on Feng Shui
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Article FS08/mar2
2. Tan Yang Wu: What Really Happened?

Prof. Dr. Ong Hean-Tatt 6th March 2008


In the early 1920s, Tan Yang Wu was known to be a great Xuan Kong Fei Xing (Flying Stars) Feng Shui master. Then, one day, around 1929, Tan Yang Wu renounced Fei Xing Feng Shui for Xuan Kong Liu Fa.

Tan Yang Wu's change caused a furore at his time. Some current Fei Xing masters called him a traitor to the Fei Xing cause. They also pointed out that Tan never really learnt from Zhang Song San but merely a distorted version from a relative of Zhang.

The Tan Yang Wu story is intriguing, as it illustrated several lessons in the practice of Feng Shui, especially in the flying daggers wars between the Feng Shui schools.

The Story in More Details

Tan Yang Wu was born in Jiangsu Province of Wu Jin Heng Lim Wu Bai Tang during the 16th year of the Emperor Guang Xu, in the year of Geng Yin (1890).

Since young Tan Yang Wu, also known as Tan Hao-Ran, was fascinated by Feng Shui. He was 19 years old when he first learnt Feng Shui under Master Yong Chin Lu (Yang Jiu Ru), who was 70 at that time.

In 1919, Tan worked in the traffic division of the telegram department in Shanghai. He eventually was in charge of education in the rural areas and then he was appointed as Chief Executive Officer in the Zhang Zhu telegram department. In 1927, he worked as an officer of the tax department on tobacco at Anwei Province. In 1928, he worked in the electrical unit at the Shanghai transport department for a year.

Tan Yang Wu's eventual life in Feng Shui can be divided into two periods:

  • In the 1920's, Tan Yang Wu was a renowned Fei Xing (Flying Star) Feng Shui Master with a popular following in China. He originally learned San Yuan Flying Stars Feng Shui from his close relative, Yang Jiu Ru.

    Later in life, in 1929, he was taught the esoteric meaning and methodology of real Feng Shui. After this, he denounced his previous Fei Xing teachings.

The famous Zhang Zhongshan had a relative Yang Jiuru. Yang Jiuru used what he obtained to teach Tan Yang Wu. In 1922, Tan opened a Feng Shui school, the San Yuan Mythology Research Community, at No.716, Chentu Road, Shanghai. He taught correspondence courses, continued to carry out inspections, and published three books during this time:

  • In 1923: "Da Xuankong Lu Tou: Great Xuankong Penetrating Path", ("Tan Shi San Yuan Di Li Da Xuan Kong Lu Tou"). This book contains all of the flying star charts from Period 1 to Period 9 in all of the 24 directions. This is an explanation of all 216 of the standard charts without using any of the Replacement Star charts. It also dealt with the theory of Yang Feng Shui (living) and Yin Feng Shui (graves).

    In 1924:"Da Xuankong Shiyan: Great Xuankong True Effectiveness", The second book contains some case studies, which were previously posted to the list. This book concentrated on the practical experiences, analysis and research that he had carried out and observed over the years.

    "Dili Bianzheng Xin Jie: Dili Identify and Correct Errors New Explanation" ( Di Li Bian Zheng ). Tan did not know that what he wrote in the third book was the explanations of the song Pai Long Jue . He did not know Pai Long Jue (which also does not appear in Shen Zhu Reng's book) and used the San He basic theories to explain the Di Li Bian Zheng . So, the third book was a massive error.

The books were authored and financied by Tan Yang Wu himself for the purpose of sales in China. Then, during the Japanese occupation of China and the subsequent communist takeover, all the books were either burned or destroyed. The exception were a copy of each of the two books with Master Tan. Tan handed these two books over to Master Sui Beng with the intention of avoiding extinction of the art. Sui Beng brought these books with him when he came to Singapore.

With the unfortunate destruction of the books, only Master Eu See Ying @ Yen Pen and Master Sui Beng were the links in carrying down the knowledge. These books were later handed down by Sui Beng to Master Leyau, which he later republished.

In these early 1920's Tan Yang Wu was a strong believer in Fei Xing Feng Shui. At that time, two of his students were Eu See Bing (Yen Pen) and Xiu Lee. But Xiu Lee, a good Taoist monk, always claimed he never knew 'real' Feng Shui.

In 1929, Tan Yang Wu met another Taoist priest, Lee Chen Xu, from Jiangsi of Henan Province, who was said to teach Tan the deeper, hidden truths about esoteric Feng Shui. It was claimed that Tan realised he was mistaken in his previous beliefs and that the old Fei Xing theory and techniques he had practiced before was wrong.

Tan Yang Wu was an honorable man and set to correct his mistake. In 1930, he published an ad in a major Chinese newspaper apologising for spreading the Fei Xing teachings. At that time he also declared that all his previous Feng Shui teachings, (the ones he learned before he met the Taoist priest), were not true Feng Shui.

  • According to Francis Leyau, Tan Yang Wu later learned Yin Feng Shui from another Master and realised that it was not accurate. On finding this out, he apologised publicly via newspaper for the unfortunate mistakes he made and promised to compensate former clients for those mistakes and re-do their Feng Shui at no extra charge.

He never 'blended' his new understanding with his old Fei Xing Feng Shui teachings. Tan Yang Wu completely stopped teaching and using Fei Xing Feng Shui. He turned all of his attention to spend nearly 8 years in silence to understand the correct theory of esoteric Feng Shui and to practice his new skills.

Eventually, Tan Yang Wu transmited this sacred knowledge to others, but not to the general public. He taught esoteric Feng Shui to only select students. The students would take an oath to not reveal the "Secrets of Heaven and Earth". Tan Yang Wu never regained the fame he experienced when he taught and practiced Fei Xing Feng Shui. His students who learned esoteric Feng Shui also never became famous.

The priest Lee Chen Xi passed away in 1936, and nearly a year later, Tan Yang Wu published an article called "Re-Translation of Bian Zhen Notes." He also rewrote the notes on "Di Li Bian Zhen Xuan Kong Explanation."

He was also said to write the Xuan Kong Liu Fa book,"Xuan Kong Ben Yi" in 1943. This book was originally called "Da Xuan Kong Liu Fa Ben Yi". In 1946, he started to accept order for this book. However, the cost would be more than a thousand dollars to print eighty books. Owing to the high printing cost and delay in receiving the advance payment, he delayed the printing of his book. Only with the help of Zhao Qiu Shi from Hong Kong in 1948 he was able to publish the book successfully.

  • Tan Yang Wu promoted the teachings of the Priest Lee Chen Xu's "Two Yuan Eight Yun and Xuan Kong Liu Fa". He abandoned the original study on the "San Yuan Jiu Yun" because he found difficulty to breakthrough the teaching on the missing part of the Flying Stars.

World War II brought everyone, including Master Tan Yang Wu, some great hardships. One hardship was that Tan began to go blind. After the war he and his family left Hong Kong. It is said that he moved somewhere close to the sea but his last whereabouts remain a mystery.

  • In a scanting attack on 8 Mansions Feng Shui, Xuan Kong Fei Xing and Xuan Kong Da Gua, a Liu Fa analyst claimed that Xuan Kong Liu Fa has the most correct version and content. He also claimed that "Not like others, Xuan Kong Liu Fa by Master Tan Yang Wu school had based all its teaching correctly solely in accordingly with what Xuan Kong verses had meant."

Date Error in San Yuan Feng Shui!
San Yuan practitioners have been using the 20 years "Yun" without realising it is now two Periods out of date! The 20 Years "Yun" is due to the Saturn Jupiter conjunction which has a cycle of 20 years. It is now no longer Period 8 but Period 1! The Xuan Kong "Yun" is now two cycles out of date! Find out why.
The inability of the Xuan Kong people to understand the astronomical basis of their art is the main cause of the uncertainty and divisions among them. This inability was a major factor in Tan Yang Wu's frustration with trying to understand how the 9 numbers fly. When he could not understand, he gave up and fell prey to Xuan Kong Liu Fa's arguments.

The First Lessons

The major initial lesson is that some Feng Shui masters can be so sure they are right when they are wrong all the time! This is especially when they can reject almost in toto other schools and maintain their own schools are the only right ones.

A pertinent point is that Tan Yang Wu easily changed from Fei Xing to Liu Fa. Despite his popularity, Tan must have known secretly that many of his Fei Xing cases were failures, otherwise he would have stuck with Fei Xing against Liu Fa. People had long trusted him on a reputation which proved false. As he knew that his Fei Xing cases were not accurate, he readily gave up on Fei Xing for Liu Fa.

  • This is no proof that Liu Fa is right.

The Second Lessons

The incident over the misconception over the Pai Long Jue also shows that Tan Yang Wu was not a good scholar in evaluating the ancient texts. He was hasty and thus made the blunder. Hence, when he converted to Liu Fa, he did not made the same mistake of rushing to shout it out. Instead, he retired to think about it.

However, a glance at his Liu Fa Xuan Kong Ben Yi indicates that Tan Yang Wu continued to suffer from poor scholarship.

  • The Xuan Kong Ben Yi contains a few quotations almost solely from the Green Satchels and one or two from Tian Yu Jing. This was probably the trick the Taoist monk Lee Chen Xu played on poor Tan Yang Wu. During his Fei Xing days, Tan hardly knew the ancient texts. Thus, when Lee Chen Xu rambled away with a handful of quotations from the Green Satchel poor Tan must have been impressed.

    Tan was too easily awed! There is no quotation in the Xuan Kong Ben Yi from Yang Yun Sung's other texts, especially Han Lung Jing and Yi Lung Jing. There was only a smattering of quotations from the ancient texts with superficial evaluations. I do not think that Tan Yang Wu and his Liu Fa associates understood well the Green Satchels at all!

    The Green Satchels contain short poems. In contrast, Han Lung Jing, Yi Lung Jing and Tian Yu Jing have long poems, which I have translated and analysed. I doubt the Taoist monk Lee Chen Yu understood the later classics of Yang Yun Sung at all.

    The 6 topics in the Xuan Kong Ben Yi are terms found throughout Yang Yun Sung's texts. The Liu Fa's interpretations of these 6 terms do not tally with what Yang Yun Sung had written.

    • The Yang Yun Sung's texts emphasise that the hsueh and its Ming Tang must have a South facing. The water flows may enter into the hsueh at various points but they all have to converge into the southern frontage to the Ming Tang and exit through the South. Thus all the current Xuan Kong theories of changing facing directions for doors and exits for water flows are highly questionable.

Thus, a major reason for the uncertainty and vincillation, like in the case of the tragic Tan Yang Wu, is the ignorance of what the ancient Feng Shui texts are about. People never read and hence are too easily awed by those who managed to quote a few verses.

It is also my scientific evaluation that the Fei Xing's 9 Yuns have scientific basis, while there is none for the Liu Fa's 8 Yuns. However, the Liu Fa facing-sitting method is more in line with the scientific Tai Chi theory than the changeable door method of Fei Xing.

But all these schools need to pay more attention to the Form approach in the Han Lung Jing and Yi Lung Jing.

The Final Lessons

Finally, there is the question of why Tan Yang Wu disappeared from the Feng Shui world without traces.

It is quite likely that on long thinking he probably found that Liu Fa, like Fei Xing, has many holes. This time, he was probably too ashamed to face people.

  • The strong should always help the weak.
    When the strong falls, who will help him?

Tan Yang Wu was not afraid to admit he was so wrong, and went on to pursuit his search for the Truth. Perhap at one moment his resolve weakened. But, let us honour this great man by uniting the Feng Shui schools.

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