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Feng Shui and the Chinese Pantheon


Elizabeth Johnson Lee
Copyright 2008

Feng Shui is the art of living in harmony with time and space where you live and work for more harmonious relationships and increased health, wealth and happiness. By arranging one’s surroundings in ways to maximize the lucky sectors of one’s space and minimize the unlucky one’s, the chi, or energy is allowed to flow in a free and balanced way.
There are two parts to this report. The first is a basic description of feng shui and the Chinese pantheon. The second is a personal story of how I’ve applied feng shui to my life.
The three main forms of feng shui are traditional, the Black Hat Sect and intuitive/modern. Traditional feng shui is based on either form or compass directions and includes the bagua, flying star and eight mansions formulas. The Black Hat Sect is a combination of Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism and traditional feng shui. Intuitive/modern feng shui is an adaptation of traditional feng shui to modern Western decorative styles.
Some of those philosophies contradict each other and not all practitioners agree on everything. Some believe that the flying star method is more effective than the bagua and eight mansions methods for its power to cure problematic areas and activate lucky ones. The Chinese have goddesses, gods, and enlightened and/or wise ones whose images can be used to cure and enhance.
According to feng shui, there are five elements from which everything in the universe is made. Those elements and everything that corresponds with them in turn are considered either yin or yang, and yin and yang forces must always be kept in balance. Yin and yang each contain a part of each other and neither can exist without the other. The five elements each correspond to their own direction/s and colors. The elements and their correspondences are:

Fire—south—yang—red, purple, dark orange, pink

Earth—northeast, southwest, center—yin—brown, yellow

Metal—west, northwest—yin—white, silver, gold

Water—north—yin—black, blue

Wood—east, southeast—yang-–green

There are three cycles in which those elements interact, called the productive, the controlling and the weakening, or exhaustive cycles. The order they’re listed above shows them in their productive cycle, where the one before it produces each element in a continuous circle. The controlling cycle is fire, metal, wood, earth, and water as if drawing it in the shape of a five-pointed star. The weakening cycle is the productive cycle going backward in a counter-clockwise circle, where fire exhausts wood and so forth.
In the flying star formula, the power of the stars’ positions affects the energy of buildings and land. Depending on the direction of your front door, which direction your house faces the street or which side has the best view (here’s some of the ways people disagree) the stars affect nine sectors. One must use a compass and consult a flying star chart in order to figure out which stars are in the nine grids of their home or office. Since the stars positions change from month to month, year to year, and in twenty-year periods one must be vigilant of where certain stars fly in and out and arrange their homes and businesses accordingly. Lucky stars are one, four, six, eight (the best) and nine. Unlucky numbers are two, three, five and seven. By using appropriate remodeling, furniture placement, elements and their corresponding colors and images one can create a more energetically balanced space.
In the bagua method there are eight sectors of every house or apartment and within every room in the house. Starting in the South they correspond to fame, romance and women or matriarch, children, men or patriarch, career, education, health and wealth. As in the flying star method luck can be enhanced by the use of remodeling, furniture arrangement, elements, colors and images in the right areas, both inside and out.
In the eight mansions formula there are eight sectors of a building that correspond with romance, success, bad luck, total loss, five ghosts (troublesome people), health, six killings (danger) and personal growth. As in the other two methods the lucky and unlucky sectors can be enhanced or diminished by the use of remodeling, furniture placement, elements, colors and images.
Fuk, Luk and Sau are the gods of health, wealth, and prosperity, respectively and Sau is also the god of longevity. He is an old man with a large forehead and is often shown holding a staff with a wu luo, or bitter gourd hanging from it. Sometimes there is a deer or a pine tree in the background and Sau is often holding a peach. The wu luo and peach are also symbols of longevity. Sau is the most popular Taoist deity and symbolizes a smooth life and a happy old age surrounded by children and grandchildren. Other wealth gods are Tsai Shen Yeh and Kuan Kung.
Zhong Kuei is red-robed and protects the home from harmful spirits and people. He carries a sword in his right hand and a flask of wine in his left. He has a fierce countenance.
Mo Li Ching is the guardian of the East. He has a white face and carries a spear and a metal sword to control the wood element of the East.
Mo Li Hai is the guardian of the West. He has a blue face and carries a mandolin spewing balls of fire to control the metal element of the West.
Mo Li Hung is the guardian of the South. He has a red face and holds an umbrella which, when opened causes total darkness and when closed causes earthquakes and tidal waves. The waves control the fire element of the South.
Mo Li Shou is the guardian of the North. He has a black face and carries a pearl and a snake. Sometimes he’s shown with a white rat and an elephant. He is also the guardian of wealth and the king of the wealth gods.
The eight immortals are Taoist deities who ate the fruit of immortality at the Queen of the West’s Paradise Realm. Each corresponds to an aspect of life’s aspirations. Their names are Lan Tsai Hok, Ho Hsien Ku, Lo Tien Kuai, Tsao Kuo Chin, Chang Kuo Lao, Xhong Li Chuan, Han Hsiang Tzu, and Xiu Tung Pin. Their images in the home bring the eight types of luck mentioned in the bagua, including long life.
Kuan Yin is the goddess of Mercy and a Buddhist bodhisattva. It is she who came up with the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.
Last, of course is the Buddha who is shown either in meditation, or in the form of a fat, bald “laughing Buddha”.
Some other auspicious images for the home are the dragon, white tiger, tortoise, phoenix, rooster, horse, all the other animals of the Chinese horoscope, wind chimes, Chinese coins and countless others.
Through the use of the flying star, bagua and eight mansions formulas of feng shui one can help balance and harmonize the energy flow with appropriate remodeling, furniture placement and use of elements and colors. Also by displaying the images of powerful goddesses, gods, animals and other images in their home or business.

My Story

When I was single I lived in an apartment with my young son, Dale. My fondest dream was always to marry and raise a family as a full-time mother, but the exciting kinds of men to whom I was attracted made abysmal partners while I found the successful, stable marriageable types boring. I bought a book about the bagua formula of feng shui and arranged my home accordingly. Soon I met and eventually married an exciting and stable first generation Chinese man named Elgin. When Dale and I moved in to Elgin’s condo I felt feng shui had done its job; I let my interest in it fall by the way side.
Elgin and I now have a daughter, Rowan. We moved into a house in a cul-de-sac and, for the first year and a half my life felt like a dream come true. My neighbors were friendly and Rowan had friends to play with right across the street. Dale’s best friend also lived nearby. No more having to arrange play dates. No more hearing neighbors moving around on our ceiling or through shared walls. I could plant whatever I wanted in the yard, and we got a dog.
That dream came to a halt when another girl, “Dora” and her family moved in next door. Rowan and Dora were friends at first but Rowan complained more and more of Dora being mean to her. Dora was mean to the other kids, too. When they cried she laughed at them, and I once watched as she tripped her brother on his skateboard and laughed when he screamed and crashed on the pavement. Dora’s parents insisted that that’s just the way kids are and that parents should stay out of their conflicts and let them figure things out themselves. Rowan decided not to play with Dora anymore, and for months she was afraid to play outside.
Dora’s family ostracized us. The other kids’ family did too because the two families were close friends and sided with each other. Even though Dora’s family’s actions hurt, the ostracism of the other family especially stung; I had trusted them to stay out of it and remain friendly toward us, but they didn’t.
The bullying continued at school and we asked the teachers and principal to intervene. They did and I thought that we could finally put the whole mess behind us.
I thought wrong. Dora’s parents filed a restraining order against me, claiming that I had made the whole thing up and that my complaining to the school was “harassment”. I have Tourette syndrome, and they claimed that my tics were attempts on my part to intimidate Dora. They also claimed I put a Buddha in my front yard to intimidate them. They listed other allegations that were exaggerated, taken out of context or false. I couldn’t believe it was happening.
I asked Higher Power, call it God, Goddess or whatever for help but it didn’t seem to make any difference. When I’d had trouble with people in the past, such as neighbors or my in-laws I wrote their names on pieces of paper, put them in bags of water and put them in the freezer. All those neighbors moved away and my in-laws died, but day after agonizing day my current neighbors remained. I felt forsaken and powerless.
What am I supposed to learn from this, I asked the goddess? I’d practiced a form of Japanese Buddhism years ago, and I’ve never forgotten one teaching in particular; hendoku iyaku, or change poison into medicine. How could I turn this around to my benefit, I wondered?
Weeks went past and at two court dates the hearing was postponed. I wanted my neighbors to be brought to justice and I struggled to restrain myself from cursing them. Seeking solace, I pulled out my old copy of the Tao De Ching deciding that I would open the book to random pages and read a chapter a day. When nothing is done, all will be well, one chapter read. I determined to be non-reactive.
I called a friend, Lynn who I’d avoided telling my problem to because I feared she wouldn’t want to get involved. My fear turned out to be wrong. “There’s the flying star feng shui formula,” she explained, telling me about how it worked.
“That all sounds too complex and complicated for me to understand,” I said. “I think it’s beyond me.”
“The legal problems with your neighbors seemed to just come out of the blue, didn’t they?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered, “they did. That’s what’s so weird about the whole thing.”
“That’s how problems with our homes can affect us. It’s not that hard to figure out. Let me take you out to lunch, I’ll bring my book and we’ll fix it.” She was very persuasive and so we agreed to meet.
The numbers that corresponded to the sectors of my house, we discovered over tacos and enchiladas were startling. The number three corresponds to quarrels, legal problems and litigation. I had a three in three rooms of my house, including the front entryway, the worst place for one as well as my back door, another bad place. “Kids running back and forth through them can activate them worse,” Lynn said. My front door also had a nine, which activates all the stars in its sector. The number seven star causes accidents, and my house had three of them. Several months previously Rowan was hit by a car and broke her leg. Not long before she’d also recovered from a broken arm. My house had three twos, which cause sickness. Dale had trouble with frequent colds, flues, and sinus infections due to having had Epstein Bar virus, as well as asthma and sleep apnea. In addition, according to the eight mansions formula the five ghosts sector corresponded to five different types of troublesome people. At my last court date, five people in all, the couple and three friends of theirs had come to testify against me.
It all seemed like too much to be a coincidence. Even more coincidental was that I discovered, after using a compass and looking up my houses’ chart that my house had the exact same chart as Lynn’s apartment. I bought three books on feng shui and dedicated myself to reading them instead of anything else until I’d cured as many areas of my home that I could.
Mean while, my husband and I decided to move. We’d decided to move months before, actually but the latest problems got us motivated to get his parent’s house on the market and sold so that we could buy another house and move in before selling ours.
Elgin’s parents’ house was filled with three generations of junk. Since Elgin was busy working the only way to get it cleaned out was for me to do it alone. For hours I sorted through countless boxes and bags of stuff. Lots of it was old bills and junk mail dated as far back as the sixties, as well as old letters, empty bags and gift boxes, gifts they received and never opened and bag after bag with nothing more than a few buttons or paper clips.
Buried among the useless junk and scattered throughout their house, however were Buddhas, red scrolls of Chinese calligraphy, beautiful red silk brocade fabrics, antique Chinese vases, decorative roosters, other auspicious animals and other items I now recognized from Chinese philosophy as being useful for feng shui. On a dresser in the master bedroom was a large, glass-encased figure of Sau, the god of prosperity and longevity. In a glass cabinet in the dining room was a collection of ceramic figures that I had never taken the time to notice before. When I opened the cabinet to pack them, there, arranged in a half circle were the eight Taoist deities. Everything, even my decision to write this report on feng shui and the Chinese pantheon seemed like too much to be a coincidence.
The cure for the number three star is the color red, which symbolizes fire. I went through my home looking for all the red things I could find and tacked, taped, hung and otherwise festooned the afflicted parts of my house with red. I lined red shoes in front of a bookshelf, put red toys Rowan no longer played with and red squeaky toys our dog had chewed in front of the books. I covered a plant container with a red Christmas letter my uncle had sent and hung a red apron on the back doorknob. I hung red scrolls over the front and back doors. They clashed with the pink and green Victorian floral decorating scheme I so loved, but I no longer cared. I just wanted to be happy and keep my family safe. I wanted to make my problems go away.
After decorating my front entryway, I wondered if I had put up enough red and what other red stuff I could find. According to the bagua, the South side of the house or any room in it where my doorway was corresponds to one’s reputation. My next-door neighbors had collected letters from six of our other neighbors to use against me in court and so my reputation needed a wee bit of a boost. The enhancer for one’s reputation, or fame sector is also fire and the color red.
The number four star, corresponding to happy marriage and romance was also in our living room where our front doorway was. Good images to put in that sector are the dragon and the phoenix, which symbolize happy marriage. Where could I find a picture of a dragon and a phoenix?
Then it came to me. On our wedding day, my in-laws brought an embroidered red silk square of fabric and had all the wedding guests sign it. I ran to the drawer where I’d left it and rummaged around. There it was, folded again and again so that, when I opened it and held it up it was creased and rumpled. There, embroidered above the signatures were the dragon and the phoenix!
I ran and tacked it on my front door. It was perfect. Another red, embroidered skirt had yet another embroidered dragon and phoenix, I tacked it on the South wall next to the door below a William Waterhouse print called Casting the magic circle, of a witch casting a circle around a cauldron of fire. Over the print I hung another red embroidered square of fabric. Outside I planted flowers and set up a fountain beside my front door. I hung wind chimes as cures in the sectors with twos and put metal containers filled with dirt from my garden in the sectors with fives (five of those) that correspond to death.
My front doorway also had a lucky eight, which I activated with my favorite Chinese vases, crystal items including two cups, a candlestick, a rat (my birth animal), a metal Buddha and a freestanding, battery operated wind chime. I sometimes turned it on when I left my house so that it’s delicate tinkling could be heard over the bubbling water of the fountain on my porch.
It’s giving me hope, I told myself. If nothing else, it made my place look nice, distracted me from my problems and helped me feel better.
One afternoon I arrived home from school with Rowan. Across the street was “Carol,” one of the girls who wouldn’t play with Rowan anymore after our problems had mushroomed over Dora. “Hi Carol,” Rowan called, waving to her. Carol responded, and Rowan walked over to talk to her.
Wow, I thought. It had been months since they had spoken or played together, and Carol’s mother had arrived with my next-door neighbors to testify against me in court. It was a surprise to see them speaking again.
I carried my things into the house, and a minute later Rowan came in and asked if she could go play at Carol’s house. I told her she could. A little later they both came in and asked me to make Top Romen for them, something they had always done before. Whenever I grocery shopped I always made sure to stock up on it. I found the last package in the back of the cabinet, and they sat down at the table as I served them. They talked and laughed as if nothing had happened. Carol’s sister came over later and, at their father’s request, I even babysat them for a while. Later their father came for them and thanked me, also as if nothing had happened.
Miracles, whether due to feng shui or other means, do happen.
As luck had it, we sold our house when the housing market was at it’s highest for a great profit and then moved into a larger house we bought, six months later when the market was at on all time low.
Two of the neighbors who had ganged up against me with Dora’s family apologized. They told me that Dora’s family had targeted five other families in the cul-de-sac since our move, including them. Dora was expelled from two schools and then put in juvenile hall.
The use of feng shui not only gave me hope and helped me benefit in the face of adversity, it also helped me create the wonderful family and happiness I enjoy today.

Elizabeth Lee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, award-winning writer and author of the realistic fantasy The House at 844 1/2 (order at http://goo.gl/BauAk). She is on the Board of Contributors to the Palo Alto Weekly newspaper. Her articles have been published in both local and national publications. She lives in Palo Alto, CA with her husband, two children, two hyperactive dogs and a neurotic cat and can be reached at liz@funghi.com, or visit her at http://elizabethjohnsonlee.com.



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