See more facts from traveling China

Veritable Kaleidoscope of Ethnic Culture and Natural Wonders9-Day Yunnan Ethnic Odyssey

Home > China Facts > Chinese Fengshui Theory

Chinese Fengshui Theory

The Eight Trigram in the Book of ChangesAstronomy, geography, and ergonomics are the three scientific bolsterers of Chinese Fengshui theory. The harmony among heaven, people, and earth is the highest principle of Chinese Fengshui. Ancient Chinese scientific theory espouses the belief that the universe is composed of three major components: qi, and xiang, which respectively mean energy, information, and form. The three are integrated, yet distinctively different from each other.

Chinese Fengshui theory is based on three basic notions. The tenet of the theory is to investigate and understand, then in turn, use and alternate the natural environment, create good living conditions for human beings. The basic principles of Fengshui theories can be summed up as follows:


The Book of Changes (I Ching)
The Book of Changes (I Ching) was written in the Zhou Dynasty (1046B.C.-256B.C.), which is known as the first book on Chinese Fengshui Theory.

Ancient Chinese sages began to use an integrated and systematic way of thinking long time ago. Fengshui theory considers the environment to be an integrated system, which composes everything in the universe and centers on man. Each of the sub-systems is correlated and dependent on the other. The function of Fengshui theory is to handle the relationships among the sub-systems, optimize the structure of the integrated systems, and look for the best combination.

The integration principle is the guideline of Fengshui theory, with all the other following principles subordinate to it. One of the most distinctive features of modern Fengshui theory is to process the relationships between man and nature in accordance with the integration principle.

Suit measures to local conditions

Spanning through a vast area with diverse climates, different soil textures and varied construction styles, China has changed its ways of living according to disparate local conditions. For instance, cave dwelling in dry and rainless Northwest China is a convenient and comfortable way to live while bamboo houses in moist and rainy Southwest China keep people away from insects and small animals. To act according to circumstances is a way to get human beings to return to nature, demonstrating the notion of integration between man and nature.

Situated at the foot of a hill and beside a stream

This is one of the most basic principles in Fengshui. Hills and mountains are considered bones of the earth while water is indispensable for the survival of human beings. Archeological finds reveal that almost all primitive tribes were built on the highlands near the river, providing convenience for hunting, fishing, and fruit gathering.

Nanjing, which has been the capital of six dynasties in Chinese history, borders the Yangtze River and is surrounded by a cluster of mountains. These features contributed to important political roles the city has been playing, according to Fengshui theory.

Observing geographical conditions

The compass for observing geographical conditions
The compass for observing geographical conditions

Fengshui attaches great importance to the shapes and forms of land and mountains. Basically, there is mountain of about every eight latitude parallels on the map of China. Any investigation into the conditions of a smaller environment like a building should also take into consideration its location on the larger map. Resources like water, climate, products, and geology of a place influence or determine the "luck" of a house.

Geological inspection

China Fengshui is captious about geological conditions, which are considered critical to the health of human beings, according to ancient Fengshui theory, and this view has been proved by modern science. The ancient Fengshui masters, who may will be unable to explain the scientific foundations of their de facto geological inspections, have perceived some basic rules in choosing the right spots on earth for human dwelling sites. Occasionally, Fengshui masters may go to the sites they inspect, taste the earth, dig a well to learn the texture underground, and bend down to listen to the sound of the underground water. These gestures may seem superstitious, but have some scientific grounding.

Water quality inspection

Water in areas can hold different microelements and chemical compounds, which can lead to diseases or cures. A spring welling all year round in East China's Zhejiang Province has curative effects. Local people simply go there to take baths and their diseases are sometimes cured. While Chequan Spring in Southwest China's Yunnan Province can kill ducks and birds that come near it, though the water appears transparent. Scientific inspection shows that water holds highly poison compounds. Fengshui theory attaches great importance on investigating the origin, distinguishing quality, and managing the flow of the water.

Facing south

China is situated on the Northern Hemisphere with most its land territory on the north of Tropic of Cancer. The houses facing south are more accessible to sunshine. Meanwhile, the principle of facing south is also to avoid the cold north wind that usually occurs in winter in North China. Generally speaking, this principle reflects people's understanding of the natural phenomenon in ancient times, and Fengshui believes that a fair place tends to produce outstanding people.


The principle of moderation was born early in the pre-Qin period. The doctrine of the mean, advocated in The Analects of Confucius , holds the basic ideas of moderation. Fengshui proposes the coordination between the house and mountains, water flow, and direction dwellings face. The size of the house should also be moderate. A big house with very few residents, a small house with too many people, a small house with a big gate, and a big house with a small gate are all considered inauspicious.

The other meaning of moderation in Fengshui means being placed in the middle, which partly led to the location of Chinese capitals not in big cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai, Kunming, or Ha'erbin that are near the border or sea, while Xi'an (capital of 12 dynasties) and Luoyang (capital of nine dynasties) are generally located at the heart of the country.

Comply with vitality

Qi, roughly translated as vital energy or life force, is considered the origin of the world by Fengshui theory. The change of seasons, sun, and wind influence the location of qi. Fengshui theory advocates building towns and houses in places endowed with vital energy. With that life force, both plants and people flourish.

Alternating Fengshui

According to the Fengshui theory of China, the purpose of understanding the world is to alternate it for the good of human beings. Fengshui can be changed to optimize the living conditions of humanity. Dujiang Weirs (Dujiangyan Irrigation Project) is a case that may best exemplify the effects of a changed fengshui. Before it was built, the Minjiang River flooded every year, and devouring the inshore fertile field and houses, but when the weirs were built, the river largely benefited the people living near it. Places of changed Fengshui abound in Beijing, such as the city moat outside the Imperial Palace (aka the Forbidden City), and the earth from a moat ere used to pile up Jingshan Hill.

Many Fengshui theories were created by ancient Chinese Fengshui Xiansheng (geomancers)
Many Fengshui theories were created by ancient Chinese Fengshui Xiansheng (geomancers)

A modern book on Chinese Fenshui theory
A modern book on Chinese Fenshui theory

More China Facts

  • Chinese Calligraphy
  • Chinese Kung Fu
  • Chinese Painting
  • Chinese Music
  • Chinese Dances
  • More China Facts>>

  • Payment Method - PayPalPayment Method - Payment Method - Visa CardASTA ID: 900126430