Fengshui: Science vs. Pseudoscience

When talking about extraordinary beliefs, it is difficult to combine it with science. However, Feng Shui is the most popular topic that people had a hard time drawing the line between an extraordinary belief and science. Fengshui was created based on the principles of Taoism at least 3000 years ago in China. It is believed to be a complicated system of theories that proved by a large amount of observation and practice. In some books, it was studied due to a mysterious phenomenon that many people born in Hongcun ancient village of China finally became the general or emperor. Scholars who study the location of that village made the hypothesis that the mountain and river are highly correlated with this phenomenon. Later on, many scientific fields like astrology, geography, and chemistry were heavily studied and incorporated into this complicated theory.

While there are more elements of science, people are more likely to convince this theory (belief). For example, the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth) in this theory was the most fundamental in the world, and they create or eliminate each other. In the past time, people who are thirsty at night put a sword in the top of the bowl, and there will have some water in the morning. They firmly believe metal would create water. However, people today know that it is just because water vapor concentrates in the metal especially at cold night. In this case, Feng Shui is nothing but a pseudoscience or superstition, and it was defined as so today.

In fact, the observation of a great amount of Chinese geography helped later scholars to build Feng Shui, and it allowed them to make many hypotheses and pick the evidence from the observation to support their idea. In the field of Feng Shui, there are lots of Feng Shui schools which conflict with each other, and in today’s world people could claim them as “master” in a school people never know and making money for their service that could change people’s destiny. This trade makes many masters make millions by just giving advice for in-room designing.

People who study and practices the Feng Shui never think it is superstition. Instead, it is more of a theory of symbol. All the theories were based on《I Ching》, and in the book, everything was created by Yin and Yang, and it generates four orientations such as East and West; then these orientations creates eight Gua. Every Gua represents a natural phenomenon such as Wind or Water, and two Gua together are used in the methods of divination, which is forecasting future. Sometimes it was hard to believe this prediction, but they actually did well in most cases. They also do not think Feng Shui is a science, but a simple interaction between human and the environment, and the final goal is to achieve harmony. It has its own language of defining elements and its status in its world, so we cannot use scientific words to judge or measure its logistics.

In sum, Feng Shui is definitely not a science but a form of art in eastern culture. If people measure and test its falsifiability by using the science definition today, it is surely a pseudoscience and superstition. People who study it was a form of traditional art that has been appreciated and passed thousands of years. The creation borrowed many theories in a different kind of area that makes it mysterious and fascinating.


Works Cited:



Is Feng Shui a Science?

14 thoughts on “Fengshui: Science vs. Pseudoscience

  1. This is a really intriguing take on an extraordinary belief. It almost seems that a lack of cultural awareness led people to take it at face value versus those within that cultural tradition who seemingly use it with the appropriate amounts of appreciation and skepticism. It makes me want to see if there are other minor “beliefs” or at least traditions that ethnocentrist anthropological work has interpreted as much more integral to belief systems than they actually are.

  2. After reading your post, I decided to Google “Feng shui” to see what would pop up. The first definition included the term “pseudoscience” within its definition. The definition stated that it involves focused energy that allows one to be in harmony with the environment. I thought both this definition and your post were interesting because I thought the term was only related to calmness and serenity.

  3. Before reading your post all I knew about Feng Shui is that people would say it when trying to organize their furniture in their houses to have “good energy.” From your post I learned that it is much more than that. Did your research tell you anything about how colors are involved in Feng Shui? While looking up Fen Shui online, I found a lot about how colors are important when decorating and was wondering if you saw anything?

  4. I agree with multiple of the above comments, I think many people can agree they are familiar with the term and have used the expression in their home at some point. I also agree that the pseudoscience definition appears to be a lack of cultural understanding. Personally, I would find a definition focused on art far more explanatory than one that tries to dismiss it for what it’s not.

    • I completely agree with this–I feel like this topic is interesting because it has been thrown into western culture and used as a placeholder for a meaning that fails to even begin to encapsulate it. I really like how you kept this blog post respectful and enlightening by keeping the importance of Chinese culture at the forefront, while explaining that it functions as more of a theory of a symbol and not some extraordinary belief.

  5. This is a really interesting belief to look into. As many of the above comments said, I’ve definitely heard this used in relation to home decor, but that was about as far as my knowledge of the topic went. I think its really interesting that our culture has sort of adopted another’s belief, but altered it to take away a lot of the cultural aspects and fit it to our own definition. That’s what makes it more pseudoscience-y and its slightly sad how little we understand of other cultures.

  6. One obvious mental shortcut in the Feng Shui is the confirmation bias. Although there is a huge amount of record of the observation in geography and many other subjects, which could be used to prove or against theories in Feng Shui. People still actively use evidence that supports their idea. In addition, the hindsight bias is also a common behavior in the masters of Feng Shui. When they are hired for making a suggestion about the in-room design to change their current status, masters always knew that their bad luck is bound to happen, and they attribute that to something in the room that breaks the Feng Shui and a change is needed. In most cases, people who do not feel good and have no idea how to change their lives are more likely to find a Feng Shui master for the suggestion. No matter who the client is, starting words like “I knew it would happen because…” seems always right to say.

  7. I think it’s really interesting how Feng Shui has become such an integral part of pop culture in the United States, with many shows – I mean, literally all of HGTV – emphasizing Feng Shui-inspired concepts, like the “flow” of the room. Heck, even Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix – one of the most talked about shows of 2019 so far – emphasizes Feng Shui-esque ideas about being one with the energies in your home. Why do you think that Americans (and other Westerners, I presume) are so attracted to the ideas of Feng Shui? Personally, I think people like the feeling that it gives them some sort of control over the randomness of the universe.

  8. Hello!
    This blog post drew my attention because I have watched a show where someone believed in this. A lady on the Real Housewives of Orange Country believed in many of the pseudoscientific beliefs and spoke a lot about them in the show. She believed in some fengshui and needed a certain amount of lemons in a bowl at all times. She had a professional fengshui expert come to her friends office and moved things to create more “balance” in the energy. I always thought this idea was interesting and maybe connected to placebo effect. If you feel as though your area is in line with balance of energy you probably have more peace of mind and end up being more level headed. I think this is an interesting topic and enjoyed reading about it!!

  9. I had no idea what Feng shui was so I had to look it up to understand a little better. The idea of a balanced flow of energy to govern spacial arrangement I believe is true. However, its more how it was described in the blog. I do not believe that Feng Shui is a science but rather the interaction of humans and the environment to create harmony. I believe this is a better explanation than believing its science since the way you feel can reflect on how you feel on how a certain place looks. Its completely possible to feel in harmony when you’ve arranged your furniture but I believe it brings harmony because you are going something that you think will help. Essentially I believe this has to do with how people interact with their environments and the placebo affect.

  10. Your post really draws my eyes. I think Fengshui is an outstanding architecture in ancient China. It aims to create a perfect harmony between the house and nature. From the location of your house to the placement of your furniture, everything is crucial in the Fengshui. Instead of destroying nature, it tends to integrate into nature. I agree with you that Fengshui isn’t a superstition, and for now, it’s more like a form of art. It’s not easy to become a master of Fengshui, and the House build base on the Fengshui will actually give me a sense of harmony.

  11. very strong point that feng shui is within the field of science at all. As a form of art, feng shui acts as one of east culture symbol which contains the way how we understand the world and respect for the nature.

  12. Fengshui is a very typical example that how a set of ancient knowledge transformed into a commercial based belief. As I know, I Ching, the foundation of Fengshui is more like a kind of eastern philosophy than a real prediction of fate and destiny. Because the whole idea tends to be very metaphysical, people pick the short cut and intemperate it as a tool to make money by saying it could control ones fate. Although many could gain a feeling of control through Fengshui, I still think this kind of culture legacy need a proper perspective to approach.

  13. Feng shui to me is a pseudoscience that’s effectiveness is based on anecdotes. There is no evidence that can validate “chi” existing nor that arranging furniture in some way has an effect on a person’s well-being. As much as I wanted to believe in feng shui, having table fountains did not bring me wealth. Objects can’t give off positive or negative energy. This idea is similar to numbers being lucky or unlucky.

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