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What Is Feng Shui and How Can You Incorporate It at Home?

Use this ancient Chinese philosophy to bring your space into harmony with nature. 
Stacey L. Nash Avatar

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A simple definition of feng shui is that it’s an ancient Chinese philosophical concept centered on the harmonious and conscious occupation of space. Feng shui, which literally means “wind-water,” is believed to bring a sense of harmony and positive energy to the people occupying a specific space. Principles of feng shui appear in Chinese astrology and metaphysics as well as Taoism and Buddhism. But what is feng shui exactly?

Feng shui, a nearly 3,500-year-old concept, holds that the orientation of structures and the placement of objects within them can affect the flow of energy in a space and the well-being of its occupants. Today, principles of feng shui continue to influence the location and design of buildings. Architects and interior designers embrace the philosophy and its ideas of symmetry, direction, and harmony that can be put into practice within an existing landscape, an entire home, or a single room.

Many interior designers consult feng shui experts to help them determine furniture placement, choose colors, and incorporate elements like water, wood, and earth tones and materials in a way that brings harmony and balance to their designs. At its core, feng shui is about creating harmony and peace for those who occupy a space.

Principles of Feng Shui

The essential principles of feng shui include the bagua (the energy map used to balance the eight fundamental principles of reality), the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), and the concept of the command position. These principles are used together to create a space that reflects nature and exists in harmony with its natural setting.

The bagua map lets you focus on areas of your home and life you want to improve.

Bagua literally means “eight areas,” and each one of these areas corresponds to a different aspect of life. A ninth area in the middle of the map represents overall wellness. A bagua map can be depicted as a three-by-three grid or an octagon, where each square or triangular “slice” of the octagon represents one of the fundamental principles of life. These include:

  • Wealth and gratitude
  • Family and connections
  • Knowledge and insight
  • Career
  • Fame and character
  • Partnership and love
  • Children and self-expression
  • Helpful people and support

The bagua map serves as an overlay that provides guidance on maximizing energy flow and harmony within a space. There are several schools of thought surrounding the bagua map and how it should be laid out. In the Western school, the front door aligns with knowledge, career, and helpful people and support. Other schools of thought may use compass points or seasonal energies to align the baguas.

An easy way to incorporate the bagua map into your home is to choose up to three life areas that you want to improve, and focus on one space or room. (If you try to use all eight in a single space, the design can get complicated and discordant.) Each area of the bagua is associated with a particular shape, color, season, number, and element that you can then incorporate into the space to promote the flow of energy and create harmony.

Related: 9 Things That Bring Good Fortune to Your Home

Balance the five elements of feng shui throughout your home.

The five elements stem from the Taoist tradition, and each represents life phases balanced in harmony. The elements correspond to seasons, shapes, colors, and baguas. Use them like the baguas, choosing two or three to focus on in each room.

Fire: Fire possesses passion, illumination, and brilliance. The color red signifies this element, as does the triangle and other pointy shapes. Fire is a summer element, and it falls into the fame and character bagua.

Water: Water flows, shifts, and moves downward. Wavy, curvy shapes, the color black, and winter are associated with this life-giving element. It falls into the career bagua.

Earth: Earth signifies grounding, self-care, and stability, and it’s represented by flat and square shapes, and the colors brown, orange, and yellow. It’s a transitional season and falls in the partnership and love bagua.

Wood: Wood suggests expansiveness, vitality, and upward motion. It’s represented by a columnar or rectangular shape and green and blue colors. Wood falls in the spring season and in the family and connections bagua.

Metal: Metals represent efficiency, precision, and beauty, and they’re associated with circular or spherical shapes and white or metallic colors. Metal is an autumn element and it falls into the helpful people and support bagua.

Consider the command position in each room.

The command position is the point in a room that’s opposite to and farthest from the door but not in a direct line with it. From this position, you can see everything that’s coming through the door, but because you are not directly in front of it, you have time to develop a strategy for dealing with whatever enters the room.

In Chinese feng shui, the command position establishes dominance. This is the position the bed should occupy in the bedroom, or the desk in an office. Create balance within the space by placing different objects associated with the five elements in a diagonal alignment in relation to the command position.

Remember to balance yin and yang energies throughout your home.

As you adjust the feng shui of your home, don’t forget to balance yin and yang. Yin qualities typically include passive, feminine, cold, negative, dark, inward, soft, down, and back. Yang usually suggests masculine characteristics, such as active, hot, light, front, outward, hard, and positive.

You can bring these energies into harmony by using soft pillows with a bright (light) pillowcase, or incorporating a mix of colors, shapes, and textures that harmonize the traditionally masculine with the traditionally feminine and accentuate the features of a room. Strive to strike this balance throughout the home.

Related: 16 Things Superstitious Folks Refuse to Keep in the House