Feng Shui

The popularity of this art, (or science), has grown in recent years to the point where nearly everyone has heard of it. The increased recognition has also created more concern about whether our living spaces violate its principles, and so invite misfortune, poor health or financial ruin. Unfortunately, it takes years to understand feng shui principles completely, and it would be difficult to ensure your flat is feng shui-friendly in a place like Beijing or any other modern city.

Because scholars in Guangxi province, living amid undulating limestone hills and winding streams, laid down the principles of feng shui centuries ago, it's difficult to apply the art to modern-day interior design here. Much of feng shui is concerned with how surrounding hills and streams are situated with respect to one's front door, and how walls and gates that separate property are built. If you're looking for the perfect flat in Beijing, I recommend being more worried about the appearance of construction cranes outside your bedroom window.

Still, feng shui is about the flow of energy, or chi, throughout a space, and I believe it's worth heeding some of the most basic recommendations aimed at channeling this force. Even if you don't believe in chi or that it can cause negative consequences if not channeled correctly, I can assure you that clients usually find spaces furnished with feng shui in mind more comfortable.

If you're interested in feng shui, you need to swallow a few assumptions about chi: It is a positive, restorative force that can become negative and unhealthy if it stagnates. Oddly, it seems to be able to flow through windows, but not walls, even though both are solid. Also, it doesn't seem very capable of backing up out of tight spaces.

Imagine your home is filled with water and chi is a beginner scuba diver, who isn't very bright. You want this diver to bring its energy to all the areas of your home even though it's not all that interested in your antique Tibetan chest or the opium bed you got for 40 percent of the asking price. If your main entrance faces directly towards a large window on the other side of the flat, the diver will be inclined to go right through. In this case, you need to place some kind of screen, a few tall plants or a bookcase in its path to keep it on a more circuitous route.

f your space is too cluttered, your floating feng shui force won't be able to move freely, and may end up running out of air in some corner that's blocked by a sofa on one side and a large bureau on the other.

Rooms without windows, usually storage spaces or bathrooms, create particularly difficult feng shui problems. (This makes me wonder how prehistoric cave-dwellers managed to survive what were surely disastrous feng shui situations - Maybe that's why most of them died before the age of 30). Feng shui texts dictate that one's bedroom should never be above or be directly adjoined to such a space because so much time is spent there sleeping, a state that leaves one more vulnerable to the ill effects of stagnant chi. However, if your dream flat happens to have a windowless, ensuite bathroom, you can rectify the situation by making sure there are mirrors on at least two walls and an extracting fan. The mirrors facilitate circulation of chi and the fan gives it an escape route.

Giving a full account of feng shui principles would be beyond the scope of my humble column, (and my comprehension, to be completely honest). Here's the point: If you design a space that's comfortable and warm enough to enjoy spending time there with your spouse, significant other, closest friends and/or family on a regular basis, then, rest assured you've created good feng shui. Derek Walters, an expert on Chinese astrology who studied under several geomancers in China, wrote in his 1998 book Feng Shui: "Feng shui traditions declare that, if beneficial chi are lacking from the heart of the house, the family will soon drift apart. In fact, those who find the surroundings uncomfortable may be led, even if subconsciously, to other places to relax to other rooms in the house perhaps, or to a sympathetic ambience outside the home altogether."

Novelist Salman Rushdie put it most aptly in his latest work, Fury, wherein he sheds his own unique light on fear and loathing in modern society: "For the real problem was damage not to the machine but to the desirous heart, and the language of the heart was being lost. An excess of this heart damage was the issue, not muscle tone, not food, neither feng shui nor karma, neither godlessness nor God."

By Interior Designer Klemens Affandy for Lihong Property 2003

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