Is There Science Behind Feng Shui?
August 22, 2012
Since most people can only see Feng Shui from a western perspective, instead of accepting it as a Chinese cultural phenomenon, I often get to be asked this question, “Is there Science behind Feng Shui?” and my answer is typical Chinese: It depends! It depends on what one meant by “Science” and how one defined “Feng Shui”.
If Feng Shui is defined as a traditional Chinese study of Man’s relationship to his environment, in particular the siting and construction of human dwellings and tombs (as given by Lee Sang-Hai in his PhD thesis “Feng Shui: Its Context and Meaning), and by Science, we are referring to “soft” science rather than “hard” science (“hard” science deals with the tangible matters, whereas “soft” science deals with the intangible, like feelings, thoughts, opinions and ideals), then there is Science behind Feng Shui and we can study its effects with scientific methods.
If Feng Shui is defined from a folk angle (instead of an environmental angle as mentioned earlier), which believe in the idea that Feng Shui can change one’s luck, allow one to see into the future and can make one happy, rich and famous directly, then there is no Science to speak about behind this kind of Feng Shui, because it is more of a Chinese folk belief than anything else.
Past studies done by environmental psychologists and anthropologists and recent research done by neuro-sociologists like Dr. John Zeisel (“Inquiry by Design: Environment/Behavior/Neuroscience in Architecture, Interiors, Landscape, and Planning”) have proved beyond doubt that our environment do affect us and we have an effect on the environment by our actions in return, and they can be measured readily.
There is a close affinity between Feng Shui and environmental design from an ecological perspective, because the aim of Feng Shui is to establish “a harmonious relationship between the cosmos, the physical environment and the man-man structures” (Lee S.H), and to do this, one needs to be scientific and to take human behavior and human emotion into consideration, and to “design with nature”, at the same time.
However there is a fundamental difference in attitude towards nature between the Chinese and the European, who sees nature as subordinate to man whereas the Chinese sees man is a part of nature. This may be a gross generalization, but if one looks at the design of a Chinese and a European garden, there is a grain of truth to this difference. Learning how to “design with nature” through Feng Shui principles can help us gain a broader understanding of how to manage our environment in a more natural and holistic way.
Since “folk” Feng Shui and “environmental” Feng Shui have co-existed from its beginning in China, Feng Shui, as the we know it today, still contain many irrational ideas that can muddle the water between sense and non-sense and it is not uncommon to hear people say, “Nah, it’s Asian superstition!” and dismisses the usefulness of Feng Shui altogether.
Even if one do not agree that there is Science behind Feng Shui, there is always Art behind Feng Shui, many modern architects and interior designers are inspired and influence by Feng Shui, below showed a picture of a “Feng Shui Cube on Wheels” designed by the architectural firm Space Flavor for our good friend Liu Ming in his loft in San Francisco.
PS. Having dealt with this question, I would like to point out, whether Feng Shui is a science, an art or a religious belief or whatever pigeon hole people want to place it in; it is of no concern to me. I am more concerned with what I can do with Feng Shui than what label it belongs to.