Feng Shui, Chinese art of arranging an environment. Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) works on the principle that people should be in harmony with nature and their surroundings. The words feng shui mean “wind and water” in Mandarin Chinese. Wind, or cosmic energy, and water are considered two essential aspects of nature.

Many skyscrapers in modern Hong Kong were designed according to the traditional Chinese art of feng shui. It is commonly believed by Chinese businesspeople in Hong Kong that feng shui practices have helped make the city so prosperous.

Feng shui originated in China about 3,000 years ago. It is based on the philosophy of the I Ching (Book of Changes), an ancient Chinese text. Feng shui was first used in China to determine the best position for burial sites. The belief was that positioning the graves of ancestors well would bring prosperity and good fortune to their descendants.

Many modern enthusiasts claim that feng shui is the practice of arranging objects (such as furniture) to help people achieve their goals. More traditionally, feng shui is important in choosing a place to live and finding a burial site, along with agricultural planning.

From gravesites, feng shui was gradually extended to villages and other spaces. It can be used, for example, in arranging a home, garden, room, office, or restaurant. Since the 1970s feng shui has been adopted in the West along with other practices based upon ancient Chinese philosophy. These related practices include macrobiotics, acupuncture, t’ai chi, and shiatsu.

Interest in feng shui has grown in the United States since the 1980s, particularly in relation to the home (see House). Feng shui can be used in positioning furniture in rooms and in choosing furnishings, colors, lighting, textures, and shapes for each room. By applying feng shui to such decisions, it is said, people can maximize the room’s positive energy, minimize its negative energy, and thereby improve the well-being of the room’s occupants.

A growing body of research exists on the traditional forms of feng shui used and taught in Asia.

Landscape ecologists find traditional feng shui an interesting study. In many cases, the only remaining patches of old forest in Asia are “feng shui woods,” which strongly suggests the “healthy homes,” sustainability and environmental components of ancient feng shui techniques should not be easily dismissed.

Environmental scientists and landscape architects have researched traditional feng shui and its methodologies.

Architectural schools study the principles as they applied to ancient vernacular architecture.

Geographers have analyzed the techniques and methods to help locate historical sites in Victoria, Canada, and archaeological sites in the American Southwest, concluding that ancient Native Americans considered astronomy and landscape features.

Whether it is data on comparisons to scientific models, or the design and siting of buildings, graduate and undergraduate students have been accumulating solid evidence on what researchers call the “exclusive Chinese cultural achievement and experience in architecture” that is feng shui.