Feng Shui: Secrets of Chinese Geomancy

Feng shui is a practice of reading the lay of the landscape, including heaven above and energy flows below, in order to most advantageously orient oneself as regards the élan vital of a place, tapping into its positive vibrations while confounding its malignant mojo.

It is a venerable system of ground prophecy, with both intuitive and schooled approaches that run from profoundly to insanely complex (ancient Chinese metaphysics combined with Taoist cosmology), which is where Richard Creightmore, an internationally recognized geomancy consultant, rides into the picture to distill “the ten thousand things” into a poem of brevity — poised, pithy, lucid — divining from feng shui’s divination an earth science, a magical tradition, and an aesthetic art.

It is worth noting that Feng Shui: Secrets of Chinese Geomancy is the latest addition to Wooden Books’ list. The books are not wooden, but they are uniformly small and short, with two-page chapters: concise text on the even pages, illuminating artwork on the odd. They nimbly tuck into big, abstruse ideas — the golden section, Archimedean solids, the Mayan calendar — and serve them up as nutritious dainties.

Though feng shui has been punched around in the press — the Chinese government, of course, hates it, and anything that can be squeezed for a buck and sold to Donald Trump is in for some derision — Creightmore calls forth the art’s investigation into a place’s genius loci: what gives it tone and animation. He starts with elemental applications, commonsensical and practical — gauging influence, foretelling effects, governing courses of action — and slowly delves into the more cryptic, philosophical geomantic strategies.

He explores rivers of energy and backwaters, elements of the landscape as seen through the lens of celestial spirits, the distribution of yin and yang, movement and stillness, wind and water. There will be three gifts and five lucks, not to forget Ho Tu ordered trigrams and Lo Shu glyphs — the later chapters are somewhat dense with dark matter, the cosmology resistant to streamlining — but Creightmore sticks close to feng shui’s object: to engage the landscape, its passionate swells and noxious radiations, maybe even enter into conversation, to glean the most auspicious way to live therein.