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Kan Yu (Feng Shui)

by Thomas Wai-pang Lee

An Introduction of Kan Yu (Feng Shui)

All Chinese translations are based on Hanyupinyin (the Phonetic transcriptions of Chinese Characters ) but not Wade System. The readers are recommended to refer to the original Chinese Classics for further reading and research if they can. Otherwise the author's translation should be treated as reference only because the author believe that himself may not translate complete meaning from the original text which has no punctuation.

The author also hopes that the reader can read this article without bias. The main concern is those who do not understand and judge the theory too early will lose one's bearing. In addition, one based on limited understanding or wrong information to label it as evil may become superstition.

Kan Yu and Other Naming

Kan Yu is the proper term of Feng Shui. Kan means the theory of cosmology and Yu means the theory of terrestral (Shen, Xu). To be precise, they refer to the theory of time and location in the Chinese history. In ancient time, atlas was called "Yu Tu ", picture of Yu. Yu here also means the earth. Another explanation of these two words (Jun-Sheng, Shu) is Kan means high land
and Yu m ans depression. The basic principle of Kan Yu is to identify the loci of Qi flow on and under the ground and also compute the strength of Qi in term of time. Qi is an abstract term to represent an intangible current at which vegetation growth well, the macro or micro-climate is stable and human being live happily. The theory claim that no matter life or death located at a point of concentrated Qi will receive the good influence of Qi. Di Li is another ancient term to describe Kan Yu. In fact, nowadays the Chinese translation of geography in academics is called Di Li. In Yi Jing, The Classic of Change, say "looking up to have the vision of astrology, looking down to understand Di Li". However, in ancient time Di Li is not equal to modern geography. A westerner, Chatley (Ren- Kui. Li), tried to define Di Li as " an art to find the best location of life and death in order to harmonize with the cosmic breath". However, this term is mot recommended to represent Kan Yu because of missing in astrological and timing elements in Kan Yu theory.

Feng Shui is always misunderstood in relation to, the literal translation of Feng Shui, Wind and Water. This misleading explanation unfortunately comes from not only the non-Chinese translator but also some so called Feng Shui masters or practitioner. This term is believed coming from the Burial Classic (recognized Pu, Guo as the writer), the most famous book usually quoted in Chinese Feng Shui books to explain the source of this term. The book writes " The Classic said Qi will be destroyed by wind and stop by water. Ancestors converge it without dispersion. Although it flows but stops it. Therefore, it is called Wind-water". The original statement was believed coming from another classic called "Qing Nang Jing". This book explains the formation of the universe. In its last chapter, we can find "Topography has four kinds, Qi comes from eight directions, external Qi is in shape, internal Qi grow with limit. Qi will be destroyed by wind and stopped by water. Therefore it is in form of five signs. Then we use eight triagrams and follow sexagenary cycle." It is very clear that the fundamental principle of Kan Yu is looking for the
concentration of Qi but not superficially on the wind and water.

Another misunderstanding is the term geomancy which is believed to be a modified term of necromancy in explaining the magic to communicate with ground in order to know the future. Some English dictionary even use this term to be equal to water-divining where by holding a Y-shape wooden rod one can locate underground water. However, it is different from Kan Yu theory in term of the Qi theory and many other complicated theories behind.


The location theory can be recalled in long time ago. In Huangti (2697-2597 BC), the king consulted Qing Wu master who understood the phenomena of the earth during redistricting of his provinces.

In Zhou Dynasty (About 1100-221 BC), Guo Pu is a famous geographer. It was said that without proof he wrote the Burial Classic. He learnt from Guo Gong who gave him nine volumes of Kan Yu books (Qing Nang Zhong Shu) describing Five Agency theory, astrology and prediction by divining of straw and burnt bone. Written in the same period, the Epic described the first King of Zhou observed the Yin-yang in the proposed site for the new capital.

Around Qin -3 Dynasty (221-207 BC) based on Yin Yang theory, the aforesaid observation technique was developed into Yin Yang school and Shape school. The former was concentrated to Yin Yang theory in location theory and latter was mainly concern the topography. For example, when the king Han Wu (Ri Zhe Lie Chuan) consulted the solution of a location problem there were advice coming from Kan Yu master, Yin Yang master and Shape master. This show that there was not only one school to study location problem at that time and the Kan Yu
theory was not yet combined with Yin Yang theory and shape theory as today.

Therefore, it is believed that the Kan Yu matured around Han Dynasty (206 BC -AD 24). During so many years of development and dispersion, the same theory has been named as Di Li, Observation of Yin Yang, Shape technique, Qing Wu technique, Observation of ground, Observation of residence or may be many other terms not yet discovered.

Fundamental Theory

Han Yu theory is looking for the focus of Qi on land with respect to time. The author names it as Temporal Location theory in China's history. It is developed from the theory of Yi Jing (Classic) or I Ching which explains the universe is full of Qi. Before Qi was divided into two objects, Yin and Yang, the stage is called Tai Ji. When Yin and Yang grow, five elements or agencies can be found and then eight triagrams will be formed. In modern terminology, Yi Jing is indeed the 1 and 0 in binary theory. Yi models the universe and objects including intangible concepts and physical things by Yin and Yang. This is exactly what scientists want to use computer to model everything in the world as much as they can. Taoism is well known by Westerner in explaining the use of Tai Ji in Philosophy. In order to find out the Qi on ground, the shape of terrain is believed to be the main indicator. This is because the formation of terrain is relied on the settlement of Qi from Tai Ji stage. Therefore, the mountain range represents the strength of Qi which although invisible but strong enough to influence objects above. Kan Yu master uses "dragon" as a poetic term to represent the vivid change of the height and direction of mountain range. One should remenber the dragon symbolize good, energy, brightness and royalty in Chinese culture but totally opposite to the same word in western culture. In order to trace the strength of Qi and its direction, one should investigate the change of slope, profile and direction of mountain range with the help of compass.

Although Qi on ground can be identified by the pattern or topology of topography but the variation of Qi in terms of time should be discarded. The user should apply the mathematical modelling, Luo Shu, from Yi Jing to computer the change of Qi in terms of time. The author believes that this temporal model is the unique time series model in the human history.

4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6

The above 3 x 3matrix is commonly called Magic Square in western mathematics. Mathematician only can tell the coincidence of sum of three digits across three cells is always 15 but not any other special meanings. However in Yi Jing, this is called the Book of Luo River discovered by King Yu in Xia (about 2100 - 1600 BC). This matrix is also called posterity of the nature eight
triagrams in Yi Jing. This is a map with north at bottom and south at top to show the change of Qi in term of time and direction. In fact, all maps in ancient Chinese have north at the bottom and so does all diagrams of triagram and hexagram in Yi Jing. The numbers represent the evelopment stage of an object growing from Tai Ji stage. By this pattern, the object is said to be the most harmonized and stabilized stage of its development. However, due to the change of surrounding environment under the philosophy of Qi in Yi Jing, the Qi changed in term of direction and time. Each number represents twenty years under Kan Yu theory. For example, Number 7 represents period between 1984 to 2004 and also indicates the direction West. The theory says then your house or city is facing East and has mountain or hill at the back, that is West, your house or city will collect the main Qi at Cycle 7. In Cycle 8 (2004-2024), the direction of Qi will be changed to North-west in where hilly area is recommended for site selection. At the advanced level of computation, direction will be divided into 24 or even 64 sectors and timing factor will be
differentiated into minute level. Each direction sector has a particular number to represent timing factors like year, month, hour and minutes can also be translated into numbers. With the combination of numbers under this mathematical modelling located at different direction, possibility of predicted event can be computed.

The author should point out that Kan Yu theory is used to predict trend of events and define the relative occurrence in term of possibility and fuzziness but not as most people think that it is about fortune teller's story without base. Event will happen based on the disturbance or enhancement of Qi at the predicting period. If the degree of influence of Qi is low, the significance of trend will be invisible. In opposite, the event will be highly possible to occur.

The predicted events are usually fire, thieves, death, illness, robbery, hurt, birth, court case, quarrel, wealth and academic result. Since the mathematical model is rigid, it can be applied at any time period from the past to the future. However, the location of site is believed in the earth. The author cannot assume the model may work in the southern hemisphere but will recommend
researcher to test it in the other side of the globe as the theory was invented in the north hemisphere.

Some Misleading Concepts

The following are some concepts and believes that have been found not corrected or even totally wrong in Kan Yu theory:

1. Facing south is the best.
2. Feng Shui comes from Taoism or Buddhism.
3. Kan Yu is totally a superstition.
4. There are dragons under the ground explained by the theory.
5. It is related to soul and mediumistic.
6. This is about evil and god.
7. Mirror can enhance Qi.
8. Walk through Nine Stars is cure.
9. It is about palmistry or face observation.
10. Hanging flute and ba-gau can avoid evil.
11. Color can totally adjust and enhance Qi.

The reader is recommended to read more ancient books on proper translation of this subject. There are many misleading modern English translations. The author can provide additional list of reference if requested [email protected].

Works cited:

Shen, Xu. BC 179-157. Annotation of "Huai Nang Zi".

Jun-Sheng, Shu. "Shui Wen Tong Xun".

Ri Zhe Lie Chuan of Shi Ji, AC 373-396.

Encyclopedia in Qing Dynasty.

---, "Qing Nang Jing".

Xian-Tao, Shu. 221-297 BC, "Sou Shan Ji".

Jing Wu Zi, Jing Wu Jung; Chuen-Yan, Lai. "A Feng Shui Model as a Location Index", Annuals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol.64, No.4.

Deyong, Li. "Wuxing tanyuan". Zhongguo zhexue IV (1980). 70-90.

A.C.Graham. Yin-yang and the nature of correlative thinking, Singapore, The Institute of East Asian Philosophies, Occasional Paper and Monograph Series No.6, 1986.

Qing Nang Zhong Shu.

Ren-Kui, Li Editor 1979, Feng Shui Ci Lin Bi Jie.

Pu, Guo (not proved). Bruial Classic.

Evelyn Lip, A Layman's Guide to Feng Shui.

Derek Walters, The Feng Shui Handbook.

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