Friday, March 20, 2009

Special Design - a follow-up

A design according to Feng Shui principles must integrate the concept of San Cai 三才 - Heaven, Man and Earth 天人地. The part San Cai takes in Feng Shui is Time, Activities and Space. The part San Cai takes in design is Truth, Virtue and Beauty 真善美.

The design must also cater for the special purpose of what the space is for. The concept of yin and yang for a debate is undoubtedly appropriate. The design, however, is too artificial. The Heaven part is represented by a hanging Taiji symbol. This is eye-catching but as Howard Choy pointed out, it is something calling "Look at me, look at me". In Chinese, it is called "the noisy guest overshadows the host 喧賓奪主".

The Man part consists of a structure inspired by the Taiji Tu 太極圖. The male seated in the white section while the female seated at the black section is not the right seating. In the Taiji diagram, there is a white dot in the black part and a black dot in the white part indicating there is yin contained in yang and yang contained in yin. Therefore, the male should be seated in the yin part while the female in the yang part. As a matter of fact, during the show, the man (黃毓民) talked loudly all the time and the woman (葉劉淑儀) had to plead for a chance to speak. It was chaotic and lacked harmony.

The Earth part is also represented by a large taiji symbol painted on the floor where the seats are placed above. Well, the Earth part should be a square conforming to 天圓地方 (round Heaven square Earth). This will help the speakers to talk with solid foundation. Now, what they say are superficial because there is no firm grounds to support them.

The Heaven part must be true 真 meaning that the taiji symbol hanging there should be replaced by light and shadow on the ceiling to be real. The Earth part must be beautiful 美 meaning that the design must be natural symbolizing solid grounds. Although this is a face-to-face heated debate, the atmosphere must be harmonious and the two participants must have constructive ideas for the benefit of the public. The Man part must show harmony and virtue 善.



Mary Catherine Bax said...

Dear Joseph,

As you teach, it is what is unseen that creates good Feng Shui. A place can have a beautiful setting but if the Emperor is not happy, all hell can break loose in a moment's notice.


Teresa Hwang Feng Shui & Design said...

Dear Master Yu,

Thank you for the valuable lesson.

From an interior designer’s perspective, the design principles are applied subjective to the clients’ level of sophistication and objective in the space.

A good example is the interior design of a Dollar Store versus Chanel, Gucci et al. Even a franchise like MacDonald’s has a totally different look from small town North America to the one on Champs-Élysées in Paris.

IMHO - the level of sophistication in the application of the Feng Shui design principle is very dependant upon the goal of the use of the space, and in the case of commercial application, it is very much upon the type of clients/audience they want to attract/cater to.

Best regards,


Antje said...

Hi Teresa,

that is not only your opinion ;-), that´s the basic principle in design and architecture.

"form follows function" synonym to "body follows application".


Howard said...

“Form follows Function” is a principle associated with modern architecture and design, whereas in Feng Shui architecture and design, the principle used is “Form (You 有) follows the Formless (Wu 無)” and this Formless is the Dao.

So to design an object using Feng Shui will require us to find out what is the Benxing 本性 (Original Character) of an object first, for the Benxing is the Dao of that object, and when we know it well and design accordingly, then the finished product will have Truth, Virtue and Beauty 真善美 as mentioned by Joseph. Anything less will mean the design is not being true to itself and it has neither Virtue nor Beauty.

We need to do more than just being functional and cater for the clients’ needs and their level of sophistication, we have to find the Dao of the object as well, so it is “not only functionally efficient but ritually correct as well” (Lee Sang-Hae, “Feng Shui: its Context and Meaning”).

Look at these two pieces of Ming Dynasty furniture collected by Gustav Ecke, it is the “Wu” that makes the “You” stood out so elegantly. They are “classics” because they have captured the Benxing of what a piece of furniture should be.

Teresa Hwang Feng Shui & Design said...

Dear Howard,

We have to take into account the Benxing 本性 (Original Character) of the living human beings too.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. As we are all born different in nature (Benxing 本性), subject to our level of education and understanding, our perception and reaction to everything around us are differnt too.

I personally would not force my own ideals on any of my clients.

Best qi,


Howard said...

Dear Teresa,

It is very true that we have to take into consideration the Benxing of our clients and that is why we have to work with our clients to find the best solutions. It is not about forcing our ideas on them, it is to work with them as a team.

Precisely because they are less informed and less experienced that we can help them to achieve their goals yet maintain our integrity as an environmental designer.

If we forego our standard and principles, then we are not serving them to the best of our abilities.

Some clients have strong ideas and that is a good thing because behind these visions are the Benxing and the driving force - the Human qi that can help us put Heaven and Earth together.

The "special design" that we are looking at is trying too hard to be special for special-sake, not special because it has the Dao of Tian, De and Ren.

The fault does not laid with the client's level of education and understanding, it laid with our level of education and understanding as designers, thinking that we must do something special to be a "Designer" with a capital D, instead of being "ziran" and "wuwei".


Teresa Hwang Feng Shui & Design said...

Dear Howard,

That is my point exactly. It is a token that we have to work with our clients at every step of the way in the design process, whether it is according to Feng Shui principles or not. We still have to see where they are coming from, and adjust the design accordingly.

In the case of the debate design set, if the producer's intention is to cater to the general public without much Feng Shui knowledge, but enough visually as a hook, as well as generating a lot of noise and excitement, then the design has achieved its purpose.

If the show becomes a success, eventually the producer might decide to attract a more sophisticated audience, then the set design could be changed in a more subtle way according to what Master Yu had mentioned.

I have seen over the years how popular TV shows started out with really garish set designs, to more and more sophisticated set designs eventually.

Of course everything is tied in with the advertisements and sponsors too, to the target audience accordingly.

Best qi,


Joseph Yu said...

Dear Friends,

We have to be aware that some designs are actually like the emperor's new clothes.

JY said...

Hi all,

Actually, hexagram 22 goes into this topic.
There is functionality on the one hand, then there is the ornamental on the other hand.

And even though the I Ching book mentions simple functionality as the highest stage, interestingly the Chinese culture has remained extremely ornamental through large parts of its history.
Just compare Chinese art and design with the minimalistic functionality of the Nordic design for example, and the difference could hardly be more big.

The design for the Hong Kong TV debate show, is a typical example of overkill, overuse of the tai chi symbol. Too much ornament.

But I don't think the heated debate in that show had anything to do with the decor.
You can put two politicians in the most harmonious and beautiful settings, and they will probably still have heated debate, feel attacked as soon as the other presents a different point of view, etcetera..
Some things never change.