Most academic scholars today believe that Feng Shui developed more than 7000 years ago in what is now China. It is also thought that Feng Shui is directly related to the ancient study of astronomy and astrology in this part of the world. In order to fully grasp the context of how Feng Shui developed, you must first understand that while astronomy and astrology may be different fields today, they were one and the same in the ancient world. When Feng Shui and astrology were developing, the realm of the sky was considered the heavens, a place of divinity, and the source for omniscient knowledge and guidance.
Ancient Emperors and Their Royal Court of Astrologists (Early Astronomers)
Celestial movements and celestial events were thought to predict what would happen on Earth. For example, the movement of the stars and planets across the sky, relative to the lunar cycles, predicted the seasons. This was considered essential knowledge for gathering food, storing food, hunting, preparing shelter, and even the best time to conceive a child. An unexpected shooting star streaking across the night sky might be interpreted as an omen for a surprise event about to happen. Likewise, an annual meteor shower that was higher in intensity than normally recorded might forebode an impending invasion by an enemy or perhaps a catastrophic weather event or an earthquake.
Ancient emperors were thought to receive their ruling mandate directly from the heavens. They were considered divined with power. In fact, the emperor was called the “Tian Zi” which translates as the “son of the heavens.” This meant that the most important advisors to the emperor were the astronomers/astrologists. These royal advisors were expected to study the sky and record every minute detail of what they observed so this information could be accumulated and passed down. For example, they not only recorded Halley’s comet, which only occurs every seventy-five years, they actually drew detailed pictures of how the head and tail of Halley’s comet looked in the sky. While some ancient cultures recorded their astronomical observations on clay tablets or chiseled them in stone, it appears the proto-Chinese people recorded some of them on silk tapestries. Detailed drawings of Halley’s comet at 75-year intervals across at least 3000 years can be found on these silk “astronomy guides” in Chinese museums. They are remarkably detailed.
Accuracy by the royal astrologers was not only valued, but it was also required to stay alive and continue serving the emperor. For example, if an astrologer on the emperor’s royal court failed to accurately predict an important celestial event such as a lunar eclipse, he might very well find himself killed and replaced. This was because these predictions were so important that the emperor could lose his ruling power if the predictions were not seen as accurate by the people. The emperor and his royal court of astrologers were how the people received the divine information from the heavens and it was considered absolutely essential in these ancient Asian cultures. One can certainly imagine the intense political pressure there would have been to get these predictions correct.
Feng Shui Provided a Guide To the Heavens
In the context of what we’ve discussed so far, it is easy to understand that mapping the sky was of paramount importance to the ancient royal astrologers. They had to have a systematic way of cataloging and tracking the movement of stars, the moon, the sun, the planets, and other celestial bodies and events. They were in charge of keeping time and in creating a yearly calendar.
The calendar was more like an almanac than what we think of as a calendar today because it didn’t just keep track of the days and months. They had to made accurate predictions that would guide all aspects of life including auspicious times to conduct various farming chores, auspicious times to hunt different animals, auspicious times to search for different wild foods, auspicious times to build shelter (and how to build these shelters), auspicious times to seek medical attention for certain ailments, auspicious times to conceive a baby, etc, etc! The calendar, or rather almanac, was a set of astrological predictions and principles divined from the heavens and that required a detailed map of the heavens!
This is where the four guardians of Feng Shui came into play and the original connection of Feng Shui to astrology. Looking up at the sky (heavens), the ancients saw many unique patterns of stars that seemed to move across the sky in a constant pattern. They also saw the moon move across each section of the sky, at precise points within these constellations. Without a map, it would be difficult to interpret and keep track of what was actually going on in this glittery cosmos. So, they started to map it out by the constellations they saw and where they saw them and when. Smart!
They split the sky into four quadrants around a center that represented the emperor and the Earth. Along the periphery of each quadrant, they saw four prominent constellations to which they assigned a name, a direction, and a mythical animal. These became the legendary four guardians of Feng Shui, also known as the four symbols. These sit at the very foundation of Feng Shui upon which everything else evolved. Here are the four guardians representing each of the four quadrants of the Feng Shui sky map:
– Feng Shui Black Tortoise: Guardian of the North
– Feng Shui Green Dragon: Guardian of the East
– Feng Shui Red Phoenix: Guardian of the South
– Feng Shui White Tiger: Guardian of the West
Within each of these quadrants, they assigned seven subdivisions that became known as lunar mansions as the moon passed through each and everyone at specific times. There was a total of 28 mansions and each mansion was represented by a mythical animal in the form of a constellation. This Feng Shui map, which later became the basis for the bagua, was like a roadmap of the heavens and also the foundational source for all their astrological predictions! Hey, this was better than Google Maps!
Ancient Supernova Data Used by Modern Astronomers
The ancient proto-Chinese were amazingly meticulous in their astronomy records because they depended on the accuracy of these records to govern every facet of their lives. The earliest Feng Shui principles they developed served as a very accurate depiction of what was supposed to be in the sky at any given point during the lunar year. If something new and different appeared, the royal astronomers were keenly aware of it and recorded it in such detail that modern astronomers are able to use these recorded observations in their own modern studies! Nothing demonstrates this better than the ancient records on supernovas.
A supernova event signifies the final death of a star. They appear in the sky as a “new star” when their final explosion emits intense light but in most cases, they weren’t visible before the explosion. Actually, by the time you see the light of a supernova in the sky or the “new star,” the actual star that died is gone. However, it takes a while for the light from the explosion to reach the Earth. This “new star” fades away after a variable amount of time (usually a few weeks), depending on how far the star is from Earth after all the light from the final explosion of the star has reached Earth. The ancient Feng Shui astrologers called them “guest stars” because they visited their night sky but did not become a permanent part of it.
We tend to think of modern science as knowing so much more than the ancients knew. In fact, we sometimes think of the ancients as lacking science. However, quite the contrary, the ancients, particularly those who developed Feng Shui, were highly skilled scientific observers and recorders of data! In fact, modern-day astronomers depend on this ancient scientific data to find the remnants of supernovas! Without this ancient scientific data, it would be like searching for a needle in a haystack…. well, a needle in thousands of haystacks actually!
Without the ancient Feng Shui map of the heavens, astrological predictions would not have been possible. They could not have divined useful information from the heavens to predict the best times to plant crops, harvest crops, have babies, conduct funerals, go hunt certain species, build houses, etc. The link between ancient astrology and Feng Shui is strong!