A Brief History of Flying Star Feng Shui
December 5, 2012
“Flying Star” Feng Shui is also known as Xuan Kong Fei Xing or the ‘Mysterious Void’ Flying Star Feng Shui. The character “Xuan” refers to time, “Kong” refers to space and “Fei Xing” refers to cycle changes in space and time.
According to Ceng-Wen-Shan in his book “Qing-Nang-Xu” (Preface to the “Azure Bag”) written during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907AD), Guo Pu (276 – 324) of Jin Dynasty had already began to pass down the art of Xuan Kong. By the time of the Tang Dynasty, Yang Jun-Song had mentioned in his book “Qing-Nang-Ao-Yu” (The Profound Sayings of the “Azure Bag”) that:
“The intercourse of male (Yang) and female (Yin) comes together in Xuan Kong”
…And that one should:
“Look to Wuxing (the five agents) to understand Xuan Kong”
That is, the principle of Xuan Kong lies with the interaction of Yin and Yang forces and the Five Agents of Nature (Wu Xing).
He also mentioned that the secrets of Xuan Kong rested in the “Ai-Xing-Shu” (the method of knowing how the stars take off (in a chart)). However, Yang never divulged how this was done.
The art was passed onto Wu Jing-Luan (? – 1068) during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), Wu Jing-Luan was also known as Wu Zhong-Xiang, he came from Dexing country (now Jiangxi province). His grandfather Wu Fa-Wang was also an expert in astrology and Feng Shui. He sent Jing-Luan’s father to study with the famous Chen Tuan in Huashan. Subsequently, Jing-Luan learned his art from his grandfather and father and became well known.
In 1041, the Imperial Court invited him to become its Yin-Yang expert giving advice to the Emperor himself. When he was asked to make comments about the imperial burial ground he was too frank, and said that the place has Kun Wind (Yin Qi) that will affect the Emperor and his mother’s future. Song Emperor Ren-Zhong was not pleased and locked him up in jail. He was not released until Ren-Zhong died and his son Hui-Zhong pardoned him.
After his release, Jing-Luan became a recluse and spent the rest of his life in a cave in Baiyunshan (White Cloud Mountain) not far from his hometown. He passed his art onto his daughter and wrote many books on Kanyu astrology, including “Liqi Xinyin” (Principles of Qi from the Heart) and “Master Wu’s explanation of the Yi”.
The art was later passed onto Jiang Da-Hong during the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644).
In keeping with the tradition of “thou shall not divulge the secrets of Heaven” none of these masters from Jin to Qing Dynasties (almost 1500 years) explained how the ‘stars’ would ‘fly’ in their books written for the public. The secret of the orbit of the Nine Stars was passed down solely by discipleship or within the family through word of mouth. Because of the secrecy surrounding the transmission of the art, Flying Stars Feng Shui began to die out until the middle of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), when there was a revival of interest in the Song culture, including Xuan-Kong Feng Shui.
Shen Zhu-Nai of the late Qing Dynasty, who made a great effort to study, Jiang Da-Hong’s work without much success, decided to seek out the secrets of the Flying Stars. In 1873, he went with a disciple/friend Wu Bo-On to the town of Wu-Xi in Jiangsu to seek out the children of a Feng Shui master called Zhang Zhong-Shan who had learned the secrets of the “Ai-xing-shu” from Jiang Da-Hong. They stayed in Wu-Xi for several months without learning anything. In the end they had to pay a large sum of money just to have a look at the manuscript written by Zhang Zhong-Shan and kept in the family as a treasure by his offspring. The manuscript was called “Yin-Yang-Liang-Zhai-Lu-Yan” (Record of Experience of Yin and Yang Dwellings) which was file notes of Zhang’s consultations. They secretly copied the whole manuscript by hand in 24 hours and took it home with them to study in detail.
After many years, Shen still could not decipher the secret, until one day he realized by chance when he was comparing the Luoshu and Yi Jing that the stars don’t stand still, but they ‘fly’ through in fixed orbits according to a time cycle and the orientation of the house. He compared his findings with Zhang’s manuscript and found his theory matched with Zhang’s practice notes. With this realization in mind he restudied all the writings of Xuan Kong masters in the past and made sense of their coded messages once and for all.
When Shen Zhu-Nai was alive he had many disciples. He started to write up his lifetimes’ work in a book called “Shen Shi Xuan Kong” (Shen’s Study of the Mysterious Void) but died before he could finish it. It was completed by his son Shen Zhao-Min and disciple/ friend Jiang Yu-sheng and published under his name in 1927. The book included explanation of how to set out the Flying Stars patterns and the practice notes of Zhang Zhong-Shan.
A few years later, in 1933 his sons and disciples further re-edited and enlarged the book from four chapters to six chapters with additional writings by friends, disciples and experts of the past. It was re-issued as “The Expanded Shen Shi Xuan Kong Xue”.
As one can see from the brief history, although Xuan Kong Feng Shui has been around since the Jin Dynasty, its secrets were not revealed until recent times.
Shen’s book greatly influenced the practice of feng shui in modern day China, Hong Kong and South East Asia. A new generation of Masters like Bai He-Ming of Hong Kong and Wang Wen-Huo of Talwan have published annotated editions of Shen’s books. Further making them accessible to the modern day Feng Shui practitioner. Together Bazhai Pai, Xuan Kong Fei Xing and Xing Shi Pai are the three most popular Feng Shui schools in practice today.
Line of masters of Xuan Kong Fei-xing feng shui
Guo Pu (276 – 324)
Yang Jun-Song (Song Dynasty)
Wu Jing-Luan (? – 1068)
Jiang Da-Hong (Ming Dynasty)
Zhang Zhong-Shan (End of Ming Dynasty)
Shen Zhu-Nai (Beginning of Republic)
Stephen Skinner read this same article in Feng Shui Today and sent me an email recently and then I gave him my reply but have not heard from him a follow up in our discussion:
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 2013 07:20:58 +0800
Subject: Article in Feng Shui Today
I saw your recent article in Feng Shui Today.
Sorry Howard, but I cannot agree with you. The comment by Guo-Pu was pure San He landform feng shui, where he points out that the source of the Sheng Qi can be derived from the examining the open Ming Tang in front of a site. Nothing to do with Xuan Kong.
Xuan Kong only came a lot later, probably no earlier than the Yuan dynasty, despite Yang Yun Sung’s use of the same words.
Good to hear from you and you have raised an interesting point.
Because it is not an academic paper, I have not given this source a reference, but the theory came from p169 of Hu Jing-Guo’s book “Xuan Kong Feng Shui Xue”. Master Hu quoted a source from Tang Dynasty which referred to Guo -Pu and Guo said to the effect that the “red bird” (what is in front of a site) can give birth to timely qi (wang qi and that is similar to what you said, “that the source of the Sheng Qi can be derived from the examining the open Ming Tang in front of a site”). To Hu that is an indication that Guo-Pu already knew something about Xuan Kong.
On the other hand we don’t know if Gua-Pu actually knew about San He either because he (if Guo was actually the author) wrote mostly about the form of the land, Yin and Yang and Wuxing qi.
It is really difficult to date any theory in feng shui because what we can read in books are not neccessary the hidden or lost oral transmission going on behind the scenes in practice, we can only make conjunctures about them and quote written sources with our own interpretations.
BTW, can you quote the written source when you said “Xuan Kong only came a lot later, probably no earlier than the Yuan dynasty”? Because that is also an interesting alternative theory.
The other problem is the term Xuan Kong because it is not referring to any particular feng shui methodlogy, so we have Xuan Kong Fei Xing, Xuan Kong Da Gua and Xuan Kong Liu Fa and so forth and they all came from different times. It is abit like San Yuan, San He and Jiu Xing, there are many Liqi techniques using them as covering terms.
It will be good to hear a feedback from you.
About the same time, Joseph Yu also wrote up some notes on the same subject in his Blog, he dated the beginning of Xuan Kong even earlier than Guo Pu:
Joseph Yu Facebook 13/09/2013
Recently someone is spreading unfounded information that Xuan Kong Fei Xing 玄空飛星 is a school that started around 1930. His intention is to say that this relatively new school of Feng Shui does not work as what people expect and that his practices are much more powerful. This is very poor marketing exposing his ignorance.
Probably this person cannot understand Chinese books written longer than 100 years ago. The principles of Xuan Kong began with the Qing Nang Jing 青囊經 given to Zhang Liang 張良 by Huang Shi Gong 黄石公 during the reign of Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇 (259 BC – 210 BC). The technique of the flying stars is well explained in the classics Xuan Kong Mi Zhi 玄空秘旨，Xuan Ji Fu 玄機赋, Fei Xing Fu 飛星赋 all published in the Song Dynasty 宋朝 (960-1279).