The Living Earth Manual of Feng Shui, by Stephen Skinner
It is intriguing and somewhat telling that this book has so much bad to say about Hong Kong. After all, the siting for Hong Kong was done largely thanks to the interests of the English, and the English are not known for being response to a complex example of Chinese geomancy. Indeed, this book tries to point out the differences between the geomancy of the West and the various traditions that have fed into this and the geomancy of China, which has some similarities but a great deal of differences as well. It is difficult to tell what the author thinks that the reader should get out of this book, as there is a lot of very interesting material here, but it is hard to understand and make sense of, especially given that this book is not full of a lot of explanation. It provides a lot of information but one doesn’t get much of the sense of context about how to understand these things and how to put them all together as part of the same understanding of the world. If you’re interested in such things, this book will encourage such an interest, but you are going to need more books to understand it.
This book is a bit less than 150 pages and is divided into seven somewhat large chapters. First we see acknowledgements, a note by the author on geomancy and how it compares between European and Asian traditions, as well as an introduction. After that, the author seeks to define feng shui for the reader (1). This is followed by a discussion of ch’i (2) and how it can be dispersed, as well as the importance of dragon veins (3). There are chapters that deal with a variety of different patterns of numbers, from the four cardinal directions to five elements, and even more (4). This is followed by a more detailed discussion of the feng shui compss (5) and how it works (6), and then finally a chapter on household feng shui. This is perhaps the most relevant matter to many people, since it includes areas that people would tend to have more control over than the rest of the material relating to the siting of cities and buildings. This is followed by a list of vocabulary, a bibliography, and an index.
What would you want in a manual like this? In my mind, at least, a manual’s job is to explain something and allow the reader to understand something more completely. And this book does not completely fail in that, in that it provides the reader with enough understanding that anyone reading this would understand that feng shui is immensely complicated. Geomancy appears, at least as it relates to Chinese versions, to involve a sort of divination of the land itself, to speculate on the meanings of rocks and water. Yet for those who lack any interest in getting into any depth that many of the basics of the field are rather commonsensical, such as the desire to place cities near water but on heights that avoid floods. The combination of security and access to water would appear to be an obvious one. Admittedly, much of this book is less obvious, but also less easy to understand and justify. As is the case often, this is a book that provides information that is mixed between that which is of interest to small groups of persecuted shamans and other information that can at least be appreciated by a much wider audience, even one that is hostile to much of the belief system that inspired the work.