Feng Shui or Kanyu (Book of Burial Aka Zang Shu)

During the time of Wei-Jin period there was a grand master of Feng Shui known as Guo Po (AD 276 – 324), who was an astrologer, geographer, diviner, and magician. He was not only a Kanyu master but an expert at locating underground springs. He wrote extensively on geography, mythology, divination, Taoist magic, and ancient Chinese poetry.

After his mother’s death, Guo Po chose a place in Jiyang to bury her, this place is surrounded by water, the people worried the place would be flooded if the water level was raised, so considered it not good, but he presaged that the water would dry up. And soon after tens of kilometers of land surrounding the grave became fertile farmland when the water receded, thus made Guo Po very famous and he was considered as the founder of Feng Shui because of his Book of Burial (Zang Shu)

An important stage of evolution of the Feng Shui schools was by Guo Po’s book, Zang Shu wofs.com, “Book of Burial” and Form aka Landforms school principles of siting became well established in Chinese writings.

A famous but somewhat mystical personage, Guo Po, is said to be have collected all the ancient traditions concerning Feng Shui and published them in a book, still extant, the Zang Shu, which is to present-day one of the principal sources of references for the students of Feng Shui. Many Geomancers aka Feng Shui Masters call Guo Po the founder of modern Feng Shui, but they have no evidence to show in favour of this assertion beyond the simple fact, recorded in history, that Guo Po was an adept in geomancy( Feng Shu)) and lived during the Tsin dynasty.

Even the Zang Shu (Book of Burial) classic itself which treats Feng Shui with special reference to the forms and outlines of nature, cannot be satisfactorily proven to be written by Guo Po. For it is not mentioned in the catalogues of literature produced during this period. Tha Zang Shu (Book of Burial) is first mentioned in the catalogue of the Tang dynasty (AD 618 – 905); but even here no author was assigned to it, no mention of Guo Po to whom only the catalogue of the Sung dynasty (AD 960 – 1126) ascribes the authorship of this classic.

Fast forward to today, the word Feng Shui – “Wind” & “Water” enters into everyday English speech, this Chinese cosmological concept is experiencing a transformation. People talk about Feng Shui in home decoration, gardening design, landscaping, and even in business transactions. An attempt to understand the historical context of its transition is, therefore, timely and appropriate. After all, Feng Shui is a philosophical concept – a quasi-belief system – as well as a practice that has been fundamental to Chinese culture for at least four millennia. A unique expression of Chinese culture, it is syncretic in nature, integrating philosophical concepts, everyday practices, elite and popular cultures, and imported as well as indigenous beliefs. It is practised in political and military events and in the rituals of daily life – such as births, weddings, particularly burials, and other ceremonies.

The questions of when Feng Shui became recognized as both a theory as well as a practice and how it became integrated into Confucian ritual has long lacked adequate academic attention. The Book of Burial (Zang Shu) that defined Feng Shui for the first time, is thus intended to be a first step toward making accessible the text and context of this important cultural concept and practice.

When looked at by insiders as well as by outsiders, particularly in this age of globalization, Chinese culture seems to have presented to the world some exotic and unusual traditions (e.g. Footbinding and Feng Shui). We might well ask: What is it in Chinese culture that has enabled it to survive and prosper for so long? What has allowed the peoples and ideas from vastly different parts of China to remain a relatively cohesive cultural and political unit over millennia? How different are the Chinese people from people of other cultures? And, for our purposes, what has been the role of Feng Shui in Chinese Culture and how has that role changed over time? There are many different answers to these questions as there are scholars who have pondered them.

Although it is considered to be the earliest classic on residence by the Yellow Emperor or to be formed in the Han Dynasty, the Huang Di Zhai Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Residence) might well have been formed some time in the Song Dynasty.

There is another way to look at the evolution of the idea of Feng Shui. Since practice changed from divining for a location for an altar and place for the emperor to selecting a place or city for the common people that would not be subject to natural disasters and warfare, then to divining for residences for the dead, we may conclude e following: Feng Shui evolved from a practice performed on behalf of the kings, emperors, and nobility as a privilege to a practice performed on behalf of ordinary folk; and it simultaneously changed from divining to avoid natural disasters (a passive action) to divining to actively search for good fortune. Indeed, it is this active search for good fortune through Feng Shui practice that embodies the core belief and behaviour in Chinese culture which, in turn imbues this practice with vitality.

In the history of burial ritual in China, we see that Zang Shu has played a crucial role. The major source that has influenced burial ritual practice in China in the past millennium is the book Zhu Xi Jia Li. From Zang Shu (Book of Burial) numerous variants developed, but the core ideas remained unchanged; selecting a good grave spot directly relates to the prosperity of the descendants of the deceased; making great effort to select such a spot demonstrates the primary of all virtues, filial piety; and doing so strengthens the relationship within the family and the community.