a Feng Shui Garden
By Suzi Wong
Feng shui gardening: From chaos to composure.
Are you exhausted, estranged, and constantly stressed by
the challenging demands of contemporary life? Do you seek
balance and harmony in your life? Create a feng shui garden
and you will have not only a sanctuary of tranquility and
beauty, but also the promise of health, prosperity, friendship
and good fortune.
Feng shui (literally, "wind and water") is the ancient Chinese
science of arranging space in order to bring about desired
effects or changes in one's life. According to feng shui masters,
there is a profound interconnectedness between environmental
and personal conditions. For better or worse, what happens
in our physical surroundings deeply influences our mental
and spiritual well-being. Therefore, it behooves us to respect
the principles of feng shui and apply them to our homes, offices,
and even gravesites.
A feng shui garden is a powerful tool because the quality
of energy surrounding our living space invites auspicious
energy inside our home. Incidentally, it's not necessary to
live on a vast estate to benefit from feng shui gardening;
metropolitan apartment dwellers can also enhance their space
in the spirit of feng shui.
Fundamental principles and tools of feng shui gardening
Chi is the universal energy or life force that dwells in
everything: plants, animals, people, stones, furniture. This
invisible energy, called "cosmic dragon's breath," is manifested
by nature's waving, undulating lines (the irregular shape
of mountain ranges, the meandering path of a stream, the verdant
forms of flowers and leaves). Feng shui encourages the flow
and accumulation of good, healthy chi and avoids or diminishes
the effects of bad "killing" chi. For example, a gently curving
path to our front door is preferred over a straight line.
Because straight lines and sharp edges conduct negative energy,
we soften the sharp corners of a house by planting shrubs
or flowers there. Because chi travels in a meandering fashion
and lingers wherever there is water, we can invite auspicious
chi into our garden and capture it with a stream, pond, or
birdbath. In fact, the presence of birds and living creatures
adds vitality to your home. But, be sure the water is always
flowing and clean. And clear away all undergrowth and clutter
to enable chi to travel freely in your garden.
Yin and Yang express the principle of universal duality
found in all life; yin and yang are forces that are opposite,
yet complementary and mutually supportive. Yin encompasses
female attributes, for example, softness, darkness, passivity,
coldness, silence; and is represented by the moon. Yang evokes
male attributes, for example, strength, brightness, heat,
noise, and is represented by the sun. Attaining a happy balance
of yin and yang makes us whole and centered. A garden offers
many opportunities to harmonize yin and yang. For example,
we can create a pleasing balance of sun and shade, placing
bright flowers within a shady corner or adding small lamps
along a dark path. To balance wet and dry, we can add a fountain
that splashes over rocks; this same fountain balances sound
(yang) with silence (yin). We can alter yin flatness by building
hilly mounds or arranging rocks at various heights.
The Five Elements
Water, wood, fire, earth, and metal are very important in
feng shui. Everything in the universe is made of these elements,
and no one element is better or more valuable than another.
In feng shui gardens, all elements co-exist in harmony. Feng
shui gardeners skillfully engineer the interplay of elements
to bring about creative, auspicious energy. They interpret
elemental interactions as either positive or negative.
The positive cycle of influence is: water produces à wood
(plants), which produces > fire > earth > metal > water, ad
infinitum. The logic of this cycle is obvious; for example,
the burning of wood which produces ashes or earth.
The negative or "controlling" cycle of influence is: water
> fire > metal > wood > earth > water, and so on. For example,
water destroys fire by putting it out, fire can melt metal,
and metal saws, knives, and nails can cut trees and plants.
Thus, in our gardens, if we have too much sunlight, we add
water as a balancing element to cool and nourish the wood.
If the land is flooded or soggy, we introduce rocks or mound
up earth as a dam because earth controls water in the cycle
of negative influence.
Each element is associated with specific colours, shapes,
seasons and locations on the compass. By working with the
interplay of such variants, feng shui masters accentuate auspicious
energy. For example, circular shapes belong to the metal realm;
thus, a round flowerbed is not fortunate because metal has
a negative effect on wood. Instead, plant flowers in an undulating
border or a rectangular bed since the wavy form represents
water (positive for wood) and the rectangle resembles the
column-shape that is associated with wood.
The BaGua or Compass is a mystical representation
of the eight trigrams of the I-Ching, an ancient Chinese divining
tool. The hexagonal compass is used to analyze one's interior
and exterior environment. Each of the directions governs a
different aspect of life (for example: south= fame, achievement,
east=health, harmony, southwest=marriage, romance, etc.) and
is associated with a specific element, shape, or colour. Once
the garden is aligned with the compass, it is easier to design
the most propitious placement of plants, furniture, and other
content. In recent times, some schools of feng shui gardening
have rejected the compass directions and use the entrance
of the house (or office or garden) as the reference point.
In either case, specific areas of the space are associated
with specific aspirations and one arranges the space to enhance
Feng Shui for Small Spaces
City dwellers, despite their relatively small garden space,
can also introduce feng shui to their apartments. The presence
of plants on a patio, terrace, or doorway attracts vitalizing
Potted plants, hanging baskets, and window boxes are excellent;
located at the threshold of your home, they draw the energy
of the garden inside.
If you have a sunny space, plant bright flowers, such as
geraniums, begonias, marigolds and petunias; their colourful
vitality will balance the dark interior of an apartment.
In even a small space, create an arrangement of pebbles,
wood, and plants to balance yin and yang energies.
A miniature fountain surrounded by ferns and other greenery
soothes the eye and the ear.
Sculpture, wind chimes, and empty ornamental vases or bowls
also encourage auspicious chi to visit and settle.
Whether you have a green thumb or are just beginning to garden,
the principles of feng shui can add to the success of your
garden. More importantly, a feng shui garden can add immeasurably
to the quality of your life. When we cultivate our feng shui
garden, we cultivate our soul and experience the harmony of
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