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Feng shui is an ancient art that is almost as old as the Chinese culture itself. It is believed to have first been used with the orientations of tombs of the dead, rather than in homes of the living. The term “feng shui” first appears in an ancient book called the Book of Burial,” written by Guo Po in the 4th century. The following text appears in the book, “Qi (energy) rides the feng (wind) and scatters, but is retained when encountering shui (water.)” In the book, “Modern Book of Feng Shui” by Steven Post, he writes “in Chinese the south-pointing compass, also called the lo’pan, was first invented by the Chinese to ensure that the burial sites were correctly positioned to conform to the earth’s vital breath, called chi, which the Chinese believed flowed through the earth the way blood flows through the veins of the human body.” There is evidence of feng shui being used as far back as 4000 BC in Chinese tombs and buildings. The late Yangshao site at Dadiwan (3500-3000 BC) includes a palace-like building at the center that faces south and borders a large plaza. It’s on a north-south axis with another building that may have been used for communal activities. This is just one example. Other graves and tombs in China suggest the people of the region following rules of feng shui.

Since feng shui appears to have been practiced before the invention of the magnetic compass, it originated in Chinese astronomy. Some of the current techniques can be traced to Neolithic China. Others are traced to later times, such as the Han, Tang, Song and Ming dynasties. One of the oldest examples of instruments used for feng shui are the shi. These consisted of a lacquered, two-sided board with astronomical sightlines. The earliest examples of these boards were unearthed from tombs that date between 278 BC and 209 BC. The magnetic compass has been used for feng shui since its invention.

Feng shui was suppressed in China during the cultural revolution of the 1960s, but has since increased in popularity once again. It became popular in the United States after Richard Nixon’s historic journey to the People’s Republic of China in 1972. Today, feng shui is practiced by some people all over the world.


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