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Goin' South Part 1

Monday, 07 August 2017 00:00;

Examining the doctrines of the so-called "Southern Hemisphere School" - by Ray Harris


One of the great controversies in Feng Shui today is whether to alter the various ancient formulas to suit the Southern Hemisphere (an issue that never surfaced in premodern China). Feng Shui practitioners of equal experience and credibility profoundly disagree about this issue. As far as I am aware it has never been examined in detail and astonishing claims have been made without challenge.

The issue arises out of the obvious differences between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. To understand this issue clearly we need to examine their differences.

Distribution of solar radiation on the surface of the Earth

The angles of the Sun's rays create a band of warm temperature along the ecliptic that is delineated by the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. In addition the Sun's rays create regions of cold temperature at the magnetic poles.

The Earth's tilt

This causes the apparent annual movement of the Sun between the two tropics marked by the summer and winter solstices. This movement causes one hemisphere to warm and the other to cool at different times of the year, which creates the seasons.

The Corolis Force (also known as the Corolis Effect)

This stems from the observation that air and water currents move in different directions in the two hemispheres. In the Southern Hemisphere, cyclones and anticyclones rotate opposite from the direction of those in the Northern Hemisphere. Prevailing winds and currents deflect to the right in areas north of the Equator and deflect to the left in areas south of the Equator.

Feng Shui Fundamentals

Feng Shui developed over thousands of years. It is a combination of different techniques developed at different times. For purposes of this article it is useful to isolate some of the influences.

The Compass

The Chinese invented the compass. In one legend, Emperor Huangdi was fighting a bandit-king with magical powers who caused a fog to appear and disorient Huangdi's army. The Lady of the Nine Heavens appeared to the Emperor and revealed the secret of the compass. He used it to lead his army out of the fog and defeat the bandit-king.

The Bagua

The eight fundamental trigrams of the I Ching are arranged in two sequences called Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven. Both of these sequences are associated with the eight compass directions. The Earlier Heaven Sequence is an arrangement of opposites. Qian, "Heaven," is associated with north and Kun, "Earth," with the south. The Later Heaven arrangement embodies the cycle of birth and death, the day, and the seasons.

The Luoshu

The Luoshu diagram of Later Heaven was supposedly discovered on the back of a tortoise that emerged from the River Luo. It is a magic square in which all the sides add up to 15. It forms the basis of Chinese number theory and numbers accompany the directions -- 1 is north, 9 is south, etc.

The Shipan

This instrument read the heavens and used the celestial North Pole as its axis. The constellation of the Northern Ladle (Bei Dou) acted as a pointer to indicate the lunar month. The four heavenly animals (Black Tortoise, Crimson Phoenix, White Tiger, and Azure Dragon) are divisions of the sky.

The Luopan

This is the well-known Feng Shui compass, an adaptation of the Shipan that incorporates the Luoshu diagram, the 24 mountain stars, the 64 hexagrams, the 60 stems and branches, the 12 water dragons, and so on. The earliest Luopan was a Shipan with a magnetized lodestone spoon at the centre. The lodestone pointed along the north-south axles. There are now many types of Luopan.

Types of Qi (CM)

Premodern Chinese understood that there were many manifestations of Qi and that a proper application of Feng Shui meant interpreting these different forms. It is useful to explain some of the different types, but keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list.

Magnetic Qi

Chinese discovered magnetism and invented the compass. They knew that each magnetic pole possesses its own qualities. In studies of magnetism and its effect on healing, Chinese scientists discovered that the north and south poles of a compass give off different effects. The north pole suppresses and cools while the south pole stimulates and heats. These observations agree with the Later Heaven Sequence.

Climatic Qi

This form of Qi is typically used by adherents of the "Southern Hemisphere School" to justify their techniques, based upon Chinese observations that their bitterly cold weather comes from the north. However, this is true only for certain parts of the Earth. On the Indian subcontinent wet winds (monsoons) arrive from the southeast. Climatologists recognize many different terrestrial climates -- weather in Beijing is different from weather in Cairo, Singapore, and Bombay. Each climate group has its own unique character. In tropical regions the deciding factors include warm air masses and the trade winds; in temperate zones the factors include the cold air mass given off by the Poles and the westerly winds. In other regions the determining climatic factor that affects local humidity and barometric pressure may be proximity to the ocean, a mountain range, a desert, or a rainforest. In other words, there is no uniform pattern.

Cosmic Qi

This influence comes from the planets and stars. Feng Shui is inextricably linked with Chinese cosmology. One of the primary constellations in Chinese cosmology is the Northern Ladle (Bei Dou). Its rotation around the Pole Star determines the auspiciousness of directions. It is significant to note that Bei Dou marks north even in the Southern Hemisphere (although I have heard a consultant argue that because Bei Dou is not visible in the Southern Hemisphere, the eight-house system of auspicious directions does not apply --!). As previously mentioned the four sacred animals (tortoise, dragon, phoenix, tiger) were originally divisions of the sky that came to be associated with Feng Shui. The Black Tortoise and Crimson Phoenix represent north and south, respectively, no matter what hemisphere you stand in. Any changes made by the Southern Hemisphere School alter this.

Landscape Qi

This is painfully obvious because it forms a fundamental basis of Feng Shui [and Shan Shui]. However, it is worth noting that Feng Shui and Shan Shui apply regardless of the hemisphere one lives in.

Symbolic Qi

Like many other cultures China possess a rich tradition of symbolism. Nearly every plant and animal offer specific associations and meanings which are said to carry the Qi of that meaning -- some auspicious, some inauspicious. For example, five bats symbolize the Five Blessings.

Archetypal Qi

Archetypes appear in all cultures, although symbols used to represent them may differ. For example, the archetype of the feminine ideal exists in Christianity as Mary, in Hinduism as Lakshmi, in ancient Rome as Venus, and in China as Guanyin. The Bagua is a form of the archetype of the Great Circle found in all systems of astrology including the Native American medicine wheel. In Jungian psychology, archetypes are regarded as "numinous," that is, they possess a Qi of their own. The planets possess archetypes and are regarded as deities. In China, the planets are the essence and source of the Five Elements and were named accordingly. In India they are graha, "the graspers," the forces or deities that take hold of our lives. The Qi of archetypes is strong and not to be ignored. Changing the Bagua to suit the whims of the Southern Hemisphere School alters the archetypes.

The Climate Argument of the Southern Hemisphere School -- examined in gory detail

Now that we have established the basic issues let's look at the argument in detail

The Southern Hemisphere School advocates changing the traditional Bagua and Luopan solely on the basis of their understanding of local climatic Qi. This decision ignores the effects of magnetic, cosmic, and archetypal Qi. The foundation of their argument is a chicken-and-egg concept. Which came first -- the observation of a seasonal cycle, or invention of the Bagua?

The Earlier Heaven Sequence suggests that the Bagua was the "original cause" and the cardinal directions are its foundation. The Later Heaven Sequence maintains the directional basis but adds the seasonal cycle, which worked well for the Chinese, who live in a northern temperate climate (only the extreme southern tip of China is subtropical).

But if we change the Bagua to fit the seasonal cycle in the temperate zones of the Southern Hemisphere, we have to change Li to be associated with magnetic and celestial north. This meaning opposes both Earlier and Later Heaven Baguas and the Shipan. Which is the greater error? To have cold winds blowing from Li in some climates, or have Li associated with magnetic and celestial north for the entire Southern Hemisphere?

Next we must understand that seasonal application of the Bagua applies only in particular climatic zones. It is not universal to the Southern or Northern Hemisphere because it applies only to temperate zones, not subtropical or tropical zones. The differences between Melbourne and Darwin in Australia offer one example. In Melbourne, barometric lows bring cold, wet winds from the southwest (not from the south as some have claimed). In Darwin, rain arrives with tropical lows from the northwest (the Malaysian-Australian monsoon). Furthermore, in Darwin the heat of the desert lies to the south. Any southerly wind brings with it a dry heat. In northern Australia, Kan lies to the north and Li lies to the south.

Another important difference between temperate and tropical zones is their difference in seasons. Tropical and subtropical zones have two seasons (wet and dry), not four. Consequently the life cycles of animal and plant life differ between zones. The classic image of the four seasons with growth in spring, fullness in summer, decline in autumn (including the visible changes in deciduous trees -- hence the North American term "fall"), and return and falling snow in winter is only typical of northern temperate zones. Furthermore, in tropical zones the wet season tends to occur in the summer and the dry season occurs in winter. In temperate zones, rainfall increases in winter and decreases in summer.

A detailed study of climatology demonstrates the complex differences between various regions. In Australia, for instance, Melbourne is categorized as Cfb (Marine West Coast), Perth is Cs (Mediterranean), Darwin is Aw (Tropical Wet Dry), and Brisbane is Cfa (Subtropical). Most of Australia is classified as Bwh (Arid Tundra). The Southern Hemisphere School assumes a limited understanding of climate and generalizes from their simplistic viewpoint.

Some Southern Hemisphere School advocates assert that their argument for change rests on a variation of global surface temperature that results in a warm air band at the Equator and cold regions at the Poles. The argument goes on to say that in the Southern Hemisphere the Equator lies to the north, so the heat of Li must also be to the north. However, this argument runs into difficulty in the tropics because of the movement of the Sun. At the solstices the Sun is centred above the two tropics, not the Equator! The intertropical zone experiences the Sun as either to the north or to the south depending on the latitude north or south. Again, it is only in temperate zones where this Southern Hemisphere School argument can be regarded as valid.

On the terms of their own argument, Southern Hemisphere School theories do not apply to an entire hemisphere. Seasonal associations of the Later Heaven Sequence are secondary, arbitrary, and coincidental only for northern temperate zones. The primary reference point is magnetic and cosmic north, which is valid for the entire Earth. This is the position held by traditional Feng Shui practitioners.  

It is not valid to change an ancient system based solely on propositions built from secondary characteristics that exclude primary causes.

The Global View

The global perspective of things clearly indicates the Southern Hemisphere School's superficial analysis of the issue. A geographical examination of the Earth reveals distinct hemispherical differences that support the symbolic and archetypal associations of Kan-north and Li-south. The following interesting facts support the traditional practitioner's viewpoint.

  • Most of the world's population lives in the Northern
  • The current geopolitical composition of humanity is the result of massive migrations by Northern Hemisphere Cultures indigenous to the Southern Hemisphere have been overwhelmed by Northern Hemisphere cultures. In Australia, for example, Santa Claus wears the traditional winter costume of the northern figure and his home is still the North Pole.
  • The only populations to dwell amid sea-level snow cover at any time of the year live in the Northern Hemisphere. The southernmost part of South America receives minimal snow due to the peculiarities of the local climate, and in any case it is sparsely populated. Compare Capetown to Chicago, Melbourne to Moscow, Santiago to Stockholm, Hobart to Helsinki, and Auckland to Anchorage.
  • The only significant permanent populations to live under the conditions known as "midnight sun" lie in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • The Winter Olympics have always been held in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • The only country to have the word "ice" in its name lies in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • The southern tip of South America is known as "the land of fire" (Tierra del Fuego).
  • The northernmost national capital for any human community is Reykjavik (64 degrees North), just outside the Arctic Circle. The southernmost national capital lies at Capetown (34 degrees South) -- a difference of thirty All European and North American national capitals lie above the 34-degree mark.
  • A country would need to locate their capital on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula to mirror the location of Reykjavik in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Hibernating mammals exist only in the Northern
  • Deciduous trees are native only to the Northern
  • The snow line is far closer to the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere than it is in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The line of zero degrees Celsius as average winter temperature is closer to the Equator (0 degrees latitude) in the Northern Hemisphere (35 degrees latitude) than it is in the Southern Hemisphere (50 degrees latitude).
  • The only indigenous people to live within a polar region (90-66 degrees, 30 minutes) reside in the Northern Hemisphere, including the Inuit, Lapp, Yakut, and More than twenty separate tribal groups live within or near the Arctic Circle.
  • The southernmost indigenous people are the Patagonian Indians of Tierra del Fuego (54 degrees South). By contrast the entire population of Scandinavia lives above 54 degrees North.

If we associate Kan with winter, midnight (sleep, hibernation), cold, and snow, it is abundantly obvious that this typifies the Northern Hemisphere. Only in the Northern Hemisphere do permanent significant populations live with snow cover for many months of the year in conditions that create phrases like "the land of the Midnight Sun." The continents of the Southern Hemisphere are universally regarded as sunny and warm. Think of the indigenous people of Australia, Africa, and South America -- no one images them bundling up in furs to keep out the cold. It is clear that Kan "belongs" to the north as Li "belongs" to the south.