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Fundamentals of Feng Shui

Feng Shui is both a simple and complex practice. Simple to understand but complex application of principles. I find that the popular opinion is the other way around: too complex to understand and very simplistic application of its principles. To provide a better understanding of this practice, I have outlined the core aspects of Feng Shui: Qi, Yin & Yang, The Five Elements, and Animal Signs.


Feng Shui revolves around ‘Qi’ (pronounced chee), which is “a form of energy that permeates the material universe” (Los, 2019) and gives it life. Positive or auspicious energy, Sheng Qi, is harnessed in objects that ‘look good’. Negative or evil energy, Sha Qi, is harnessed in objects that ‘look evil’. I tried phrasing this in a more politically-correct way, but it is honestly just pretty things versus ugly things. A lush tree is pretty, an electric pole with long wires is ugly. The key with Feng Shui is to limit the presence or view of ugly things, as they harness Sha Qi. However, the energy harnessed by objects is not limited to their appearance, all senses are involved: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, and even your Sixth Sense. This seems a bit subjective as one may find beauty in what others deem to be horrendous, but there are certain objects that Feng Shui principles outline as either desirable or undesirable.

Objects can harness positive or negative Qi and can impact the Qi of the environment and therefore your home. A clear visual representation of the effect of these two forces is a lush garden full of life (presence of Sheng Qi) versus a garden full of weeds and dead plants (presence of Sha Qi).

“Qi is dispersed by the wind and gathers by the boundaries of water”, and Feng Shui’s goal is to harness Qi in order to optimize positive energy while minimizing the negative. This ‘life energy’ is seen as ever-flowing, the direction of flow being influenced by the greater environment - mountains and bodies of water - as well as the built environment.

Yin & Yang

Yin & Yang is known to be a visual representation of the universe in perfect balance. This is the backbone of Feng Shui and the basis of the entire theory. The two are seen as opposing forces, however nothing is completely one or the other. Below is a table that details what is considered to be Yin and what is considered to be Yang.

A balance between the two must be maintained in order to nurture happiness, health, and prosperity. A home with large windows brings in a lot of sunshine, making some rooms predominantly Yang. This should be balanced with more Yin characteristics such as low levels of activity (stillness) and darker colours. Bedrooms are naturally more Yin and living rooms are naturally more Yang given the type of activity occurring in each space.

While I found gendering the two forces of energy rather odd, this concept of gender in Feng Shui denotes the breadwinner (Yang - traditionally male) and the supporter (Yin - traditionally female). Feng Shui aims to optimize the environment for the breadwinner foremost, and the rest of the family after. The reason being that the breadwinner needs to be healthy and happy in order to provide for the family. It’s the characteristics of each life force that hold importance in this practice, not the gender of the breadwinner.

Yin & Yang characteristics are applied to organs in the body, colours, directions, and the Five Elements.

The Five Elements

The Five Elements represent the five phases of Yin and Yang and their interactions (Los, 2019). These elements are utilized to activate Qi within the home, and to counter the effects of Sha Qi in the environment and/or location. Each comes with its own designated colours, shapes, directions, qualities, organ, body part, bodily system, part of the face, season, time of day, the list goes on and on. This specificity helps determine what aspect of your life your environment is impacting, and what solutions are available to optimize your life accordingly.

Animal Signs

Of all the fundamental aspects outlined thus far, Animal Signs are the only ones completely rooted in Chinese Astrology. You may have heard of these animal signs being applicable to people, however they are also applicable to homes.

Image source: unknown

Your home has a particular animal sign that changes over time, and different areas within your home represent different animal signs. The areas in your home that represent certain animal signs are said to impact individuals with that same sign. If you are born in the year of the Horse and your kitchen is in the Horse sector, the activity and contents of that room will impact you. While all aspects of Feng Shui change over time, animal signs change quite frequently. For the purposes of building or designing a home, annual changes should be considered. However, in Chinese Astrology, each and every hour, day, and month has an animal sign assigned to it. That is beyond the scope of my application of this practice.


The fundamentals described above are combined into a compass that is applied to your home or property. This compass is shown on our Instagram page in reference to a spec home we are currently building. The analysis of the space involves many formulas and calculations based on the most important factors in Feng Shui:

1. External environment - the foremost consideration

2. Building - specific considerations include:

  • Facing Direction

  • Shape

  • Internal Layout

  • Main Door Location

3. Residents - every individual has different requirements

4. Time - good or bad luck is not permanent, Qi is dynamic and changes with time.

Qi, Yin & Yang, The Five Elements, and Animal Signs form the basis of Feng Shui. The common element between these three core aspects is a ‘life force’ or energy and its interaction with the environment and individuals within it. They are intertwined to provide a medium for analyzing real estate according to its impact on its users or residents.


Los, Marlyna. "Foundations & Fundamentals. Internal & External Factors." East West Academy Classical Feng Shui Mastery, 2019, Vancouver.

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