Books that talk about “Taoist feng shui” are full of errors, and use feng shui concepts that are not Asian and are less than 30 years old.

The Potemkin Village People

Jessica Eckstein (Lighting the Eye of the Dragon, April 2000) and Susan Levitt (Taoist Feng Shui, 2000) evidently work at the same mental theme park — or they attended the same class to learn Black Sect Buddhist feng shui. Both seem to think the Dao de jing is the sole Daoist (Taoist) book, and that Black Sect feng shui = Taoist feng shui.

With rare exceptions, Americans, fed on generations of exoticism and sensationalism, know only the fictitious Chinatown.
— Arthur Bonner

Lighting the Eye of the Dragon

Although Dr. Baolin Wu is given copyright authority, it’s obvious that this is Eckstein’s book. So much information is genuinely incorrect — and so many other items have been “gilded with a fine coat of fraud” (to quote Morris Berman) — that it cannot be the work of someone trained as carefully as the book’s jacket would have us believe.

Perhaps this is a cheap shot, but the Daoist classics are twice rendered as “the complete cannon of Taoist arts” — once inside and once on the back cover!

The book also switches indiscriminately between Pinyin and Wade-Giles, as if nobody knew the difference (or could translate one into another for consistency’s sake).

Such haste to get product to market and start the money machine! And so much truly bogus information! To paraphrase Laozi,

If the larger culture makes it popular, it’s not the real thing.

What She Says Reality Check
Wu Baolin is of the Orthodox School of Taoist Feng Shui, Mi Zong Feng Shui
(pages 2, 4)
This Mi Zong is Guang Huan Mi Zong (Buddhism, not Daoism; best known as the Yogacara School). The Yogacara School was brought to China by Vajrabodhi (in 619 CE) and spread by Amogha (d. 774) and Yi-xing (672 to 717). The Da Xing Shan Temple (Yanta District, Xi’an) is the home of Mi Zong Buddhism.Mi Zong is also a Tibetan practice of unaggressive exercise and a type of Gongfu (also known as Yan Qing Quan) from nothern China.

Meanwhile, back at the Dao …

The Covenant of Orthodox Unity with the Powers (Zhengyi, “Orthodox One,” based on texts belonging to the tradition of the same name known as Tianshi dao, Way of the Celestial Masters) was founded by Zhang Daoling in 142 CE.

This branch of Daoism involves a contract with the directional generals of Taisui. Its main rituals involve exorcism (Zheng Daoling was primarily an exorcist).

Orthodox Unity Daoism is mentioned in “The Standard Rituals for Offerings and Fasts of the Celestial Religion of the Great Ming,” dated 1374.

Their register (lu) contains 24 segments. Their sacred mountain, Lunghushan, is in Jiangxi.

It is one of two traditions recognized by the Chinese government.

The other recognized branch of Daoism, Quanzhen (All-True) Daoism was founded during the Song. Its headquarters is at Beiyun guan (White Cloud Monastery) in Beijing. Beiyun guan is the headquarters of the China Daoist Association.

In the Tao, it is said the sky is a circle and the earth is a square — tian yuan di fang. (page 162) This is the most basic cosmological principle of Huang-Lao. But she’s wrong attributing this comment to “the Tao” — it first appeared in the Zhoubi suanjing.The Huainanzi says:

The Dao of Heaven is called the Circular.
The Dao of Earth is called the Square.

Ming Ta principle” meaning “light, high, wide, spacious” (pages 149, 150, 162) Is this referring to the Mingtang?
Is it a weird reference to Daming xuanjiao lizheng (“The Standard Rituals” of 1374)?
Your only clue is her statement

The ancient Book of Lu speaks of Ming Ta. (page 149)

Is this ancient book the Lushi chunqiu (preface dated 239 BCE), the Lu (register) of Dr. Wu’s monastery, or what?

Does Eckstein know? If she does, why is this statement deliberately vague?

The “Four Phases” as “traditionally known in China” (pages 20 and 25) The rest of us know these as si shen (four spiritual animals), si wei (four cardinal points), si xiang (four images), or by extension, the ya-xing.
“the four phases and eight directions (page 25) become the “eight phases” (page 26) There is just no reasonable explanation for this comment. It’s pathetic and funny all at once.
Build a house with the grain of all wood running in one direction.
“Scientific research in China has proven that this can balance the energy in the finished house.” (pages 16 and 17)
Where was this research conducted, by whom, and when?
On what kind of house? (Obviously not a traditional Chinese house — most of those are made of pounded earth!)This was written to appeal to Americans, but please don’t try this. She needs to prove this to her fellow practitioners before anyone uses it!
“birth colors” (pages 24 and 25) Eckstein displays a dismal understanding of the ming gua, and of how color applies to them. Then (to add insult to injury) she adds Lin Yun’s system which applies pink to lure sexual and marriage partners!
The Trigrams (pages 27 and 28)
Xun: fortune, prosperity
Li: fame
Kun: marriage, life partner
Dui: children
Qian: health, important people
Kan: career, ancestor’s tombs
Gen: knowledge, intellectual accomplishment
Zhen: family harmony
Obviously this is the Black Sect bagua not the regular one (from the Yijing).
In the controlling cycle, fire produces metal.
(Page 16)
Comments like this separate the poseurs from proficient practitioners. With seven words Eckstein betrays her ignorance, and reveals herself as a poseur.
Giovanni Maciocia says it plainly:

Each element controls another and is controlled by one.
Earth generates Metal which controls Wood.
Wood controls Earth which generates Fire, which generates Earth.
The controlling sequence ensures that a balance is maintained among the 5 Elements. —Foundations of Chinese Medicine, page 19

Orthodox Taoism was “held apart from the influx of Buddhist thought” Then why does the Buddha (and Buddhism) saturate the book, instead of Daoist immortals and worthies? Why are we told nothing about Daoism?
Here’s a list:

  • “dharma gates”
  • Sakyamuni Buddha — page 84
  • reading sutras — 87
  • Tibetan Buddhist lamas — 104
  • a client who is a Buddhist (and no Daoist clients!) — 121
  • a Zen [Buddhist] garden — 133
  • a Buddha statue used as a feng shui remedy — 152
  • a Buddhist temple — 153
  • a Tibetan Buddhist devotional painting — 164
  • a Buddha statue in a nightclub — 191
  • advice to readers to “take on the heart of Buddha” (not Laozi!) — 195
Humans are the highest order of creation. Our essence is superior to all others in nature. In the Six Realms, humans are on the top. (Page 85) There are nine Daoist heavens (Jiu Zhong). The “six realms” are demonic and represented by tiger-demons in Daoist ritual.It looks as if she confused Asian philosophy with the Great Chain of Being, which still influences Westerners in their thinking of how the world is ordered. Notice in the woodcut that the (male) Christian God is the only thing above a (male) human.
Ming Men, in line with the navel on the spine Again from Giovanni Maciocia:

The Gate of Vitality is the Ming Men, found in the “Classic of Difficulties,” chapters 36 and 39:
“The Gate of Vitality is the residence of the Mind and is related to the Original Qi: in men it stores Essence, in women it is connected to the uterus, … The right kidney is the Gate of Vitality.”
Foundations of Chinese Medicine, page 98

Golden Gate (Dui) Sheng-xuan says this gate is actually beyond the three realms, in the heavens. It is the “place of ultimate safety” (known as Yujingshan).
Gui Men (Ghost Gates) The Gate of Demons is at the northeast on a Daoist altar.
The Jewish Kabbalah mentions the dangers of keeping cats and their strong ties to the realm of the dead. (Page 118) I am amazed that it is still necessary to single out the Jewish Kabbalah (is there a Kabbalah that is not Jewish?). She should have mentioned which book of Kabbalah contains her assertion about cats.There’s no question that Eckstein has strong feelings about cats as

  • sneaky and tricky (page 50)
  • beings from hell (page 118)
  • negative beings that catch rats (page 118 )

It begins to sound vaguely familiar, in not a nice way.

A Caucasian reporter’s safari to a restaurant in New York’s Chinatown was recorded in Once A Week magazine for July, 1893, including the observation that “A greedy cat munches away under one of the tables.”

The Asian clientele appeared blithely unconcerned that a negative, sneaky being from hell sat mere inches away from them.
It was the reporter who grumbled about the cat — just one more reason for him to comment that the restaurant was as inviting as a pig sty.

If you look at old Chinese woodcuts and paintings, you’ll see a great many cats sitting underneath tables eating or cleaning themselves, or engaged in other typical cat behaviors. Either ancient Chinese were happy living with demons, or there is something amiss with this information.

Contemporary Asian feng shui masters don’t agree with this hell-cat theory: Master Larry Sang says cats are very sensitive creatures who can determine whether a house contains ghosts. (If your pet cat refuses to enter your new home, consider yourself warned.) And they are also useful as sentinel species.

The actual direction for looking out is west, but for this method of feng shui, we still consider it south. (pages 146 and 147) To take this absurdity to its logical conclusion:

west = south
so east = north,
which means that
west (which is yin) = south (which is yang) and
east (which is yang) = north (which is yin),
which means
yin = yang
I Ching calculations are made using latitude and longitude, time of the day, and observations of natural phenomena. Read Dava Sobel’s delightful book Longitude (if you have not already) to learn that longitude was determined in the 18th century. (So much for Eckstein’s Plum Blossom.)
Something is amiss and you don’t know what it is, do you, Ms Eckstein?