Somewhere between the sixth and ninth centuries before the Christian era, the practice of Feng Shui had been sufficiently opened up to allow ordinary Chinese people to use it. Certainly, by the middle of the eleventh century of the Christian era, it was being applied to the dwelling places of the ordinary people. However, after the Cultural Revolution, practicing Feng Shui became a serious and punishable offence, which prompted the existing Feng Shui masters to flee, mostly to Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Feng Shui has a history of many thousands of years. Some say 2000 years, others 3000, 5000 or 6000 years ago. Interestingly, a Neolithic tomb was found in China that contained clear Feng Shui markings still used in contemporary Feng Shui. The tomb faced north and had four animals; dragon, tiger, tortoise and phoenix engraved on the internal walls.
Throughout the history of Feng Shui there have been many Feng Shui masters and a range of interesting stories.
Other than the Lo Pan, (a specific Feng Shui compass) there are two universal laws of nature that are fundamental to the practice of classical Feng Shui; Yin and Yang and the five elements. It is said that Fu Hsi, a scholar who lived around 4500BC invented the symbols of natural forces (the Eight Trigrams) incorporating the idea of yin and yang.
However, the first important piece of literature on Feng Shui practice is considered to be the ‘Book for Burial’ written around 250AD by Kwok Po. He emphasised the importance of site selection and provided specific criteria in order to achieve success for future generations.
From the time of the Han dynasty (206 – 220 AD) Feng Shui was used in the construction of both burial sites and homes.
During the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 AD) Master Yang Yun Sung who is considered to be a great contributor to the most important tool in Feng Shui practice the Lo Pan (compass) and, one of the greatest teachers of Feng Shui. It is said that he acquired his knowledge from a teacher called Yao Yan Han. According to legends, Master Yao while hunting encountered an old man in a cave who gave him a book containing the secret formulas of Feng Shui. Hence, Master Yao became a famous practitioner building many auspicious graves.
Then one day, while relaxing in his garden the Tang Emperor looked up to the sky only to see a purple cloud constantly hovering in the same position of the sky. He consequently sent his soldiers to investigate only to be told that the purple cloud was positioned above a grave built by Master Yao. As purple was a colour reserved for royalty, the Tang emperor became alarmed, fearing that Master Yao’s skill could create from the common populous, more powerful men than himself. He consequently summoned Master Yao to the palace and proceeded to confiscate his book ‘The secret formula of Feng Shui’.
Feeling threatened he then instructed a monk to write a false book of Feng Shui titled ‘Killing the Barbarians’. Its primary purpose was to prevent potential invaders such as the Mongolians, Koreans and Japanese from obtaining this vital knowledge and becoming so powerful they could invade China. Unfortunately, the information in this book also circulated among the common people and consequently, as it does today, created a lot of confusion. This information, was touted by Master Sam Chuk Yin (1848 – 1906 AD) as the system now called the 8 mansions school.
Subsequently, the 8 mansions school was the primary system of Feng Shui practiced until the end of the Ching Dynasty.
Some say that Master Yao was murdered by the Emperor, others that he was rescued by Master Yang Yun Sung originally an officer of the Tang dynasty. One version of this legend says that during an uprising in the capital, the Emperor fled the palace so Master Yang took this opportunity to release master Yao and remove the ‘Secret Book of Feng Shui’ from the library.
Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644AD) there was an intellectual called Chiang Tai Sung who, when China was being invaded by the Manchurians from the North, took part in the struggle against the invasion – to no avail. The Ming dynasty eventually fell. He then turned to Feng Shui and became one of the most influential teachers on the subject and is considered so to this day.
Master Chiang claimed that he had inherited the ‘true’ teachings of Master Yang Yun Sung and that he had written a book called ‘Debate and Verification of Feng Shui theories’. In this book he criticised the school also known as the eight mansions as being false Feng Shui and subsequently promoted a system called San Yuen or flying stars as the authentic practice.
Master Sam Chuk Yin is the author of a famous book called ‘Master Sam’s Xuan Kong’ which was written during the Ching dynasty and is considered to be the ‘bible’ of Feng Shui. Master Sam, as a young man was an eager student of Feng Shui and, in the preface of the book he describes how he acquired his knowledge.
Initially, he followed the eight mansions school however; he noticed that it did not always work well. He had also observed that a friend’s family after employing a team of Feng Shui experts to handle the burial of his father encountered only misfortune soon after the burial took place. He was mystified by this and decided to interview the Feng Shui experts and yet not one was able to satisfactorily respond to his queries.
He then chanced upon a book which captivated him. It unravelled the mystery of Feng Shui in his mind as the book provided the answers to why the grave of his friend’s father had produced a negative outcome for the family. He consequently devoted the rest of his life studying, promoting and teaching Master Sam’s Xuan Kong Feng Shui.