Feng Shui is also known, as Kanyu is the
art of placing and situating a building so that it is in harmony with
its surroundings. According to Feng Shui cultural and social issues
are influenced by natural, metaphysical and cosmological factors. To
practically use Feng Shui one needs to understand the influence of
cosmology on earth, should have a knowledge of how astronomy and
astrology influence the placing of buildings, understand the Confucian
classic, understand the weathering process and understand the forces
of nature acting on buildings and their surroundings. It is also
essential to have knowledge of the magnetic fields and how they
influence man, knowledge on how to place buildings in order to tap
'chi' or the energy of the earth, understand the geographical land
forms like hill, valleys, flat land etc. One must understand how
environmental factors influence buildings externally and internally
and must know how to place buildings so that the building has a
comfortable physical environment.
The practice of Feng Shui began in the West Han dynasty around the third century BC. Feng Shui believes that the earth is a living thing and has life and energy. The energy or 'chi' of a site depends on its topography and its physical surrounding. A site with revitalizing energy is healthy and a site with bad energy was damaging to those who lived on it. Ever since then it has been incorporated into traditional Chinese architecture and has been followed by the rich and poor alike. In ancient China a city was planned in concentric rectangles surrounded by walls surrounded by lakes, hills, valleys, gardens, courtyards and parks. Chinese tried to ensure that both the natural and the built environment were planned to enhance positive energy. These were then landscaped according to the Taoist ideas of Yin and Yang, void and solid, water and hill.
Buildings were constructed in such a way that they enhanced harmonious relationships between members of the family and between the family and the country. People organized the structures in and around the buildings according to Feng Shui. The left of the building represented Yang or male force and was connected to the forces of heaven and the right of the building represented Yin or the female force and was connected with the energies of the earth. Built areas, sun lit roofs and elevation in the front were considered Yang. Empty areas, shadowed eaves, set back structures and elevations at the back were considered Yin. When a structure was build both the Yin and Yang had to be balanced and if the building leaned towards any one of these principles then there was imbalance and thus improper. Emperors build grand palaces and buildings from the time of the Shang dynasty (1711-1066 BC). Chinese Kings were considered sons of heaven and used to the principles of Feng Shui while building their palaces to create an environment favorable to power. The principles of Feng Shui created harmony between the forces of nature and this influenced man therefore the emperors ensured the principles of Feng Shui were followed when they built their palaces.
These palaces were surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. These were incomplete without water and hills, a contrast between Yin and Yang, fluidity and solidity. The garden had to be a contrast between openness and closeness and curved and straight lines. The elements of the landscape were placed in such a way that the Yin (negative) and Yang (positive) were in harmony, balance, continuity and balance. These palaces and their gardens are proof of what the practitioners of Feng Shui achieved in ancient China.