The ancient art of Chinese Feng Shui (“wind and water”) has spread in popularity around the world, finding its way into homes of varying cultures, beliefs, and domestic practices. Feng Shui applies the system of geomancy, or configurative divination, to a building's outer architecture as well as its interior space in order to promote structural harmony and thus, good health, fortune, and overall wellness of the inhabitants.
Employing many elements of Chinese philosophy, Feng Shui seeks to establish and circulate positive energy, called Sheng Qi, which is believed to be the determining influencer of one's circumstances and well-being. Essentially, if there is a lack of Sheng Qi in one's life, they will most certainly suffer the consequences.
Along with pursuing the balance of opposing–but necessary–yin and yang energies, Feng Shui also utilizes the five elements (water, fire, earth, wood, and metal), as well as the five directions (North, South, East, West, and Center.) Five animals are accordingly assigned to each element and direction, with each animal representing a fundamental aspect and favorable characteristic to be applied to the designated space.
The five Chinese celestial animals of Feng Shui are as follows:
1. The Black Turtle
With its sturdy shell and slow but methodical pace, the turtle is the embodiment of protection and stability, as well as success derived from sustained effort rather than showy displays or overly ambitious strides. (Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?) Water, the turtle's element, has long been synonymous with emotion, intuition, and spirituality, and one Chinese legend tells of a turtle emerging from the Lo River bearing all the secrets of the Bagua (the source of Feng Shui) on its back.
One of the oldest and relatively unaltered species on earth, the turtle can live for many years–some records reaching over 100–and can survive for long stretches of time with minimal food or water. Due to its additional immunity against illness, the turtle has come to be believed by many cultures to carry the powers of longevity and resiliency.
Placing a turtle statue, ornament, or picture in the Northern corner of one's house is believed to encourage long life, wisdom, and a steady flow of income. Some Feng Shui devotees adopt a live pet turtle and keep it in the Northern corner, but be mindful to treat it with care, kindness, and diligence, for once neglected the energy will cease and affect the household considerably.
2. The Red Phoenix
The mythological phoenix makes up the ‘yin' of the dragon's ‘yang,' and represents the aspect of action in motion, essentially a wish fulfiller. Placed in the opposite corner of the turtle, the phoenix is often considered the inverse of the turtle's qualities–no more or less important, but amplified in a different manner.
Due to its fierce but solitary nature when not wed to the dragon (more on that below), the phoenix can also represent freedom and the need for protection when finding one's self the sole inhabitant of a space. Structurally speaking, a building lacking the phoenix aspect will often be confined by surrounding buildings or a mountain face, with an obstructed principle view.
3. The Green Dragon
Undoubtedly the most recognized figure in Chinese art and astrology, the dragon provides optimal strength, prosperity, and protection. Acting as a buffer between negative energies and outside dangers, the dragon fittingly presides over the East corner of the house, meeting the sun as it rises each morning. Channeling precious celestial Chi, the dragon also acts as a transmitter for our human desires, ensuring that they materialize on earth in a healthy, harmonious way. This closely relates to the Law of Attraction, the belief that what you put out in the world is what inevitably finds its way back to you.
A 2000 year-old Chinese legend claims that our souls journey into the higher realms of enlightenment on the dragon's back, and wooden dragon figures are often placed in one's work space to increase potential and productivity, as well as success.
The pairing of the dragon and the phoenix is believed to bring about matrimonial bliss and mutual strength in partnership. For this reason, many Feng Shui specialists advise against placing a dragon in the bedroom without its yin counterpart, as the yang energy may be overwhelming and hinder restfulness
It is always stressed to treat the dragon with utmost respect, whether in sculptural or illustrated form. Never display a depiction of a wounded or dying dragon, as this will surely influence your own strength and vigor. In addition, be mindful of placing the dragon in an area of little energy or personal value, such as a storage closet or garage.
4. The White Tiger
Just as the dragon and phoenix combine to form romantic harmony, the white tiger and the dragon represent the duality of the universe, albeit under similar guises. The white tiger's emphasis is on courage and daring, of moving fearlessly to protect less outwardly assertive energies. Considered to be the ultimate source of yin, or feminine energy, white tigers are often associated with the protection of women and children.
It is generally advised that where there is the white tiger, the dragon should almost certainly be honored as well. The two are considered in celestial Chinese philosophy as indispensable to each other, with the dragon's yang in perfect balance with the white tiger's yin.
In landscaping terms, most Feng Shui masters prefer the dragon to be situated higher on its East side than the white tiger on the West, believing that this will bring more fortune and prosperity to the owner of the house. When the order is reversed (the white tiger in a higher position than the dragon) it is generally feared that the rightful head of the household will be dominated and undermined by their offspring or romantic partner, most certainly to their own detriment.
5. The Yellow Snake
Contrary to popular associations between snakes and evil temptation, Chinese belief holds the snake in high regard as an extremely helpful, benevolent entity, acting to secure the other four animals of Feng Shui in their positions and optimize their combined energies.
In accordance with the metaphorical shedding of its skin, the snake represents constant renewal, which is crucial to a healthy, productive household. Highly sensitive to the aspects surrounding it, the snake enhances the positive qualities of its four counterparts while tempering any potential clashes or imbalances of the energies.
According to Feng Shui practice, the snake should be placed in the Northeast region of one's home in order to gain knowledge and insight into the dwelling's occupants, as well as influence prosperity and progress from all corners and, likewise, inhabitants.