Feng Shui In The Landscape 

Anne Walsh

"It is the quality of the chi that is important and ther are many ways of ensuring that the chi is of high quality and can create health.

Good quality chi provides us with a healthy environment, and there are certain aspects that will interfere with that chi"  

Over the last two years or so you may have read articles about Feng Shui and you probably got the idea that it's something like a mystic interior design strategy, but it is actually a lot deeper than that.  In fact it is one of the five branches of traditional Chinese medicine. It is a very ancient knowledge, more than 5,000 years in existence. 

Whilst I believe that the spelling Feng Shui is universal, the pronunciation varies, I would pronounce it 'Fung Shway', if I was Chinese, or 'Fung Shui', if I was Japanese, or 'Fung Soy' in part of Malaysia . You can take your pick.

It is really a study of the effect that the environment has on us. The two words Feng Shui literally mean 'wind' and 'water', but the Chinese themselves have a very simple way of looking at it; as 'good luck - bad luck' or 'good fortune  -  bad fortune'.  Its basic tenet is that all life has energy permeating it and that energy is called 'chi', and the quality of the chi is what really gives us our health and wellbeing and it enables us to progress in life and to link with the divine.  The chi is cosmic chi, and at times when we are very quiet, we can be very much aware of that. For example if we go into a very beautiful and quiet place we may become aware of chi.

I well remember one particular such experience, standing in Killarney, looking out over the lakes and watching the ripples on the water - that really, if you think about it, is the cosmic chi, or cosmic breath, soft breezes playing in the environment, and in a way that is what gives life to all living things and everything that grows, both vegetable and animal.

It is the quality of the chi that is important and there are many ways of ensuring that the chi is of high quality and can create health.

Good quality chi provides us with a healthy environment, and there are certain aspects that will interfere with that quality.

The main energies that we talk about are wind energy, air energy and water energy.  Water energy is extremely important because it is what energises the earth, it's what feeds the plants and so it is very important for any water in the landscape to be very clear, and that which makes it unclear is stagnation, so the important thing is to keep water flowing.

I am talking here about a domestic landscape, a site around a home, but it could equally be a business area or business park If you have a water feature do not allow it to stagnate, because that is what causes negative energy and will ultimately bring our energy levels down as humans and also that of the plants and animals around us.   

If you are involved in landscaping or if you are working on your own garden, and you have a water feature there, it is important to keep it moving fairly quickly, but the speed of the chi is all important, if you let the water stagnate it does lead to disease and can stagnate the whole area. It may be the case that there isn’t adequate drainage around your home or the site you are working on. It is a subtle matter because it causes people to feel depressed and out of sorts and feel below par. With water features it is better to have some living animals on or in the water if it is at all possible, bird-life like ducks or fish or anything that keeps the water agitated or moving at a fairly fast pace.

However, if the water goes too quickly, it actually takes away the nutrients and the plant life does not actually benefit It is most important to achieve the correct water speed.  If the water is too fast you must put in some sort of dam, depending on how large the area is of course, just to slow down the flow of the water.  If it's just a small area you can put in rocks or stones, and this is what might be described as effecting a cure.

In Feng Shui the five elements used in traditional Chinese medicine are the all important elements, and everything goes back to these five elements namely:  water, wood, fire, earth and metal.  Those five elements work in that order, that is known as the productive cycle.  There is naturally a destructive cycle as well and when I said to you to put stones into the fast flowing water, the stone represents earth and that is the element that will take the energy from the water.

It is important to realise that in any particular site where there are humans, or where there might be a farm for example, the actual site itself needs to be looked at.  There are particular dimensions that are considered to be  important.  If you have a house or farmland on a site it is considered very good to have the length of the house behind twice the width in front. (e.g. 20ms long by 10ms wide)   The space around the building is also very important because that allows the energy to flow in a very positive kind of way.

When I speak about chi being positive, in this way in the context of the air around us, it is linked to the paths around our buildings. If the paths in front of a house or school or other building are too straight, it is considered to contribute to negative energy. It is not good for a straight path to lead up to a house, the ideal is to have meandering paths around the house or building, because the wind also meanders around gently.

The other ideal circumstance is to have what we used to call good shelter around a site.  Ideally if you are in a town or city you should have another tall building behind the house to give it ‘support’. It is also good to have hedges on either side, because when you are looking out from the building you are in, it's better to have a lowish hedge or wall particularly on the left hand side, as protection around the house, this is what the Chinese call the ‘dragon's breath’. 

Ideally what you want to have around edges of the site is something like an armchair configuration where you have height behind the building and hedges or walls around the sides, not very high, but sufficient to give protection and to circulate the energy or wind around the house.

With regard to drainage, the ideal thing is to have it coming from the back of the house to the side and coming to the front of the house and disappearing out of sight. The fall should be from the back of the site towards the front. 

All of these aspects would contribute to the ideal kind of environment in which to live and breathe, helping us to link with the spiritual, to link with the other world.

Feng Shui also addresses the issue of direction, be it north, south, east or west. It is suggested that there are particular directions for particular people.  But I think it is best just to say that each of the directions are important and each direction can be strengthened. The quality of life in your environment can be greatly helped by putting plants or items of particular elements in particular directions.

For example in the north of the site the water is the strong element and it is good to have a water feature coming from the left to the front of the house,  - that energises the whole area.  Shrubs are linked with the east and putting good quality hedging or shrubs to the east of any site, does strengthen that area.

If you were putting in a metal feature, it should go in the west of your site.  If you wanted to put a fire element like a sundial it could be put on the south of the site.

Colours are also linked with all of these sites, and putting particular colours in different compass directions would strengthen the whole site.  

The south represents summer and the colour red, so any red flowers, or plants/shrubs with red leaves would energise the southern part of the house.  The east represents green so anything green obviously would be suitable.  In the west, white is the dominant colour, so white flowers at that side of the house are best and the north as I said previously is the location for the water feature and also represents the colour black.

I feel as if I have barely touched on this intriguing subject today, but I will be happy to answer questions.  It is a vast area, and it is really hard to know where to start. I have only been able to give you a very potted version of the whole thing.

Q & A Session

Ferris Jay:  I know in Feng Shui when it deals with interiors that [as you said]   there is a ‘compass school’, especially the well known ‘compass school’ where for example the north represents water and career.   In America I know there is the ‘black hat school’ where they say that the north and career direction are facing you when you go into a room, i.e. opposite the door.  What fascinates me is that if you used the approach of two different schools on the same room you could be putting things in different places, you could be energising things in different ways, but if both of the methods work for people, is it then not possible that because they are doing things and thinking positively that they are successful. Is it perhaps their positive thoughts in placing symbolism and values in them that works rather than the actual directions themselves.

Response:  First of all might I say that you are talking about interiors and I was going to talk about the ‘form school’ which is mostly to do with landscape, because the landscape feng shui is form school only and that is to do with mountains, rivers and all of that.

There are in fact three schools in Feng Shui.

Let me explain a little about interior feng shui.  This thing of dividing the home into nine different areas and starting at the door, to me is the equivalent of doing 'pop' astrology and reading one of the twelve signs in the newspapers in the morning.  It is a very generalised approach.  What I have found is that it is the compass feng shui that really works  -  you take the person's date of birth, you work out what their kwa number is and from the kwa number you decide on what area to energise in the home, career or wealth or whatever.  It is a completely different area to landscape feng shui, the Form School is the only way to look at the environment you have around you and how best to energise that and make the best of that, according to what you see around you.

The whole thing is that if you don't have something to hide behind - for instance, you can simulate a mountain.  The mountain is what you should have behind your home, so the thing is to simulate a mountain feel by building a wall or letting tall trees grow, and you are thus creating the mountain, creating that support behind you.  You can simulate any of the qualities that you do not have.  Nobody has to worry about the environment, everything can be improved and helped along if the particular spot that you are in is not very powerful.

One of the things that you will find is that there are great energy spots around the world and those energy spots are where the cosmic chi is really cosmic and even more holy and powerful.  You can almost perform miracles by raising energies nearer to this level, your own health energies.  It is a powerful tool and we should therefore be very reverent with everything we come in contact with.

All of the things I have been saying to you about using different colours and different elements can actually help to make your environment really wholesome and energetic and help you to reach your potential, reduce fatigue and get you going on your journey unimpeded by obstacles.  

Francis Carr:  How does the use of colour by Feng Shui relate to the western use of colour, colour theories in the west, for example the use of colour for health and so on.

Response:  They do appear to be different, because I was involved in colour healing at an earlier stage of my life and the colours seem to be different.  The thing about Feng Shui is that when you take the date of birth of a person, if you are talking about personal Feng Shui, (going away from the landscape for a moment).  You look at the day the person was born and every day and every hour of the day has a certain resonance with the five elements I talked about and with colour and if you as a person may be short on colour, the thing to do is to increase the colour or augment your spectrum of colours to create good health.  The colours that the Chinese use seem to have been different from the colours that we use for healing. 

All I can tell you is that using the five element colours for each person or location does seem to work and help people to create an environment where they can become more healthy.¾

Grant me sweet Christ the grace to find –

Son of the Living God!  -

A small hut in a lonesome spot

To make it my abode

A little pool but very clear

To stand beside the place

Where all men’s sins are washed away

By sanctifying grace.

A pleasant woodland all about

To shield it from the wind

And make a home for singing birds

Before it and behind.

A southern aspect for the heat,

A stream along its foot,

A smooth green lawn with rich top soil

Propitious to all fruit.

From the poem ‘The Hermitage’, taken from the book ‘Kings, Lords and Commons’ by Frank O’Connor.  The original poem was ascribed to St. Manchan of Lemanaghan in Offaly.