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What is unique about classical Chinese Feng Shui as opposed to Feng Shui practised in other cultures?
Feng Shui is a Chinese way of living that teaches us to harness energy around us for a good life. To the Chinese, a good life means being comfortable, prosperous and healthy, with children who bring honour to their parents. In many other cultures, systems similar to feng shui exist in various forms. For instance, the Indians have a way of orientating their homes they call Vaastu Shaastra, while the Maoris of New Zealand practise a symbolic kind of Yin feng shui, using symbols of protection to choosing sacred ancestral burial lots to perpetuate tribal dominance. While they differ in method, their intention is the same. They strive to improve their lot in life.
Western influence impacted the traditional methods of Feng Shui? What
do you believe are the most important similarities between Feng Shui in
the East and West?
All Chinese Feng Shui methods originated from China, only the ways in which feng shui is practised in different countries vary.
Chinese practitioners in Asia such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are well schooled on the interpretation of form and imagery (symbolic feng shui) because the meaning behind them is deeply rooted in their cultural traditions and customs. Advanced spiritual Tibetan and Taoist masters effect change in the surrounding energy though meditation. In Western countries like North America, Canada and the European countries, many practitioners are also schooled in European methods of divination and astrology such as dousing, gypsy horoscope, tarot card reading, and variants of space clearing. In recent times, these practitioners have adopted many eastern practises such as Yoga, Reiki, martial arts and Nine Star Ki. Since the introduction of English texts on Chinese feng shui, many have started incorporating Chinese feng shui into their practice to be able to offer more holistic solutions. So feng shui practised in the West has Celtic, Gypsy and other non-Chinese Asian flavours to it, especially in the areas where imagery is used.
How has the changing of times influenced Feng Shui practice?
Feng shui is becoming more acceptable in modern life and no longer dismissed as outdated Asian superstition. This shift in thinking over the last 3 decades has included many other "new age" practices. For the past century, we have been living in an era of Science - where most of us need "empirical evidence" to sway our way of thinking. We are living in what I term as "advanced society" - a society that has or tries to have a fix for everything in life.
However, there are questions and problems in life that no amount of science has been able to answer, such as: "Why are we not happy?" "Why do some people respond well to medication while I'm an exception?" "Why are we fighting all the time?" "Why are my children rebelling even though I'm such a loving parent?" In these matters, science can only offer statements of phenomenon, and not answers. So many people have started turning to alternative methods of finding answers. It is interesting to note that what we are now calling "alternative" used to be considered mainstream! Medical science and psychology were previously considered "alternative" in the old days, where druids and shamans were considered doctors, and priests and monks considered counsellors!
How have you proven to skeptics that the beliefs of Feng Shui are to be taken seriously?
I do not need to prove anything. Feng shui speaks for itself. I appreciate that there are skeptics out there, but whether they believe in feng shui or not, it's there! Energy is there and it does what it does. I'd like to remind people that feng shui governs only 1/3 of their luck! The other 2/3 is governed by mankind luck and heaven luck. Oh how I would love to say that feng shui overrides everything, but unfortunately, it does not work like that. Feng Shui works best for you if you practise it with a healthy dose of mankind luck! If you activate your career corner but don't send out a single resume or apply for any jobs, how can any employer know you are available? Likewise, if you activate your love corner, but do not attend parties or join clubs - how are you going to meet anyone if you stay home all day?
Another dimension of luck is heaven luck - what Christians call "God's Plan" or in Buddhism, what we call karma. If one was not destined to be a billionaire, no amount of good feng shui can make it happen. But, for this person, feng shui can help them perhaps become a millionaire and that is not half bad, is it?
Feng shui can help this person live a life with minimal illness or gain community respect! So back to your question, if one does not believe in feng shui, then for me it is not their karma to discover this beautiful and wonderful practice in this lifetime! There are many avenues to achieving success and happiness. Feng shui happens to be a great and accessible avenue so anyone is welcome to try it!
Why do you think that Feng Shui has suddenly gained so much recognition in the West?
First and foremost, my aunt Lillian Too has done the world such a wonderful service by writing it in English in more than 50 books! Before this, one had to learn how to speak and write Chinese, and then persuade a very secretive master to reveal his knowledge in dribs and drabs! Secondly, more and more people are turning East to answer one simple question... "Why are we not happy?" The West has been hailed with their technological advancements, superior business systems and robust economy. Yet they continue to have the highest divorce rates, crime, and children who bring only dishonour to their parents. Not surprisingly, feng shui has provided a systematic approach to providing hope and sensible solutions for these people. Most importantly, I believe it has flourished simply because many have tried it and found that it works!
What are the basic principles that are
similar in classical and modern Feng Shui and why have they maintained
their importance? And what are the basic principles that are different
and why have they changed?
Fundamentally, they are not different at all. Labelling them as Classical and Modern Feng Shui is simply a way of categorizing them in their approach to solving problems or presenting them for easy discussion. In the end, all approaches to feng shui refer to the Form School, Symbolism, 5-element theory, Trigrams and the I-Ching from which they draw their recommendations. "Classical scholars" call themselves that because they believe that the only way to move or shape energy is to break down walls and build new compartments, all of which involve extensive changes. Some even believe that the only way to benefit from landscape feng shui is to find a landsite that "naturally exists" in the Cheng Lung Pak Fu formation. But today, we have access to bulldozers, cranes, and cement carriers! We are able to build 200 story high buildings and reclaim land from the sea! You cannot tell me that a 200-story building has no impact on how wind energy settles across a city! Therefore, the difference is not a fundamental one, but more an approach in terms of thinking. The other extreme is what classicists are calling "new age" consultants, and they [the classicists] shun the use of good fortune symbols as a means to remedy situations. In my experience, I feel that both are equally important. They complement each other and are not mutually exclusive branches of feng shui as a whole. I'd like to add that what classicists are calling "the new age or modern approach" is not really all that modern.
Take a walk down the streets of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Canton and Beijing and you will observe that symbols of good fortune are evident everywhere from ancient palaces to modern airports, old family mansions to modern corporate buildings.
This approach to feng shui is not only an ancient approach, but ironically, it gives modern practitioners tremendous room and creativity to work with as well. A highly skilled feng shui consultant is well grounded on the theoretical fundamentals, but incorporates both classical and modern thinking to make recommendations. The serious application of landscape and formula analysis will work, but when used with symbols and symbolic imagery, the results can be truly astonishing!