In accordance with the foregoing remarks, I have to deal first with Li, or the general principles ruling nature, with the laws of the physical universe. To understand these aright, we must at the outset keep in mind, that the Chinese look upon heaven as the ideal type, of which our earth is but the coarse material reflex.
Everything that exists on earth is but the transient form of appearance of some celestial agency. Everything terrestrial has its prototype, its primordial cause, its ruling agency in heaven. The Chinese philosopher, looking at the beauties of nature, the variety of hills and plains, rivers and oceans, the wonderful harmony of colour, light and shade, sees in it but the dim reflex of that more splendid scenery frescoed in ethereal beauty on heaven's starry firmament. He gazes at the sun, that dazzling regent of the day, and recognizes in him, as his terrestrial reflex, the male principle of creation, ruling everything that is under the sun. He lifts up his eye to the moon, the beautiful queen of the night, and sees her reflex on earth, in the female principle, pervading all sublunary forms of existence. He observes the swift rotatory course of the five planets, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury and Saturn, and sees their counterpart on earth in the ceaseless interchange and permutations of the five elements of nature, wood, fire, metal, water and earth. He contemplates the spangled firmament at night, and compares with it its dimly-reflected transcript on the
surface of our earth, where the mountain peaks form the stars, the rivers and oceans answer to the milky way.
In short, the firmament of heaven is to a Chinese beholder the mysterious text-book, in which the laws of nature, the destinies of nations, the fate and fortunes of every individual are written in hieroglyphic mystic characters, intelligible to none but to the initiated. Now, to decipher these tables of heaven, to break the seals of this apocalyptic book, is the prime object of Feng-shui; and the first method to be employed in the deciphering of this heavenly horoscope of the future, the first key that is to be inserted to unlock that puzzling safe, in which the fortunes of present and future generations are locked up, is the knowledge of the general principles or laws of nature.
Learn then, if you will learn your fortunes, and treasure well these lessons: 1. That heaven rules the earth; 2. That both heaven and earth influence all living beings and that it is in your hands to turn this influence to the best account for your advantage; 3. That the fortunes of the living depend also upon the goodwill and general influence of the dead.
As to the first point, the influence which heaven exercises upon the earth, the agencies that come under consideration here are the sun and the moon, with the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twenty-eight constellations, the five planets-for only five are known to the Chinese,--the seven stars of the Great Bear and nine other stars of the northern bushel.
The sun, as we have remarked before, influences the whole physical universe and the sun's apparent course, as marked by the twelve zodiacal signs, is therefore an important element in the calculation of heaven's influence upon earth.
The Chinese divide the ecliptic into twelve equal parts, to each of which they give the name of some animal. Thus the first they call the rat; it corresponds to Aries;
the next is called the ox, and it is our identical Taurus; the third, which they call the tiger, corresponds to Gemini; the fourth, or the hare, corresponds to Cancer; the fifth, the dragon, answers to Leo; the sixth, or the snake, to Virgo; the seventh, called the horse, to Libra; the eighth, the ram, to Scorpio; the ninth, the monkey, to Sagittarius; the tenth, the cock, to Capricorn; the eleventh, the dog, to Aquarius; and the twelfth, the boar, to Pisces. Owing to the precession of the equinoxes or the shifting of the equinoctical points from east to west, a change has occurred--since the ancestors of the Chinese fixed upon these twelve asterisms,--I say a change has occurred in the relations between the signs of the zodiac and their respective asterisms. Two thousand years ago the zodiacal signs and asterisms corresponded, so that when the sun entered the first point of the sign Aries, he entered also the constellation of the same name. The effect of the precession of the equinoxes has been to separate the asterisms from their denominational signs, so that the constellation Pisces is now in the sign Aries and the sign Aries in the sign Taurus. The Chinese, not knowing of the precession of the equinoxes, are rather perplexed by the discrepancy, but caring less for accuracy and more for ancient tradition, ignore the actual discrepancy, and still represent the twelve signs, not as they appear now, but as they appeared to their ancestors two thousand years ago. They use the twelve zodiacal signs especially to determine the twenty-four seasons of the year. When the sun enters the 15th degree of Aquarius (February 5th) spring begins. When he enters Pisces (February 19th) the rainy season sets in; when he reaches the 15th degree of Pisces (March 5th) insects get excited; when he enters Aries (March 30th) the vernal equinox comes round, followed (April 5th) by the term called "bright and clear"; entering Taurus (April 20th) he brings fructifying rain and (May 5th) the beginning of
summer; in Gemini (May 21st) he brings the two terms called "the grain is filling" and (June 6th) "the grain is in the ear"; in Cancer he brings the two terms summer solstice (June 21st) and little heat (July 7th); when the sun is in Leo (June 23rd) the great heat begins and (August 7th) autumn sets in; when the sun is in Virgo (August 23rd) heat is limited and (September 8th) white dew will fall; when the sun is in Libra (September 23rd) the autumnal equinox takes place and (October 8th) cold dew descends; when in Scorpio (October 23rd) frost falls and (November 7th) winter sets in; when in Sagittarius (November 22nd) little snow will fall, and (December 7th) great snow; when the sun is in Capricorn (December 22nd) the winter solstice takes place and (January 6th) little cold sets in; when the sun enters Aquarius (January 20th) great cold sets in; and thus the circle of the year is completed.
Next in importance to the twelve zodiacal signs come the twenty-eight constellations, or abodes, through which the moon travels in her monthly course along the ecliptic. These twenty-eight constellations are divided into four sections, one of which is called the azure dragon, located in the East, and comprising the first seven constellations. The next seven constellations are called the sable warrior, whose abode is in the North; the third seven bear the name of the white tiger, situated in the West, and the last seven are designated the vermilion bird, ruling the South. But besides these four constellations which are looked upon as spirits influencing the earth, it is further to be observed that of these twenty-eight constellations Numbers 4, 11, 18 and 25 form a lucky conjunction with the sun, Nos. 5, 12, 19 and 26 with the moon; whilst of the five planets the following conjunctions are luck-bringing, Jupiter with Nos. 1, 8, 15, 22, Venus with Nos. 2, 9, 16, 23, Saturn with Nos. 3, 10, 17 and 24, Mars with Nos. 6, 13, 21 and 27, and Mercury with Nos. 7, 14, 20 and 28.
Besides the twenty-eight constellations, the five planets known to the Chinese and the occult virtues ascribed to them play a very important part in the system of Feng-shui. Jupiter is said to reign in the East, ruling the spring and has the attribute of benevolence. Mars dwells in the South, commands the summer and favours propriety. Venus dwells in the West, rules in the autumn and her province is decorum. Mercury is located in the North, rules in winter and is the representative of wisdom. Saturn reigns in the middle of the earth, rules midsummer and is characterized by fidelity.
There are other heavenly bodies which likewise exercise an influence upon the earth. As the five planets form, in addition to the sun and moon, the seven rulers of the seasons, thus also the seven stars of the Great Bear contribute their quota to the direction of the seasons. This splendid constellation has attracted the attention and poetical fancy of almost every nation on earth; but I never heard of any people that turned this remarkable cluster of stars to such a practical account. The Chinese look upon the seven stars of the Great Bear as forming a natural clock. For the body of the Great Bear being in ancient times considerably nearer to the North Pole than it is now, the tail appeared to move round the pole somewhat like the hand of a clock or watch. Considering then the earth's surface to form the dial-plate and dividing the horizon into twenty-four equal parts, whilst the tail of the Great Bear acts as the hand of the clock, we have a simple method to determine the above mentioned twenty-four seasons of the year. When the tail of the Great Bear points, at nightfall, to the East, it is spring to all the world. When it points to the South, it is summer; when it points to the West, it is autumn; and when it points, at nightfall, to the North, it is winter. The light of these seven stars is supposed moreover to exercise a great influence upon the earth and upon all dwellers on earth, and these seven stars are, therefore,
combined with sun and moon, called the nine luminaries of the world.
There is another set of stars, called the nine stars of the bushel, which are likewise of great importance for the determination of lucky or unlucky aspects of any given locality and its consequent influence upon the fate of men. These nine stars are minutely described in every Chinese almanac or calendar, but it is difficult to determine their position on the sky. They are called "the nine stars of the northern bushel"; but the latter term is sometimes applied to the North Pole, sometimes to the Great Bear, sometimes to one of the twenty-eight constellations called the bushel. But their position in the heavens is of little importance--some authorities even say they have no fixed place at all, but are moving about in the atmosphere--for they have each and all their counterparts or representatives on earth in the shape of mountains, and it is the business and art of the geomancer to determine which mountain-peak or hill corresponds to the one or other of these nine stars, each, of which has its own permanent relation to one of the five elements or to one of the above-mentioned eight diagrams.
The next point to be considered is the influence which both heaven and earth exercise upon human beings. The principal agents through which heaven, and especially the five planets, act upon all living creatures are the five elements of nature. By these however we must not understand five material substances, chemically indissoluble, but rather spiritual essences, each characteristically different from the other and forming the generative causes of all material substances. These five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water, the first of them being the agent of Jupiter, the second that of Mars, the third that of Saturn, the fourth that of Venus, the fifth that of Mercury. But it is also important to observe the mutual relation of the five elements to each other, for they both produce and destroy each other if placed in
certain conjunctions. Wood produces fire, fire produces earth, earth produces metal, metal produces water, water produces wood. On the other hand, metal destroys wood, wood destroys (i.e. absorbs) earth, earth destroys (i.e. absorbs) water, water destroys fire, fire destroys metal. Again it is to be considered that wood is abundant in the East, metal in the West, water in the North, fire in the South, whilst earth predominates in the centre between the four cardinal points. It is also to be borne in mind, that wood reigns in spring, fire in summer, metal in autumn, water in winter, and earth during the last eighteen days of each season. In this way the fivefold influence of the planets pervades and rules all nature, as, for instance, the five constituents of the human frame, muscles, veins, flesh, bones, skin, and hair; the five inward parts or viscera, viz., heart, liver, stomach, lungs, and kidneys; the five colours, white, black, red, blue, and yellow; the five fortunes, riches, honour, longevity, children, and a peaceful death; the five social relations, prince and minister, father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brothers, and friends.
In addition to the influence which according to the laws of nature heaven and earth exercise upon the destinies of living beings, there are to be considered the laws regulating the influence of the spirits of the dead upon the living. This is a doctrine which seems strange to us, but which has nothing unreasonable in itself to a Chinaman accustomed to worship the spirits of his ancestors, whom he supposes to be constantly hovering near, and to whom he therefore formally announces every event in his family, and offers sacrifices of meat and drink. "My own animal spirits," says the Commentator to the Analects of Confucius, "are the animal spirits of my progenitors. When on my part I carry to the utmost my sincerity and respect in worshipping them, then the spirits of my ancestors are present with me. Just like a stalk of grain, when the original plant is dead, new roots appear on the side--thus connecting the identical real spirit down from past generations to the present time."
[paragraph continues] Though we speak of heaven and earth, said Choo-he, yet there is in reality but one breath (spirit) that upholds them. Though we speak of individuals, and distinguish one from the other, yet there is in reality but one breath that animates them all. My own breath (spirit) is the identical breath (spirit) of my ancestors.
This idea of the organic unity, nay identity, of the spiritual basis of life in nature and life in individuals, was a favourite theme of discussion with Choo-he and other philosophers of the Sung dynasty. According to this now universally influential school, the human soul is possessed of a dual nature, and leads, as it were, a double life. They distinguish an animus and an anima. The former is the energy of human nature as embodying the male principle of nature. The breath of the animus is the breath of heaven. The anima, on the other hand, is the redundancy or pleroma, so to speak, of the contracting (female) energy of nature. The breath of the anima is the breath of the earth. The animus is the spiritual, the anima the material or animal element of the soul. When, through the exhaustion of the vital breath, the body is broken up, the animus returns to heaven, the anima to earth; that is to say, each is dissolved again into those general elements of nature whence each derived its origin and the temporary embodiment of which each was within the sphere of individual life. The souls of deceased ancestors therefore are as omnipresent as the elements of nature, as heaven and earth themselves. Thus the Chinese have been taught to consider themselves as constantly surrounded by a spirit world, invisible indeed and inaccessible by touch or handling, but none the less real, none the less influential.
Now, the common people have the notion, which is no doubt but a popularized application of the above-given philosophical propositions, that the souls of the ancestors are by their animal nature chained, as it were, for some time to the tomb in which their bodies are interred, whilst by their spiritual nature they feel impelled to hover near the
dwellings of their descendants, whence it is but a natural and logical inference to suppose, that the fortunes of the living depend in some measure upon the favourable situation of the tombs of their ancestors. If a tomb is so placed, that the animal spirit of the deceased, supposed to dwell there, is comfortable and free of disturbing elements, so that the soul has unrestricted egress and ingress, the ancestors' spirits will feel well disposed towards their descendants, will be enabled to constantly surround them, and willing to shower upon them all the blessings within reach of the spirit world. So deeply ingrafted is this idea of the influence of the dead upon the living, that Chinese wishing to get into the good graces of foreigners will actually go out to the Hongkong cemeteries in the Happy Valley, and worship there at the tombs of foreigners, supposing that the spirits of the dead there, pleased with their offerings and worship, would influence the spirits of the living, and thus produce a mutual good understanding between all the parties concerned.
Naturally, therefore, every Chinaman takes the greatest pains to place the tombs of his relatives in such a situation, that no star or planet above, nor any terrestrial element below, no breath or subtle influence of nature, no ill-portending configuration of hills and dales, should disturb the quiet repose of the dead, for upon this depend the fortunes and misfortunes of the living. It is consequently important to know the rules by which the luckiest spot for a grave can be found, and as the place best adapted for a grave depends principally upon the happiest conjunction of all heavenly and terrestrial elements, it is clear, that the method by which the most suitable site for a tomb is found, is also applicable for the selection of a good site for a dwelling-house or any place of abode whatsoever. For the same influences which act upon the animal spirits of the dead have also their bearing upon the living.
We have to do here, however, only with general principles, and I will state the rules applicable to this purpose as briefly as possible.
In the first instance it must be understood, that there are in the earth's crust two different, shall I say magnetic, currents, the one male, the other female; the one positive, the other negative; the one favourable, the other unfavourable. The one is allegorically called the azure dragon, the other the white tiger. The azure dragon must always be to the left, the white tiger to the right of any place supposed to contain a luck-bringing site. This therefore is the first business of the geomancer on looking out for a propitious site, to find a true dragon, and its complement the white tiger, both being discernible by certain elevations of the ground. Dragon and tiger are constantly compared with the lower and upper portion of a man's arm: in the bend of the arm the favourable site must be looked for. In other words, in the angle formed by dragon and tiger, in the very point where the two (magnetic) currents which they individually represent cross each other, there may the luck-bringing site, the place for a tomb or dwelling, be found. I say it may be found there, because, besides the conjunction of dragon and tiger, there must be there also a tranquil harmony of all the heavenly and terrestrial elements which influence that particular spot, and which is to be determined by observing the compass and its indication of the numerical proportions, and by examining the direction of the water-courses.
In illustration of this I may remark that the favourable situation of Canton city consists in this, that it is placed in the very angle formed by two chains of hills running in gentle curves towards the Bogue, where they almost meet each other, forming a complete horse-shoe. The chain of hills known as the White Clouds represent the dragon, whilst the undulating ground on the other side of the river forms the white tiger. The most favourable site of Canton is therefore the ground near the North-gates, whence tiger and dragon run out to the right and left. For the luckiest spot, say the Feng-shui books, is like a modest virgin, loving retirement, and it is therefore one of the first rules to look, in a doubtful case, for a happy site in a recess.
Another rule is, that on perfectly monotonous ground, on a perfectly level plain, or on monotonously steep declivities, where there is no indication of dragon and tiger, no good site can possibly be found.
A third rule is to observe the distinction of male and female ground. Boldly rising elevations are called male, whilst uneven, softly-undulating ground is called female ground. On ground where the male characteristics prevail, the lucky site is on a spot having female characteristics, either visible to the eye or indicated by the compass, whilst on a locality which is to be classed on the whole among female ground, the spot for a grave or house should have indications of the male principle ruling there. But the most favourable prognostics belong to a spot where there is a transition from male to female or from female to male ground, and where the surroundings combine--as indicated by the compass--both male and female characteristics in the proper proportion, which the Feng-shui books state to be three-fifths male to two-fifths female ground. Where however the female indications exceed the male, there are malign influences, counteracting all other favourable configurations.
Finally, the place to be chosen for a grave or a tomb, will, if all the above rules are attended to, be invariably dry, and free from white ants, which latter are the great dread of the living and the dead.
These are but general principles, the application of which we shall presently observe in detail, when we have to treat of the compass as indicating the numerical proportions of the breath and of the forms of nature.