Archive for May, 2006

Scary Sha Qi

I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers of this column for more ‘how to’ Feng Shui. Thus, in response to these popular requests, I’ve decided to tackle a Feng Shui subject that everyone, at one point or another in his life, has worried about: Sha Qi.

I have noticed, from the many questions I received from the public during my seminars and talks, that people have a lot of paranoia about Sha Qi. Sha Qi means ‘Killing Qi’ in case you don’t already know. I do not believe that Feng Shui should be about freaking people out. That’s the job of horror movies. No one should have to practice Feng Shui in paranoia, living in fear of doing anything lest it upset the cosmic flow of Qi, or worrying that the newest addition to his living room is going to shorten his life by 10 years simply because it looks vaguely pointy.

So this week, I’m going to give you some simple pointers (no pun intended) on how to discern Sha Qi and when not to be worried about Sha Qi.

Of course, an important disclaimer applies. I always tell people that when it comes to Feng Shui, there’s no greater secret technique than the secret art of common sense. Common sense will tell you that if the Sha Qi is a significantly sized problem (like a pylon), any cures or remedies will be limited in their effect and impact. Also in Feng Shui, curing or remedying a situation is not always the best course of action.

What is Sha Qi?

If you’re going to be scared, you better know what you should be scared of surely? Sha Qi has become a much-loved bogeyman for many New Age Feng Shui practitioners because it’s so easy to invoke. If you follow New Age Feng Shui, it would seem anything with a sharp point, is evil, emanating malignant Qi and will shorten your life, deplete your bank account and or make your spouse run away, take your pick.

First, let us understand Qi a little bit better before we dwell into Sha Qi. Qi is the natural living energy that is found in the universe. It is the product of mountains and water in the environment. Formations in the environment produce two kinds of Qi: Sheng Qi or Sha Qi. The aim of the practice of Feng Shui in essence is to grow the Sheng Qi or encourage positive Qi and minimise the Sha Qi or negative Qi. By minimising the Sha Qi, Feng Shui practitioners look for ways to transform the Sha Qi, through re-alignment of the Qi pathways for example, into a more sentimental form of Qi. This is because Qi, like all forms of energy, cannot be destroyed or dissolved, it can only be transformed.

So, now that you understand Qi, let’s move to Sha Qi. What is Sha Qi really? Sha Qi is sharp, fierce, merciless Qi produced as a result of energies being focused by sharp corners, straight lines or narrow gaps, creating energy that moves aggressively and quickly.

Sha Qi can come from a variety of sources: the most obvious source of Sha Qi is sharp, pointy objects - a roof-edge, a pylon, sharp mountain peaks or straight roads are examples of objects or formations that can generate Sha Qi in an environment. Gushing strong water can also produce Sha Qi. Sha Qi can also be produced when wind is ‘focused’ through narrow gaps, for example, by a gap between two buildings, known as ‘Sky Crack Sha’ in Feng Shui or by an alleyway, in a formation known as ‘Pulling Nose Qi’.


Sha Qi Urban Legends

Now, having said that, this does not mean that everything that is pointy or sharp produces Sha Qi. If you take a moment to think about it, if you had to eliminate everything that was pointy or sharp in your life, there would be a lot of inconveniences in life. You can’t use a pen or pencil, eat with chopsticks and you can’t have any kind of furniture in your house unless it is of a round-shape. You will have to sleep in a round bed, and you’d have to find some other way to cut your food because you can’t have a blender or a shredder or a knife in your house.

Plants do not produce Sha Qi. Furniture does not produce Sha Qi. I know that I have said that Qi is energy produced by the natural environment but let us be realistic: how much Sha Qi can a potted cactus produce? Even if for the sake of argument, there is Sha Qi emanating from a cactus - compare the size of the needles on the small potted cactus to the size of the average human being. Proportionality will tell you that any Sha Qi will have minimal effect at best!

If you have a giant cactus growing right in front of your Main Door, to the point that it blocks out all light from your Main Door entrance, then okay, I’ll concede that you may have a problem. But it is not due to the cactus - it is because the cactus is placed in a location that obstructs Qi from entering the property, and not because the Main Door is being ‘skewered’ by the Sha Qi of prickly cactus needles.

That goes the same with having shelves in your room or the pointy corner of a desk aimed at your bed. These are really small and very minor issues. Of course, in Feng Shui, we prefer harmonious and rounded surfaces, but that applies to the large structures more than the small matters like your book shelves.


Of course, some of the examples here do not make sense and are absolutely outrageous but these are actually questions that I get in my email box or get asked at seminars. It is not that people are being silly - it is that they are genuinely concerned and have been given this notion by New Age Feng Shui practitioners, making them think that their new L-shaped sofa is producing Sha Qi. That is why you should not be paranoid when it comes to Sha Qi because then you will start to see Sha Qi where there is none!

You can’t get rid of it all!

In this modern day and age, it is virtually impossible to live in a civilised society, without some form of something sharp, somewhere in the environment. You want to have Astro in your house? Then you’re probably pointing something sharp at one of your neighbours in order to receive the signal. Unless you are prepared to go back to nature or live in the boonies without electricity or cable TV, some sharp objects have to be accepted as part of your environment.

So what is your best defence against the Sha Qi bogeyman? Be practical, use common sense and develop a sense of proportionality. A large pointy structure like a lamp post directly outside your Main Door or a pylon outside the building you live in, is obviously exerting a more significant effect on the Qi in your environment than that souvenir miniature Eiffel Tower you bought on a trip to Paris that sits on your desk. That’s being practical and using your common sense. Being proportional means looking at the distance between your location and that of the Sha Qi and determining the proportion of the problem. Let’s say you know that within a 10km radius of your house, there is a pylon. But this pylon cannot actually be SEEN from your house. Then it’s not that big a problem.


Accordingly, when it comes to Sha Qi in your environment, before you press the panic button, you should also consider this question: does it affect any one of the 3 important factors: the Main Door, the bedroom and the Kitchen? If the Sha Qi is near, and affects your Main Door, then you may have a serious problem, which may require a Feng Shui professional’s assistance to evaluate and resolve. Similarly, if you have internal Sha Qi in your house, but it points at your toilet door, your problem is minor. I mean, how many of us really do ‘important business’ inside the toilet?

Sha Qi is of course a cause for concern when it comes to the quality of the Feng Shui in your environment. But that does not mean you have to live in constant fear. Dealing with Sha Qi is truly a matter of understanding what it is, appreciating when it is a problem and when it is not a problem and most importantly, differentiating the Sha Qi you should be concerned about, and the negligible stuff. In my next article, I will show you some examples of major Sha Qi problems and explain how to deal with Sha Qi.

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A Science or Belief?

A few weeks ago, in this column, I put forth the view that Classical Feng Shui is a scientific practice. Now, I have espoused that view of Feng Shui all over the world, when I teach Feng Shui, BaZi and Mian Xiang at seminars. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that my comments had created a buzzing debate over the question of what creature Feng Shui is - is it scientific practice? Pseudo-science? Or purely belief? Hence, I thought I would address this issue in more depth and explore the scientific side of Classical Feng Shui.

You have to Believe in Feng Shui, so it’s not science.

Wait a minute - you also have to believe in your doctor, before you go and see him or her. You also have to believe in your lawyer before you appoint him to defend you in a case. Does that mean that the entire body of medical science is not valid if you don’t believe your doctor’s diagnosis? Of course not.

When people exhort that Feng Shui is not a science or not scientific, the problem is, people may not understand what science is to begin with. The word ‘science’ comes from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge. According to Wikipedia, science can be defined simply as “any systematic field of study or the knowledge gained from it”. So, how does Feng Shui measure up against this definition?


There is no doubt that Classical Feng Shui is a systematic field of study: by systematic I mean it has basic models, basic principles, empirical evidence and most importantly, documented observation. It is not made up. It is not this today, that tomorrow. It is not without logical explanation.

How do scientists arrive at scientific conclusions? They conduct experiments, observe the outcomes, repeat those experiments if necessary to ensure a consistent outcome and then document their observations. Feng Shui has basic models and principles: the Five Elements, Yin and Yang, the He Tu, the Lo Shu, the principle of Cosmic Trinity are examples of principles at the core of Feng Shui and many Chinese Metaphysical practices. What about empirical evidence? This has been accumulating since the Tang Dynasty! Ancient classics contain not only descriptions of landform and the principles of Qi, but drawings of mountains and water.

New books and new theories on Feng Shui, adjusted to the modern world that we live in, are constantly published and written in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The study, and the body of knowledge, is constantly growing, not unlike scientific practices like medicine and engineering.

In any science, a critical component is observation. Feng Shui is a component of Physiognomy, which is one of the Chinese Five Arts. It is known as a science of observation of the environment. Many of the principles in Feng Shui are the result of observation by practitioners since the Tang Dynasty, which are then documented into classics like Qing Nang Jing (Green Satchel), Ru Di Yan (Entering Earth Eye) and Zi Bai Jue (Purple White Verse). Some of the classics that form the basis of Feng Shui study are not original classics that propound new ideas, but weed out the observations that did not pan out and the ones that did. Feng Shui until the early 1900s was exclusively for Imperial use only. So the research was often carried out from one generation to another, without breakage or pause. This enabled observation of what worked and what didn’t, over the span of several hundred years.

Today, whilst not all Feng Shui masters can claim affiliation to lineages, those that do, document their cases extensively and thoroughly, so that the body of knowledge collected during their lifetime, can be passed on to the next generation of the lineage, so that they may continue to observe the outcomes, and grow the body of knowledge.

Science is not just physics, chemistry and biology. That is an extremely narrow minded perception of science. Science encompasses amongst other things, social sciences like anthropology and sociology, earth sciences like geography (traditionally perceived as an ‘arts’ subject in Malaysia) and applied sciences such as engineering, computer science and psychology.

You can’t touch it, you can’t see it, how do you measure it?

Many people also point out that it is hard to accept Feng Shui as a science because it is not possible to measure Qi. Again, that is a flawed perception.

Before Michael Faraday (1831-79), electricity and magnetic forces couldn’t be measured. Does that mean that until Faraday’s time, electricity and magnetic forces did not exist? Electron microscopes helped pioneer the field of virology or the study of viruses. But does that mean before that, viruses did not exist? Quasars and blackholes cannot yet be actually measured but no one disbelieves Steven Hawking when he talks about the wormholes in the universe, even if no one has actually seen one to know how it works, except on Star Trek.

Can you measure blood pressure with a stethoscope? Of course not. We tend to assume that all things in our world and universe are measurable by rulers, test tubes and electronic devices that we read about or have heard about. But if that were the case, then there would be no need to design special tools for measurement or observation in new fields like space exploration or quantum mechanics. Until the Hubble telescope, man studied the stars and the universe through observation only. We had to build the Hubble. Just like to explore space, we had to build the rocket.

So, when we talk about measuring Qi, we must ask: what is the device for this particular type of practice? Are we not able to measure it because we are not using the right device?

The Chinese already had devices to measure Qi. The Solar and Lunar calendar, the Luo Pan and observation skills - using one’s eyes to study the environment. Of course, nowadays, some of us use Google Earth. And you can buy an electronic Luo Pan. And plotting Flying Star or Da Gua calculations (a method for quantifying and identifying types of Qi) can be done electronically with a computer these days, or even a Palm program. So who says that Qi is not measurable? It is simply that Qi is not measurable through the devices or means in which people assume are used to measure everything in this universe, from gases to insects. You don’t use a stethoscope to measure blood pressure after all, right?

Art in every science

The other debate over Feng Shui is whether it is an art or a science. Let me throw out a potentially bold suggestion: In every science, there is art. I think if you ask a doctor or a dentist, they will most certainly tell you that there is an art, to the science that they practice. This art is judgment. It is subtle elements that come with experience and application of knowledge in different cases. Even in the purest science, the Queen of Science, Mathematics, there is beauty and aesthetics!

Science only affords us the pure application. Art is what enables a person trained in a scientific practice to make a decision as to which technique to apply, and in what instances a technique can or cannot be used. This is true in Classical Feng Shui as well. There are universal principles in Feng Shui, and formulas. This is the science. But choosing the right instance to apply the interpretation, or qualifying the instances when a formula can be used, this is the art behind the science. Similarly, environmental formations, mountains and water, are unique in each environment. So while they will conform to certain basic rules (for example, mountains always stop at water) and fall within a clutch of more sophisticated rules, how the Qi is best tapped and utilised, based on the structure (house, office building, resort) is the art.

It makes sense if you consider this all within the Yin and Yang context that is a bedrock principle of Feng Shui and all Chinese Metaphysics. Yin and Yang symbolises balance, perfection. Within science, that which is grounded in strict principle, there is room for interpretation, or artistic application. Yin and Yang.

Thinking Metaphysical

Metaphysics today is sometimes associated with kook practices like the occult but this ignores the very venerable history of metaphysics in the Western world. Aristotle was one of the famous thinkers associated with Metaphysics, as was Rene Descartes and Albert Einstein. Western metaphysics is quite a brain cracker and I don’t profess to be an expert in Western metaphysics. But a cursory search on the Internet will reveal that metaphysicians are interested in questions of existence (why are we here?), the study of Gods or the divine, along with understanding causality (why things happen), relationships and the universe. It combines reasoning and logic, with philosophical ideas.

Classical Feng Shui and the Chinese Five Arts were always recognised as metaphysical subjects by the Chinese - in other words, scientific practices with philosophical existential issues to it. Metaphysics is a more accurate means to describe Feng Shui, BaZi and Mian Xiang (although this doesn’t detract from its scientific nature) because these scientific practices originated out of a desire by the Chinese to understand issues of destiny, the universe, fate, existence and identity, which are essentially metaphysical or philosophical issues. Feng Shui, BaZi and Mian Xiang have philosophical connotations to their scientific findings because they essentially are sciences in which to understand a person’s life.

Now, I’m a Feng Shui practitioner and trainer. I’m not a philosopher and I’m certainly not an expert on metaphysics or sciences. My goal in this article has been to give you an inkling of how I have arrived at my conclusion of Feng Shui as a scientific practice. I do not expect people to immediately be convinced of my viewpoint but I believe that getting to the truth is never about what one person thinks, but about opening our minds to possibilities before we arrive at conclusions. Stimulating debate, opening the door to discussion and putting out alternative perspectives is part of the way in which new ideas can be accepted.

For the longest time, people believed Feng Shui was about superstition, cultural beliefs (symbols and trinkets) or religion. Less and less people think that today. Just like thousands of years ago, people thought the world was flat. People may not be convinced that Feng Shui is a science or scientific practice, but if they open their mind to the possibility, just like Galileo opened minds to the possibility that the earth was round, I have done my job!

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Copyright © 2008 by Joey Yap. All rights reserved worldwide.