Tuesday, September 25, 2007


“I am the only one who is right 為我獨尊” is an attitude problem some Feng Shui masters have. They can make statements from their own misunderstanding to declare that others are wrong. They are just using their own mistakes as the standard to claim that the correct ideas of others are wrong 以己之非,非人之是. They also like to step on famous forerunners to make themselves known.

For example, Song Dynasty scholar Cai Yuan Ding 蔡元定 explained that when a mountain was compared to water, then the inactive mountain was yin while the active water was yang. Water is approaching and wooing a mountain like a man wooing a woman. The water embraces the mountain just like a man would embrace a woman whom he loves. This is a vivid example illustrating the concept of yin and yang.

The self-crowned greatest Feng Shui master in 600 years Mr. Li Ding Xin 李定信 says that Cai was wrong. He made statement that the opposite is true: Mountain is yang while water is yin. His basis is from the Burial Book 葬書:

"Earth is the mother of qi. There is qi because there is earth. Qi is the mother of water. There is water because there is qi.”

How does it prove that mountain is yang while water is yin? Mr. Li explains:


“This means that earth (dragon) gives birth to qi. Qi gives birth to water. Dragon is the boss and water follows. Therefore, dragon (mountain) is yang and water is yin.”

To annotate his explanation he also says:


“According to Zhou Yi, everything in the world can be categorized as yin and yang. For example, heavy is yang, light is yin; above is yang, below is yin; brightness is yang, darkness is yin; strong is yang, weak is yin; boss is yang, followers are yin…. Etc.”

This is Mr. Li’s understanding of Zhou Yi. No wonder he talks about himself,


Twenty or thirty years ago, I also was a “Feng Shui“ master making a living in the rivers and lakes”

You bet, Mr. Li still is today.


Jeannie said...

Dear Master Yu,

I recently came across someone who does not read Chinese and is not a Feng Shui Master but having the same attitude, and in addition, uttering blesphemy.

Best wishes.

Joseph Yu said...

Dear Jeanie

I am sure such attitude only drives people away.


Fourpillars.net said...

Dear Joseph,

I think we should cut that Feng Shui master some slack here.
What he is doing may have been the only realistic choice in his situation.

Whether to consider mountains as Yang and waters as Yin, or vice versa..
That is a question of different "approach"
And both approaches can have merit and useful applications..

If this master has used and experimented with the mountain = yang approach his whole life, then that will be the basic axioma/premise of his entire experience and teaching.
Maybe his students are confused because they have heard that in other schools they teach: waters = yang.
That's why he first tells them that only his approach is right, because otherwise he cannot transmit his teachings without getting misunderstood.

There is no attitude or behaviour that is "bad" or "wrong" as such.
We always need to consider the situation in which the attitude is displayed.

Perhaps the students have just written down what their master has said, and that's what has come to us in the old text.
We do not know the situation in which it was said..


Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny

It is not a matter of "approach". Feng Shui is all about the intercourse of yin qi and yang qi. The metaphor of female and male "ci xiong 雌雄" used by Yang Yun Song is very vivid. It is not the master and follower "Zhu cong 主從" relationship. It is the husband and wife relationship.

Yang Yun Song used courtship, approach and embrace to describe good mountain-water relationship. The metaphor is that water approaches and embraces mountain like a man does to a woman.

Of course, if we are talking about other things, it does not matter which you consider yin and which yang. If we are talking about Yang Gong's teaching, then it is quite obvious.

The scientific approach is hypothesis - debate - understanding. It is not statement - demand of belief - dogma.


Fourpillars.net said...

Dear Joseph,

Of course I have not read that book.
My comment is merely saying that different approaches can be valid.

In this regard I remember the example of light theory in physics.
Some scientists proposed that light consists of small particles (photons), and they where able to explain certain phenomena based on that theory.
But other scientists used a different approach, and posted that light consists of electro-magnetic waves.
They were also succesful to explain certain observed characteristics.
The apparent contradiction was not so easily solved by debate, and it took quite a long time till a better understanding was reached.

If this can happen in an exact science like physics, then we cannot rule out something similar in feng shui or any other domain.


With regards to this Yang Yun Song's thesis, I think his basic metaphor is wrong already (or translated wrongly).
I have always seen waters flow away from mountains as soon as they can.
So how this can be the husband - wife relationship?
If we say that flowing waters are Yang/husband, then the valley must represent Yin/wife, because that's what flowing waters seem to be irrestibly attracted too.
If the valley is Yin, then its natural opposite the mountains must be Yang.
So both flowing waters and mountains are Yang, and that's why they repel each other and water flows away from the mountain.
Rivers only make a near-circle 'embrace' around a mountain when that's the only way out. It is pretty rare.

Flowing waters are Yang, and so are mountains.
The valleys are Yin.


"Dragon(mountains) is the boss, and water follows"

We now know that's not very true either.
It is erosion, mostly by flowing waters and ice glaciers (and also winds) that has shaped the mountains in the first place, so who was/is the boss?
And eventually after long enough time the erosion will have flattened the mountain, so who is the boss?
It is clearly not so easy to tell..

If we chose to use debate and understanding, then we have plenty of things to question about Yang Yun Song's hypothesis


CaitanyaRupa said...

Please clarify my understanding:

The analogy of yang embracing Yin is given to help understand how to keep Sheng Qi on a site.

If the river takes its natural course and flows swiftly away, then so will Sheng Qi flow away.

Isn't this the basis for water formulas? How to foster that embrace of Yin by Yang?

From what I can see, Feng Shui works with nature to improve the environment. If the environment fosters that embrace naturally, then proper Feng Shui would only enhance it. (Set a more romantic setting for the embrace.)

I have read in articles online where such an embrace is not naturally there and very rich clients will spend enormous amounts of money to create that embrace.

So if Yang Yun Song is talking about Feng Shui, then he is not talking about the natural flows of rivers, he is talking about the optimal flows of water.

Just some thoughts.

Caitanya Rupa

Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny and Kaitanyarupa

Obviously mountains were formed long before rivers. Mountains are the result of the earth's crust folding by internal forces. When the snow melts from the mountain top, the water flows its natural course and sometimes makes its way by eroding the mountain if there is obstruction. The river is then formed. It flows along the valleys between mountains. It also creates its way by eroding the plains.

If the river runs in a winding manner, it will be like a man hugging his wife before going to work and look back many times as if he does not want to part. This is loving water.

If the river flows away in a torrential manner, it is loveless water. Loveless water easily causes flooding. This is of course bad Feng Shui.

To correct this, Xia Yu (Yu the Great) directed the Yellow River to flow lovingly into the sea. Good Feng Shui was created.

Site selection involves finding a place with good Feng Shui. It is much easier than to correct the Feng Shui of a bad site.

To a smaller scale, good Feng Shui can be created by proper buildings and landscaping. That was how Feng Shui theories were established.


CaitanyaRupa said...

I researched Xia Yu online and am amazed at his achievement.

"Shun recruited Yu as successor to his father's job at flood-control. But instead of building more dikes, Yu began to dredge out new river channels, to serve both as outlets for the torrential waters, and as irrigation conduits to distant farm lands. Yu spent a backbreaking thirteen years at this task, with the help of some 20,000 workers."
This is steadiness and determination.

Yes, I agree, it would be much simpler and easier to find a good site than to go through such hardship. I know I don't have the facilities to do such a thing.

Fourpillars.net said...

> Obviously mountains were formed long before rivers....

Dear Joseph,

Not rarely the rivers are actually older than the mountains.
That's not as strange as it may appear.
A classic example is the Ganges.
It's source is on the Chinese (Tibet) side of the Himalaya, yet it ends on the Indian side where it flows into the Indian Ocean.
This is only possible if the Ganges existed already before the Himalaya range started rising up.

What happened is this:
The mountain started rising because the Indian plate bumped into Asia.
The Himalaya built slowly, going up about 5 mm per year.
This gave the already existing Ganges plenty of time to cut and maintain its path into India.
That's why we can now see the Ganges cut right through the Himalayas.

The same is with the Donau in Europe. Its source is in Germany on the Northern side of the Alps range.
Yet, it actually cuts through 2 mountain ranges before it ends in the Black Sea.
That's because the Donau is older than these mountains.

This is not so rare.

Rivers appeared as soon as there was the first land and rain on it.
Most mountains appeared much later.

So sometimes the river is older and mountains formed later.
Sometimes the mountain is older and new rivers sprung from them.

Age is not a useful criterion to decide whether mountains and rivers are Yin or Yang.

Sherab Wong said...

Dear Joseph Yu,
totally agree with your view...some of his disciples are still very arrogant about their own ignorance, pitiful people.
If only they can understand what is humbleness and a Zen Mind...

Joseph Yu said...

Hi Sherab

"Arrogance" and "Ignorance" rhyme very well, do they?


Simon said...

Dear Master Yu,

n all my sources, the Book of Burial refers to earth as "body of qi" (氣之體) - not "mother of qi" (气之母).


Or is there other valid versions of Zangshu?

Joseph Yu said...

Dear Simon,

Everyone is using the version from Si Hu Quan Shu 四庫全書 compiled by a group of scholars headed by Ji Xiao Lan 紀曉嵐 but Li Ding Xin claims to have the only true version while Si Ku Quan Shu carries the fake version.


Simon said...

Thank you for the clarification!

Simon said...

Dear All,

There could be waters on earth before the earth created mountains, as Danny explained, by precipitation. But could any water actually flow without variation in altitude (i.e. existence of mountains)? Even wind blows by difference of air pressure. When a difference in pressure exists, the air is accelerated from higher to lower pressure. Water flows from higher ground to lower ground. Nature of water and wind seems to be alike according to this fact.

Springs can also be sources of rivers. Moving earth forms mountains - and by increasing pressure, it presses out the water from inside the earth and creates springs. Without earth no water could be hold.

If the basis of comparison is height, we can consider mountain as yang and valley as yin, hence mountains are higher than valleys.

If the basis of the comparison is the ability to flow/move, we can consider the flowing water as yang and the still mountain as yin. There are still/standing waters (lakes, ponds, marshes, puddles etc.) which are truly waters, but are they yang or yin in comparison with rivers, streams etc.? I suppose if the basis of the comparison is the same, the yin and yang "classification" should be the same.