Ancient Chinese philosophers are renowned for having developed and perfected ideals relating to situational awareness, how people most effectively utilize their current external conditions to their optimal advantage. Although some of these concepts are still practiced today, many of their ideas have been misinterpreted, misapplied, vilified or even banned altogether.
Throughout my years of managing residential and commercial properties, I’ve come to find the interactions between the individual and their immediate surroundings to be a truly fascinating topic. So, I thought it would be neat to compare two Chinese philosophies to see if there are any congruities. In this article, I’m looking at Tai Chai (also known as Taijiquan, pronounced “tie-gee-chwen”) and Feng Shui.
Both are ancient Chinese art and scientific systems. Both revolve around the control of energy or life force (what I believe we now refer to as spirit). Each aim to harmonize the individual with his or her immediate surroundings. Each place heavy emphasis on the idea of yin and yang, opposing forces that work together to create balance. Both focus on forms.
Each discipline concentrates upon developing an awareness of external conditions in order utilize those forces to one’s greatest advantage. The key, and most obvious, difference between the two studies is the target of the intended adjustment. In Tai Chai, forms are movements, postures and positions of the body. Tai Chai focuses at the internal level, teaching the individual to react to outside conditions by using his or her body to prevent or mitigate potentially threatening situations.
In Feng Shui, forms refer to the shapes contained in the general surroundings- mountains, rivers, plateaus, buildings, etc. Feng Shui is also about human interaction with external conditions. However, rather than the person adapting to their setting, the practitioner actively adjusts and arranges the environmental layout, negating or redirecting potentially negative energy. Instead of using the mind and body to alter external conditions, external conditions are modified to be most favorable to the mind and body.
Tai Chi takes a more defensive approach to environmental synergy. Resisting an energy force is a lot of work. Rather than weakening yourself with offensive maneuvers, Tai Chi encourages going with the flow of the opposing energy, yielding to the approaching attack and harmonizing with the threat. By channeling hostile energy to your advantage, you are then able to diffuse and weaken the negative energy force, defeating solid with pliable.
Feng Shui, is much more proactive. Instead of waiting for and responding to harsh conditions, Feng Shui seeks to either remedy existing negative forces or to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Feng Shui provides techniques for properly manipulating both the positive and negative energy forces of one’s surroundings (home, garden, workplace, etc). This energy is then directed and employed in the most beneficial manner, most conducive to a healthy body, mind and spirit.
Today, Tai Chai is practiced all over the world and not only for self defense. It is also recognized by scientific and medical communities as being beneficial to both physical and mental health. Feng Shui, on the other hand, despite its similarities to Tai Chai, is unfortunately not as highly regarded. The general “official” consensus that Feng Shui is a “pseudoscience” with no factual evidence to provide for its propositions. Unofficially, it’s dismissed as simply New Age entrepreneurship or even labeled as “sorcery” by the more paranoid types.
After 1949 and the subsequent “cultural revolution,” the Chinese communist party banned the practicing of Feng Shui in business and advertising. Most Chinese people have therefore almost completely abandoned the ancient art. Ironically, Chinese communist officials purportedly secretly hire Feng Shui practitioners, sadly giving rural poor the impression that it’s merely “a game for the wealthy.”
Tai Chai and Feng Shui focus on space, time, shape, location and environmental elements, which in their entirety form our earth and our fundamental laws of life. Whether from a Tai Chai internal approach, a Feng Shui external path, or from a combination of both, maintaining a healthy awareness of your surroundings should be incorporated into each daily routine. As I see it, it’s really not mystical fantasy but just plain common sense. I think I’ll give these timeless notions a try. What is there to lose?
Are you experienced with Tai Chai or Feng Shui? I’d love to learn more!