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Basic Feng Shui Theories and Terminologies

Updated on September 10, 2017

In feng shui articles, there tend to be numerous theories and terminologies that can appear puzzling to readers, especially those who are new to the subject.

In view of this, I attempt below to familiarize you with some of the terminologies and theories of feng shui.

(1) The yin-yang principles

The art of divination with regard to feng shui is closely related to the harmony of the cosmic breath – yin ( 阴) and yang ( 阳 ). Yin and yang are the negative and positive principles of universal life.

The following is quoted from “Feng shui, Chinese Colours and Symbolism” written by Evelyn Lip:

……. The universe too is made up of yin-yang and is represented by wood, fire, earth, gold and water. The balance of these ingredients or elements changes nature or man’s fate.

(2) The Five Elements or Forces

The Chinese believe that the universe is made up of yin-yang and is represented by Wu Xing or five forces or elements (五行).

The five elements are Metal ( 金 ), Water ( 水 ), Wood ( 木 ), Fire ( 火 ), and Earth ( 土 ).

There are two main cycles of interaction between the Five Elements, namely creation and counteraction, as described below.

Representation of the Chinese Five Elements (wuxing)
Representation of the Chinese Five Elements (wuxing) | Source

· The Creation cycle

Metal created Water, Water nurtured Wood, Wood gave rise to Fire, Fire produced Earth and Earth gave birth to Metal.

· The Counteraction cycle

Metal broke Wood, Wood cut into Earth, Earth absorbed Water, Water put out Fire, and Fire melted Metal.

All calamities were said to arise from disturbances of the Five Elements and the ancient Chinese were cautious not to interfere with the laws of nature and heaven.

Relationship of the Five Elements, directions, seasons and colours

Element 
 Direction
Season 
 Colour
 Wood
 East
 Spring
 Green
 Fire
 South
 Summer
 Red
Earth 
 Centre
Yellow 
Metal 
 West
Autumn 
White 
 Water
 North
Winter 
Black 
 
 
 
 

(3) The Ten Heavenly Stems and Twelve Earthly Branches

Also known as the Celestial Stems or Tian Gan ( 天干), the Ten Stems are Jia ( 甲 ), Yi ( 乙 ), Bing ( 丙 ), Ding ( 丁 ), Wu ( 戊 ), Ji ( 己 ), Geng ( 庚 ), Xin ( 辛 ), Ren ( 壬 ) and Kui ( 癸 ).

Relationship of the Five Elements and the Ten Stems, as well as the Yin and Yang nature of the Ten Stems

Element 
Stem 
Yin-yang 
 Wood
Jia 
Yang 
 Wood
 Yi
Yin 
 Fire
Bing 
Yang 
Fire
Ding
Yin
Earth
Wu
Yang
Earth
Ji
Yin
Metal
Geng
Yang
Metal
Xin
Yin
Water
Ren
Yang
Water
Kui
Yin

The Twelve Branches, Di Zhi ( 地支 ) are Zi ( 子 ), Chou ( 丑 ), Yin (寅 ), Mao ( 卯 ), Chen ( 辰 ), Si ( 巳 ), Wu ( 午 ), Wei ( 未 ), Shen ( 申 ), You ( 酉 ), Shu ( 戍 ) and Hai ( 亥 ).

Relationship of the Five Elements and the Twelve Branches, as well as the Yin and Yang nature of the Twelve Branches

Element 
Branch 
Yin-yang 
Water
Zi
Yang
Earth
Chou
Yin
Wood
Yin
Yang
Wood
Mao
Yin
Earth
Chen
Yang
Fire
Si
Yin
Fire
Wu
Yang
Earth
Wei
Yin
Metal
Shen
Yang
Metal 
You 
Yin 
Earth 
Shu 
Yang 
Water 
Hai 
Yin

Note: The interpretation of yin and yang nature of the Twelve Branches can vary with different geomancers.

One of the main applications of the Ten Stems and Twelve Branches is BaZi (Four Pillars of Destiny). They are used in BaZi to calculate the character and life events or destiny of a person.

(4) The Twelve Animal Symbols in Chinese Horoscope

The terms of the Twelve Branches are applied to the Chinese Horoscope symbols as follows:

Animal Symbol
Branch 
Rat
Zi
Ox
Chou
Tiger
Yin
Rabbit
Mao
Dragon
Chen
Snake
Si
Horse
Wu
Sheep
Wei
Monkey
Shen
Rooster 
You 
Dog 
Shu 
 Pig
Hai 

Relationship of the animal symbols, the orientation and the corresponding hours are as follows:

Animal Symbol 
Orientation 
Corresponding hours 
Rat (Zi )
North
11 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Ox (Chou)
North-Northeast
1 a.m. – 3 a.m.
Tiger (Yin)
East-Northeast
3 a.m. – 5 a.m.
Rabbit (Mao)
East
5 a.m. – 7 a.m.
Dragon (Chen)
East-Southeast
7 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Snake (Si)
South-Southeast
9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Horse (Wu)
South
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Sheep (Wei)
South-Southwest
1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Monkey (Shen)
West-Southwest
3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Rooster (You) 
West
5 p.m. – 7 p.m. 
Dog (Shu) 
West-Northwest
7 p.m. – 9 p.m. 
Pig (Hai) 
North-Northwest
9 p.m. – 11 p.m. 

Note: The Chinese gave each period of duration of two hours a name, e.g. Zi is from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Hai from 9 p.m. to 11 pm.

Later Heaven Bagua
Later Heaven Bagua | Source

(5) The Bagua or Eight Trigrams

The Bagua ( 八卦) has two versions, namely the Earlier Heaven Bagua and the Later Heaven Bagua. The latter version is more widely used to represent the direction or orientation.

The Eight Trigrams are Qian ( 乾 ), Kun ( 坤 ), Zhen ( 震 ), Kan ( 坎 ), Gen ( 艮 ), Xun (巽 ), Li (离), and Dui (兑)

There are two kinds of lines forming their symbols: a broken line and a solid line. The broken line - - indicates yin and the solid line - yang. The symbolic meanings are based on the way in which yin and yang lines are combined.

Each trigram or gua corresponds to an aspect of life and also corresponds to one of the cardinal directions.

The Eight Trigrams represent the direction or orientation as follows:

Symbol 
Trigram 
Orientation 
Qian
North-west
Kun
South-west
Zhen
East
Kan
North
Gen
North-east
☴ 
Xun 
South-east 
☲ 
Li 
South 
☱ 
Dui 
West 

The Bagua can also be used to represent people. The table below shows the element nature of each gua and the people it represents.

Trigram or Gua 
Element
Family member 
Other people 
Qian 
Metal
Father 
Elderly male over aged 46 or a superior 
Kun
Earth
Mother
Elderly female over aged 46
Zhen
Wood
Eldest son
Male between age 31 to 45
Kan
Water
Middle son
Male between age of 16 to 30
Gen
Earth
Youngest son
Male between age of 1 to 15
Xun
Wood
Eldest daughter
Female between age 31 to 45
Li 
Fire
Middle daughter  
Female between age of 16 to 30 
Dui 
Metal
Youngest daughter  
Female between age of 1 to 15, or a subordinate 

Above is just a brief description of some of the feng shui theories, which have very wide applications.

I hope you find the above tables useful as they contain information that can be used for future reference purposes.

© 2011 pinkytoky

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    • pinkytoky profile image
      Author

      pinkytoky 6 years ago from Singapore

      Binaya - Feng shui is really a very complex subject, with so many theories and practices. Even after reading up on the subject for 20 years, my feng shui knowledge is still very shallow.

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      Binaya.Ghimire 6 years ago

      I knew about Fengshui and have tried to Fengshui my house, but I must admit how ignorant I was before I read this hub.