goddess who reigns over a paradisaical mountain and has the power to make others immortal. In some myths, she is the mother of the Jade Emperor (玉帝).
– Yuexia Laoren (月下老人 „Old Man Under the Moon”). The matchmaker who pairs lovers together, worshiped by those seeking their partner.
– Zaoshen (灶神), the „God of the Kitchen”, also Zao Jun (灶君), mentioned in the title of Amy Tan’s novel, The Kitchen God’s Wife. He reports to heaven on the behavior of the family of the house once a year, at Chinese New Year, and is given sticky rice to render his speech less comprehensible on that occasion.
– Songzi Niangniang (送子娘娘) or Zhusheng Niangniang (註生娘娘), a fertility goddess. She is worshipped by people who want children, or who want their child to be a boy.
Taoist places of worship
Shenist temples can be distinguished into miao (庙), called „joss houses”, „deity houses” or simply „temples” in English, and ci (祠), called „ancestral halls” or simply „temples” in English. Both the terms actually mean „temple” in Chinese, and they’ve been used interchangeably many times. However miao is the general Chinese term for „temple” understood as „place of worship”, and can be used for places of worship of any religion. In Chinese folk religion it is mostly associated to temples which enshrine nature gods and patron gods. Instead ci is the specific term for temples enshrining ancestry gods, human beings apotheosized as gods.
„Joss” is a corrupted version of the Portuguese word for „god”, deus. „Joss house” was in common use in English in western North America during frontier times, when joss houses were a common feature of Chinatowns. The name „joss house” describes the environment of worship. Joss sticks, a kind of incense, are burned inside and outside of the house.
Shenist temples are distinct from Taoist temples (观 guan or 道观 daoguan) and Buddhist monasteries (寺 si) in that they are established and administered by local managers, associations and worship communities; only few or none priests stay in folk temples. Shenist temples are usually small, very colourful (by contrast with Taoist temples which by tradition should be black and white in color, and Buddhist temples which are characterised by a prevalence of yellow and red tonalities), and decorated with traditional figures on their roofs (dragons and deities), although some evolve into significant structures. Other terms associated to templar structures of Shenism and other religions in China are 宫 gong („palace”), often used for large temples (even if mostly Taoist) built by imperial officials, and 院 yuan, a general term for „sanctuary”, „shrine”.
At certain dates, food may be set out as a sacrifice to the spirits of the deceased and/or the gods, such as during the Qingming Festival. This may include slaughtered animals, such as pigs and ducks, or fruit. Another form of sacrifice involves the burning of Joss paper, or Hell Bank Notes, on the assumption that images thus consumed by the fire will reappear—not as a mere image, but as the actual item—in the spirit world, making them available for revered ancestors and departed loved ones. At other points, a vegan diet or full fast may be observed.
Also on particular holidays, street parades take place. These are lively affairs which invariably involve firecrackers and flower-covered floats broadcasting traditional music. They also variously include lion dances and dragon dances; human-occupied puppets (often of the „Seventh Lord” and „Eighth Lord”); tongji (童乩 „spirit-medium; shaman”) who cut their skin with knives; Bajiajiang, which are Kungfu-practicing honor guards in demonic makeup; and palanquins carrying god-images. The various participants are not considered performers, but rather possessed by the gods and spirits in question.
Fortune-telling—including astrology, I Ching, and other forms of divination—has long been considered a traditional Taoist pursuit. Mediumship is also widely encountered in some groups. There is an academic and social distinction between martial forms of mediumship (such as tongji) and the spirit-writing from shens that is typically practiced through planchette writing.
Many Taoists also participate in the study, analysis and writing of books. Taoists of this type tend to be civil servants, elderly retirees, or in modern times, university faculty. While there is considerable overlap with religious Taoism, there are often important divergences in interpretation. For example, Wang Bi, one of the most influential philosophical commentators on the Laozi (and Yijing), was a Confucian.
A number of martial arts traditions, particularly T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Bagua Zhang, Wing Chun, Won Yuen Yat Hey Jueng, Bak Mei Pai, Bok Fou Pai, Yaw Gong Moon and Xing Yi Quan, embody Taoist principles to a greater or lesser extent, and some practitioners consider their art to be a means of practicing Taoism.
Taoist symbols and images
The Taijitu („yin and yang”) symbol 太極圖 as well as the Ba gua 八卦 („Eight Trigrams”) are associated with Taoist symbolism. While almost all Taoist organizations make use of the yin and yang symbol, one could also call it Confucian, Neo-Confucian or pan-Chinese. The yin and yang make an „S” shape, with yin (Black or Red) on the right. One is likely to see this symbol as decorations on Taoist organization flags and logos, temple floors, or stitched into clerical robes. According to Song Dynasty sources, it originated around the 10th century. Previously, yin and yang were symbolized by a tiger and dragon.
Taoist temples may fly square or triangular flags. They typically feature mystical writing or diagrams and are intended to fulfill various functions including providing guidance for the spirits of the dead, to bring good fortune, increase life span, etc. Other flags and banners may be those of the gods or immortals themselves.
A zigzag with seven stars is sometimes displayed, representing the Big Dipper (or the Bushel, the Chinese equivalent). In the Shang Dynasty the Big Dipper was considered a deity, while during the Han Dynasty, it was considered a qi path of the circumpolar god, Taiyi.
Taoist temples in southern China and Taiwan may often be identified by their roofs, which feature Chinese dragons and phoenix made from multi-colored ceramic tiles. They also stand for the harmony of yin and yang (with the phoenix being yin). A related symbol is the flaming pearl which may be seen on such roofs between two dragons, as well as on the hairpin of a Celestial Master. In general though, Chinese Taoist architecture has no universal features that distinguish it from other structures.
The Tao Te Ching, or Daodejing, is widely regarded to be the most influential Taoist text. The title means „The Classic of the Way and Its Power or Virtue”. It is a foundational scripture of central importance in Taoism purportedly written by Lao Tzu sometime in the 3rd or 4th centuries BCE. However, the precise date that it was written is still the subject of debate: there are those who put it anywhere from the 6th century to the 3rd century BCE. It has been used as a ritual text throughout the history of religious Taoism. Taoist commentators have deeply considered the opening lines of the Tao Te Ching. They are widely discussed in both academic and mainstream literature. A common interpretation is similar to Korzybski’s observation that „the map is not the territory”. The opening lines, with literal and common translation, are:
道可道，非常道。 (Tao (way or path) can be said, not usual way)” The Way that can be described is not the true Way.”名可名，非常名。 (names can be named, not usual names)” The Name that can be named is not the constant Name.”
Tao literally means „path” or „way” and can figuratively mean „essential nature”, „destiny”, „principle”, or „true path”. The philosophical and religious „Tao” is infinite, without limitation. One view states that the paradoxical opening is intended to prepare the reader for teachings about the unteachable Tao. Tao is believed to be transcendent, indistinct and without form. Hence, it cannot be named or categorized. Even the word „Tao” can be considered a dangerous temptation to make Tao a limiting „name”.
The Tao Te Ching is not thematically ordered. However, the main themes of the text are repeatedly expressed using variant formulations, often with only a slight difference. The leading themes revolve around the nature of Tao and how to attain it. Tao is said to be unnameable and accomplishing great things through small means. There is significant debate regarding which English translation of the Tao Te Ching is preferred, and which particular translation methodology is best. Discussions and disputes about various translations of the Tao Te Ching can become acrimonious, involving deeply entrenched views.
Ancient commentaries on the Tao Te Ching are important texts in their own right. The Heshang Gong commentary was most likely written in the 2nd century CE, and as perhaps the oldest commentary, contains the edition of the Tao Te Ching that was transmitted to the present day. Other important commentaries include the Xiang’er, one of the most important texts from the Way of the Celestial Masters, and Wang Bi’s commentary.
The Zhuangzi (莊子) is traditionally attributed to a Taoist sage of the same name, but this has recently been disputed in western academia. Zhuangzi also appears as a character in the book’s narrative. The Zhuangzi contains prose, poetry, humour and disputation. The book often is seen as complex and paradoxical as the arguments and subjects of discussion are not those common to classical Western philosophy, such as the doctrine of Name Rectification (Zhengming) and correctly making „this/not-this” distinctions (shi/fei). Among the cast of characters in the Zhuangzi’s stories is Confucius.
The Daozang (道藏, Treasury of Tao) is sometimes referred to as the Taoist canon. It was originally compiled during the Jin, Tang, and Song dynasties. The version surviving today was published during the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Daozang includes almost 1500 texts. Following the example of the Buddhist Tripiṭaka, it is divided into three dong (洞, „caves”, „grottoes”). They are arranged from „highest” to „lowest”: – The Zhen („real” or „truth” 眞) grotto. Includes the Shangqing texts.- The Xuan („mystery” 玄) grotto. Includes the Lingbao scriptures.- The Shen („divine” 神) grotto. Includes texts predating the Maoshan （茅山） revelations.Daoshi generally do not consult published versions of the Daozang, but individually choose, or inherit, texts included in the Daozang. These texts have been passed down for generations from teacher to student. The Shangqing school has a tradition of approaching Taoism through scriptural study. It is believed that by reciting certain texts often enough one will be rewarded with immortality.
Other taoistic texts
While the Tao Te Ching is most famous, there are many other important texts in traditional Taoism including Mohism. Taishang Ganying Pian („Treatise of the Exalted One on Response and Retribution”) discusses sin and ethics, and has become a popular morality tract in the last few centuries. It asserts that those in harmony with Tao will live long and fruitful lives. The wicked, and their descendants, will suffer and have shortened lives. Both the Taiping Jing („Scripture on Great Peace”) and the Baopuzi („Book of the Master Who Keeps to Simplicity”) contain early alchemical formulas that early Taoists believed could lead to immortality.
Wudang Mountains, Feng Shui and Tao
The Wudang Mountains (simplified Chinese: 武当山; traditional Chinese: 武當山; pinyin: Wǔdāng Shān, pronounced [ùtɑ́ŋ ʂán]), also known as Wu Tang Shan or simply Wudang, are a small mountain range in the northwestern part of Hubei Province of People’s Republic of China, just to the south of the city of Shiyan.
On Chinese maps, the name „Wudangshan” (武当山) is applied both to the entire mountain range (which runs east-west along the southern edge of the Hanshui River valley, crossing several county-level divisions of Shiyan Prefecture-level city), and to the small group of peaks located within Wudangshan Jiedao of the Danjiangkou County-level City of the Shiyan Prefecture-level city. It is the latter specific area which is known as a Taoist center.
Modern maps show the elevation of the highest of the peaks in the Wudang Shan „proper” as 1612 meters; however, the entire Wudangshan range has somewhat higher elevations elsewhere. Some consider the Wudang Mountains to be a „branch” of the Daba Mountains range, which is a major mountain system of the western Hubei, Shaanxi, Chongqing and Sichuan.
In years past, the mountains of Wudang were known for the many Taoist monasteries to be found there, monasteries which became known as an academic centre for the research, teaching and practice of meditation, Chinese martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, Taoist agriculture practices, Feng Shui and related arts. As early as the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 AD), the mountain attracted the Emperor’s attention. During the Tang Dynasty (618–907), the first site of worship — the Five Dragon Temple — was constructed. Some of the monasteries were damaged during and after the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976, but the Wudang mountains have lately become increasingly popular with tourists from elsewhere in China and abroad due to their scenic location and historical interest.
The monasteries and buildings were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The palaces and temples in Wudang, which was built as an organized complex during the Ming Dynasty (14th–17th centuries), contains Taoist buildings from as early as the 7th century. It represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years. Noted temples include the Golden Hall, Nanyan Temple and the Purple Cloud Temple.
On January 19, 2003, the 600-year-old Yuzhengong Palace at the Wudang Mountains was accidentally burned down by an employee of a martial arts school. A fire broke out in the hall, reducing the three rooms that covered 200 square metres to ashes. A gold-plated statue of Zhang Sanfeng, which was usually housed in Yuzhengong, was moved to another building just before the fire, and so escaped destruction in the inferno.
According to legend, Zhang Sanfeng (张三丰), is the originator of Wudangquan generally and Taijiquan specifically. He was said to be inspired by a fight he witnessed between a pied magpie (also said to be a white crane) and a viper. From the early 20th century, Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang have been considered Wudang styles, following Sun Lutang. Following this classification the national martial arts tournament of the Central Guoshu Institute held in 1928 separated the participants into „Shaolin” and „Wudang”. The third biannual Traditional Wushu Festival was held in Wudang Mountains from October 28 to November 2, 2008.
While there are many different historical and modern schools of Taoism, with different teachings on the subject, it is safe to say that many Taoists regard their diet as extremely important to their physical, mental and spiritual health in one way or another, especially where the amount of qi in the food is concerned. Early Taoist diets were very different from present-day ones. While present-day Taoist diets call for eating lots of grains, ancient diets called for the eating of no grains at all. This was because early Taoists believed the rotting of the grains in the intestines attracted demonic creatures known as the 'three worms.’ These demons loved eating decaying matter in the intestines in the hope that they could kill the person and devour his corpse. Some Taoists advocated eliminating many foods from their diet. This position might have resulted from a mythological vision of an early „golden age” where humanity did not need to eat at all. An early Taoist text, the Taipingjing, suggests that early people who were living completely „as they are” (ziran) would not need food, but instead would live only by absorbing the cosmic qi of Yin and Yang. This ancient state has since fallen away, however, which is why the Celestial Master of the Taipingjing says that food is now one of two absolute essentials for human existence.
For regular eating Taoists believe in eating a frugal diet that is based primarily on cereals. Meals are served in order of seniority, with the elders being served first, and the youngest last. Every three, five, ten or fifteen days, some families will also observe a periodic vegetarian feast. For regular eating Taoists believe in eating a frugal diet that is based primarily on cereals. Meals are served in order of seniority, with the elders being served first, and the youngest last. Every three, five, ten or fifteen days, some families will also observe a periodic vegetarian feast. The regular diet is enhanced by the frequency of festivals which take place at least every ten to fifteen days. Each festival was associated with a certain kind of food. For example, the New Year’s festival’s special food is rice cake. During the Dragon Boat festival, it is steamed dumplings and glutinous rice packed in bamboo leaves, and during the Mid-Autumn Festival the special food is mooncakes. These festivals also give Taoists the opportunity to eat far more than their diet usually proscribes.
Taoists practice herbalism in their diets. Taoists believe that using different herbs in their food can help increase the positive energy in their bodies, and that by mixing two herbs with opposite effects they can decrease the negative energy and increase the positive energy (see Yin and Yang).
Basic Diet Guidelines
– Increase intake of the following
Vegetables (ideally organic and seasonal, stir fried or steamed, not boiled or eaten raw)
Fruit (in moderation; not tropical; ideally dried or baked, and only what is in season)
Seeds and nuts (roasted)
Herbs (although herbal usage is normally carefully prescribed)
Chinese and herbal tea
– Decrease intake of the following
Refined products (such as white sugar, flour, and bread)
Artificial additives/preservatives of any kind
Deep fried foods
Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine
Certain meats such as beef, pork and lamb
Certain vegetables such as spinach, potatoes, rhubarb.
Four Heavenly Symbols – Chinese constellation
For pratic Feng Shui or another Taoist practice Four Heavenly Creatures is needed. The Four Symbols (Chinese: 四象; pinyin: Sì Xiàng) are four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations. They are:- Azure Dragon of the East (青龍)- Vermilion Bird of the South (朱雀)- White Tiger of the West (白虎)- Black or Deep Tortoise of the North (玄武)Each one of them represents a direction and a season of the year, and each has its own individual characteristics and origins. They have been portrayed in many historical Chinese and Korean myths and fiction, and also appear in many modern Japanese comic books and animation.
These Four Symbols were given human names after Daoism became popular. Azure Dragon has the name Meng Zhang 孟章; Vermilion Bird is Ling Guang 陵光; White Tiger is Jian Bing 監兵; Black Tortoise is Zhi Ming 執明. The origin of those 4 symbols are from China. In the 1987, a tomb was found at Xishuipo (西水坡) in Puyang, Henan Province. There were some clam shells and bones forming the images of the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger and the Northern Dipper. It is believed that the tomb belongs to the Neolithic Age, about 6,000 years ago.
Each of these mythological creatures has also been synthesized into the 5 element system:- Azure Dragon of the East: Wood- Vermilion Bird of the South: Fire- White Tiger of the West: Metal- Black or Deep Tortoise of the North: WaterAdditionally, there is a fifth legendary beast, Huáng-lóng (黃龍), or the Yellow Dragon of the Center. The cardinal direction associated with this animal is „center,” and its element is Earth.
The four legendary beasts (excluding Huáng-lóng; see above) represent a season each. The seasons they represent are as follows:
– Azure Dragon of the East: Spring
– Vermilion Bird of the South: Summer
– White Tiger of the West: Autumn
– Black or Deep Blue Tortoise of the North: Winter
The Azure Dragon is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. It is sometimes called the Azure Dragon of the East (simplified Chinese: 东方青龙; traditional Chinese: 東方青龍; pinyin: Dōng Fāng Qīng Lóng, or sometimes simplified Chinese: 东方苍龙; traditional Chinese: 東方蒼龍; pinyin: Dōng Fāng Qīng(Cāng) Lóng), and it is known as Seiryuu in Japan, Cheongnyong in Korea, and Thanh Long in Vietnam. It represents the east and the spring season. It should not be confused with the mythological yellow dragon that is associated with the Emperor of China. It is also referred to in media, feng shui, other cultures, etc., as the Green Dragon and the Avalon Dragon.
Azure is a blue-cyan color on the HSV color wheel (Hue, Saturation, Value), also known as the RGB color wheel, at 210 degrees. Azure is the hue that is halfway between blue and cyan. Azure is one of the tertiary colors on the HSV color wheel. Its complementary color is orange. The word Azure is a near synonym for the color blue. Commonly it refers to a bright blue, resembling the sky on a bright, clear day.
As the other three Symbols, there are seven „mansions”, or positions, of the moon within Azure Dragon.
The names and determinative stars are:
Mansion no. – Name (pinyin) – Translation – Determinative star
1. 角 (Jiăo) – Horn – α Vir
2. 亢 (Kàng) – Neck – κ Vir
3. 氐 (Dĭ) – Root – α Lib
4. 房 (Fáng) – Room – π Sco
5. 心 (Xīn) – Heart – σ Sco
6. 尾 (Wěi) – Tail – μ Sco
7. 箕 (Jī) – Winnowing Basket – γ Sgr
In the novel Shuo Tang Yanyi (Tales of Tang Dynasty), the White Tiger’s star is reincarnated as General Luo Cheng (羅成 / 罗成), who served Li Shimin. The Azure Dragon’s Star is reincarnated as General Shan Xiongxin (單雄信 / 单雄信), who served Wang Shichong. The two generals are sworn brothers of Qin Shubao (秦叔寶 / 秦叔宝), Cheng Zhijie (程知節 / 程知节) & Yuchi Jingde (尉遲敬德 / 尉迟敬德). After death, their souls are said to possess heroes of the Tang & Liao dynasties, such as Xue Rengui (薛仁貴 / 薛仁贵) & He Suwen (郃苏文). In other legends, the Tang Dynasty general Xue Rengui is said to be the reincarnation of the White Tiger’s Star. While his archenemy, General He Suwen of the Liao Dynasty is said to be the reincarnation of the Azure Dragon’s Star.
Azure Dragon in Japan
In Japan, the Azure Dragon (Seiryuu) is one of the four guardian spirits of cities and is said to protect the city of Kyoto on the east. The west is protected by the White Tiger, the north is protected by the Black Tortoise, the south is protected by the Vermilion Bird, and the center is protected by the Yellow Dragon. In Kyoto there are temples dedicated to each of these guardian spirits. The Azure Dragon is represented in the Kiyomizu Temple in eastern Kyoto. Before the entrance of the temple there is a statue of the dragon which is said to drink from the waterfall within the temple complex at nighttime. Therefore each year a ceremony is held to worship the dragon of the east. In 1983, the Kitora Tomb was found in the village of Asuka. All four guardians were painted on the walls (in the corresponding directions) and a system of the constellations was painted on the ceiling. This is one of the few ancient records of the four guardians.
Vermilion Bird (Phoenix, Garuda)
The Vermilion bird is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. According to Wu Xing, the Taoist five-elemental system, it represents the fire-element, the direction south, and the season summer correspondingly. Thus it is sometimes called the Vermilion bird of the South (南方朱雀, Nán Fāng Zhū Què) and it is also known as Suzaku in Japan, Jujak in Korea and Chu Tước in Vietnam. It is often mistaken for the Fenghuang due to similarities in appearance, but the two are different creatures. The Fenghuang (Similar to the phoenix in western mythologies) are legendary ruler of birds associated with the Chinese Empress in the same way the dragon is associated with the Emperor, while the Vermilion Bird is a mythological spirit creature of the Chinese constellations.
Vermilion is an opaque orangish red pigment that has been used since antiquity. The naturally occurring pigment is known as cinnabar, a mineral in rock. Its name is derived from the French vermeil which was used to mean any red dye, and which itself comes from vermiculum, a red dye made from the insect Kermes vermilio. The word for the color red in Portuguese (vermelho) and Catalan (vermell) derives from this term. Most naturally produced vermilion comes from cinnabar mined in China, giving rise to its alternative name of China red.
As the other three Symbols, there are seven „mansions”, or positions, of the moon within Vermilion Bird.
The names and determinative stars are:
Mansion no. – Name (pinyin) – Translation – Determinative star
22. 井 (Jǐng) – Well – μ Gem
23. 鬼 (Guǐ) – Ghost – θ Cnc
24. 柳 (Liǔ) – Willow – δ Hya
25. 星 (Xīng) – Star – α Hya
26. 張 (Zhāng) – Extended Net – υ¹ Hya
27. 翼 (Yì) – Wings – α Crt
28. 軫 (Zhěn) – Chariot – γ Crv
The Vermilion bird is an elegant and noble bird in both appearance and behavior, it is very selective in what it eats and where it perches, with its feathers in many different hues of reddish orange.
The White Tiger is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. It is sometimes called the White Tiger of the West (西方白虎, Xī Fāng Bái Hǔ), and is known as Byakko in Japan, Baekho in Korea and Bạch Hổ in Vietnam. It represents the west and the autumn season.
As the other three Symbols, there are seven „mansions”, or positions, of the moon within White Tiger.
The names and determinative stars are:
Mansion no. – Name (pinyin) – Translation – Determinative star
15. 奎 (Kuí) – Legs – η And
16. 婁 (Lóu) – Bond – β Ari
17. 胃 (Wèi) – Stomach – 35 Ari
18. 昴 (Mǎo) – Hairy Head – 17 Tau
19. 畢 (Bì) – Net – ε Tau
20. 觜 (Zī) – Turtle Beak – λ Ori
21. 參 (Shēn) – Three Stars – ζ Ori
During the Han Dynasty, people believed the tiger to be the king of all beasts. According to legend the tiger’s tail would turn into white when it reached the age of 500 years. In this way, the white tiger became a kind of mythological creature. It was said that the white tiger would only appear when the emperor ruled with absolute virtue, or if there was peace throughout the world. Because the color white of the Chinese five elements also represents the west, the white tiger thus became a mythological guardian of the west.
In the novel Shuo Tang Yanyi (Tales of Tang Dynasty), the reincarnation of White Tiger’s Star is said to be Li Shimin’s general Luo Cheng (羅成) and the reincarnation of Azure Dragon’s Star is said to be the rebellious general Shan Xiongxin (單雄信). They two are sworn brothers of Qin Shubao (秦叔寶), Cheng Zhijie (程知節) and Yuchi Jingde (尉遲敬德). Their souls after death are said to possess the body of the new heroes of Tang Dynasty and Liao Dynasty, Xue Rengui (薛仁貴) and He Suwen (郃苏文).
In some legends of the Tang Dynasty’s general Xue Rengui, he is said to be the reincarnation of the White Tiger’s Star, and his archenemy, the Liao Dynasty’s prince He Suwen is the reincarnation of the Azure Dragon’s Star.
The Black or Abstruse Tortoise is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. It is sometimes called the Black Warrior of the North (北方玄武, Běi Fāng Xuán Wǔ), and is known as Genbu in Japan, Hyeonmu in Korea and Huyền Vũ in Vietnam. It represents the north and the winter season. Although its name in Chinese, Xuánwǔ, is often translated as Black Tortoise in English, it is usually depicted as both a tortoise and a snake, specifically with the snake coiling around the tortoise.
As the other three Symbols, there are seven „mansions”, or positions, of the moon within Black Tortoise.
The names and determinative stars are:
Mansion no. – Name (pinyin) – Translation – Determinative star
8. 斗 (Dǒu) – (Southern) Dipper – φ Sgr
9. 牛 (Niú) – Ox – β Cap
10. 女 (Nǚ) – Girl – ε Aqr
11. 虛 (Xū) – Emptiness – β Aqr
12. 危 (Wēi) – Rooftop – α Aqr
13. 室 (Shì) – Encampment – α Peg
14. 壁 (Bì) – Wall – γ Peg
In ancient China, the tortoise and the snake were thought to be spiritual creatures symbolising longevity. During the Han Dynasty, people often wore jade pendants that were in the shape of tortoises. Because of ancient Chinese influence on Japan, honorific titles and badges in Japan often referred to the tortoise or images of tortoises.
In the classic novel, Journey to the West, Xuánwǔ was a king of the north who had two generals serving under him, a „Tortoise General” and a „Snake General.” This king had a temple at Wudang Mountains in Hubei, thus there is a „Tortoise Mountain” and a „Snake Mountain” on the opposite sides of a river in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei. In Taoist legend it was said that Xuánwǔ was the prince of a Chinese Emperor. However, he was not interested in taking the throne, but decided to study in Tao’s way. At age 16, he left his parents to search for enlightenment in Tao’s way. It was said that he eventually achieved god status and was worshipped as a god of northern sky.
Other Chinese legends also speak of how the „Tortoise General” and a „Snake General” came to be. During Xuánwǔ’s study to achieve enlightenment and god status he was told that in order to fully achieve god status, he must purge all humanly flesh from his body. Since he was born he had been eating the food of the world, humanly food, therefore his stomach and intestines were still human. Legend told of an event that a god came and changed out his human stomach and intestines for a godly body so he could fully achieve god status. (It was also said that the stomach and intestines that were tossed out became the „Tortoise Mountain” and „Snake Mountain”.) The stomach and intestines taken out by the god who did the surgery on Xuánwǔ were said to have taken on the shape of a tortoise (stomach) and a snake (intestines). As many Chinese legends speak of certain animals becoming demons over time as they gain knowledge, that’s what the tortoise and snake became, and terrorized people. As Xuánwǔ, now in his god status, heard of this, he came and slayed the demons from his past. However, he did not kill them, as the snake and tortoise demons showed remorse. He let them train under him and atone for their wrong doings, and they became the „Tortoise General” and „Snake General”, and they assisted Xuánwǔ with his quests.
According to another source, once Xuánwǔ’s had begun study of the way, he discovered that he must purge himself of all his past sins to become a god. He learned to achieve this by washing his stomach and bowels (intestines) in the river. In the washing of his internal organs, his sins melted from them and into the river in a dark, black form. These then formed into a black tortoise and snake who terrorized the people. Once Xuánwǔ learned of this, he returned to conquer the forms of this past sins and subdue them under himself and they became his servants.North gates of Chinese palaces were often named Xuanmu Gate after the mythological creature. The place Li Shimin set to kill his brothers Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji is the gate named Xuanwumen, i.e. the north gate of the Tang palace.
Wu Xing – Five Elements of the Nature
The Wu Xing, also known as the Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, and the Five Steps/Stages, are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device, in many traditional Chinese fields. It is sometimes translated as Five Elements, but the Wu Xing are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device, hence the preferred translation of „movements”, „phases” or „steps” over „elements”. By the same token, Mu is thought of as „Tree” rather than „Wood”.
The five elements are:
Wood, Tree (Chinese: 木, pinyin: mù)
Fire (Chinese: 火, pinyin: huǒ)
Earth (Chinese: 土, pinyin: tǔ)
Metal, Gold (Chinese: 金, pinyin: jīn)
Water (Chinese: 水, pinyin: shuǐ)
The system of five phases was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. It was employed as a device in many fields of early Chinese thought, including seemingly disparate fields such as geomancy or Feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy and martial arts. The system is still used as a reference in some forms of complementary and alternative medicine and martial arts. Some who claim the original foundation of these are the concept of the Five Cardinal Points.
The doctrine of five phases describes two basic cycles, a generating or creation (生, shēng) cycle, also known as „mother-son”, and an overcoming or destruction (剋/克, kè) cycle, also known as „grandfather-nephew”, of interactions between the phases.
The common memory jogs, which help to remind in what order the phases are:
Wood (Tree) feeds Fire; Fire creates Earth (ash); Earth bears Metal (Gold); Metal (Gold) carries Water (as in a bucket or tap, or water condenses on metal); Water nourishes Wood (Tree).
Wood (Tree) absorbs Water; Water rusts Metal (Gold); Metal (Gold) breaks up Earth; Earth smothers Fire; Fire burns Wood.
Other common words for this cycle include „begets”, „engenders” and „mothers.”
Wood parts Earth (such as roots; or, Trees can prevent soil erosion);Earth absorbs (or muddies) Water (or Earth dam control the water);Water quenches Fire;Fire melts Metal;Metal chops Wood.This cycle might also be called „controls”, „restrains” or „fathers”.
Feng Shui and Tea site
There are spring, summer, fall, and winter teas. Perennial Tea Ceremony (Perennial, literally means four steps or sequences that are linked together and each one represents a season of the year). The tea ceremony includes four tea settings(茶席) and a tea master(司茶), below are the four settings:
– earth, center incense, yellow, up and down
– wood, 春風(Spring Wind), green, east
– fire, 夏露(Summer Dew), red, south
– metal, 秋籟(Fall Sounds), white, west
– water, 冬陽(Winter Sunshine) black, north
Each tea setting is arranged and stands for the four directions (north, south, east, and west). A vase of the seasons flowers are put on tea table. Some times if four tea masters are include then five chairs are arranged per each tea setting, making a total of twenty plus the 4 tea masters equalling 24, which symbolizes the 24 solar terms of the Chinese calendar, and represents that nature continues or is perennial.
Wu Xing for Feng Shui
Although it is usually translated as 'element’ the Chinese word xing literally means something like 'changing states of being’, 'permutations’ or 'metamorphoses of being’. In fact Sinologists cannot agree on one single translation. The Chinese conception of 'element’ is therefore quite different from the Western one. The Western elements were seen as the basic building blocks of matter. The Chinese 'elements’, by contrast, were seen as ever changing and moving forces or energies—one translation of xing is simply 'the five changes’. The balance of yin and yang and the five elements in a person’s make-up has a major bearing on what is beneficial and effective for them in terms of feng shui, the Chinese form of geomancy. This is because each element is linked to a particular direction and season, and their different kinds of qì or life force.
木 Wood, Tree
The Planet Jupiter （木星）
The Color Green（緑）
Liver (Chinese medicine)（肝）and Gall bladder (Chinese medicine)（胆）
Vermilion Bird/Vermilion Phoenix（朱雀）
The Planet Mars（火星）
The Color Red（赤）
Circulatory system & Heart (Chinese medicine)（心）& Small Intestine (小肠)
Centre（中）Change of seasons (the last month of the season)
The Yellow Dragon（黄龙）
The Planet Saturn（土星）
The Color Yellow（黄）
Digestive system, Spleen (Chinese medicine)（脾）and Stomach (Chinese medicine)（胃）
金 Metal, Gold
White Tiger (Chinese constellation)（白虎）
The Planet Venus（金星）
The Color White, Sun White（白）
Respiratory system & Lung (Chinese medicine)（肺）& Large Intestine(大肠)
The North （北）
The Planet Mercury（水星）
The Color Black or better Deep Blue（黑）
Skeletal (骨), Urinary Bladder & Kidney (Chinese medicine) （肾）
Chinese astrology is based on the traditional astronomy and calendars. The development of Chinese astrology is tied to that of astronomy, which came to flourish during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BC to 2nd century AD). Chinese astrology has a close relation with Chinese philosophy (theory of the three harmony, heaven, earth and water) and different „principles” to Western: the wu xing teachings, yin and yang, astronomy: five planet, the 10 Celestial stems, the 12 Earthly Branches, the lunisolar calendar (moon calendar and sun calendar), the time calculation after year, month, day and shichen (時辰).
The 5 classical planets are associated with the Wu Xing:
Venus—Metal (White Tiger)
Jupiter—Wood (Azure Dragon)
Mercury—Water (Black Tortoise)
Mars—Fire (Vermilion Bird) (may or may not be associated with the phoenix which was also an imperial symbol along with the dragon)
Saturn—Earth (Yellow Dragon)
According to Chinese astrology, a person’s destiny can be determined by the position of the major planets at the person’s birth along with the positions of the Sun, Moon and comets and the person’s time of birth and Zodiac Sign. The system of the twelve-year cycle of animal signs was built from observations of the orbit of Jupiter (the Year Star; simplified Chinese: 岁星; traditional Chinese: 歳星; pinyin: Suìxīng). Following the orbit of Jupiter around the sun, Chinese astronomers divided the celestial circle into 12 sections, and rounded it to 12 years (from 11.86). Jupiter is associated with the constellation Sheti (simplified Chinese: 摄提; traditional Chinese: 攝提- Boötes) and is sometimes called Sheti.
A laborious system of computing one’s fate and destiny based on one’s birthday, birth season, and birth hours, known as Zi Wei Dou Shu (simplified Chinese: 紫微斗数; traditional Chinese: 紫微斗數; pinyin: zǐwēidǒushù) is still used regularly in modern day Chinese astrology to divine one’s fortune. The 28 Chinese constellations, Xiu (Chinese: 宿; pinyin: xìu), are quite different from the 88 Western constellations. For example, the Big Bear (Ursa Major) is known as Dou (Chinese: 斗; pinyin: dǒu); the belt of Orion is known as Shen (simplified Chinese: 参; traditional Chinese: 參; pinyin: shēn), or the „Happiness, Fortune, Longevity” trio of demigods. The seven northern constellations are referred to as Xuan Wu (Chinese: 玄武; pinyin: xúanwǔ). Xuan Wu is also known as the spirit of the northern sky or the spirit of Water in Taoism belief.
In addition to astrological readings of the heavenly bodies, the stars in the sky form the basis of many fairy tales. For example, the Summer Triangle is the trio of the cowherd (Altair), the weaving maiden fairy (Vega), and the „tai bai” fairy (Deneb). The two forbidden lovers were separated by the silvery river (the Milky Way). Each year on the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese calendar, the birds form a bridge across the Milky Way. The cowherd carries their two sons (the two stars on each side of Altair) across the bridge to reunite with their fairy mother. The tai bai fairy acts as the chaperone of these two immortal lovers.
The 60-year cycle consists of two separate cycles interacting with each other. The first is the cycle of ten heavenly stems, namely the Five Elements (in order Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water) in their Yin and Yang forms. The second is the cycle of the twelve Zodiac animal signs (生肖 shēngxiào) or Earthly Branches . They are in order as follows: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep (ram or goat), monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. In Vietnam the rabbit is replaced by the cat.
This combination creates the 60-year cycle due to the least amount of years (least common multiple) it would take to get from Yang Wood Rat to its next iteration, which always starts with Yang Wood Rat and ends with Yin Water Boar. Since the zodiac animal cycle of 12 is divisible by two, every zodiac sign can also only occur in either Yin or Yang: the dragon is always yang, the snake is always yin, etc. The current cycle began in 1984 (as shown in „Table of the sixty year calendar” below). When trying to traverse the lunisolar calendar, an easy rule to follow is that years that end in an even number are yang, those that end with an odd number are yin. The cycle proceeds as follows:
If the year ends in 0 it is Yang Metal.
If the year ends in 1 it is Yin Metal.
If the year ends in 2 it is Yang Water.
If the year ends in 3 it is Yin Water.
If the year ends in 4 it is Yang Wood.
If the year ends in 5 it is Yin Wood.
If the year ends in 6 it is Yang Fire.
If the year ends in 7 it is Yin Fire.
If the year ends in 8 it is Yang Earth.
If the year ends in 9 it is Yin Earth.
However, since the (traditional) Chinese zodiac follows the (lunisolar) Chinese calendar, the switch-over date is the Chinese New Year, not January 1 as in the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, a person who was born in January or early February may have the sign of the previous year. For example, if a person was born in January 1970, his or her element would still be Yin Earth, not Yang Metal. Similarly, although 1990 was called the year of the horse, anyone born from January 1 to January 26, 1990, was in fact born in the Year of the Snake (the sign of the previous year), because the 1990 Year of the Horse did not begin until January 27, 1990. For this reason, many online sign calculators (and Chinese restaurant place mats) may give a person the wrong sign if he/she was born in January or early February. The start of a new Zodiac is also celebrated on Chinese New Year along with many other customs.
The zodiac of twelve animal signs represents twelve different types of personality. The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, and there are many stories about the Origins of the Chinese Zodiac which explain why this is so. The following are the twelve zodiac signs in order and their characteristics. Each of the 12 animals are governed by an element plus a Yin Yang Direction.
Due to confusion with synonyms during translation, some of the animals depicted by the English words did not exist in ancient China. For example, 羊 can mean Ram, Goat or Sheep. Similarly, 鼠 (Rat) can also be translated as Mouse, as there are no distinctive words for the two genera in Chinese. Further, 豬 (Pig) is sometimes translated to Boar after its Japanese name, and 牛 plainly means Cow or Ox, and not Water Buffalo. Water Buffalo is 水牛。
– Rat (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water).
– Ox (Water buffalo in Vietnam), (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water).
– Tiger (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood).
– Rabbit (Cat in Vietnam) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood).
– Dragon (Snail in Kazakhstan) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood).
– Snake (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire).
– Horse (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire).
– Ram (Goat in Vietnam) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire).
– Monkey (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal).
– Rooster (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal).
– Dog (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal).
– Pig (Boar in Japan) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water).
The animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself. It is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs, and many western descriptions of Chinese astrology draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month, day, and hours of the day. The combination of one’s birth year, month, day and hour are a part of the 'four pillars’ of Chinese astrology which determine one’s fate. To sum it up, while a person might appear to be a dragon because they were born in the year of the dragon, they might also be a snake based on their birth month and an ox based on their birthday and a Ram based on their birth hour.
The Shēngxiào (Chinese: 生肖), better known in English as the Chinese Zodiac, is a scheme that relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes, according to a 12-year cycle. It has wide currency in several East Asian countries such as Korea and Japan. Identifying this scheme using the term „zodiac” reflects several similarities to the Western zodiac: both have time cycles divided into 12 parts, each labels at least the majority of those parts with names of animals, and each is widely associated with a culture of attributing influence of a person’s relationship to the cycle upon their personality and/or events in their life. Nevertheless, there are major differences: the „Chinese” 12-part cycle is divided into years rather than months; contrary to the association with animals implied in the Greek etymology of „zodiac”, actually four of the Western „signs” or „houses” are represented by humans (one such sign being the twins „Gemini”) and one is the inanimate balance scale „Libra”; the animals of the Chinese zodiac are not associated with constellations, let alone those spanned by the ecliptic plane.
In Chinese astrology, the symbolic stars (Chinese: Shen Sha 神煞, pinyin: shén shā) represent different relations of the specific positions and interactions of the heavenly stems and earthly branches.The symbolic stars are sometimes literally translated as „Gods & devils”, but in fact they do not relate to any ghosts and celestial beings. Shen means beneficial influence, and Sha means baneful influence of the cyclical signs of the heavenly stems and earthly branches. The calculation of the symbolic stars is logically connected to the theory of Yin and Yang, Five Elements, 10 Gods theory, Na Yin melodic elements theory, 12 Energy States, etc. The symbolic stars are like the “leaves” of the heavenly stems and earthly branches in the big tree of Chinese astrology and can provide a very specific information in the horoscope analysis. The symbolic stars are used in many methods of Chinese astrology and metaphysics: Four Pillars of Destiny, Zi wei dou shu, Da Liu Ren, and Feng Shui. There are more than 180 symbolic stars in Chinese astrology.
Four Pillars of Destiny
Four Pillars of Destiny is a Chinese conceptual term that describes the four components creating a person’s destiny or fate. The four components within the moment of birth are year, month, day, and hour. The four pillars is used alongside fortune telling practices such as Zǐ wēi dòu shù within the realm of Chinese Astrology.
The four pillars is an English translation of the Chinese dynastic phrase „Shēng Chén Bā Zì”. The Chinese term (生辰八字, ShēngChén BāZì) translates to „The Eight Characters of Birth Time”. This is also referred to by the Chinese term (四柱命理學, Sì Zhù MìngLǐ Xué) which translates to Study of „Four Pillars of Life” Principles.
Commonly referred to by the shortened terms, „Four Pillars” or „BāZì”, one of the most frequently used alternate phrase is „Four Pillars of your birth time”. It is called BāZì (八字), Eight Characters, because each of the four pillars (representing the year, month, day, and hour of one’s birth respectively) is represented by two characters; one character for a Heavenly Stem and one character for an Earthly Branch. There are 10 Heavenly Stems (天干; TiānGān) and 12 Earthly Branches (地支; DìZhī). The 12 zodiac animal reference is a folkloric representation of the 12 Earthly Branches.
Yuan Hai Zi Ping (simplified Chinese: 渊海子平; traditional Chinese: 淵海子平; pinyin: Yuān Hǎi Zǐ Píng) is the first comprehensive and systematic book on the theory of Four Pillars of Destiny. The book was compiled by Xu Dasheng (徐大升) of the Song Dynasty of China and was a recording of various Zi Ping’s fortune-telling methods. The method involves manipulation of the Four Pillars (Ba Zi)or eight Chinese characters which form the date and time of birth according to the traditional Chinese calendar. The names of the book’s chapters are:
– Ten Gods
– Symbolic stars
– Six Types of Family Members
– Fortunes of Females
– Fortune-telling Verses
Feng Shui small tips
Feng Shui is no magic. It is a collection of practical, time-tested solutions based on the fundamental properties of elements that are used to change the negative aspects and introduce the positive aspects of each element to your living environment — and change your life for the better. Feng Shui has had a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the globe — and you can have its benefits work for you! By simply changing the interior of your home, changing the colors of your walls, or relocating the furniture in your bedroom, you can enjoy the positive effects of Feng Shui.
Improving the Flow, Transformation, and Containment of Qi:
1. Remove shoes before entering a home. There should be no shoes or slippers lying around outside the main door of your house. Don’t take your problems in with you. Don’t invite negative energy or vibes into your home or place of business.
2. Cook at least one meal a day and eat at the table as a family.
3. Never have knives on show – even in a block.
4. Always sit or stand facing the door (or its reflection). Arrange furniture so you can face the doors while sitting (or add a mirror so you can see behind you).
5. Keep the toilet lid down. Closing toilet lid made it quieter and seems to stop money from going down the drain.
6. Keep bathroom and laundry doors closed.
7. Don’t sleep under white blankets or doonas. Don’t face a mirror while sleeping. Do not sleep next to the toilet wall.
8. Don’t sleep with your feet facing the bedroom door. The bed should always be position against a solid wall. This is to symbolize support. Keep your bathroom doors closed when you sleep.
9. Don’t sleep next to the wall that has the meter box on it.
10. Be careful of having too many crystals in your home because crystals can be very energetic as well as transfer and transform great amounts of positive and negative energies.
11. If your front door is in line with a tree or the door of the house opposite, place a Ba Gua mirror above the outside of the door.
12. Never have a Ba Gua mirror in the house. They are far too powerful. Learn more about Ba Gua.
13. For monetary wealth, you will likely want to focus on your southeast corner. The Chi (Qi) in this area is especially strong for building fortunes. It is commonly thought that “much of China’s trade occurred in southeastern coastal cities.
14. Not having my back to the door has helped me work easier.
15. Cleaning up clutter helped me relax (ie. I could find things easier!).
16. Widening and cleaning the front path makes coming home more inviting.
17. Putting a large mirror behind the stove made it so I wouldn’t be surprised when someone came up behind me (and helped prosperity… though that isn’t as logical).
18. Putting a mirror up at the end of a hallway makes it not seem like a dead end.
19. Making paths between rooms and through rooms wide and easy to use allows me to walk around easily (as well as get the chi to move).
20. Oiling doors so they didn’t squeak reduced irritation.
21. Adding something I love to the view I get when opening my front door makes coming home feel more welcoming.
22. Making the environment much more comfortable (sitting away from drafts, adjusting lights, etc.)Add crystal balls on the ceiling to help move the energy of your space. Add wind chimes or musical instruments to regulate energy. Add colors or art to bring in desired energy. Add trees, flagpoles or upward pointing lighting to raise energy. Add a properity frog to your living room for more money.
23. Not to sleep just between the window and the door…
24. Remove any wooden furniture and remove any column or objects from the center of rooms or house. Get rid of clutter because most clutter is negative and it disrupts the flow of chi, which is life energy. It is especially important to remove clutter from the center of your house or rooms. This area is considered the heart and/or center of the house and rooms. It is important to keep the center of your home clutter free to allow positive energy, „Qi,” to flow throughout your home. Do not place any heavy objects in this area. Also, your home center is a good place for happy pictures of loved ones, harmonious bells or chimes, a fountain, or any items that mean something special to you.
25. The bedroom is you spend a great deal of your time, so it’s an important room for your health. Reducing electromagnetic fields is one of the best things you can do for better health. Remove all electrical appliances from the bedroom if possible. If not, place them at least 8 feet (2,5 m) from the bed. Things like electric blankets or waterbeds are the worst offenders, due to the proximity to your body.
26. Leave an open path – For energy to flow, there must be a smooth sense of direction or „chi.” To maintain freely moving „chi,” make sure you can easily walk around without bumping into heavy furniture or unnecessary objects. Physically, create a walking path around your room, and walk this path. If furniture or other bulky items are blocking your path, remove them to make way for „chi.”
27. Let there be light and air – Create a sense of flowing energy or „yang” by opening up curtains or blinds in your bedroom. Remove heavy, dark drapery that blocks sunlight. Promote a natural sense of calm by painting your room in hues of soft blues and pastel greens.
28. Place an indoor water fountain in your home, position in a favourable area to attract whatever you want in your life.
29. Money is attracted to a clean and working home. Look at rich elegant homes, there is order and cleanliness. Now picture poor areas of living. There is a big difference between the two. Fix anything that is broken. In feng shui if it’s broken it means your broke. Either fix it, replace it, or just let it go. Replace dead batteries, burned out light bulbs, candles. Fix anything that is not working. When things work, things will start happening for you. This brings fire energy and creates action.
30. Whenever possible, treat yourself to some freshly cut flowers. Many people wait for others to give them flowers on special occasions. Try to stop thinking of flowers as a luxury item and instead, think of flowers as food for the soul. Fresh blossoms have a magical effect on a space, they bring beauty, color, and scent to any room which immediately uplifts your spirits and your Feng Shui.
31. Do not occupy or buy a house which faces the sharp edge of the roof of a house. The sharp edge represents a knife pointing towards you and your home, denoting unrest and instability.
32. Windows, whenever practical, should be opened for at least twenty four minutes daily to allow energy to flow into the house.
33. Pictures of flowers, birds, or peaceful landscapes help set a peaceful tone for the room and create calm and quiet. Cityscapes and ships sailing on stormy seas create an opposite effect. If you put up pictures of flower buds or birds in duos, you encourage the sustaining of a relationship and fidelity. Having single pictures of birds or blossoms in duos can help you meditate on the goal of finding a true love.
34. According to Feng Shui theory, corners or any sharp, pointed objects are “poison arrows” that carry ill fortune and direct negative energy toward whatever they face. If they point toward the bed, they can interrupt sleep. If you can’t move the offending objects, try re-angling your bed so that you don’t face any of these potential energy-sappers when you are trying to get some rest.
35. According to Feng Shui theory, corners or any sharp, pointed objects are “poison arrows” that carry ill fortune and direct negative energy toward whatever they face. If they point toward the bed, they can interrupt sleep. If you can’t move the offending objects, try re-angling your bed so that you don’t face any of these potential energy-sappers when you are trying to get some rest.
36. Candles can create a peaceful and comforting atmosphere anywhere in your home, except for any eastern sector of your home. Burning candles in the Eastern sector is considered to be bad luck because it brings on fevers and unreasonable behavior. This is an old Feng Shui superstition but there may be something to it, so try to keep your burning tapers in the other directional areas of your home. Only when spiritual altar is during particular ceremony you may have burn andles on eastern sector of your room or hause.
It will come as no surprise to you that some of these tips are just mere common sense. You’ve probably been practicing Feng Shui for years without even knowing it! Keep in mind that a few small changes can make the world of difference toward creating a peaceful, harmonious living environment! Since Feng Shui affects every aspect of the people living in a space, it is important to optimize the practice for a specific goal. In other words, if so-called improvements are made without a master plan, the energy will not be properly focused.
Place live plants in your home – instead of decorating with candles, vases, and other items, choose a few large plants. You can even take it a step farther and grow some useful indoor plants, like aloe to use for burns or herbs to use in your kitchen. Try to use plants that are native to your local area, not exotic plants that had to be shipped in (and thus have a larger carbon footprint). Plants that have coin-shaped leaves are especially good for promoting prosperity.
Misconception, even among Feng Shui „experts,” is that mirrors can manipulate the flow of Ch’i as a metal (gold) element. Some will say that mirrors can absorb good energy and deflect bad energy, while others will say they treat all energy equally, intensifying it and making a room more active. The truth is that in traditional Feng Shui mirrors are used to comb your hair or to make a room look larger – not to enhance harmony or manipulate energy. The only exception was hundreds of years ago when mirrors were actually made of metal. Today’s mirrors have no metal in them and they should not be used as anything other than a visual reflector or expander. There are special magical mirrors made from metals for special purpose with energy.
It is easy to get excited about Feng Shui and many people get carried away when they first discover the principles of this art. Remember that even small changes can have a tremendous impact on a space and consider making modifications gradually. Take care with each positioning, attend to the way it affects the other objects in the room and examine the changes it brings about.
Red is a very active color and invites a lot of energy into a space. It is frequently considered to be the luckiest color. However, red can easily be overused, since large areas of red can agitate and cause harm such as accidents and illness. There is necesary to balance between red and blue as yin and yang.
Green is a strong color in feng shui and stands for growth and peace. This is the exact environment most teachers strive for in their classrooms, so use green for steady decor in the space that won’t be changed for seasons or holidays. According to Feng Shui, green „is considered to be a color of freshness, growth, and peace” so try adding cushions or pillows in light, subtle shades to give your office soothing energy with a punch of personality.
Blue is a magnificent feng shui color. Blue color according to Feng Shui has yin energy, so it is cold color. It ranges from gentle aqua blue to the blue-green of the ocean to the deep indigo blue. In feng shui, we associate blue with the clear sky and the healing, refreshing waters. It reflects love as it heals and relaxes. Blue creates a feeling of peace and trust. Blue is known to create a calming effect and in feng shui is known to promote learning and aptitude, particularly for students. Increase your students’ drive by adding this color in areas that they will see every day. Incorporating the color blue into your home office helps include an association with the element „water.” Blue is a soothing color and is best used in the East and Southeast areas of the room. According to Feng Shui, painting the ceiling blue is a great way to not only add color to your office, but to improve productivity and promote good energy.
Feng shui-wise, color blue belongs to the Water feng shui element. Since it is the color of the sea and sky, Feng Shui associates it with adventure and exploration. Navy blue is the color of intellect and wisdom. This color is excellent for use in the feng shui bagua areas of East (Health & Family) and Southeast (Wealth & Abundance) of your home or office, as Water energy nourishes the Wood element of these two feng shui areas. You can bring the needed blue color as wall color, art depicting blue, or various decor items. Gentle blue is an excellent feng shui choice for a home office or a child’s study, especially as a ceiling color. Several studies have shown that children performed better under the blue-colored ceiling then under the typical white color one.
Light blue is also the feng shui color of harmonious expansion and gentle growth, while darker blue evokes the feng shui energy of deep calm and serenity. Depending on your feng shui priorities, you might want to introduce some deep blue elements into your bedroom to promote better sleep or a gentle playful aqua in the living room of a big and busy family. Deep blue should be used sparingly in the feng shui areas of South, Northwest and West areas of your home or office, and freely in the North, East and Southeast. One of the most calming feng shui combinations is the combination of the blue and white colors, as it brings the energy of unlimited sky and happiness to one’s home.
Blue is the color of the sky and water, of peace and meditation. Its major quality used in Feng Shui is the ability to calm down, bring to the soul harmony and desire to explore the world and own place in it. Therefore, blue color should be used in the interior of the room purposed for spending relaxed leisure time, thinking or meditation. However, in order to relax in a calm atmosphere there is no need to have a totally blue room. Instead, decorate some area of the house with blue accessories – that will be a good place that attracts additional energy of water and help to concentrate and arrange the thoughts. Blue it is a cold color, so in interior design it should be used carefully and thoroughly, especially in cold climates and old seasons. On one hand, blue can symbolize a mystery, help to grow spiritually and create a feeling of coolness. On the other hand, this cold color should be avoided in cold rooms and premises purposed for eating.
It might be a good idea to have a least one set of blue bedclothes. Sleep on it the night before an important business meeting or event, so that blue color overrides passion and emotions to clear sober intellect. Blue bedclothes also help to restore psychological energy, calms down the nervous system and normalize mental processes. Blue, like all the other colors of water, is ideal for decorating rooms that are ruled by this element, such as bathrooms, for instance. It is useful to concentrate attention on this light color for around 5-10 minutes per day. Watching some blue object during 5 minutes will help to bring thoughts into order, replenish vital energy, and make a person more convincing, decisive and eloquent. However, light blue is not the best choice for light-minded people, because it relaxes and makes them even sparser.
Dark blue, as well as even more saturated indigo color, sharpens the intuition and stimulates spiritual development of people. These colors are good for decorating Bagua areas of family and knowledge. In Feng Shui area of knowledge and wisdom blue, as the color of Feng Shui water element, will be helping to concentrate, study and explore new things. It is also the color of independence and thirst for adventures. Light blue is delicate and affectionate color of the sky, which has an ability of activate mental activity of people. This color is believed to cool and calm down the body and mind. For that reason light blue is not best color for decorating homes in cold climates. The only rooms where blue color might appropriate is a bathroom and a rest room. In these premises the coldness of blue helps people to free the body form “energy litter”. Light blue clears thoughts, disperses negative energy received form other people, and helps to cope with negative emotional states. Light blue is a very favorable color for children over 7. It helps them to discover and develop their natural talents and abilities. Dark blue color improves intuition, while light blue activates mental abilities of people.
In many homes in which Feng Shui has been practiced, the environment has been optimized for only one of the individuals living in the home. For example, a wife may be happy in the home, while her husband is uncomfortable. Proper Feng Shui takes into account the chi of all of the members of the household.
Your front entrance creates a first impression for you, for others, and for unlimited opportunities to come your way. It sets the intention for the rest of your home. Every time you drive up, your house either emanates an aura of success, abundance, and pride, or a feeling of disarray, laziness, and misfortune. Your home must welcome you, your guests, and all of your opportunities with loving, open arms. Before these „opportunities” ring the doorbell, your goal is to flood them with beauty, happiness, and comfort. While they wait for you to answer the door, give them multiple reasons to generate positive thoughts about you.
People frequently grasp one or two principles of Feng Shui and follow them religiously without regard to the big picture. In Feng Shui all things are inter-related, and the position of one object relative to another may be as important as the fact of its presence. Skilled Feng Shui consultants have completed extensive study of Feng Shui and consider the goals of people living and working in a space as well as the basic rules of the practice.
(Excerpts from Master L.M.B. lectures)