When the ancient Chinese wanted guidance in finding the most auspicious places to farm, build their houses, or bury their dead, they turned to an ancient divining system called feng shui (pronounced “fung shway”). Developed 3,000 years ago to protect people from harsh winds, rain, freezes, and falling rocks in the mountainous southwestern region of China, feng shui (which translates literally as “wind-water”) has evolved in the modern and Westernized world into a set of principles to guide architecture and home décor. But the philosophy’s basic presuppositions remain unchanged: chi (the Chinese word for energy) flows through us and everything around us, and every person, place, and thing has a vital life force.
“You’re the center point of your own universe,” says Anne Mansfield, owner of the Portland consultancy Moon Gate Feng Shui and former president of the International Feng Shui Guild. “Feng shui makes up layers of influence in you and around your life, starting with you, your car, your house, the neighborhood, the city, the bioregion, and so on. You have an impact on them, and they have one on you.” Indeed, you could easily spend a lifetime studying the deepest nuances of the art, but feng shui’s basic tenets are also simple enough to be incorporated into springtime cleaning and furniture rearranging rituals (and they may offer some small amount of insurance against falling rocks).