How Feng Shui Works

Feng Shui Tips

Markus Benk/AFP/­Getty Images

­­Feng shui really starts getting tricky when you're talking about interior design: Everybody has an opinion, and hardly anyone agrees. Traditional Form School followers say the arrangement of objects and space is all you need to get the chi flowing. Others claim that some plants and other objects can have negative influences on the energy of the house. For instance, some practitioners prohibit cacti in their homes, and mirrors in the bedroom are considered bad if they face the bed (it invites a third party into the bed). And if the bathroom is in the money sector of the house, some say that the homeowners will "flush" their wealth down the drain (although most modern feng shui masters discount this).

Black Hat followers advise laying a bagua map over a diagram of the room or house. If the space is rectangular, simply trace along the lines of the diagram that correspond to the lines of the bagua map, with the career or black section of the bagua map at the entrance. So, for example, a yellow rug (to represent earth, center or No. 5) could be in the center to ground a room, with a ficus tree to the left and center to promote health and family. Should the room or house not be rectangular, feng shui consultants may advise hanging crystals or coins to correct the "dead" space.

Most practitioners accept the principles about working with nature. For instance, windows should face pleasing views -- if that isn't possible, dress them up with window treatments or a window box. Don't arrange furniture with the backs to door­s or windows. Simplicity, order, proportion and balance are valued, as are natural colors and textures: ceilings light like the sky, walls mid-toned like the grass and water, and floors dark like the earth.

Gardens function on similar principles. They can be laid out using a bagua map, with the bottom of the map at the entrance to the garden. Different schools of thought may recommend different plants. For instance, sweet-smelling honeysuckle, roses or jasmine growing up along an open-sided building is conducive to chi. Once again, however, opinions conflict. While some consultants advise putting stone figurines and crystals in a garden to attract good chi, others say that the objects themselves are irrelevant and that placement is all that is necessary to get chi properly flowing.

In the United States, there is no certification for feng shui advisers, so many professionals use the recommendations of past customers to prove their worth. There are hundreds of books that subscribe to modified versions of feng shui (in the United States, they're mostly some form of Black Hat feng shui), and many contradict each other. Most feng shui consultants advise trying more than one form of feng shui to find out what best fits your chi.

To find out more about feng shui, check out the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Barker, Elizabeth. “The healing home: make your house a haven of healthy energy: Vital Signs: ideas and inspirations for a healthier you.” Natural Health Sept 2005: p17
  • Encyclopedia Brittanica online"Feng Shui for profits." Furniture & Interiors, Summer 2007: 5. “Feng Shui revival defies prohibition in China’s cities” Xinhua General News Service. 31 Aug. 2006.
  • Ford-Martin, Paula. "Feng shui." The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2nd Edition. Jacqueline L. Longe, Editor. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2005.
  • “Hong Kong Conference Aims to Make Feng Shui More Scientific” Voice of America News, 23 Oct 2006.Hwabgbo, Alfred B. “An Alternative Tradition in Architecture: Conceptions in Feng Shui and its Continuous Tradition.
  • Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, v. 19 no. 2 (Summer 2002): 110-30.
  • Jay, Roni. Feng Shui in Your Garden. Boston, Mass.: Tuttle Publishing, 1998.
  • Kennedy, David Daniel. Feng Shui for Dummies. Running Press, 2000.
  • Mastro, Michael and Robin. The Way of Vastu — Creating Prosperity Through the Power of the Vedas. Seattle, Washington: Balanced Books, 2006.
  • McArdle, Ann.East West Style. Gloucester, Mass.: Rockport Publishers, Inc., 2000.
  • Moran, Elizabeth Joseph Yu, and Val Biktashev. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feng Shui. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 2002.
  • Underdown, Jim. "Feng Shui and monkey madness at the L.A. Zoo." Skeptical Inquirer, July-August 2007: 7
  • The Walt Disney Company 2006 Annual Report
  • Weltman, Barbara, and Michael Hayes. "Feng shui for beginners: an organized, harmonious work environment is a business asset." Journal of Accountancy, Dec 2005: 36.
  • Yap, Joey. “Acute case of symbols paranoia?” New Straits Times (Malaysia), 23 Oct 2005: 9.
  • Yap, Joey. “To consult or not to consult?” New Straits Times (Malaysia), 25 Sept 2005: 8