by Peg Laflam
This article first appeared in NANthology, the NAN newsletter, in fall 1999.
Peg: Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) is the ancient Chinese art of promoting balance and harmony in one’s environment; it is a cross between art and science. Feng shui deals with the flow of energy (chi) in the environment, both outside and in the natural world and within buildings of all kinds.
New NAN candidate: You mean there is something invisible running around my house called “chi?”
Peg: Have you ever heard of dowsing? Or how about ergonomics in the workplace?
New NAN candidate: I know I don’t get out enough because I have been working so hard on certification, but I haven’t been living in a diving bell!
Peg: Dowsing and ergonomics are western offshoots of Feng Shui. Feng shui is a holistic practice because it offers alternative ways of relating with the world around us.
New NAN candidate: “Holistic” is a word that makes me nervous and with all that is going on in this world, who can relate?
Peg: But we’re only talking about the decorating aspects that are concerned with feng shui. Pay attention! Since “chi” is the invisible flow of energy that circulates through the earth and sky, there is good chi and there is bad chi.
New NAN candidate: I think I have it now, good chi is winning the lottery while bad chi is an IRS audit.
Peg: Well, that’s close enough. Capturing the good chi and directing its flow in and around your living environment is a large part of fung shui. Whatever your taste or style preference, your goal should be to create a serene and welcoming effect whether in your home or in your stitchery.
Your friends, relatives and visitors will respond to the atmosphere you create for them. If it isn’t a cozy and welcoming spot, they’ll find other places to go. If the stitchery lacks appeal, it ends up in the bottom of a drawer or at Good Will.
New NAN candidate: I can’t argue, with that.
Peg: No matter which house I’ve lived in over the years or even the style I’ve decorated in, most people come in and say, “this is so warm and cozy.” It is quite possible it is because I practice the basic elements of feng shui.
A couple of the feng shui basics are to never set up a room with the host or hostess’s back to the door. While clearing everything out from under the bed helps the chi to flow gently, without obstructions.
Feng Shui is about being a minimalist; to open your spaces and to cut down on clutter, which is a sign of a personality disorder to the Chinese.
In the tradition of feng shui, color plays an important part in overall well being in our living environments as well as in the stitchery we do.
Red is the color of energy, vitality and power. It will help with depression, but is not a good color to be used by people with high blood pressure or anxiety. It is a Chi Whiz regal and good luck color. In China, the brides wear red as a symbol of good luck and good fortune. A stitched piece with red as the dominant color will bring luck and good fortune to the owner.
Orange will have a gentle, warming effect if used sparingly, and sparingly is the key. If used in abundance or as a dominant color, it will make people nervous and agitated. It is a color used by fast food restaurants as they know that the color orange will make people eat faster and leave quickly making room for more people who will eat faster and so on. But used sparingly as an accent color, it can warm the cool colors on the opposite side of the color wheel.
In the context of feng shui, yellow was used by emperors only, forbidden for the general public to wear. In other cultures, yellow is the color of intellect and mental stimulation. It is not the best color to use in a room for children, because it is very stimulating. But it is the color of happiness and warmth and useful in small doses.
Green is the color of healing and brings feelings of calmness. Surgeons wear green scrubs and hospitals paint walls pale green to promote healing in their patients. Green in the home creates a calm environment, like being in the deep woods.
Pink is also calming, while blue is the color of truth, serenity and harmony, but too much blue could leave you cold, depressed and sorrowful. When using blue, it is important to use a bit of orange to counteract the coolness of the blue.
Violet is the color that will connect you with your spiritual self and is a color of mourning. White symbolizes purity and brings peace and comfort. Silver is also a color of peace and of persistence.
New NAN Candidate: Wow, I would never have believed that feng shui would help me with my certification.
Beyond Feng Shui
To explore color you can follow many paths through many fields of learning…history, anthropology, geology, religion, mythology, art, painting, architecture, literature, culture, tradition, superstition, symbolism, astrology, science, physics, chemistry, psychology, optics, medicine…all lead into the world of color. No other topic is quite so fascinating, emotional or so personal. Even the blind are not immune to color.
Love of color is really quite old as we can tell from ancient pottery. Early cave drawings were the result of making pigments of brown, black and red from natural clays, burnt bones and plant dyes. Color is a language where every hue has a significance and this begins with the color of man himself. Each race is designated by the color of the skin. Indians are red, Orientals are yellow, Africans are black and the remaining are white.
Color is symbolic of the major faiths with Muslims being white, Christians blue, and Jews yellow. There are 5 colored circles on the Olympic flag to designate the 5 continents.
The signs of the zodiac have specific colors. Religions make use of color: if you have been to Mecca you wear green; yellow is worn by Buddhist and Hindu priests, and violet is the color used during Advent and Lent in Christian churches. In the Old Testament Joseph had a coat of many colors. In Iran a blue bead brings good luck while in Turkey the evil eye is blue.
Universities recognize 8 colors for their faculties; green for Medicine; blue for Philosophy, purple for Law; scarlet for Theology-and that reminds us of the Scarlet Letter.
We have blue Mondays, blue moons, blue blood, blue ribbons, blue is for boys and pink is for girls (except in France where it is reversed). There are blue collars, black sheep, purple hearts, yellow pages, red lights, red necks, red letter days, not a red cent and all westerns have a greenhorn. The bride wears white unless she is Chinese and then she wears red.