Sherrill and Chu translated a manuscript, Heluo Lishu, into English for their book Astrology of I Ching (1976). The book explains some techniques of najia, which uses positions of the moon with the corresponding day of the month and the amount of light to tell your daily fortune. The hemerological technique derived from ba zhai (Eight Mansions) feng shui.
Advocates of the so-called “Southern Hemisphere school” say feng shui was designed for the Northern Hemisphere and feng shui must be made to fit the Southern Hemisphere. They base their ideas on Sherrill and Chu’s book. Yet the book never says that feng shui calculations must change because of the seasons. A footnote in Astrology of I Ching explains that the astrological year in the Northern Hemisphere begins at the winter solstice. The book argues that the hemerological system in Heluo Lishu — the najia system — should change when it is used in the Southern Hemisphere. The footnote, and Appendix C, provided the inspiration for Southern Hemisphere feng shui.
Ray Harris began the research on Southern Hemisphere feng shui. He says the primary advocates of change to a Southern Hemisphere system are Roger Green and Lindy Baxter. They collaborated in creating a system that alters the luopan, and ganzhi (the system of Stems and Branches), along with the Hetu and Luoshu.
Another advocate is Hermann von Essen. He advocates that everyone use the Black Hat Sect method of feng shui in the Southern Hemisphere, to align with what he calls natural vortices, and to favor Australian climate.
Keep in mind that climate refers to the average weather patterns in a region over long periods of time (decades or more). Weather varies — even from year to year — but climate generally doesn’t.
Other advocates seem to be students or associates of Green, Baxter and Von Essen. Ray Harris hasn’t found anyone who is not a student of these people who accepts and uses the Southern Hemisphere system.
Harris sent his research on Southern Hemisphere feng shui and his questions to its primary advocates before he sent his work to others. “I wanted to give them the opportunity to correct and comment,” he said.
Hermann von Essen never responded.
Lindy Baxter was initially enthusiastic. She replied to Ray’s questions, and he sent a detailed response — with more questions. Baxter replied that she was sorry he “disagreed” and wished him well. Roger Green said that he and Lindy Baxter did not wish to respond because they found Ray “overly aggressive.”
Imagine if Einstein or Niels Bohr had refused to let fellow physicists analyze their groundbreaking theories because they thought colleagues “overly aggressive”!
It has been ten years of silence, if you discount the ongoing advertising by Southern Hemisphere advocates. Have we learned anything more about the potential for this system?
A two-calendar conundrum
Appendix C in Sherrill and Chu’s book states that Stems and Branches for the Southern Hemisphere need to be placed five years and six months behind the Northern Hemisphere. That is, instead of 2008 being a yang rat year, in the Southern Hemisphere it is a yin sheep year. Instead of beginning 2008 with a yang rat day, in the Southern Hemisphere the new year would begin on a yang horse day.
If you live on the Equator, you are sliced in half. Their system does not account for the Equator.
Why would these mental gymnastics be necessary? Sherrill and Chu say their “extensive research” proves the changes are necessary. But they offer no proof.
“Because I say so” is an effective answer when you are a parent, but it is not an acceptable answer if you are a scientist or a scholar.
Both authors are dead so we are left searching for clues. One clue is the authors’ claim that seasons, and the circulation of ocean and wind currents, are reversed in the hemispheres.
Chinese seasons begin at the midpoints between the solstices and equinoxes, not at the solstices and equinoxes as in Western thinking
|Ancient Chinese determined the seasons using astronomy. Verses in Tianwen (c. 100 BCE) say that spring began when the sun was opposite the full moon (which was conjunct with Spica, the marker-star for xiu Jiao). In the Yaodian (c. 2300 BCE) the middle of spring occurred with the equinox and presence of Niao (the Bird star), the marker-star of xiu Xing in the Red Bird constellation.
Another method of determining the seasons was to observe the motions of Beidou — the Dipper or Ladle. Sima Qian noted in his writings on astronomy that during the Chinese winter the “handle” pointed “downward,” (north) at early evening. (Thanks to precession, Beidou now points downward in late July.) The horizon was divided into 12 sections or 24 for easier timekeeping.
|The early shi, a feng shui device, shows Beidou in the Central Pool of Heaven — the position of the compass needle housing in a luopan.At 90 degrees north latitude, at the north geographic pole, the celestial and terrestrial Equators are equal. Here the North Star is directly above you, and the stars travel anticlockwise around the horizon. This is the situation idealized by the Central Pool of Heaven, where the needle is housed in a Luopan. The red cross lines on a luopan indicate the two principal meridians of the celestial sphere. One line passes through the poles and the two solstices. The other line passes through the celestial poles and the ecliptic at the two equinoxes.Anticlockwise is the direction of the stars, the Jupiter stations (ci), and the stems. The branches move clockwise. Roger Green claims “the Luoshu is usually read in a clockwise direction. However, in the Southern Hemisphere it is read naturally in an anti-clockwise direction.”
As you can see there are some flaws in his claims. Indeed, the stars move anticlockwise in the Southern Hemisphere just as they do in the Northern Hemisphere.
|The 24 solar nodes, sometimes referred to as “seasons,” derived from two ancient calendars. Which calendar you use depends on your need. If you use the first month in one calendar and count 15 days to a node, then you have a 360-day farmer’s calendar (the Xia calendar). But if you start at one winter solstice and count until the next winter solstice, you have a calendar of 365.25 days. The solar nodes are not considered actual “seasons” — they are mnemonics for degrees of ecliptic longitude.The beginning of the year in the jieqi occurs when ecliptic longitude reaches 330 degrees — thanks to precession this now occurs at Rains(approximately February 18) in the Xia calendar.Older Feng shui devices have 365.25 degrees, thereby marking off about a degree a day in ecliptic longitude. The ancients were more concerned about the annual movement of the Sun than any local season.A solstice is the midpoint of great yang or great yin depending on your latitude. Lesser yin is the autumn equinox and lesser yang is the midpoint of the spring equinox, also depending on your latitude. The system, as the Daoists noted, is complementary. Yin and yang cancel each other out: that is, they are in harmony.|
|There is another way to look at the seasons, based on a famous book called Huainanziwritten during the Han era. You can see spring and summer. The borderline of yin and yang is at the southwest, where summer turns to winter, and northeast where winter turns to spring — just as depicted in the illustration of the 24 solar nodes. The central palace or pool of heaven is the home of Shangdi at the pole star. This area translates to the housing for the needle on a luopan, or to the position of the spoon (a representation of Beidou).Ancient Chinese observed the southern sky at early evening to mark the passage of time through the xiu or lunar mansions. They based their observations on the stars near the pole and near the equator — equatorial astronomyis also the basis of modern astronomy, by the way. (Old Western astronomy, which is used for astrology, uses ecliptical astronomy.)The order of the mansions describes how they appear in the sky as you are facing south, beginning at dusk.||
The four palaces. After John S. Major: Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought. SUNY Press, NY 1993.
Roger Green says the “trigrams were arranged to show the progression of the seasons.” However, as you can see from this Ming-era bowl (c. 1600 CE) , emphasis is placed on directions not seasons, which is why there is a Portuguese ship and a sea monster, along with islands. The bowl has the markings of a luopan.
Here is a climate map.
The climate in the Southern Hemisphere is less varied than in the Northern Hemisphere, probably because the Southern Hemisphere is mostly water. The variety of climates in the Northern Hemisphere is astonishing. There are 24 climatic zones in California for plants and 16 for building. In southern California there are basically two seasons: wet and dry (much like Israel). Go north, to more temperate latitudes, and (depending on where you go) there might be more seasons.
Climates are just as varied in China, where there are six major climatic zones. In northern China and Canada (which have similar climates), Spring Begins and Rains occur when there is still a lot of snow on the ground — it won’t really be spring for months. Southern China, which has a climate like Florida, doesn’t typically experience winter — that is, it does not have Lesser Cold, Greater Cold, or snow. As it was explained earlier, thinking of these as physical “seasons” is misleading. Better to use the solar nodes as Chinese do — as mnemonics for ecliptical longitude.
The direction south is not necessarily towards the heat in the Northern Hemisphere. Yang exhibits the qualities of hot and dry. The second-hottest recorded temperature on earth was reached in Death Valley, California. That may be “south” to someone who lives in Canada, but it is “here” for people living in southern California. El Azizia in Libya holds the record for the hottest place on earth. Libya is in the Northern Hemisphere. Libya is “west” for people living in Egypt. The driest — that is, the most yang — place on earth is the Atacama Desert in Chile. Most of Atacama is in the Northern Hemisphere.
Using seasons and climate to explain the orientation of the Hetu and Luoshu requires more scientific knowledge than the advocates of Southern Hemisphere feng shui have at their disposal.
The cultural history of China indicates that south was always considered up and north was always considered to be down. In the sky, north might have been the home of God but on the ground, north was down, the land of the dead (the Yellow Springs, home of the material souls of the dead) — the most yin place on Earth. North of a city is typically where the cemeteries have been located since the Shang — and even earlier.
Roger Green says “Nine … indicates the highest placement of the sun’s movement in the Northern Hemisphere — due south” and reasons “that is why the bagua map is always drawn with south at top.”
The comment is misleading. Directions in ancient China were determined by the position of the sun in Chinese constellations, not the position of the sun overhead. In addition, Chinese maps didn’t put south at top until the Mongol invasion. Moreover, “due south” is a technical term for a compass point 180 degrees from due north, which is indicated on the celestial circle.
Green is saying that the sun in the Northern Hemisphere culminates at the southern celestial pole. It doesn’t. The day of the year and the latitude affect where the sun rises or sets and how long the sun is above the horizon, along with its height above the horizon. The altitude changes according to the season and position of the observer — see for yourself.
|Queenstown, NZ: August 2008||Quito, Ecuador: August 2008||Los Angeles: August 2008|
You can see where the idea of changing the Luoshu and Hetu because of the path of the sun is going to be a problem for Southern Hemisphere feng shui. If the sun culminates overhead at the Equator, is the sky “south”?
Why aren’t we identifying directions on the celestial sphere as ancient Chinese did (and modern science does)?
In all their travels the Chinese never adjusted the Hetu or Luoshu by where the sun culminated. None of the buildings built by Chinese in Australia were reoriented for feng shui in the Southern Hemisphere.
The builders knew their techniques — Westerners aren’t so fortunate.