Tracing the Evolution of Fengshui With Xiaokun Song

Starting January 4 is an interesting course on Fengshui offered through Atlas Obscura:

What We’ll Do

In this 4-part seminar, explore the history and transformation of Fengshui through time, learning fundamental concepts and methods along the way.

Course Description

In this course taught by Dr. Xiaokun Song, we’ll dig into the history that birthed and shaped Fengshui, looking at it not only as a practice but also as a cultural tool to navigate a shifting and uncertain world. We’ll begin with the basics, covering foundational concepts of cosmology and divination before delving into the two major schools of Fengshui: the Configuration School (Xingshi zong) and the Compass School (Liqi zong). We’ll cover basic principles and techniques, as well as the many ways the practice has morphed in order to persist through the introduction of Christianity, and later, through a societal shift toward science and away from the “superstitious.” We’ll explore the form Fengshui takes today and how practitioners operate in contemporary China, drawing from Dr. Song’s doctoral research. By the end of our time together, we’ll not only have a foundation in some of the basic methods of Fengshui, but also a deeper understanding of the historical context that has shaped it within China—and the cultural importance of a practice that offers answers amidst uncertainty.

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes five total sessions, each lasting 1.5 hours on four consecutive Thursdays beginning January 4.

Session 1 (Thursday, 1/4, 7–8:30 PM ET)| An Introduction to Fengshui: The modern popularity of a practice with ancient roots

Session 2 (Thursday, 1/11, 7–8:30 PM ET)| The Main Schools of Fengshui, Part I: Xingshi zong (The Configuration School)

Session 3 (Thursday, 1/18, 7–8:30 PM ET)| | The Main Schools of Fengshui, Part II: Liqi zong (The Compass School) 

Session 4 (Thursday, 1/25, 7–8:30 PM ET)| Fengshui Meets the West: From 17th-century Jesuit missionaries to 19th-century science


Between Sessions

Outside of class, students will be given occasional readings and/or short videos in preparation for the upcoming session. 

Pricing Options

In addition to full-price tickets, a limited number of no-pay spots are available for this course. Please note that these tickets are reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course and who expect to attend all sessions. No-pay spots are distributed via a randomized drawing two weeks before each course begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.

Community Guidelines for Students

Please take a moment to review our community guidelines for students, which aim to share our classroom ethos and help set the stage for the best possible learning experience.

Atlas Obscura Online Courses

Atlas Obscura Courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses. For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.

Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura created the definitive community-driven guide to incredible places across the planet and is now an award-winning company that shares the world’s hidden wonders in person and online.

Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.



How to Bring Good Luck into Your Home

IMG_0298_3Maybe you’re the type of person who knocks on wood to stop yourself from jinxing. Or you keep an amethyst crystal on your nightstand in hopes of absorbing anxiety to help you nod off. In one way or another, these behaviors are linked to capturing positive energy.

"Superstitions give one a sense of control in a complex, apparently impersonal, and largely unpredictable world," says Phillips Stevens, Ph.D., professor of Anthropology Emeritus, State University of New York at Buffalo and author of forthcoming book Rethinking the Anthropology of Magic and Witchcraft (Routledge). The idea that an action or an object can prevent something bad from happening is a type of magical thinking. When it comes to the home, certain cultural do's and don'ts are tied to the idea of universal order—balance and harmony, the yin and the yang. The inside of a home should be peaceful and comfortable, to counteract the potentially risky and unpredictable outside world. As a result, each culture has created rituals, ways that capture the transition and transformation from outside to inside.

Take the ubiquitous superstition: opening an umbrella inside. Everyone knows it’s bad luck, right? But why? Stevens explains that, since an umbrella is an object related to bad weather, bringing it inside is akin to inviting the storm in. Better leave it in the foyer, closed, until it's needed.

In addition to magic superstitions, there are also sign superstitions that believers interpret as messages from the universe, such as seeing a black cat cross one’s path. "Some prefer the term 'folk beliefs', as superstitions can be a pejorative term," says Tok Thompson, PhD, professor of anthropology and communications at University of Southern California in Los Angeles and author of Posthuman Folklore. "Some superstitions are later proven by science to be true, and then are no longer superstitions but scientific belief. Likewise, science can change its mind, and what is scientific belief at one point can become superstitious belief later. In general, superstitions are beliefs about the world, and about what causes what, that are not approved by science."

One of the reasons people still believe in superstitions today is habit and routine. Think of it this way, if you always get up on the same side of the bed and get coffee but one day you crawl out on the opposite side and skip your coffee, your day might feel a bit off. Or if your favorite team wins the playoffs when you're wearing a particular t-shirt, you might feel inclined to wear it again the next time they play. "Persistent behaviors give you a sense of control and that’s terrifically important when processing the world at large," Stevens continues. That's why if you do something out of turn and the day isn’t great, it can be attributed to the anomaly, especially one that is dubbed a taboo. "Superstitions are a part of folklore, and have been around for a long, long time. Way longer than writing," Thompson continues. "But they change, die out, and new ones emerge."

The bottom line in our view: Better safe than sorry! To keep your household running smoothly, read on for 11 things to try so that your house is full of good juju.

Make the most of mirrors

Keep hats off the bed

Bring in some horns

Give Ghosts something to read

Arrange flowers in odd numbers

Never put shoes on a table

Powerfully position your bed

Save the spiders

Sweep strategically

Don't dine in the dark

Clean the commode




Voting Booth Feng Shui

This previous post bears repeating --

Voting Booth Feng Shui

Last year I found some information of how the placement of voting booths in a polling site can impact how people vote. This post, called Voting Booth Feng Shui might be even more applicable for this year's Presidential election.

The original article was from the New York Times and told about how a team from Stanford University conducted a study showing that where a voting booth is located can make people vote against abortion (if the booth is in a church) or more open to educational funding (if the booth is located in a school). 

Let's be cognizant of where and how we vote this year.
If you'd like to learn more about feng shui in general, here is a highly recommended book to read: Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life : How to Use Feng Shui to Get Love, Money, Respect and Happiness.


Feng Shui Your Workspace

StressArguably there is no more stressful place than at work. Where else do you have to navigate bureaucracies laden with assorted career death traps. But relief and general mellowness can be achieved with a few simple Feng Shui techniques.

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art of placing furniture and objects in a way that increases harmony and reduces stress. One particular book that helps us achieve calmness in any room is The Feng Shui Workbook: A Room-By-Room Guide to Effective Feng Shui in Your Home and Workplace. Here are some steps you can take asap to lower the volume and increase the peace:

1. Eliminate clutter - junk around your workspace blocks the flow of energy and makes you feel more tired.

2. Sit in the "Belly of the Dragon" - back to the wall, support on both sides and the wide expanse in front of you - which means that you should try at all possible to face the door and do not sit with your back to it. If you can't move your desk, place a mirror beside you so you can see what is going on behind your back. Add a few pictures of mountains or tall structures on your back walls. Also get a chair with a taller back and arm rests, if possible.

3. Add other things to increase the "Zen" such as colorful accessories (warm colors for energy and cool colors for calm), plants (especially with rounded leaves) and perhaps some aromatherapy scents that complement the degree of energy you need. Add a crystal to lower the electromagnetic rays from the pc, printer and fax machines.

You might also want to try a course on feng shui. A Master Course in Feng-Shui: An In-Depth Program for Learning to Choose, Design, and Enhance the Spaces Where We Live and Work

Ommmmm... okay where's my promotion?

Ghosts Create Bargains in Hong Kong Housing Market

Haunted houseHave an apartment to sell in Hong Kong that may be haunted? Prepare to lower your price according to Business Week.

There’s a grim phenomenon in Hong Kong’s real estate market: discounts of as much as 50 percent for home seekers willing to live in an apartment where a murder has occurred. Unnatural deaths typically result in rental discounts of 10 percent to 20 percent and can be more than double that for killings, says Sammy Po, head of the residential department of realtor Midland Holdings. Chinese believe such places, known as hung jaak, the Cantonese term for haunted apartments, are unlucky, he says, adding that “the Chinese really do care” about living in these places.

This year, Hong Kong had almost 190 apartments or homes where an unnatural death took place, including murders and suicides, according to a database compiled by Square Foot. The website lists the date of the incident, the address, the district, and a brief description of the death. Among recent listings were an apartment where an 18-year-old male student slipped a plastic bag over his head last month and jumped to his death; one where a middle-age couple, plagued by financial troubles, committed suicide by inhaling burning coal smoke; and another where a mother was hacked to death by a mentally unstable neighbor while protecting her two daughters.

Superstition and geomancy beliefs run deep in Hong Kong, where people also shun sites close to cemeteries, hospitals, and churches, which can be considered unlucky. Buildings typically omit the fourth floor because the number is a homonym for the Chinese word for death—much as many U.S. buildings don’t have a 13th floor. Property developers rely on feng shui, the Chinese practice of arranging the physical environment in harmony according to beliefs about energy and design. “For those growing up in Hong Kong, feng shui is hammered into your mind, even if you don’t believe or understand it,” says Ng Wai-pok, a former lecturer in feng shui at the University of Hong Kong. “A large part of it is psychological, but there is also the metaphysical.”


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