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Abstract and Figures

This paper explores the underlying information system of Chinese Feng Shui, translated literally as "wind and water," and compares and contrasts it with theories of complexity science, quantum mechanics, and systems science.
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As a new era of big data leads us towards Jim
Gray’s Fourth Paradigm1 of science, away from
computing and towards exploratory techniques
where theory ends and the scientific method
possibly becomes obsolete (Kitchin, 2014),
ancient systems of natural living hold the
potential to minimize and/or eradicate
difficulties and problems around the globe for
generations to come. For over 5,000 years, the
classical Chinese arts of acupuncture, herbal
medicine, qi gong, tui na, astrology, chiromancy,
and feng shui have been practiced as forms of
“medicine” in that they seek to channel or alter
natural processes for the purposes of curing
illness and achieving overall well-being (Seaman,
1992). Amazingly, these classical protocols all lie
above a singular, albeit complex, information
system based on Chinese cosmological theories
(Porkert, 1974) that were put into place well
before the invention of the written record. Until
recently, these cosmological medical practices
have been debated by scientists because they
share the troublesome characteristic that the
physiological structures at the root of the cures
are not always visible to Western techniques of
scientific observation (Lu & Needham, 1980).
Further complicating matters, the underlying
system is based on the fact that the fate of
individuals is derived from a human nature
linked to an all-encompassing, astrobiological
conceptualization of life (Wheatley, 1971). Yet,
1Jim Grey, a database software pioneer and Microsoft
researcher, sketched out an argument in 2007 that
computing was fundamentally transforming the practice
of science. The first three paradigms were experimental,
theoretical, and, more recently, computational science.
The fourth paradigm of discovery is based on data-
intensive science using databases, workflow management,
visualization, and cloud computing technologies.
like the Dewey Decimal System2 representing the
ordering of the books, rather than the bound
physical specimens themselves, this classical
Chinese medical system that includes feng shui at
its core was cleverly designed to evolve
holistically over time, a complexity science used
to assist humankind in understanding changes in
nature and how they affect our bodies, relatives,
friends, co-workers, and dwelling spaces. Can
such a seemingly powerful system be integrated
with artificial intelligence and big data analytics
to usher in a future state of existence?
At some point during the 1st millennium BC,
ancient Chinese sages developed, or adopted
from other civilizations, an intricate system of
innovative ideas pertaining to disease: the
concept that evil forces played a decisive role in
the prevalence of illness (Unschuld, 1980). In
response to this, a medicine of systematic
correspondence was created out of two related,
yet sometimes paradoxical, concepts: the yin yang
and five phases doctrines (Unschuld, 1986).
Ultimately, both concepts merged into a singular
structure, based on commonalities established in
the most classic of all Chinese scholarship works
from antiquity: the Yi Jing or Book of Changes. By
medieval times, Chinese scholars had forged a
comprehensive worldview based on the macro-
micro view that man mirrored in himself the
whole, believing physiological and pathological
2The Dewey Decimal Classification System is a library
classification system introduced by Melvil Dewey in 1876;
it introduces the concepts of relative location and relative
index, which allows for books to be catalogued in a
library, in their appropriate location, based on subject.
practices were greatly influenced by cyclic
astronomical, meteorological, climatic and
epidemiological factors (Lu & Needham, 1980).
Similar to acupuncture, and traditional Chinese
medicine as a whole, feng shui’s foundation lies
within this macro-micro doctrine. The premise
of feng shui is that rhythms and structures of the
earth parallel those of the human body, and
alterations of the earth bring about repercussions
upon individual human beings and the natural
environment (Feuchtwang, 1974).
Early skepticism of the system from the West
(Dukes, 1885; de Groot, 1897; Sarton, 1927)
arose from the belief that geomancy, as a whole,
was to blame for difficulties in promoting, in
China, Christianity, capitalism, and the natural
sciences (March, 1968). Yet others view it as a
beautiful astronomical, astrological, geomantic,
and horoscopic divinatory system, a type of
primitive classification, with a history going back
to the most distant times, governing all details of
life among the most immense population that
humanity has ever known; a system itself
composed of a number of intermingled systems,
dividing space, things, events, and time,
connecting everything together in the process
(Durkheim & Mauss, 1963). Jung (1950) even
stated “the ancient Chinese contemplate the
cosmos in a way comparable to that of the
modern physicist, who cannot deny that this
model of the world is decided by psycho-physical
Most agree that feng shui has its place in the
classical literature of anthropology; however,
there is still much skepticism with how the
Chinese view a building, a grave site, or their own
bodies as intervening with the universe, bonded
to their physical environment, “working good or
ill upon it and being done good or ill by it”
(Freedman, 1968). For some, feng shui embodies
the image of a magical and personified nature; a
practice that rivals environmental determinism in
the West. In many ways, this was the basis of
Chinese objection to Western intrusion and
technology, along with the Westernization of
Chinese landscape, for, as they saw it,
Westerners, having no knowledge of feng shui,
destroyed the vulnerable geomantic harmony of
their land (Yoon, 1980). Feng shui functions as a
quasi-scientific and quasi-religious Chinese art
based on the concept that humans can only
benefit from nature when they are in harmony
with it, and the boundary between humans and
nature is left purposely unclear to allow for active
participation in the realization of latent man-
nature relationships (Yoon, 1982).
Many modern scholars remain perplexed as to
how a magical system of living in harmony with
environmental elements based on the flow of a
supernatural electricity called qi can still be
readily practiced by millions of people in
concrete, capitalistic modern cities across the
globe (Emmons, 1992), and yet feng shui has been
studied in relation to numerous modern
industries, including, but not limited to,
accounting (Gao & Handley-Schachler, 2003),
tourism (Buzinde et al., 2012), real estate
(Bourassa & Peng, 1999; Salleh et al., 2015),
historical geography (Lai, 1974), hospitality
(Ogilvie, 2018), urban planning (Madeddu &
Zhang, 2017), cultural studies (Marafa, 2003),
communications (Chen, 2007), health care
(Blum, 2004), computer science (Sridharan et al.,
2013) and architecture (Mak & Ng, 2005). Even
still, most view feng shui as a narrow, ritualistic
practice for either buying homes or selecting
burial sites, seemingly having returned to life,
along with the proliferation of new religions, in
reaction to modern nihilism (Hwangbo, 1999).
Langdon (1991) poses possibly the best bridge
into complexity science and big data analytics,
calling feng shui a cross between art and science,
or a pseudoscience, because, although it employs
meticulously gathered facts from nature, it does
not analyze them with modern scientific
Complex adaptive systems are collections of
individual agents with freedom to act in ways that
are not always totally predictable, and whose
actions are interconnected in such a way that one
agent's actions may or may not affect the
experience of other agents (Plsek & Greenhalgh,
2001). Oftentimes within unclear boundaries,
agents respond to their environments by using a
set of internalized rules that drive action – rules
that need not be shared, explicit, or even logical
when viewed by another agent (Stich, 1990).
Because the agents can change, a complex system
can, and most often will, adapt its behavior over
time, for better or worse, depending on whose
point of view is being considered (Holland,
1995). Complex systems are commonly
embedded in other systems that are a part of a
larger system and, as they evolve, such related
systems are influenced, meaning that one cannot
fully understand any of the agents or systems
without referencing the others (Hurst &
Zimmerman, 1994). This interaction often leads
to tensions and paradoxes; while conventional
reductionist scientific thinking assumes
everything can eventually be figured out,
complexity science is comfortable and
sometimes holds in high regard such differences
(Axelrod, 1997).
Complex behavior within the arena of quantum-
mechanical laws of physics emerges from this
interaction among influential agents; for
example, the physical evolution of the universe,
operating in accordance with laws, has produced,
scattered through the cosmos, particular objects
such as the planet earth which, through processes
like biological evolution, has yielded other
objects such as a jaguar, which is capable of
adaption and learning, and eventually even other
particular objects, such as human beings, capable
of language and civilization and of discovering
such fundamental physical laws themselves
(Gell-Mann, 1995). This clearly portrays a
shortcoming in reductionist thinking: the
inability to account for surprise, creativity,
change, and emergent phenomena. Furthermore,
certain nonlinear phenomena, like complex
adaptive systems, have parts that, when
assembled, create unexpected emergent
properties that could not have been identified by
observing the system’s components; such results
have profound effects across many domains,
such as economies, wealth, politics, wellness, and
medicine, to name just a few (Rihani & De Soto,
2002). Thus, since all elements are changeable,
relationships are nonlinear, and behavior is
emergent and sensitive to small changes, the
entirety of a complex system is fundamentally
unpredictable over time, which means the only
way to understand it is to observe it in all its glory
(Lorenz, 1993). And yet, amazingly, upon
observing such complex systems over long
periods of time, inherent patterns emerge, and
very true and useful statements can be made to
explain its behavior (Briggs, 1992), leading to
attractor patterns that provide a comparatively
simple understanding of what first appears as
complex behavior, resulting, oftentimes, in
order, innovation, and progress.
Klir (2001) defines systems science using the
basic equation [S = (T, R)] whereby S denotes a
system, T a set of things distinguished within the
system, and R a relation or set of relations
defined on the set of things. Similarly, from a
modeling perspective, feng shui can be perceived
as an explanatory device, functioning as an
analog theoretical model that allows for the
widest variety of content known to humankind
and a gigantic scope of interpretation (Bruun,
2003). Beer (1985) states that a model of any
variable system is neither true nor false; instead,
it is more or less useful, and contains checks and
balances within it and in relation to its operating
environment, similar to the underlying systems
that have governed feng shui, unchanged, for
thousands of years. As noted by Forrester (1998),
human beings are reluctant to believe physical
and human systems are of the same kind, and
that social systems belong to the same class of
high-order, nonlinear, feedback systems; as a
result of human evolution, all social systems
appear to have already been designed. General
systems pioneer Boulding (1956) argued against
developing any sort of theory of everything
because such a system would inherently sacrifice
content. However, in this new era of big data,
such limitations may no longer exist, and the
complexities of nature as outlined by the
geomantic system, feng shui, could unearth a
skeleton similar to a massive system of systems
that analyzes the seemingly infinite interactions
of individuals within our natural environment,
evolving into a futuristic wellness program that
promotes health and well-being by identifying
patterns of disharmony at the earliest stages
possible. It is well worth our time and effort to
research such possibilities in order to discover if
a future state of natural living can exist based on
this complex, ancient system.
The purpose of this research is to compare and
contrast historical concepts in system science,
systems thinking, and complexity science with
those found in the underlying system of feng shui
to determine if, in this new era of big data
analytics, a complete system of systems could
theoretically be constructed, powered by artificial
intelligence, to harmonize humankind with
nature, containing the potential to improve the
quality of life for many individuals around the
globe. This paper examines characteristics of the
information system existing beneath the
substrate of feng shui, namely yin/yang and five
phases theories, and compare their constructs to
published research in the field of information
systems and systems theory. A high-level
framework will be proposed, based on known
elements with the potential to serve as the
blueprint for a futuristic lifestyle system. Finally,
this paper identifies future research goals
necessary to make such a system a reality.
The understanding of the flow of universal
energies in nature within time and space as an
information system represents the foundation of
feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of geomancy. It
is helpful to refer to Webster’s Revised Unabridged
Dictionary (Porter, 1913), for definitions
regarding such terms:
Geomancy \Ge"o*man`cy\, n. [OE. geomance,
geomancie, F. g['e]omance, g['e]omancie, LL.
geomantia, fr. Gr. ge`a, gh^, the earth + mantei`a
divination.] A kind of divination by means of figures
or lines, formed by little dots or points, originally on
the earth, and latterly on paper.
Feng-shui \F[^e]ng"-shu`i\, n. [Chin. feng wind +
shui water.] A system of spirit influences for good
and evil believed by the Chinese to attend the natural
features of landscape; also, a kind of geomancy
dealing with these influences, used in determining
sites for graves, houses, etc.
The idea that feng shui translates directly as “wind
and water” makes it rather evident that the
system originated in a flood culture of antiquity
when the study of nature and attempting to
predict its iterations was essential to survival; it
is speculated that slightly different flood stories
associated with the legends of the Xia and Shang
dynasties are explicable as originating
respectively in both the south and north regions
of the Yellow River delta in areas traditionally
associated with the beginnings of these two
lineages (Watson, 1966). The earlies recorded
flood disaster in China occurred around 2000
BC, causing immense damage and accounting
for many deaths across the country (Luo et al.,
2015). The Great Yu, a hero of the Chinese
people, was assigned to flood control by King
Shun and was successful by dredging channels
instead of building levees, as had been done by
his father, which allowed the water to flow in a
controlled manner to the seas (Gu, 2006). The
Han Daoists believed he used the information
system underlying feng shui to accomplish his
According to legend, the Great Flood endured
for many decades throughout the reign of Yao
and Shun, causing heavy damage to all
inhabitants of the earth. It was the Great Yu who
dug thousands of canals, rivers, and streams from
the Yellow River to help strengthen the
movement of water towards the sea. Yu labored
for almost thirteen years, often using just a
bucket and shovel; legend states that because his
legs were always in the water, there was no hair
left on them. Dressed in skins and cloths made
from the hides of animals and the barks of trees,
Yu worked through fierce winds and strong
rainstorms to bring about a change to the world;
finally, he was able to contain the flood, using
geomancy (e.g., feng shui) to make marks in the
ground that helped direct the flow of water to
where he had built tributaries and reservoirs.
Because of his popularity amongst the people,
Shun had no choice but to name him as successor
to the throne in 2200 BC, which began the start
of the Xia dynasty, the first of the three ancient
dynasties of China whose founders were of
model virtue. It was said that on this day, 10,000
tribes came to pay homage to what then became
their unified leader. (“Gourd Meditation,” C. Y.
Hsiang, personal communication, July 27, 2003)
Through anthropology, the history of Chinese
civilization, dating back to prehistoric times,
provides a rich cultural landscape examining the
development and evolution of human behaviors
and ideas. While there are serious questions
about the content and sequence of civilizations
that existed as early as the Xia dynasty due, in
part, to a lack of written record combined with
both the influence of Western ideology in the
1920s and an absence of scientific evidence, even
if one takes a horizontal view, we know such
people existed along the Yellow River at such
time and created ancient texts that contained the
details of these early systems and the
information behind them (Chang, 1999). In fact,
a golden saying handed down from generation to
generation in the Chinese nation states “a man
who wishes to run the country well should give
priority to flood control” (Cheng, 2005). As to
policy, there was a preponderance for
conformity to nature, on the back of Daoist
concepts; hence a lack of support for dykes,
which were time-consuming to dig and
expensive to maintain, especially when
compared to drawing water off canals, which
boasts the advantages of reclamation, increased
fertility, and transportation (Bates, 1935). It is no
wonder that during these ancient times, Daoist
and Confucian ideals ultimately combined
together and became the framework for the Six
Arts (Table 1, below) which were the subjects
taught in the first Chinese schools introduced
during the Western Zhou (1046-256 BCE)
dynasty (Street & Matelski, 2009).
Table 1. The Six Arts of the Zhou Dynasty
rt Description
lǐ Ritual This art, which also correlates with meditation and Qi Gong, represents the
reverent observation of the laws and forces of nature.
yuè Music
This art relates to how one can become in tune with the divine harmony of the
universe. It also relates to the power of regulating the frequency, timing, and
rhythm of energy.
shè Archery
This art refers to the martial idea of ‘yielding to achieve a return.’ It also pertains
to the focus and concentration of power when storing and releasing energy.
yù Charioteering
This art symbolizes the discipline and cultivation of the mind, body, and spirit.
It also relates to the ability to harness, control, and direct energy to where it needs
to go.
shū Calligraphy
This art represents refinement in calligraphy, charms, and the Daoist and
Confucian classical studies. It can also pertain to one's clarity of expression.
shù Mathematics
This art refers to mystical calculations and divination used to influence and
interpret patterns of nature, which often delineate one’s fate or destiny.
By the third century BC, the formation of the six
arts brought together an amalgamation of
philosophical schools that, upon reaching the
Song Dynasty (960–1279), had integrated
yin/yang, five phases, the Confucian classics, and, at
the center of it all, the art of mathematics in the
Yi Jing 易經, known in the West as the Book of
Changes; it is the oldest of all Chinese classical
manuscripts, written in a primal language during
times when ancient clan-commune beings would
record events by tying knots in cords of rope
strung around the village during ceremonies
(Feuchtwang, 1974). A solid line, or a rope
segment without a knot in it, represented yang
or 1 in binary code; when the solid line is broken
into two by a knot, yin or 0 in binary code is
formed; this represents the basis of yin/yang
theory that remains extant to this very day in
Chinese culture.
The Yi Jing thus establishes a mathematical
system of organized chaos in nature. Since
research has illustrated that the universe is
fundamentally composed of data, understood as
dedomena, patterns or fields of differences, instead
of matter or energy (Floridi, 2010), one could
surmise that the Yi Jing taps into this dedomena to
arrive at quantitative variables of the state of the
natural environment at any given time. One yin
and one yang (21) is thus often called dao in that
it represents the polar quality of all effects in our
natural environment; the system is enhanced
complexity-wise by the introduction of infinitely
endless qualitative gradations and combinations
(see Figure 1, below) which has practical limits
only as to the relative significance of the object
being measured (Porkert, 1974).
This underlying system of yin and yang forms one
of the earliest known examples of a mathematical
theory of communication (Shannon, 1948), best
described today as quantum entropic logic,
representing a non-linear source of reality
existing simultaneously, at both the macro and
micro levels, embracing a multitude of local
forms and elements of reality, thus creating a
gigantic, monstrous density of a primary matter
negentropy (complexity of a structure). It
postulates that natural information is actually
described by means of quantum equations and
that particles exist in nature which can transfer
such data in various forms (Nesterov, 2011);
information, in this light, functions as a material
category reflecting the levels of structural
organization in objects and interrelating with
such basic characteristics as energy and mass.
Sharing commonality with yin/yang theory, both
the classical and quantum versions of logical
entropy have simple interpretations as two-draw
probabilities (Ellerman, 2017). As two-draw
probabilities, like tossing a coin or arranging
yarrow stalks, are performed three times (23),
eight possible combinations result, forming, in
antiquity, the Ba Gua 八卦 or Eight Trigrams;
after six times (26), sixty-four combinations
result, forming the Hexagrams of the Yi Jing that,
when moving, can result in up to 4,096
combinations (212)). The basis of the
mathematics of this system is equivalent to the
binary system of numbers and its use of
probabilities (Yan, 1991); this ancient system also
closely identifies with the concepts of bits and
bytes that form the working principle found in
our current computing environment and in the
structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
Figure 1. Gradations and Combinations of Yin and Yang, 21 – 26
Yin and yang are
traditionally illustrated
by way of the tai ji 太極
symbol (Figure 2, right),
which translates as the
Absolute or Supreme
Ultimate, and the
relationship between
these two forces follows
four distinct aspects:
opposition, interdependence, mutual
consumption, and inter-transformation
(Maciocia, 1989). Opposition is illustrated with
yang represented as white on the left, and yin
represented as black on the right.
Interdependence is illustrated as the two forces
making up one complete circle, often referred to
as dao , which loosely translates as the way or
the path. Part religion and part philosophy, the
Chinese understood the dao, or nature, from
which all beings are conceived; they believed all
life was embodied with an unseen life force, a
force that can be cultivated and developed to
enable one to live life more fully (Siou, 1975).
Mutual consumption is illustrated by the tapering
of one aspect while the other grows; inter-
transformation is represented by the opposite
color dot within each main aspect. As such, the
tai ji symbol, while simplistic in appearance,
actual portrays the fundamental four laws of yin
and yang, which, according to the ancient
Chinese, governs the entirety of life in the
universe (Jing-Nuan, 1993).
When yin and yang expand into 22, a more
thorough evolution occurs, as illustrated in
Figure 3 (below). Old or utmost yin, represented
by two broken lines, takes the darkest period,
midnight; old or utmost yang, represented by two
solid lines, takes the lightest period, noon. Yang
within yin, or a solid line below a broken line,
shows how yang grows out of yin and represents
the time period of dawn; yin within yang, or a
broken line below a solid line, shows how yin
grows out of yang and represents the time period
of dusk. These assignments (Mann, 1973) can
also represent the four seasons and the four
directions: Winter/North (Old Yin),
Spring/East (Yang within Yin), Summer/South
(Old Yang), and Autumn/West (Yin within
As discussed in the Yi Jing (Wilhelm & Baynes,
1950) yin and yang as 23 represents what is known
as the Eight Trigrams or ba gua; three lines each,
solid or broken, continuing to denote evolutions
of yin and yang, the bottom line symbolizes the
form (earth), the top line symbolizes the content
(heaven), and the middle line symbolizes the
subject (humankind). Table 2 on the following
page illustrates the Eight Trigrams, their
meanings, relationships, times, and associations;
over time, they have been arranged in two
separate ways, influenced by two ancient
mathematical maps called the He Tu 河圖
(Figure 4a, below) or Yellow River map and the
Luo Shu 洛書 (Figure 4b, below) or Luo River
map (Cammann, 1990). Myths associated with
these maps (images courtesy Wikipedia) go back
to the earliest days depicted earlier in this paper,
when floods ravaged ancient China.
Figure 3. Yin and Yang Expressed as a daily cycle
(Aarons, 2004).
Figure 2. Yin and
Yang Expressed as the
Tai Chi symbol.
Table 2. The Eight Trigrams (Wilhelm & Baynes, 1950).
Chinese Pin Yin Name
rigram English
ttribute Family/Area Direction/Fx
qián Heaven
Creative Rulership;
strength Father; head
Northwest; light
and dark mingle
duì Lake
Joyous Pleasure
West; time of
lì Fire
Clinging Warmth;
Daughter; eye
South; brightness
under which we
perceive one
zhèn Thunder
Arousing Movement Oldest Son;
East; brings forth
all living things
xùn Wind
Gentle Dispersion;
Daughter; thigh
Southeast; brings
to completion
kǎn Water
Abysmal Moisture;
danger Middle Son; ear North; time of toil
gèn Mountain
Youngest Son;
beginning and end
is completed
kūn Earth
Receptive Shelter;
yielding Mother; belly
Southwest and
center; cares by
Figure 4a. The He River Map.
Figure 4b. The Luo River Map.
The He River
map alignment
of the Eight
Trigrams is
called the Fu
Hsi, Earlier
Heaven, or
it represents
the dynamic
actions of
opposites, or
the law of polar reversal, in that opposite pairs
have opposite symbology and mathematics, in
the sense that where on one side is a solid line,
on the other is a broken line (Wing, 1982). The
Luo River map alignment of the Eight Trigrams
is called the King Wen, Later Heaven, or Inner-
World arrangement; as compared to the prior
illustration, this scheme represents the law of
periodicity, depicting cycles and rhythms of
nature, such as the changing seasons, and
suggests the constant transformation of all
things, considered by some to be the external
manifestation of cosmic order (Wing, 1982).
Thus, within one
binary system,
, we have one
indicating the
stability of
nature and of all
things, and one
indicating the
cycles of nature
and of all things.
The King Wen arrangement and the Luo River
map are also patterned in the same manner as the
3x3 magic square, an arrangement of the
numbers one through nine where, in every
direction, the three sets of numbers add up to 15
(Figure 7, below). Odd and even numbers also
alternate in the periphery; the 4 even numbers are
at the four corners, and the 5 odd numbers form
a cross through the center of the square. It has
been said that number is the origin of all things,
and the law of number is a potential key to
unlock the secrets of the universe; example of the
magic square can be found in Chinese literature
around 1125AD but were evidently copied from
still older documents (Andrews, 2004). These
numbers also occur in a possibly earlier
mathematical text called Shushu jiyi (Memoir on
Some Traditions of Mathematical Art), said to be
written in 190BC; this is believed to be the
earliest appearance of a magic square on record
and references its use for feng shui and astrology
(Yoke, 2008). But, up to now, no one has truly
attempted to analyze its inherent mathematical
properties, or the numerical significance of its
numbers – singly or in combination – and then
tried to consider these in light of Chinese
cosmological concepts and practices (Cammann,
While yin/yang theory is fundamentally expressed
qualitatively in binary code, representing the
polar Fu Hsi arrangement of the Eight Trigrams,
the King Wen version represents the
mathematical base of the five phases, whom
constitute qualitative stretches of time, temporal
segments of exactly defined measurements that
follow each other in cyclical order at reference
positions defined in space; there are several
Figure 7. 3x3 Magic Square
4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6
Figure 5. Fu Hsi arrangement of
the Eight Trigrams (Wing, 1982).
Figure 6. King Wen
arrangement of the Eight
Trigrams (Wing, 1982).
geometrical arrangements that illustrate these
changing energetic qualities, one of which being
the 3x3 magic square (Porkert, 1974). The three
key aspects are depicted in Figure 8 (below). The
sheng or Creation Cycle of nourishment and
generation is a circle that connects the elements,
represented by the wide arrows. The ke or
Control Cycle allows for the Five Phases to hold
each other in check, symbolized by the solid
arrows; earth, for example, earth contains water,
while water rules out fire, etc. The wei or
Protective Cycle operates superficially to audit
the Creation and Control Cycles to ensure they
remain in balance and in harmony with nature.
These three systems closely mirror the first three
systems in Beer’s (1985) Viable Systems Model,
whereby the ongoing nature of life represents the
system-in-focus, the Creation Cycle; the Control
Cycle acts in an anti-oscillatory manner, not in
command, but both flexible and rigid depending
on what is happening to the system-in-focus –
real life. The Protective Cycle (identified by
dotted arrows in Figure 8) acts like an external
audit function to see what is being done well and
what is being done not-so-well so that
adjustments can be to the Control Cycle. It
ensures self-organization and autonomic
regulation. To complete the operation, yin and
yangrepresent the monitoring of the external
environment, acting like Systems Four and Five
according to Beer (1985), rooting the system-in-
focus to reality and what is happening at any
point in time with larger and smaller systems.
The five phases thus possess the ability to
function as a system of checks and balances
created by the background forces of yin and yang,
representing a system for how all organic and
inorganic things were formed; this fundamental
theory generated the later development of
theories relating to medicine, chemistry, physics,
biology, mathematics, business, music, and
political strategy, to name a few (Lu, 2013).
Worsley (1998) states that the five phases of
Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water are not just
foundations of feng shui but of many of the
systems used throughout Chinese history,
representing the spirit of nature in and all around
us. Veith (1949) reminds us that classical texts
note that the diseases of the four seasons react to
the five flavors, which corresponds, via yin/yang
and five phases theory, to a calendar of time and
space, connecting our bodies and environment
through diet, based on cosmological principles.
Therefore, one can surmise that the entire system
of Chinese culture, their way of natural living, is
based on a system that is intellectually coherent
and embedded in cultural premises and symbols;
it cannot be fully understood outside of the
context of history, and unfortunately, to this day,
does not reconcile with the scientific concept of
causality (Leslie, 1976). Yet the randomness that
has come to be called chaos generated by
complex systems is, according to some, shaking
science to its very foundation; for the first time,
an alternative to linear, reductionist thinking that
has dominated science since Newton appears
possible (Larsen-Freeman, 1997).
There now however exists a structure, a system-
in-focus that is life, based on yin/yang and five
phases theories, that functions like entropic
geometry, consisting of logic, flow, initiation, and
termination, as a way to mathematically explain
probabilities in life (Coecke, 2003). In addition,
using at least two different strategies, when
applied to the processes of the brain, for
instance, to reach any result is oftentimes
Figure 8. Relationship systems among the
Five Phases (Lu, 2013).
considered quantic in nature; the natural world
teaches us about inherent flexibilities inside
atoms, molecules, organelles, cells, tissues,
organisms, ecosystems, and planets (Castro-
Chavez, 2011), just like the underlying system of
feng shui attempts to manage. When the trigrams
are combined together, as noted before as 2
sixty-four variations occur (Table 3, below),
which, according to the Ta Chuan or Great
Treatise, “contains the measure of heaven and
earth; therefore (they) enable us to comprehend
the dao of heaven and earth and its order”
(Wilhelm & Baynes, 1950). Interestingly, Secter
(1998) illustrated the idea of reframing problems
and making use of different, possibly surprising
new perspectives, also belongs to an old
‘culturally inherited method of mental mapping,
relating, and strategic planning’ rooted in the
Book of Changes, and it is ‘coincidentally
compatible with digital information and
communication technology.”
Table 3. The sixty-four hexagrams of the Yi Jing (Xun arrangement).
Vital Spirit
Great Harvest
Great Power
xiǎo chù
Small Taming
Great Taming
Marrying Girl
After End
Light Darkens
Bite Through
The Cheeks
Great Excess
Gentle Mvmt
The Well
Before End
Youthful Folly
Small Excess
Keeping Still
Split Apart
One way to understand the information system
of the Yi Jing is that it was shaped by and reflects
correlative thinking, in contrast to causal
ideology; in effect, it employs analogical
associations in a non-logical process, in that it is
not based on the kind of causal implications
utilized in Western logic (Hall & Ames, 1995). In
fact, according to Fung (1983), the Yi Jing is one
of the few texts of Asian descent that has no
counterpart in the West; written as early as 820
BC, it is predicated in part by representing
qualitative concepts with binary symbols, with
yin/yang theory representing one of the oldest, if
not the earliest, works on the subject of change
and transformation. Each of the sixty-four
hexagram symbols are assigned a distinct set of
attributes and characteristics, thus establishing a
correspondence between binary or quantitative
values on the one hand (the measurement of the
six lines as yin or yang), and descriptive or
qualitative values on the other (the description of
what the six lines represent, both separate as
individual lines and together as the hexagram);
the qualitative characteristics take on three key
measures, namely qualitative-quantitative,
cooperative-competitive, and risk easy-risk
adverse (Secter, 1993). The results form a model
of probability and change which, while most
people view or interpret as divination, could, in
an era of big data analytics, be remodeled as a
system of relative predictability with a
framework, constraints, rules, and a process for
implementation; the system compels decision
makers to examine issues from an unexpected
perspective, representing a fundamental
reframing of the issue, generating and
encouraging a fresh line of thought, creating
alternatives or solutions, reducing one’s chances
of getting stuck procedurally, discourages agents
from imposing their own intentions, and lays
responsibility at the hands of the parties
concerned (Secter, 1998).
Moving on from the decision-making guidance
of the Yi Jing, which in fact attempts to pattern
an organized type of chaos that exists in life on
earth, the rotation of planetary bodies in the solar
system lends to a more prescribed, systematic
observation of the universe. It was common
knowledge in antiquity that the Chinese state
regarded the maintenance of a sharply accurate
luni-solar calendar as a basic function, one that
led to annual predictions that were well-guarded
secrets of the emperor’s inner chamber
(Needham, 1959). While many believe such
intricate calendric systems were adopted to
improve agricultural processes (Changhao,
1981), the truth of the matter was the emperor
had desires to act as mediator between the
human and celestial orders of existence, linking
political ideology with astronomical truths as
early as 221BC (Sivin, 1969). New emperors
would oftentimes take the advice of scholars who
interpreted the successes and failures of past
dynasties in terms of a complex arrangement of
celestial stems and terrestrial branches which, at
its root, are derived from yin/yang and five phases
theories (Graham, 1989).
As noted above, the five phases, which rest in the
North (Water), East (Wood), South (Fire), West
(Metal), and Center (Earth), follow one another
in order, similar to nature, a smooth process with
overlapping patterns; when divided up into yin
and yang components, the five phases manifest
naturally into the ten Celestial Stems (Table 4,
above), following the composition of the Yellow
River map in counting numbers from one to ten.
Because of these correspondences, the Celestial
Stems are principally Yang in nature, symbolizing
Heaven, and denote the place in the cycle of time
and space, with odd numbers corresponding to
Table 4. The ten celestial stems (Wei-Pang, 1946).
# Name Symbo
Nature Element
1 Jiǎ Yang Wood
2 Yǐ Yin Wood
3 Bǐng Yang Fire
4 Dīng Yin Fire
5 Wù Yang Earth
6 Jǐ Yin Earth
7 Gēng Yang Metal
8 Xīn Yin Metal
9 Rén Yang Water
10 Guǐ Yin Water
Yang and even numbers corresponding to Yin.
Thus, stems 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 represent the five
pure yang stages, whereas stems 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10
represent the five yin stages of yang.
The five phases are also reflected in the King Wen
arrangement of the Eight Trigrams and evolve
into the Twelve Terrestrial Branches (Table 5,
below); it is interesting to note that four trigrams
maintain the cardinal directions, each
corresponding to one branch, while the trigrams
in the corner directions divide apart into two
branches each, one relating to earth, being
terrestrial, and the other relating to a cardinal
direction element. Thus, eight (8) plus four (4)
equals twelve, providing insight into how the
eight basic patterns of the universe are embedded
into the effects of the cycles of nature,
corresponding to a wealth of things including,
but not limited to, the qi meridians of the body,
the organs of the body, times of day in two hour
intervals, months, zodiac signs, compass
directions, etc. (Wei-pang, 1946). The Twelve
Terrestrial Branches denote the effect in the cycle in
relation to time and space and are listed in
numerical order from one to twelve, with even
numbers representing yin and odd numbers
representing yang. Branches 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11
represent the six yang phases of yin, whereas
branches 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 represent the six
pure yin phases.
Table 5. The twelve terrestrial branches (Wei-Pang, 1946).
Trigram Name Branch Name # Element Time Zodiac Month Direction
Water Jiǎ 1 Water 11-1AM Mouse December North
Chǒu 2 Earth 1-3AM Ox January North
Yín 3 Wood 3-5AM Tiger February Northeast
Thunder Wān 4 Wood 5-7AM Rabbit March East
Chén 5 Earth 7-9AM Dragon April Southeast
Sì 6 Fire 9-11AM Snake May South
Fire Wǔ 7 Fire 11-1PM Horse June South
Wèi 8 Earth 1-3PM Ram July South
Shēn 9 Metal 3-5PM Monkey August Southwest
Lake Yǒu 10 Metal 5-7PM Rooster September West
Xū 11 Earth 7-9PM Dog October Northwest
Hài 12 Water 9-11PM Boar November North
Diagram 1. The sixty cycles of nature (Wei-Pang, 1946).
Stem 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2
Branch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Stem 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4
Branch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Stem 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6
Branch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Stem 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Branch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Stem 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Branch 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
By combining the ten stems and twelve branches
the Chinese sexagenary cycle is formed; each
combination of a stem and a branch has a
corresponding phase that is used to track years,
months, days, and hours in cycles of sixty. As you
combine the numbers one (1) through ten (10)
on top with one (1) through twelve (12) below,
one begins to understand the Cycle of Sixty.
Earth meets heaven (Celestial Stems) five times
each (5*12=60), while heaven meets earth
(Terrestrial Branches) six times (6*10=60); the
combination of ten and twelve in nature merge
to form this globally governing cycle of sixty,
which rules life on earth through interconnecting
circuits of energetic potential. Thus, the
numerical structure of the Chinese stem and
branch cycle of calendric energy exists as (12 x
10) = (4x3 x 5x2) = 120, reducing to (4x3 x 5) =
60 (displayed in Diagram 1, above).
As mentioned earlier, the study of Chinese
cosmology is the root of all classical Chinese
modalities. One must understand this is not
astrology; rather, it is a precise, scientific
calculation of time and space in the universe
based on the laws of yin/yang and five phases
theories. Through an in-depth study of the
Celestial Stems and Terrestrial Branches, one can
determine at every moment in time (e.g., year,
month, day, and hour) the interplay of Heaven
(Stem) and Earth (Branch). The connection of
this system to the human body and universe is
depicted in Appendix 1, representing the basic
architecture of the information system that
operations underneath the ancient system of
geomancy known as feng shui. Future research is
required to continue to discuss numerous other
components of this complex system and its
connection to other related systems, perhaps in a
larger dissertation, particularly the cycle of qi.
Feng shui appears to resemble a complexity
science in that, at the highest of levels of our
existence, one could potentially analyze, content,
context, and form, observing activities in the
heavens and on earth and how they relate to
individuals so as to produce big data sets across
civilization that, when correlated and classified,
allow data scientists to reach conclusions, like the
ancient emperors of China yearned for, that form
the basis for natural guidance and decision
making, taking into consideration all possible
iterations and paradigms. The basic, high level
framework proposed is summarized in Table 6
(below). The observations of three broad
categories of data all together and in real time
(astronomical phenomena, natural phenomena,
and human behavior), after correlation and
assimilation with various calendar, divination,
business, military, and medical expert knowledge
systems, can produce constant prescriptions for
individuals to follow, absorbing all relationships,
illustrating the data visually and in products to
create a future state of existence. Future research
will focus on defining the data elements to
measure in stage one, the expert systems needed
for stages two and three, and the various types of
results that could be garnered through big data
mining and analytics of this gigantic qualitative
and quantitative data set.
Feng Shui is classical divination and astronomy, a
form of knowledge, a way of conceiving,
perceiving, and dealing with reality; divination
may be scientific or magical, an art or practice of
foreseeing or foretelling future events or
discovering hidden knowledge by signs (Vogt &
Hyman, 1959). Interestingly enough, the
randomness generated by complex systems has
come to be called chaos; for the first time since
Newton3, an alternative to the linear, reductionist
thinking that has dominated science for the last
three hundred years appears possible. With
access to the computational power of computers,
big data, artificial intelligence, and complexity
science, previously intractable problems such as
the dynamics of nonlinear systems, much like the
underlying system of feng shui, can be studied.
Although such scholarship originates in the
physical sciences, researchers working in these
areas believe that their theories have the potential
for immense impact on the future of humanity as
we know it (Waldrop, 1993).
This research compared and contrasted historical
concepts in system science, systems thinking, and
complexity science with those found in the
underlying system of feng shui and determined, in
this new era of big data analytics, there is the
potential to theoretically construct a complete
system of systems, powered by artificial intelligence,
to harmonize humankind with nature, containing
the potential to improve existence on earth and
among its inhabitants. This paper examined the
characteristics of the feng shui information system
and compared its constructs to published
research in the field of information systems,
complexity science, and systems theory. A high-
level framework was proposed, based on known
elements, with a potential to serve as the
fundamental design for a futuristic lifestyle
system. Additional research will undertake
specific design elements at each of the
framework’s three stages so as to make such a
system a potential reality in the future.
Table 6. Proposed model of Feng Shui decision evolution.
Stage 1
Observation of
Astronomical (Heavenly)
Observation of Human
Observation of Natural
(Earthly) Phenomena
Stage 2 Correlate and classify data using
calendar systems (Five Phases)
Correlate and classify data using
predictive systems (Yi Jing)
Stage 3 Quantitative Celestial systemization Qualitative Terrestrial symbolization
Result Feng Shui prescription
Heartfelt thanks to Lindsay Robinson from Northwest Arkansas Community College for her
meticulous edits to this document.
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Appendix One. The Cycle of Qi in Time, Space, and the Body.
6 - Si
9-11 AM
7 - Wu
11-1 PM
8 - Wei
1-3 PM
7-9 AM
2 - Yi
3 - Bing
4 - Ding
3-5 PM
4 - Mao
5-7 AM
1 - Jia
5 - Wu
6 - Ji
5-7 PM
3 - Yin
3-5 AM
10 - Gui
9 - Ren
8 - Xin
11 - Xu
7-9 PM
1-3 AM
1 - Zi
11-1 AM
12 - Hai
9-11 PM
Tu - Rabbit
Nei Guan (PC-6) -
Vitamin Yin
Shen Mai 申脈 (UB-62) -
Yang Bridge
Zhen - Thunder
3 - East
Dui - Lake
7 - West
Zhao Hai 照海 (KI-6) -
Yin Bridge
Wai Guan (TB-5) -
Vitamin Yang
Kun - Earth
5 - Center
Niu - Ox
Tai Chong 太沖 (LV-3) -
Hu - Tiger
Tai Yuan 太淵 (LU-9) -
Gong Sun 公孫 (SP-4) -
Penetrating V essel
He Gu 合谷 (LI-4) -
Large Intestine
Qian - Heaven
6 - North west
Kan - Water
1 - North
Gen - Mountain
8 - North east
Hou Xi 後谿 (SI-3) - Sea
of Yang
Hou - Monkey
Jing Gu 京骨 (UB-65) -
Urinary Bladder
Tai Bai 太白 (SP-3) -
Shen Men 神門 (HT-7) -
Xun - Wind
4 - Southeast
Zu Lin Qi 足臨泣 (GB-
41) - Belt Vessel
Lie Que 列缺 (LU-7) -
Sea of Yin
Zhao Hai 照海 (KI-6) -
Yin Bridge
Kun - Earth
2 - Southwest
Li - Fire
9 - South
Qiu Xu 丘墟 (GB-40) -
Gall Bladder
Shu - Mouse
Ji - Rooster
Tai Xi 太谿 (KI-3) -
Gou - Dog
Da Ling 大陵 (PC-7) -
Long - Dragon
She - Snake Ma - Horse Yang - Ram
Wan Gu 腕骨 (SI-4) -
Small Intestine
Chong Yang 沖陽 (ST-
42) - Stomach
Northwest 西北
Northeast 東北 Nort h
East West 西
Southwest 西南
Southeast 東南
Zhu - Boar
Yang Chi 陽池 (TB-4) -
Triple Burner
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Superstition and the rituals used to support such beliefs remain an important part of Chinese business society. With the advance of globalisation and the normalisation of many business practices this study explores the importance these rituals continue to play in the contemporary hospitality setting. The paper examines the prominence of Feng Shui in business today in a qualitative study using Chinese restaurants to explore associated business behaviours and perceived value of use. Findings from 20 phenomenological interviews from across four different Asian communities are discussed highlighting the core elements of this ritualistic practice. Results indicate that these practices continue to be used widely, have significant impact in managing the servicescape, and, influence the decisions and behaviours of proprietors. Feng Shui ritual plays an important role in the creation of value for business proprietors who practice it and a conceptual framework on how these rituals provide value is proposed.
This newly revised and updated edition of Paul U. Unschuld's original 1986 groundbreaking translation reflects the latest philological, methodological, and sinological standards of the past thirty years. The Nan Jing was compiled in China during the first century C.E., marking both an apex and a conclusion to the initial development stages of Chinese medicine. Based on the doctrines of the Five Phases and yinyang, the Nan Jing covers all aspects of theoretical and practical health care in an unusually systematic fashion. Most important is its innovative discussion of pulse diagnosis and needle treatment. This new edition also includes selected commentaries by twenty Chinese and Japanese authors from the past seventeen centuries. The commentaries provide insights into the processes of reception and transmission of ancient Chinese concepts from the Han era to the present time. Together with the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen and the Huang Di Nei Jing Ling Shu, this new translation of the Nan Jing constitutes a trilogy of writings offering scholars and practitioners today unprecedented insights into the beginnings of a two-millennium tradition of what was a revolutionary understanding of human physiology and pathology. © 2016 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
This paper examines the influence of Feng Shui on urban form and spatial design at multiple levels, from the domestic spaces of the home, through commercial development projects, to the planning and building of cities. It contrasts the ancient power of China’s emperors to directly plan cities according to Feng Shui principles with its indirect influence today, underpinned by cultural and commercial drivers rather than the direct influence of regulation. Although ‘official’ adherence to Feng Shui seems less explicit than it once was, there are signs that it retains a place in the decision-making environment. The paper concludes by advancing a research agenda around the embeddedness of Feng Shui within the cultures of planning regulation and decision making.
Part I: Systems Science: A Guided Tour. 1. What Is Systems Science? 2. More about Systems. 3. Systems Movement. 4. Conceptual Framework. 5. Systems Methodology. 6. System Metamethodology. 7. Systems Knowledge. 8. Complexity. 9. Simplification Strategies. 10. Goal-Oriented Systems. 11. Systems Science in Retrospect and Prospect. Appendix. References. Part II: Classical Systems Literature. Introduction and Comments. Detailed Contents. Author Index. Subject Index.