What is authentic Feng Shui?

August 1, 2009

The Nina Wang inheritance case also brought out an interesting question of what is authentic Feng Shui?

Joseph Yu, the expert witness for Tony Chan, thinks he can tell what is Fung Shui (Hong Kong equivalent for Feng Shui) and what is not by his common sense and to him anything that is not logical is not Fung Shui. Whereas his opposite number, Mr. Szeto incorporates Mao Shan practices which Joseph considers black magic.

So is Feng Shui as narrow as Joseph has defined it?

I asked this question, as well as the future of Feng Shui, to Prof. Ole Bruun, who wrote a couple of excellent academic books on Feng Shui that every serious students of Feng Shui should read. Below is his answer:

“Both the ‘authenticity’ and the future of feng shui are interesting topics, which merit greater attention. Being an anthropologist by training I should perhaps leave the question of authenticity to historians and only deal with feng shui in the present, perhaps seeing trends into the future.

My comments on authenticity are nevertheless that I don’t believe there ever was an ‘authentic’ system of feng shui – and in my previous book I argued against the whole idea of seeing feng shui as a ‘system’. The discussions you have among yourselves – as how to distinguish between real and degenerate feng shui, between professionals and charlatans, between this or that school – repeat themselves deep into Chinese history. They were a concern for both imperial power holders and individual scholars taking an interest in genuine learning. This is why I suggested to approach feng shui as a broad tradition rather than a coherent, unified system. The Chinese inclination to master-apprenticeship in both crafts and learning, such as still seen in popular medicine, further accounted for a multitude of interpretations. In fact, I believe the idea of feng shui, as an unambiguous system owes much to a western impact!

Contrary to the great religions, which had their sacred texts handed down by ‘divine’ authority, feng shui is a living tradition, with a range of classics, an overall approach to reality and a certain number of given elements, but constantly adapted to the conditions of human society. The discussions of what feng shui is and should be in the future are part of this process. Ideas develop and take shape by human interaction and mutual inspiration; however uncomfortable that may be we only have ourselves and each other to rely on when making sense of the greater picture!

So my best bet for feng shui in the future is really that it will become what you active people make it to be! The need for overarching perspectives to counter the fragmentation of life and meaning is as great as ever…”

Some stimulating fruit for thought here, and I think his advice that Feng Shui is a living tradition and what it will be what weare going to make of it, is as “authentic” and pragmatic as it can be.



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