Feng shui

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"Cannons" atop the HSBC Headquarters in Hong Kong balancing the bad feng shui of the knife shape of the nearby Bank of China building
Dolphins and Money
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[Mumbles to himself] Still looks like shit.
—Feng shui master after completing his work, forgetting his mic was still on.[1]

Feng shui (風水 or 风水, pronounced "fung shway" /fʌŋ ʃweɪ/) is the ancient Chinese art of arranging buildings and their interiors in order to promote a favorable balance of qi.

Historically, Feng Shui was enormously important in architecture in Asia, spreading from China to surrounding countries such as Korea and Japan. As an example, temples, castles, and cities were almost invariably built with their south gate being the main entrance, this being believed to be the most fortuitous direction for favourable qi.

In recent years, Feng Shui has been repurposed to create jobs for New Agers and former psychologists, to sell vacuous coffee table books, and as a way for people with more money than intelligence to correct that imbalance.

Feng Shui is sort of like Astrology for neat freaks.


There are several schools of feng shui arranging, and those concepts are rather amorphous as well. This is a tremendous boon for the aforementioned New Agers/ex-shrinks, who can claim that their own interior design principles are ancient and mystical.

All of the principles are supposed to tell you which way to point your bed, your chair, and your nose. Also, it says that the five basic elements (mirrors, leather, chains, candles, and paddles) should be present in every room.

  • Of course you don't want to have your back to the door in your office — who feels comfortable sitting like that with passers-by watching you surf pr0n RationalWiki during work hours?
  • Of course you don't want dead plants all over your house — they're dead and stinky and it makes your gaff look like crap.
  • It's only natural that you want your bedroom cozy — it's where you'll be pulling all your best moves, and no one's going to join you in there if it's dark and cold and hard and your keks are all over the floor.
  • Cooking's fun, so of course you should have the door in sight of the oven door — how else are you going to get into the dining room?
  • Of course you want your home to face the ocean and have a mountain behind it, and of course you want your view to include something other than a boring, limitless ocean (a "heartless body of water").
  • Of course you want a screen between your door and your living room (may it be a bookshelf or workstation) — for the same reason given above — and to keep out evil spirits, of course.
  • Of course you want your windows to face south — do you know how hot a room can get when sunlight is allowed to directly enter your window from the east or west?

Feng Shui is bullshit wrapped in a thin veil of perfectly reasonable interior design, ergonomic concepts, and common sense in living. It's all good advice, but painting your southeast wall purple isn't going to rain cash down on your head.

Or, more charitably, vice versa.

Fun fact[edit]

An apartment listing from a Chinese website. The circled characters indicate that the apartment faces south.

In China, the concept of feng shui is taken seriously enough that many real estate resources note the direction that a listed apartment faces (though this has much more to do with amount of sunlight the apartment gets during the day).

See also[edit]


  1. Penn & Teller: Bullshit! — "Feng Shui & Bottled Water" (S01E07)