Archive for December, 2006

The San Yuan System

In a previous article, I wrote in-depth about the two schools or ‘pai’ of Feng Shui, San He and San Yuan. San He and San Yuan are if you like, the Oxford and Cambridge (or Yale and Harvard) of Feng Shui - they are two different schools or approaches to Feng Shui.

All systems and methods of Feng Shui can be classified under either one of these two schools. I then delved into some of the technical details regarding San He Feng Shui, which is also known for it’s emphasis on Luan Tou Feng Shui.

This week, I’m going to delve a little more into the San Yuan system. At the beginner level, most people would have come into some contact with San Yuan Feng Shui - this is because popular systems like Flying Stars Feng Shui (Fei Xing), Eight Mansions (Ba Zhai) and Xuan Kong Da Gua are sub-systems of San Yuan Feng Shui. San Yuan is much more focused on deriving a Qi map of the property being evaluated through calculation, with forms being secondary. By contrast, San He is much more focused on formations, with Qi calculations being used to support the landforms.


San Yuan: What in Three Cycles?

Let’s explore some of the basics of San Yuan because there’s often a lot of confusion about San Yuan’s basic concepts, in particular, the concept of San Yuan itself, which means ‘Three Cycles’ in Chinese. The phrase ‘San Yuan’ is popular in many Chinese writings, aspects of life, philosophy and history.

For example, San Yuan in the days of the Imperial Court, referred to the three Imperial positions: Zhuang Yuan, Bang Yan and Tan Hua. In Taoist philosophy, San Yuan refers to Heaven, Earth and Water. For students of metaphysics, the three divisions of time itself – the 180 years sequence into the upper, middle and lower cycles and 60 Jia Zi, is known as San Yuan. In the study of classical Feng Shui, the cosmic trinity of Heaven, Earth and Man is also known as San Yuan. Hmm….., so what does San Yuan mean?

Those of you who have dipped into the Chinese readings on this subject may have heard the argument by certain Feng Shui writers that San Yuan refers to Time, Yin and Yang, and Location. This is a common mistake that many people, including professionals, make about San Yuan. Why?

Because ALL systems of classical Feng Shui are grounded in the basic concepts of Time, Yin and Yang, and Location. San He also considers the aspects of time (by virtue of the 28 Asterism, Sun Position and other planetary positions), whilst Yin and Yang are reflected in the principles of Mountain and Water, and finally, San He is definitely focused on Location as far as location of the Meridian Spot (Long Xue) is concerned. So how can San Yuan alone refer specifically and only to Time, Yin and Yang, and Location?

In fact, the answer is quite simple. The basis for San Yuan Feng Shui is the concept of cycles. Cycles, or Yuan, permeate in all aspects of the application of San Yuan Feng Shui. For example, the Parent and Sons Hexagram Formation (Fu Mu Xie Zi) – this is known as the San Yuan Xuan Kong Hexagrams, where the 64 Hexagrams are categorised into heaven, earth and man groups. Each Yuan, or cycle, in this case, takes on 8 sub-directions; four of which are Yang Guas and four of which are Yin Guas, thus yielding 64 Hexagrams.

Another example of cycles in San Yuan is how San Yuan perceives time. Time is analysed in cycles of 20 years. There are 9 Periods of 20 years, which make up 180 years, hence every 20 years we have a capital change in the Qi that influences the world. The 9 periods are further subdivided into 3 levels: upper, middle and lower cycles. The entire cycle of time, in San Yuan Feng Shui, spans 180 years.

San Yuan Who’s Who

One of the challenges when it comes to San Yuan Feng Shui is the issue of the classics. Historically, San Yuan is quite a ‘young’ school of Feng Shui although this could be argued is due to the fact that the fascination and fixation with ‘schools of Feng Shui’ or ‘pai’ is a relatively modern development in the world of Feng Shui. In particular, it has become more prominent since Hong Kong masters made the move to start teaching Feng Shui to the public, rather than strictly adhering to the master-disciple system.

Those of you who have dipped into classical reading will be aware of the claim that Huang Shi Gong’s Green Satchel Classics (Qing Nang Jing), along with Grand Master Yang Yun Song’s Heavenly Jade Classics ( Tian Yu Jing) and Green Satchel Commentaries (Qing Nang Aiyu) are founding classics of San Yuan, containing the key theories of San Yuan. However, Grand Master Yang himself never actually classified his work as being part of the San Yuan School. It was only later masters who classified the Green Satchel Classics as being a part of the San Yuan School.

Probably the classical Master who can be said to have ‘founded’ or gave prominence to San Yuan as a school of Feng Shui was Master Jiang Da Hong, a Feng Shui master of the late Ming, early Qing Dynasty era. Master Jiang popularized Xuan Kong Feng Shui and he also wrote a commentary text, Di Li Bian Zheng, that is today, regarded as a key text by most San Yuan Feng Shui Masters.

Di Li Bian Zheng is not to be confused with another book, Di Li He Bi, which is a sort of collection of academic theses and commentaries written by various Feng Shui masters from the Ming and Qing dynasty, focusing mainly on the Flying Stars system.

People often confuse the two books or assume that Di Li He Bi was written by Grand Master Yang Yun Song - it was not. Master Jiang Da Hong’s text remains the definitive San Yuan text that is a ‘must read’ for all those seeking an appreciation of San Yuan.

Why am I harping on about the classics and who started the school or ‘pai’? It is important to understand who the ‘founding father’ of a school or ‘pai’ is because sometimes, it is the foundation for a practitioner’s or master’s claim of lineage. Hence when it comes to San Yuan, any practitioner who claims to come from a long lineage of San Yuan masters, is probably exaggerating the claim a little since San Yuan’s lineage itself, is quite short, beginning at best, in the late Ming era.

The hallmarks of San Yuan

The calculation of Qi, with reference to time, is the main focus of San Yuan Feng Shui. The changes and influence of time and its impact, are tracked to determine how the Qi has changed during the course of the period. Formulas, derived from the mathematical model of the Ba Gua, He Tu, Lo Shu and 8 Trigrams, co-referenced against the North Dipper 9 Stars, is the foundation of San Yuan Feng Shui.

Whilst San He has a greater emphasis on the external forms, San Yuan has a more balanced approach to internal and external Feng Shui. San Yuan also considers time as a more important factor, when compared to San He’s approach to time. San Yuan also places a great deal of emphasis on the 64 Hexagrams in its application. Amongst the more popular San Yuan techniques include Xuan Kong, Eight Mansions and Dragon-gate Eight Formations. These are full-fledged systems in their own right, but are seen as being ‘allied’ with San Yuan.

The popularity of San Yuan can be said to be due to the popularity of Flying Star Feng Shui and Eight Mansions, both which are systems allied with San Yuan and which are relatively easy for beginners to learn. San Yuan is also preferred these days because it is a more dynamic form of Feng Shui and suits the demands of modern society, which is for quick quick quick results. Which system is better? Both have their strengths and it depends a lot on what your goal is. San Yuan technically is better for quick, short-term outcomes whilst San He is better for long-term set-ups (like say, if you are building a castle or planning for an empire!).

I would suggest that in today’s modern world, a good Feng Shui practitioner is one who is neither dogmatic about practice (in other words, knows BOTH San He and San Yuan just as well) and understands that at the end of the day, the systems don’t really contradict each other at an advanced level. It is not a case of which is better or more popular than the other, but rather, which system suits the needs of the client and the demands of the property.

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And a Pi Xiu in a Pear Tree

I was in Perth recently for a face reading seminar and I was approached by a lady with a rather unusual question. She wanted to know what ornaments she should buy to ‘Feng Shui’ her Christmas tree for a little extra good luck. Apparently she had read it in a magazine that she should Feng Shui her Christmas tree. Hmm, just the Christmas present I was expecting.

The answer to this is quite simple: decorate it with whatever you like and however you like because your Christmas tree has nothing to do with your Feng Shui. Let us subject the Christmas tree to the Feng Shui Test: Does it have a location? No. Does it have a direction? No. Is it present 24-7-365? No. Tops, 12 days of the year. So is your Christmas tree something that can affect your Feng Shui? I don’t think so.

In further conversation with this lady, I informed her that she could still have Santa on her tree and need not substitute it with a Pi Xiu, as was suggested by the magazine.

Now, you might be wondering - what is a Pi Xiu and does it have a red nose?

Mythical Creature of Great Luck

A creature of Chinese mythology with the head of a Chinese dragon, a lion-like body, and covered with whitish-grey fur, the Pi Xiu’s fierce look is alleged to be able to ward-off evil. If you take a tour of Beijing’s historical landmarks, chances are, your tour guide will regale you with tales and `advice’ on how the Pi Xiu brings good Feng Shui to you and your endeavors.


According to legend, this creature offended the Jade Emperor (i.e. God of Heaven), and was punished by having its diet restricted to gold and silver, and its excretory orifices sealed. Somewhere along the way, the Pi Xiu became the ideal creature for `wealth-generation’, since it amassed lots, had a diet of silver and gold and never expelled anything!

The Pi Xiu has nothing to do with Classical Feng Shui but is a New Age Feng Shui “idea”. In New Age Feng Shui, it is cast as a magical `protective’ object, capable of bringing fortune and luck to its owner. But ask yourself: Given its imaginary origins, how does anyone actually `know’ what a Pi Xiu looks like? And if no one has actually seen one, how do you know the object cast in resin hanging on your Christmas tree is the real McPiXui?

By the way, you might be interested to know that this creature has actually no grounding in either Taoism or Buddhism. This shouldn’t be surprising, since the Pi Xiu is a product of the imagination of the ancient (maybe even, Modern day) Chinese.

The Pi Xiu is treading a familiar path really - a few years ago, the trend was to have gold flying dragons and flowerhorn fish as good luck magnets.

Change is the only constant, but…

Now, there are some who may well argue that if change is dynamic and inevitable, why should Feng Shui not also undergo its own evolution (or revolution)? Yes but some rules don’t change. Some principles remain constant.

It is therefore impossible – even absurd – for the formulas and precepts regulating classical Feng Shui to change over time. Advance in terms of application, perhaps, just like all the other sciences, but always remember that the underlying rules remain constant.

Likewise, classical Feng Shui derives its roots from time-tested methods and observations, as opposed to its New Age `counterpart’. And lest we forget, a genuine Feng Shui practitioner will always seek to improve on something that’s already good from the beginning; instead of recommending changes that could well turn your world topsy-turvy. Prevention, after all, is always better than cure!

And just as you can’t rewrite Newton’s laws of motion or redraft the Periodic Table, you simply cannot give a time-tested, metaphysical science a whole new makeover! When Faraday first demonstrated the principles of electricity, he was asked: “Of what commercial use will this be?” Any true scientific study derives its pride in its ability to serve and better the lives of humankind; the honor is found in both the means and end. That which is genuine endures, instead of fading away like many a fad or gimmick.

Classical Feng Shui takes time to study and master, just like any other respectable field of study. As we’re all well aware, the pursuit of knowledge is a never-ending journey, and students of Feng Shui spend years acquiring the requisite skills that enable them to graduate into practitioners and consultants.

Quite honestly, I certainly would like Feng Shui to be a DIY sort of thing that can be done over the weekend, or fixed as easily as nailing a picture to your wall, or roasting a turkey, for that matter! Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

Feng Shui is more than just mere symbolism, more than a mere sort of `put-something-there’ therapy. Then again, would you just subscribe to any form of therapy, not knowing if it’s going to work for you or otherwise? By all means, go ahead and wear a particular dress or shirt of any colour if you like it, rear goldfish if you prefer…do what you will. These things may make you feel good, and that by itself is a form of rewarding therapy. Only remember that classical Feng Shui is a specialized study of Qi, and how it can be harnessed to improve our surroundings and living conditions. It is a tool or means towards identifying the type of Qi and surroundings that benefit you, and how you can tap into them. It is about making informed decisions based on sound, justified conclusions. It has nothing to do with religion or superstition, let alone the things you wear, use or place around your home or workplace.

Bottom line, there’s no need or way to Feng Shui your tree because it’s not going to make a difference as far as Santa is concerned as to whether you have been naughty or nice! Merry X’mas and a Happy New Year!

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The School of Forms

Most of you probably have heard that there are two schools of Feng Shui. The concept of ‘school’ is used as an English interpretation of the Chinese word ‘Pai’. In Feng Shui, like in many Chinese arts (such as Qi Gong or Kungfu) there are ‘pai’ or groupings. These groupings are usually based around a certain method, technique or approach to a field. When Bruce Lee developed his own form of Kung Fu, known as Jeet Kune Do, he was essentially establishing his own ‘pai’ or group. In that sense, the word ‘school’ in the context of ‘school of thought’ does to a degree, capture the concept of ‘pai’.

One incorrect and highly misleading interpretation on the two schools of Feng Shui is that they comprise of the ‘Compass School’ and the ‘Forms School’. In fact, all methods and techniques of Feng Shui use Forms and a Compass or Luo Pan. A more appropriate and correct division of the two schools of thought in Feng Shui is that Feng Shui methods and techniques fall into either a Forms School (Xing Shi Pai) or a Qi School (Li Qi Pai). There are two famous ‘schools’ that advocate Xing Shi and Li Qi, and these are the San He (Three Harmony) and San Yuan (Three Cycles). Most major Feng Shui systems, methods and techniques will fall under either one of these schools.

Even with this subdivision, it is important to recognize that both schools pay attention to Qi flow and Landform – the difference is the emphasis of the techniques, methods and formulas. Generally, San He favours landform assessment over Qi assessment, whilst San Yuan favours Qi calculation over landform assessment.

This week, I’m going to delve in depth into the San He School – the aim here is to provide you with a clearer understanding of what this particular school of Feng Shui is all about. Thus when you engage a Feng Shui practitioner, you will be able to appreciate the methods he is using, gain a basic understanding of why certain changes or suggestions are made and appreciate what the Practitioner is trying to achieve. I am also going to talk about some of the common fallacies and misinterpretations of San He principles so that those of you who are interested in Feng Shui and do some reading of your own, can separate the false theories or incorrect interpretations.

Now you might be wondering – do I need to know what technique my Feng Shui practitioner is using? After all, most people don’t know anything about plumbing when they hire a plumber. Well, you don’t need to know the subject to the level of depth of say a practitioner but by understanding the methods and techniques, you will be in a position to understand why certain changes are requested – I find in my practice that when clients appreciate why they are being asked to do something, compliance is usually easier to achieve. Also, it makes it easier for members of the public to distinguish New Age practitioners from Classical Feng Shui practitioners.

Methodology and Approach in San He Feng Shui

San He is one of the oldest Feng Shui systems in practice. Famous advocates and masters of this system include Great Grandmaster Yang Yun Song(Tang Dynasty) 楊筠松祖師, Zeng Wen曾文, Jing Dao He Shang靜道和尚and Lai Bu Yi 賴布衣. The foremost texts for San He practitioners, written by Grand Master Yang, is the Han Long Jing and Yi Long Jing. However, there are also some other important texts on San He that form the core readings required for any San He mastery, including Yu Sui Zhen Jing (Jade Essence Classics) Ru Di Yan (Entering Earth Eye) and Xue Xin Fu ( Snow Heart Classics)


San He methods focus on five factors – Long(Mountains), Sha (mountain embrace), Xue (Meridian Spot ), Shui(water) and Facing (Xiang). San He focuses largely on techniques of analyzing external Feng Shui. The methods are largely focused on appreciating and understanding how landforms generate and concentrate Qi, identifying the Meridian spot (Long Xue) through evaluating the land contours and ascertaining where the Qi has concentrated, by looking at the formations in the land. San He in that sense is focused on observation of the land first, before moving onto the calculations of Qi for the internal of the property.

Another distinctive principle of San He is the concept of Three Harmony. What is Three Harmony? It involves applying the Earthly Branches Three Harmony (which talks about the Mountain ranges in the vicinity) in tandem with the Water Formula Three Harmony that includes the 12 Growth Phases(Chang Sheng Jue) and the systematic alignment between environment, house and man.

Some typical methods for analysis and application used by San He Masters: Includes Ba Sha Huang Quan - 8 Killings Yellow Spring, Piercing Mountain 72 Dragons, Earth Penetrating 60 Dragons, 120 Gold Divisions, 12 Growth Water, Assistant Star Water and Land Embrace methods (Bu Sha Fa).

What system is my Feng Shui master using?

Okay, so you are aware of the theory now but how do you know what method your Feng Shui practitioner is employing. Well of course, one way of finding out would be to ask him but you can also tell by observing what he does during the audit.

A San He practitioner usually will focus on the external environment primarily so if your practitioner studies the mountains in the vicinity of your property, and the waterways in the area, and uses a San He Luo Pan, chances are that he is using San He as his pet system. Of course, the San He practitioner will not ignore the inside of the house or internal Feng Shui, but his focus will be to check the environment first.

His goal will be to determine how to best orientate the property to suit the surrounding Mountain and Water formations and to try and match the location of the Water and Mountains in the area, to San He formulas. Do not be alarmed or think you are being conned if he doesn’t recommend Water Formulas to you because remember, all these formulas require natural water formations to conform to the formula and if you don’t have a natural formation you can use, the practitioner will not tell you to force the situation by digging a canal or putting a drain around your house. Instead, a good practitioner will strive to work with what is in the environment already.

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The Elements of Romance

One of the popular uses of BaZi Analysis is for the purpose of compatibility analysis. Now, compatibility analysis doesn’t just refer to compatibility between two people who want to get married, although that is the predominant type of analysis that usually interests most people. Compatibility analysis can also extend to business partners and employees. However, as most people are interested in the relationship compatibility variety, that is what I’ll be discussing today.

There are many things to write about compatibility but I’ll stick to a brief overview and focus on the example we have today.

We first need to understand what is the meaning of the word ‘compatibility’. Compatibility in BaZi does not mean attraction - rather, it means that you have a connection with each other. At a basic level, you ‘get along’. This variety of compatibility is quite different from the western concept of ‘The One’ or soul-mate that many people are familiar with when it comes to romantic relationships. In BaZi, many people can be ‘The One’, so the focus in BaZi is not on WHO this person is, but what qualities this person has, so that you can ‘pick them out’ when they arrive on the scene so to speak.

Of course, in BaZi, there are also attraction factors - elements in a person that draw us to them. But attraction is not the only reason why you settle down with someone or chose to spend the rest of your life with someone. Attraction factors explain why we are drawn to someone, whilst compatibility indicates whether or not we can be in a long-term relationship with someone. When it comes to relationships, attraction and compatibility have to be considered along with the overall question of whether or not the person is suited to a long-term relationship or marriage. Sometimes, some people just aren’t the marrying kind or they just aren’t in the right frame of mind, or time in their life, when they should be getting married. All these are considerations that come into play when a BaZi consultant is looking at a compatibility analysis between two people and is asked about the issue of romantic compatibility.

When two people meet…



Let’s take a look at the BaZi of this couple and see how BaZi can be used to determine compatibility. The lady is a Jia Wood Day Master and the man is a Ren Water Day Master. When we are looking at a relationship, we must remember that in BaZi, compatibility and attraction don’t always equate. Now, why is this Jia Wood lady, attracted to this Ren Water guy?

One way to understand why a person is attracted to another person is to literally understand what is on their mind. What is the wavelength so to speak and what kind of signals are they receptive to. The biggest influence on any person’s BaZi chart is the month of birth, known as the Ti Gong or Yue Ling. The element that dominates the month of birth determines many things about the person - their basic nature, their innate character, their likes, their dislikes and most importantly, dictates their attitude towards life and what matters most to them.

Now, if there is a favourable element in the month, then that indicates that they will be attracted to the ‘right’ people so to speak. But if the element is not a favourable element, then the attraction is not a positive one. What do we mean by positive attraction? It means the relationship is a favourable one and the person you are attracted to is a positive influence, or whose presence in your life brings about positive benefits.

Now, let’s take a look at our Jia Wood Lady. She is born in the month of Hai (Pig). Hai (Pig) is part of the season of Winter, when Water is very strong. So, Water attracts her, particularly Ren Water, which is the type of Water that is the Hidden Stem inside Hai (Pig). And what Day Master is her companion? Ren Water.

Of course, one cannot just extrapolate that because someone is attracted to Ren Water Day Masters, that anyone who is Ren Water is attractive to this Jia Wood Lady. It’s not as simplistic as that - there’s more to the magic of attraction than just having an element on your mind. The Jia Wood Lady’s chart is cold, being Wood born in Winter. So what this chart needs is some fire, to help warm it up and bring it to life.

Her attraction to this particular Ren Water gentleman can be explained by looking at his chart. The Ren Water gentleman’s Day Master is seated on Wu (Horse), which contains the Hidden Stem of Ding Fire. So, our Jia Wood Lady is attracted to this Ren Water gentleman because his chart contains elements that she likes, and also elements that attract her because these are elements that she already has on her mind. In BaZi, we call this affinity.

Furthermore, if you look at the Jia Wood Lady’s chart, you will notice she is going through Ren Yin (Water Tiger) Luck Pillars. Ren Water has protruded and become evident - thus, the person whom she is attracted to has come into her life. In BaZi, we call this affinity. It explains why people are attracted to certain people, or why certain people at certain points of time in our lives, frequently cross our paths, or for that matter, never seem to cross our paths.

Affinity is not always good. You can have an affinity with something that is negative. Affinity does not justify something as good or bad, but simply is a BaZi term for explaining a connection, a synchronicity if you like.

I wanna D-I-V-O-R-C-E…

Now, this relationship between the Jia Wood lady and Ren Water guy did not last. In fact, they are getting divorced. Why? First and foremost, these charts belong to individuals who are not the marrying kind, in the sense that their personality and characters make it difficult for them to be in a lasting relationship.

The Jia Wood lady is a strong Jia Wood, being born in the season of Water, which is her Resource star. Her husband star, which is Xin Metal, is not strong enough to control her. Thus, the relationship is one where she is extremely headstrong and he is desperately trying to control her. Imagine a Swiss army knife trying to chop down a California redwood - that is what their relationship is like. Furthermore, the Jia Wood lady’s spouse palace has a combination-destruction relationship between the Yin (Tiger) and the Hai (Pig). This indicates that her relationships start out well, and then peter out or go to pot in the end.

But it takes two to tango as they say. Mr Ren Water’s chart is
also problematic from a relationship perspective. In his chart, his
Ren Water Day Master is weak, being born in the month of Mao
(Rabbit) which is the peak of the season of Wood. When Wood is
strong, Water is weak. His spouse star however, which is the
element of Fire, is born in the season of Resource, as Wood feeds
Fire. So in his chart, the weak Ren Water is struggling to control
the strong fire - a bit like using spit to put out a barbeque fire.

Generally, in a compatibility analysis, the strength of the Day
Masters of the two parties in question is usually considered. This
is a good way to assess the ‘readiness’ of the parties for a
relationship. Generally, the male must be strong enough to
control the spouse star, whilst the female must not be too strong, so as to counter the spouse star.

Furthermore, Mr Ren Water has two spouse elements, and one of those spouse elements is in a Fu Yin relationship with his current pillar. A Fu Yin indicates a sad event in the person’s life and in the case of Mr Ren Water, it relates to his relationship, hence his divorce. In Mr Ren Water’s case, his wife chose to divorce him by SMS and it would seem, has a pre-nuptial agreement to protect her estimated USD180 million fortune. Who is Mr Ren Water? He is none other than Kevin Federline and his Jia Wood wife is the pop star Britney Spears.

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