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Power behind the throne

Sunday, April 2, 2006
By: Joey Yap

Feng Shui has really undergone an evolution of sorts in the last 100 years. The commercialisation of Feng Shui, while it has created certain problems, has also brought about some positive changes to the industry. In particular, it has brought about a broadening of opportunities to study Feng Shui, which was in the past very much limited to indoor disciples only, more avenues for lay people to gain knowledge of Feng Shui through books and television, and of course, the availability of Feng Shui services to the average person.

It wasn't always like this.

Since its renaissance in the era of the Tang Dynasty, up until probably the early 1900s, Feng Shui was exclusively the purview of the ennobled and the royal. The common average laypersons, even if they had the money, were not allowed to make use of Feng Shui. It was very much restricted to the Emperor, and perhaps a select coterie of noblemen at the higher echelons of society. Feng Shui masters didn't ply their trade commercially, but were almost entirely and exclusively in the employ of the Emperor and noblemen.

What is the reason for this? In my previous article on the different schools of Feng Shui, I mentioned that the scope of Feng Shui extended beyond mere 'money-making' and that at its most powerful form; Feng Shui can play an influential role in the creation of empires. This is why for the longest time, the secrets of 'Heaven and Earth' as classical Feng Shui was known back then, was only to be used in the service of the Emperor. It was to be used for the preservation of the Emperor's powers, his clan, his dynasty and his legacy.

Now, this of course, sounds like a very bold sweeping suggestion. How can Feng Shui help to create empires and Emperors? In this article, I'm going to talk about some of the ancient tombs of China's great Dynasties and give you an idea of how Feng Shui, when wielded skilfully, can in some ways, be the power behind the throne.

Feng Shui through the Dynasties

The origins of Feng Shui, which originally was known as Kan Yu, can be traced back to a simple practice of selecting grave sites and burial grounds. Back then, Feng Shui was done mainly by applying the principles of Yin and Yang and some simple principles of Qi collection. Feng Shui in fact, was originally only used for Yin Houses or graves. It was only later in its development that these principles were extended to Yang Houses or homes.

Lest any of my readers are alarmed by this notion, let me re-assure you that there's nothing morbid about this at all. The practice of Feng Shui, be it for Yin Houses or Yang Houses, is fundamentally and essentially the same. As I tell my students, the only difference is that in a Yang House, the occupants might move out, whilst in a Yin House, the occupants never move out! So there's no need to feel superstitious, spooked or alarmed.

Accordingly, one of the best ways to observe the application of Feng Shui is by looking at the graves and tombs of Emperors. And this is what happens when I take my students on my annual Feng Shui excursion to China to 'Walk the Mountains' each year. We go and check out the graves of the great Emperors (and yes, we also look at the not-so-great ones) to see how they used and applied Feng Shui. Now, the fun in the exercise is that history affords us an opportunity to see whether their Feng Shui masters got it right, or whether they got it wrong. And yes, there are tombs which show how even the Emperors can get bad Feng Shui advice.

Why did the Emperors of the many dynasties place so much emphasis on their tombs and graves? One of the fundamental principles in Feng Shui is the principle of the Cosmic Trinity: Heaven, Earth and Man. Feng Shui constitutes the Earth component of the Cosmic Trinity, personal actions the Man component and your ancestor's tomb, provides the Heaven connection, and links to your personal BaZi or Destiny. A good burial place, and a good tomb, ensured good descendant luck.


In addition, burying the body in a burial ground connects the family bloodline Qi with the Earth's Qi. In turn, this makes living relatives such as sons and grandsons (and of course, in this day and age, daughters and son-in-laws) more receptive towards the Earth's Qi in which they would use in their Yang House Feng Shui.

In the context of China's various Dynasties, good tombs and graves served to protect the Emperor's legacy, by ensuring that the dynasty would continue to be perpetuated and his heirs would go on to greater and better things. It's one thing to be a great Emperor in your own right, but true greatness comes from having offspring who build and expand on what you have given them, and achieve greatness in their own right.

The 12 Hump Dragon

One of the best dynasties to study when it comes to Imperial Feng Shui is the Qing Dynasty. This is because it is a relatively recent Dynasty, having begun in 1644 and ended in 1911, and also, many of the tombs of the Qing Dynasty Emperors have been excavated or have been opened as tourist attractions in China. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of studying the Qing Dynasty tombs Feng Shui is it offers the opportunity to actually trace the rise and fall of the Qings, who were also known as the Manchus.

Many historical accounts have been written on why the Manchus, a relatively small tribe from Northeast of China (modern day Shen Yang), managed to become the Sons of Heaven and rule all of China. The betrayal of the Ming Emperor by his own generals and the decline of the Ming Dynasty over the years are usually seen as instrumental in the rise of the Manchus to the throne of China. But the ability of the Manchus to become the Sons of Heaven and rule for almost 300 years was no fluke of luck.

Three hours from Shen Yang, a modern bustling city that was once the capital city of the Manchus, you will find the Yong Ling Mausoleum. Here is where the tomb of the grandfather of Nuerhachi, the Manchu leader who united the Manchus, is located. Nuerhachi's son, Huang TaiJi, launched the assault against the Mings and renamed the Manchus the 'Qing' meaning 'Pure'.

The tomb itself is set against a majestic range of mountains that forms what is known in Landform (Luan Tou) Feng Shui as a spiral city (Lo Cheng). A spiral city is a superior Landform formation, created when a range of mountains originating from the same source curl around the Dragon Spot (Long Xue), forming a protective barrier for the Qi. This range of mountains at the Mausoleum is also a special type of Mountain, known as Chastity Star (Lian Zhen) mountains. Chastity Mountains, which are found at a specific angle aligning with a certain definitive astronomical constellation, are special because only these types of Mountains generate Qi that is, so called, Emperor-producing.


Legend has it that Nuerhachi, while carrying his grandfather's remains through this area, in search of a suitable burial spot, placed the urn under an elm tree and rode off in search of a Feng Shui master. When he returned, the elm's roots had wrapped around the urn, making removal impossible. The Feng Shui master declared the location to be perfect, being what is known as a 'Reverse Dragon Facing its Ancestors Formation' (Hui Long Gu Zu), an extremely unique and powerful formation that signifies not only achieving greatness but bringing back the spoils of victory to one's roots or home tribe. The release of the Dragon veins is located at the prostrating An Shan (foothills) forming a unique Xuan Kong Da Gua formation.

What is of great interest or coincidence, if you are a sceptic, is that the mountain range that forms the Dragon Embrace at the Yong Ling tomb has 12 peaks, or humps as we call it in Feng Shui terminology. Well guess how many Qing Emperors there were? Exactly 12, including Nuerhachi, who is regarded as the founder of the Qing.

From greatness to downfall

Successive Emperors after Nuerhachi and Huang Taiji did well because the Emperors made an effort to ensure their tombs had good Feng Shui and thus, benefited their descendants. The Qing Dynasty's downfall is thought to have begun after the reign of Emperor Qian Long. Indeed, this can be seen in the Feng Shui of the tombs of Emperors after Qing Long, such as DaoGuang, Xian Feng, Tongzhi and GuangXu, which are mediocre tombs at best, reflecting no doubt the fortunes of the empire at the time, which was in decay, crumbling and under assault by foreign powers.

The tomb of Emperor Qian Long offers a unique insight into how Feng Shui can tilt the balance of power, against an Empire and Dynasty. Qian Long's tomb, located in Hebei Province, is amongst the most elaborate of all the tombs in the Eastern Qing Tomb complex. Legend has it that Qian Long personally selected the spot for his tomb.

Qian Long's tomb suffers from a flaw known in Feng Shui as 'Auspicious Land, Inauspicious Burial' (Ji Di Xiong Zang). The Landforms that form the Dragon embrace around his tomb are a Cloud-Water Formation, which is considered a superior formation and Qian Long himself correctly identified the location of the Dragon Spot or Meridian spot, the concentration point for the Qi from the mountains. But, his tomb faces what is called a 'Death and Emptiness Line', which in simplistic terms is essentially an extremely inauspicious direction.

As the mountain formation was superior, Qian Long's successor, Jia Qing, was able to reign for 20 years after Qian Long but his reign was not without problems. Subsequent Emperors proved to be poor performers who failed to ensure good burial tombs for themselves, thus, worsening the Feng Shui of the dynasty. It was discovered that when Qian Long's tomb was excavated, it was waterlogged. This is generally a sign that the tomb's Feng Shui is problematic. Feng Shui students who visit Qian Long's tomb are often surprised that an Emperor's tomb can have such a fundamental flaw, which just goes to show that even Emperors are not beyond bad Feng Shui.

Whilst it was Destiny or Heaven's Will that led Nuerhachi to bury his grandfather in a place with a powerful Feng Shui formation that propelled the Manchus from mere tribe to Sons of Heaven, it was Feng Shui that helped the Empire go the distance of 12 generations, and Feng Shui that tipped the balance as the dynasty faced decline. Of course, political developments, socio-economic circumstances and world events played their role in the decline of the Qing Dynasty. I am by no means suggesting that Feng Shui is the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to shaping the course of events and history that have taken place in China. But the role of Feng Shui offers an alternative explanation of some of the critical events in China's history and a taster of the true power of Classical Feng Shui.

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