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 Crouching Tiger, Dancing Phoenix

Crouching Tiger, Dancing Phoenix

Regardless of where they are, people in every civilisation want to live in an environment that is harmonious, conducive to health and provides protection. Even the animal kingdom understands that. In nature, animals evolve through mutation and adaptation to suit their environment; those that do not simply die and become extinct. This is the triumph of life.

Thus, mankind have observed landforms and noted how they affect their livelihood. This eventually led to guidelines and practices that are passed down through generations. Call this vastu shastra, feng shui, tajul muluk, ilmu ramal or whatever -- they share the same objective.

Throughout history, sages have put in effort to collect this information. Some of these are well-documented, while others could be oral traditions. Some of these appear to be contradictory and lead to debates on whose geomantic practices are right and whose are wrong.

I think this is the case of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Individually, everyone is right but they may be missing the bigger picture as a whole. I will cover this next issue, in a run-up to an exciting and illuminating event coming up in July.

Last month, we discussed the movement of energy through mountains and how they can be affected by water masses such as rivers and seas, and terrain. Even the soil content affects energy movement. Today, ground penetrating radar uses this same principle of varying energy patterns to detect underground objects, structures and voids.



Ancient sages did not have the benefit of technology to aid them. There were no helicopters, satellite imaging technology, topology maps and theodolites at their disposal. They had to climb up and down mountains to look at landforms and verify what they see on the ground. It could take years to find an ideal site for any particular purpose.

For the sages, any structure over 1,000 feet tall is a “force”. Anything below 100 feet is known as a “form”. As a general rule, it is not suitable to build houses or cemeteries on a “force” due to its strong influence.

A “form” tends to transfer its energies until they reach a major body of water -- rivers and seas -- and bounce back. The movement and pooling of these energies form different shapes, due to the different composition of materials in the land. The energy’s speed and even its form could vary: it could be criss-crossing, spiralling like Eddy currents, or ripple like waves on water.

The ancient sages interpreted these energy shapes based on their appearance and impact. During feng shui founder, Guo Pu’s time, illiteracy was rampant as you can imagine. So, these shapes were related to animals that the people know of. An energy pool could be camel-like or dog-like, dragon turtle or phoenix and be named as such.

This is not a far-fetched concept nor is it an act of superstition. It is no different from the Rorschach inkblot test or how we can see shapes in clouds. Even ancient Greeks assigned mythological characters to the stars. Three stars in a row became the belt of Orion the hunter. A few other stars created the Big Dipper, Ursa Major and what have you.



Energy forms could be described as “1,000 galloping horses” or “a marching army”. If an energy form has sharp pinnacles like Sarawak’s mountain ranges, it is described as a “dancing phoenix”. Such a bird would have upright and sharp feathers. These sharp points are considered bad feng shui for buildings.

Actively moving phoenixes -- and any other creature, in fact -- is considered unstable. Charging tigers, seen by four “legs” to its “body”, is obviously not good either. Likewise, a crouching tiger is fierce.

Shapes that represent nursing animals or those at rest are considered benevolent. Thus, descriptions such as a phoenix laying eggs indicate that the “abdominal area” and “eggs” or boulders contain gentle energy. Even a prone tiger, nursing its cubs (small boulders, small hills) represent good energy.

The turtle shape is one of the most commonly found and one of the best gentle energy shapes. There is a hump with four legs, a head and a tail. Feng shui practitioners would identify the head to see if it protrudes and would advise against building anything there since the head is usually chopped off!

Penang island has a classic shape of a turtle. On both sides there are flippers. Flippers pointing to the front indicate expired energy (the turtle had pulled its flippers forward) and those pointing to the rear indicate the turtle gathering its strength to pull forward.



Dragon is another animal used to describe energy shapes. Snakes are not suitable as they have no feet. Building at a dragon’s claws is considered bad. The dragon’s head is taboo for use as burial ground, except for the emperor. One whose ancestor is buried there can get rich, famous and powerful quickly but they can also be deposed or assassinated!

The use of animals is metaphorical because 99% of the population was illiterate with no knowledge of physics, geology or biology. That cannot be said for today’s people and yet there still people looking for actual dragons buried in a mountain somewhere!

Do note that in all these descriptions, there is no single mention of placing objects and items as cures. It is purely landform and how people should adapt to it.

An ideal landform according to feng shui is one where there are two mountains and a river in between, or two rivers with a mountain between. By mountain, it does not have to be enormous in size: anything over four inches tall is sufficient! Hence, flatland between two rivers can be construed as a mountain.

China has one of the longest tracts of land, hundreds of miles long, embraced by two mighty rivers -- the Yellow River and Yangtze. This is where China’s economic boom is happening now.

An embracing arm landform, is much like a fortress, providing protection from external forces. The mountains that form the Klang Valley have this shape and create a “fortress” that shelters Port Klang and helps it to thrive. All ports conform to this principle.



In general, the Klang Valley contains a good pool of energy. Within the locale itself, the energies are affected by the presence of rivers. Of these, a river confluence is the best. The Klang and Gombak rivers form a symmetrical confluence – a very rare form, and Masjid Jamek sits directly on the location. This entire area is vibrant with development.

Kuala Lumpur used to have six rivers running through it. Today, only three are left. Ideally, no buildings should be built along riverbanks. Apart from the obvious danger of flooding, there is also the effect of earth energies bouncing off the river. In China, riverside developments are prohibited for feng shui reasons.

Our National Land Code also stipulates that no development can be made within 33 feet of riverbanks and the area could be turned into a public park. It makes sense as it avoids the danger of flooding and enables everyone to enjoy the scenery. Having people live along the river also increases the chances of pollution with rubbish.

Unfortunately, the local authorities seem to have forgotten about the National Land Code or are unaware of it. Note how many buildings are located along riverbanks. In the old days, the river was a major mode of transportation, so it is understandable for traders and businessmen to set up shops and offices along the river but that argument does not hold water today.

As a river snakes through a valley, it creates convex- and concave-shaped profiles of riverbanks. As discussed last month, if a river curves inwards, it acts as a concave dish and pools reflected energy. On the opposite “convex” side, energies are dispersed. In practically every town and city where rivers are found, development is always more vibrant at the “concave” side of the river than the “convex” side.



Another consideration is the direction a building faces relative to a river. The ideal position is to face the river and receive the collected energies. Notice how the AIA Building along Jalan Ampang helped the company to thrive.

Buildings facing away from the river are like empty bottles bobbing in the water. It is surrounded by energy but none can get in. The beautiful City Hall sits with its back to the river. It was once slapped with a bankruptcy order -- the first and only council to be sued for bankruptcy. Was it a coincidence?

Unfortunately, most buildings in Kuala Lumpur are built facing away from river because there are no roads that run alongside rivers.

Some buildings are parallel to the river. Here, the ideal facing direction should be downstream. Interestingly enough, the ancient Malay architectural practice of tajul muluk advises houses to be built that way, too.

Tajul muluk was practiced in Kelantan Since the populace then were mostly fisherfolk, it used an analogy of net fishing. A net that faces downstream catches fish when they swim up with the tide. A net that faces upstream catches debris and detritus when the tide goes out.

This coincides with our understanding of feng shui. Buildings that face upstream collect forceful and negative energy. It is said that such energies create idiots, and from the woes and bickering of some organisations that are based in upstream-facing buildings, one would be inclined to concur.




Master David Koh is a practitioner, teacher and researcher in feng shui, with over 35 years of study in the subject. He formulated a scientific system of feng shui calibration which he calls the four-step method and even devised an English-language version of the lopan or feng shui compass.

Master David is also the founder of the Malaysian Institute of Geomancy Science (MINGS), a society involved in research and teaching of feng shui. He is the honorary life president of MINGS.

He has presented papers on feng shui at local and international conferences and has extensive knowledge of various forms of non-Chinese geomancy practices, including tiang seri, ilmu ramal and tajul muluk. He also consults for many corporations including housing developers, banks, public listed companies and shopping malls both domestically and abroad.




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