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The First International Congress on Feng Shui & the Built Environment
19th – 21st September 2008, Torino, Italy
Feng Shui – the Roots
Wuhan, Central China, is an important place in Chinese history having been the site of a pitched battle between heavily-armed adolescents during the Cultural Revolution and the place where the First Republic was declared in 1912.
Nowadays it is the home of Huazhong University where feng shui is taught (under the guise of Ecological Studies as overt study of feng shui in the PRC can still amount to a decision to enjoy restricted freedom). As it happens, the university occupies a millennia-old cemetery site whose once-morbid yin quality, in keeping with sound feng shui practice, has been balanced up with the yang of thousands of young students.
The Torino 2008 congress was conceived as an opportunity for architects, feng shui professionals and devotees to compare notes and attend presentations by world leaders in a broad width of feng shui schools. The Congress grew out of conversations between feng shui architect Carlo Reyneri and feng shui writer Richard Ashworth.
"What we noticed," says Richard, "was that in our party of Westerners there were architects, interior designers, academics, healers and many others who practised feng shui but few of whom agreed on what it was." For some it was a question of colour and shape, for others a question of flow. For others again it was a philosophical, if not religious pursuit. Still others saw feng shui as bio-architecture or as sustainable design.
When this group visited feng shui sites such as the early Ming Prince Zhao's mausoleum at Longquan, although everybody interpreted in their own way, all could appreciate the perfection of its open space, the mountain behind and the placing of the water. "There was clearly more holding us together than separating us," Carlo adds.
London Conference 1999
Richard and Carlo had both attended the Feng Shui Convention in London in 1999 and been profoundly affected by the breadth of ideas they encountered there. "I just remember the delight of being able to spend an hour with Lillian Too followed by a session with Chan Kun Wah and then to attend a workshop with Yap Cheng Hai followed by one on Four Pillars with Raymond Lo. Jon Sandifer, the 9-Star Ki wizard was there as well as Gina Lazenby, the midwife of intuitive feng shui and dozens of others including Karen Kingston, representatives of Lin Yun's Black Hat School and Howard Choy, who spoke about the Luo Pan Compass.
“I remember Lillian Too's keynote speech stressed that it was smarter, better business and better karma to cooperate than to squabble. I have never forgotten that."
Richard knew many of these people personally while Carlo was an educator in Torino, the city that was due to be European City of Design in 2008. Italy, where feng shui can be studied as a module in architectural and urban quality studies, was already light years ahead of Europe in terms of the integration of feng shui, quite apart from being a byword for style.
Carlo's main work is in restoring renaissance churches but he is always conscious of feng shui principles. As an architect by vocation he was very aware of the correspondence of these principles with the teachings of Palladio, the father of classical architecture. And Italy of course was the only place to hold a Congress whose unifying quality was sound design.
"You want a thousand banks? Go to London. Good food? Paris. Style? Design? Anywhere in Italy, the home of the Lamborghini, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Coliseum and Dolce and Gabbana."
Beautiful views of Torino
Torino itself is both a beautiful, multifaceted city and a major seat of learning. It is a manufacturing and engineering centre redolent with renaissance and other notable architecture as well as being the home of the fabled Shroud and just 40 minutes from the Alps. The shopping, by the way, is also to die for!
Feng Shui for the 21st Century
Feng Shui has moved on since 1999 and there is a new generation of authorities to discover. Speakers at Torino 2008 include Derek Walters, architect Simona Mainini, Howard Choy, Jon Sandifer, Richard Creightmore, Jill Lander, Priscilla Braccesi, Gyda Anders and Richard and Carlo themselves. This Congress hopes to present the feng shui and architectural communities with a wealth of ideas and opportunities to help them grow, learn and network.