on Feng Shui
on Feng Shui

Article FS09/apr1

Prof. Dr. Ong Hean-Tatt 13th April 2009


An unfortunate feature in Feng Shui and astrology is the many different warring schools with conflicting thoughts. There is a tendency for practitioners to fail to examine the basis of what they learnt. The schools have no objective criteria to evaluate their theories and hence are unable to convince each other. When people resort to mystical explanations they can come out with all sorts of nonsense. We should seek objective criteria through scientific research to recover the original scientific basis of Feng Shui and astrology. The good news is that Feng Shui and astrology have scientific basis and can be scientifically statistically proven. Skeptics are out of date!

I have reservations about Mei Hua (Plum Blossom) divination for many years - there are significant errors in it. It is time to discuss the fallacies of Mei Hua, and at the same time help practitioners adopt a more logical and objective approach in Feng Shui and astrology.

The discussion will be in parts through separate articles (links to other articles provided at bottom of web page):

  • First, this article discusses the claims of Mei Hua divination that it is based on the I Ching.

    Second, it is possible to evaluate the validity of Mei Hua through examination of its claims of accuracy in prediction.

    The Mei Hua people like to claim that Shao Yung, creator of Mei Hua, had a fantastic philosophy.

    • A third article examines the validity of Shao Yung's philosophy in terms of scientific cosmology.

      A fourth article examines the validity of Shao Yung's philosophy in terms of how the Chinese philosophers interpreted the I Ching.


The Mei Hua divination interprets hexagrams supposedly based on the I Ching. Let us have a look at the conventional methodologies. In Mei Hua divination, there are a number of ways to get the hexagram for divination. Two methods are given below, vis (after Jou 1984 p.89,91):

  • 1. Hsien Tien (First, Anterior, Early Heaven) method.
    "Divination by the Hsien Tien method is very simple. We get the outer trigram by adding together the year, month and day of the month, then dividing this number by 8. The remainder will be from one to seven, and if there is no remainder we count as 8. We then use the Hsien Tien numeration of the cycle to assign a trigram:... To find the inner trigram, we add the number of the year, month, day and the hour. We number the hours of the day from one to twenty four for the number of the hour... To find the moving Yao we again use the year, month, day and hour and this time divide by 6. We get a remainder from one to five or use 6 if there is no remainder."

  • 2. Hu Tien (After, Posterior, Later Heaven) method.
    When we use the Hu Tien divination we deal with events in the present... With the Hu Tien method we must select a subject in the field of life around us to divine with. We do jot take any object for divination, but something that is unusual, out of ordinary.. we derive the outer trigram directly from it... For example, we can see with some thought how the telephone with its loud ringing call and its potential of sending us on immediate errands can be Chen, thunder.. Whereas if the postman brings us mail ... it can be Sun like wind... To select the inner trigram, we use the direction the subject is in... Finally we add the number of each trigram, according to its place in the Hsien Tien arrangement and add the hour of the day to get that number. We divide its sum by 6 to get the moving Yao...

    There are generally 3 types of hexagrams involved, the original Pen Kua, the Hu Kua and the Shih Kua determined by the moving Yao. Interpretations are through standard meanings for the hexagrams as well as other factors like the 5 Elements.

Like in other Feng Shui and astrology arts, there are variants in the methodology of Mei Hua.


Shao Yung,
author of Mei Hua Yi Shu (Plum Blossom Divination).
Recluse of Luoyang.

Are his claims of his writings being based on the I Ching true?

The I Ching Perspectives

Hexagrams are core parameters also of arts like Xuan Kong Da Gua, etc, all claiming that they adopt the I Ching. Feng Shui and astrology practitioners revere King Wen I Ching as the fountain source of all Chinese wisdom. The pertinent question is whether the schools properly and scientifically use the I Ching. Many have a semblance of the I Ching but are not necessarily adopting the principles of the I Ching. The conflicts indicate that the schools can easily misinterpret and misapply the hexagrams and misconstrue the meanings of the I Ching.

A good understanding of the I Ching is necessary, if anyone wants to expose fallacies of the modern Mei Hua divination. Most readers unfortunately have not read in depth the I Ching. But, nevertheless, I will try my best to provide pertinent evaluations.

  • The I Ching fascinates me ever since my school days and I devote much time to research it. I have actually worked out reasons behind the sequence of the 64 hexagrams in the King Wen I Ching, but have not published the massive findings. While the Fu Hsi hexagrams have a mathematical binary code, the 32-pairs structure of the King Wen I Ching rules out any mathematical sequence coding. My findings are not unique, as they support those who suspect that King Wen I Ching follows the seasonal patterns, including lunar cycles. I would love to share my findings towards a more comprehensive understanding of the I Ching - any takers?

    But the major reason why King Wen compiled his I Ching was that it was meant to be a cyclic strategic thinking divination manual. E.g., I discovered that its hexagrams 51 for Chen and 52 for Ken are surprisingly the source materials for creation of the famous military manual Sun Tzu's Art of War! I have published these findings in my book "I Ching's Cyclic Strategies" 2001.

Many features of the I Ching like the trigrams, Five Elements, hexagrams are described in Confucius' King Wen I Ching. Does the Mei Hua divination really adopt the I Ching?


Confucius compiled the
King Wen I Ching.

Many people claim to adopt the I Ching, but how true are their claims? They have only a semblance of the I Ching but violate several principles of the I Ching.

64 Hexagrams of
King Wen I Ching

Trying to find whether the King Wen I Ching has a mathematical code sequence like the Fu Hsi 64 hexagrams is futile. What analysts should focus on is why the King Wen I Ching composes of 32 pairs of hexagrams.


King Wen compiled the King Wen I Ching.
Up to today nobody has shown how he constructed his I Ching.

1. Hu Kua, Moving Yao, Shih Kua not from I Ching.

Many do not study the King Wen I Ching, but rely on pretenders who claim to know well the I Ching. When I first saw Shao Yung's Mei Hua divination more than 20 years ago I realised that both the methodology and Shao Yung's philosophy behind the methodology contradict the I Ching.

The one great mistake of Shao Yung was his failure to realise that Confucius interpreted the hexagrams in terms of trigrams akin to the Pen Kua. Confucius never used the inner Yaos to form Hu Kua or "Moving Yao" to form Shih Kua. The modern Mei Hua divination creates Hu Kua through use of the internal 2-3-4 and then 5-4-3 Yaos. These additional trigrams are all rubbish, not supported by the writings of Confucius.

The manipulation of the "Moving Yaos" to create additional trigrams in Shih Kua is a serious misunderstanding of Duke Chou's 6 Yaos. Duke Chou's 6 Yaos compose a sequence of linked progressive strategic events from Yao 1 up to Yao 6 for each hexagram. The 6 Yaos meanings compose a single unit to elaborate on the parent hexagram - they are not meant to be taken apart and changed though the false "Moving Yao" technique.

  • The Northern Sung philosopher Cheng Yi, master of the lineage of the famous Chu Xi, compiled his commentary to the I Ching. He did not use any Hu Kua or Shih Kua. In 1796 the Taoist adept Liu I Ming also compiled his commentary to the I Ching - he also only did not use Hu Kua and Shih Kua. They all ignored the "inner Yaos and Moving Yao".

    Cheng Yi had strong feelings against Shao Yung's theories:
    "Thus, in their discussions of the natural world, the traditional Chinese did not go deeper than phenomenal surface of the reality. Questions delving deeper into what one sees and accepts were not raised. Zhu Xi, for example, confessed that his influential friend, Zhang Shi (1133-1180), did not approve his wish to write a commentary on Shao Yong's (1011-1077) theory about the outside of the world. The orthodox neo-Confucians shunned discussions of questions like these. Such attitude can be seen in Zhu Xi's comment on the famous dialogue between Cheng Yi (1033-1107) and Shao Yong on where thunder comes from: On Cheng Yi's saying, "Thunder comes from where it comes from," which had been given in response to Shao Yong's question, "Where do you think [thunder] comes from?", Zhu Xi's comment was: "Why must one know where it come from?"" (Yung Sik Kim 2008)

There are no older documentation of the I Ching other than those of Confucius. There are no other way the writings of Confucius interpret the hexagrams. So, from where do modern Mei Hua get their Hu Ku, Shih Kua and Ti-Yung rubbish? From God or the devil?


Confucius compiled the King Wen I Ching, which has no Hu Kua, Shih Kua. The Hu Kua and Shih Kua of Mei Hua divination are rubbish!

When Cheng Yi, master of Chu Xi, compiled his commentary to the I Ching, he also did not refer to any Hu Kua or Shih Kua. .

2. Dates Formats Violate Wu Xing Principles

Like other Feng Shui and astrology arts, Mei Hua suffers from the problematic choice of dating the year, month, day and hour. Let us look at an anecdote about Shao Yung (after Jou 1984):

  • It is a winter night and snow is whirling about the house. Shao and his son sit and chat around the fireplace. Suddenly someone is knocking at the door. First there was a single knock, after a while, five in a row. Then a voice calls, "Shao, are you home? I want to borrow something from you."
    Shao opens the door and the visitor enters with a burst of snow and wind. Shao already had a plan. He wants to see how good his son is with divination. He says to his visitor, "Don't say anything about what you want to borrow. I want my son to figure this out. Here, come over and make yourself comfortable around the fireplace."
    Like father, like son - Shao's son is an I Ching student. No doubt he can start with the number of hour, day, month and year to develop a Pen Kua, Hu Kua and Shih Kua. But because this is a test of his skill, he wants to develop a new method of his own. He recalls that their visiting neighbour knocked on the door once then five times. He decides that is the clue and he calls the first knock the outer trigram Chien and calls the second group of five his inner trigram. Which comes to be Sun. It is past 10 at night so the hour is 22. To get the Moving Yao he adds one and five and 22 to get 28, and when divided by 6 the remainder is 4...
    It is a very special case, for of the 6 trigrams there are 3 Qian and 3 aqre Sun. Qian is metal and Sun is wood. So the object their neighbour wants to borrow is related to wood and metal. So the son judges and says, "You want to borrow a hoe."
    "You are wrong," says Shao, "He wants to borrow an axe." "What do you want to borrow!?" father and son ask the neighbour, almost in unison.
    "An axe," comes the reply.
    Shao smiles and explains to his son how he erred. Sun tends to represents something long, like a wooden handle. Qian stands for a round shape, especially of metal. A how usually is pointed or has a flat edge of metal, an axe always has a curved edge to cut wood better. But the two are close and Shao looks for another sign to confirm. Is it daytime? Then the visitor may use a hoe in daytime. Nighttime? This is impossible because there is no light for working outdoors in the garden I the middle of winter. Yet an axe, yes, maybe the neighbour needs to cut up some firewood. Shao decides for the axe. Its use is acceptable within the time of divination.

Mei Hua people will just naively swallow the tale and exclaim how wonderful was Shao Yung! But, can you spot the flaw in the anecdote? Simple - it is inconceivable that the neighbour, having a garden, did not have a hoe or axe! The tale is cooked up! The narrator also forgot that, during the Sung dynasty, hours were computed according to a double hour format. There was no such thing as hour 22! I am aware that there is a version correcting the hour to fit the 12 double hours! This just shows the fabrications in the Mei Hua anecdotes.

Now, what year, month, day or hour should be used? They say you can use any format of dates prevailing in the region. The Chinese would use their Ba Zi calendar system, the Western their Western calendar. Some Chinese even mix their Chinese dates with Western dates, and so on. The Mei Hua people claim that is okay as Mei Hua is an "intuition" method. So, it seems hard to offer a scientific rebuttal as they insist that it is all an "intuition" approach. Hmm, hmm....

In reality, such Mei Hua people do not understand what is meant by "intuition."

The Chinese would put bamboo sticks in a container to shake out one stick. These sticks have numbers or titles attached. The person would also throw two pieces of wood to confirm that the stick was a divine choice. He would then go to the temple attendant who would pick the note meant for title denoted by the stick. Different temples have excerpts from different texts. They may use the I Ching hexagrams or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms tales. The selected note indicates the fortune.

  • Once, I was asked by my mother to shake such a container of sticks in the temple. This was because my hand was stung by a bee and the temple attendant took it as an omen. One stick came out and the attendant told my mother to bet on the number given. Well, well, my mother struck big in the lottery!

    Looking back I realise why that stick method worked for me. The reason is that I am psychic. This psychic streak runs in some other members of my family. Yes, it was intuition - but it will not work for most people as their psychic level may not be high enough. I practise a lot of meditation and know well the psychic phenomenon. I doubt whether the Mei Hua people really understand what is "intuition", as I think they merely use the term to cover up for their naiveté.

    "I have an intuition that the Mei Hua is false" - how you like that? I am keen on the paranormal and have experienced a number of miracles. But, I do not prove or disprove things through the mystic way, but prefer a logical scientific approach.

Coming back to a more rational evaluation of the dating.

The Mei Hua people claim that they take from the I Ching. They use many meanings of the King Wen I Ching hexagrams. However, the flow of the hexagrams are linked with seasonal factors. I agree with analysts who have associated the transition from Hexagram 1 Qian to Hexagram 2 Kun as the Summer Solstice. It has been shown that the bigua or sovereign hexagrams (01-43-34-11-19-24 and 02-23-20-12-33-44) follow the moon cycles. The King Wen I Ching hexagrams have a proper link with the sequence of actual astronomical movements or Time.

Moreover, Wu Xing, also used in Mei Hua, is a major I Ching principle. But, the Wu Xing of Time are connected with Ba Zi or Four Pillars sequences of Time denoted in the Chinese calendar. The use of Western calendar, unless properly converted, will not be able to pick out the correct Wu Xing to apply in the divination.

  • Xuan Kong Da Gua uses actual astronomical Timing denoted by the "Four Pillars" in the Chinese calendar to evaluate their Guas of hexagrams and trigrams. The evaluations are made through a Wu Xing principle as well as a Period principle. Only, they are using calendars systems which can be erratic as they have not been corrected for the precession of the equinoxes.

If Mei Hua wants to claim that it is based on the I Ching, it has to adopt the I Ching astronomical Time format and its Wu Xing principle. As it is, many Mei Hua people simply use any format they like, based on so-called "intuition." (sic).

At one moment they claim to use the I Ching. At another moment they said they do not have to. It is rather arbitrary.

Contradiction of Shao Yung "Eight Elements" with Wu Xing

It has to be pointed out that although Shao Yung's Mei Hua divination refers to much of the Wu Xing meanings in the hexagrams of the King Wen I Ching, Shao Yung's cosmology does not have the Wu Xing:

  • At the first appearance of activity, yang is produced. As activity reaches its limit, yin is produced. The interaction of yin and yang gives full development to the functions of Heaven... The interaction of these two elements gives full development to the functions of Earth. Greater activity is called major yang, while greater tranquillity is called major yin. Lesser activity is called minor yang, while lesser tranquillity is called minor yin. Major yang constitutes the sun; major yin, the moon; lesser yang, the stars; and lesser yin, the zodiacal spaces. The interaction of the sun, moon, stars, and zodiacal spaces gives full development to the substance of Heaven... Lesser weakness constitutes water; major strength, fire; lesser weakness, earth; and lesser strength, stone. The interaction of water, fire, soil, and stone gives full development to substance of Earth. [Shao Yung, Supreme Principle Governing the World (Huang-Chi Ching Shu), 5:I b-2b, in Wing-Tsit Chan, Chinese Philosophy, Chapter 29]

Shao Yung did not refer to the Wu Xing but went direct to the "Eight Elements", which seem to replace the traditional eight trigrams. Where did Shao Yung get his "Eight Elements"? The associations of the Sun, stars, zodiacal spaces and Moon to some of the "Eight Elements" are not found in the I Ching and are also illogical in Chinese astrological arts.

  • However, Shao Yung may have got these "Eight Elements" from Hindu astrology, whose Bagua format are 1.water - 2.father (rahu = zodiac) - 3.fire - 4.death (mars = star) - 5.earth - 6.life (saturn = star) - 7.air (moon) - 8.wealth (sun). The Hindu Bagua format is alike to Shao Yung's "Eight Elements" with the exception of 'stone.'

    Shao Ying had also constructed a prophecy based on cycles spanning hundreds of thousands of years. Analysts are aware that Shao Yung's prophetic cycles are based on the Hindu prophetic ages or kalpa which also span hundreds of thousands of years.

Evidently, Shao Yung borrowed from Hindu sources. He had mixed up parts of the Great Ultimate concepts of King Wen I Ching with contradicting Hindu concepts. Shao Yung had taken pieces of concepts from various sources and combined them into what is a muddled patchwork cosmology.

That is why the Mei Hua divination is inconsistent, with people sometimes using the Wu Xing and sometimes they do not.


Ancient Time follows the movements of the stars. The Chinese calendar converts the star Time into the Wu Xing principle.

The lack of the Hu Kua, Shih Kua and Moving Yao techniques in the writings of Confucius is enough to condemn the modern Mei Hua claim that it is based on the I Ching. It selects arbitrarily what it wants to use of the I Ching and reject other I Ching indices, like its so-called "intuition dates".

That is why Chu Xi, the greatest of the Confucian philosophers, stated that Shao Yung's work is not based on the I Ching:

  • On the other hand, Chu said of Shao Yung's major work, the Huang-chi ching-shih shu (Book of Supreme Principles Ordering the World), that "it had nothing to do with the I." The Han dynasty hsiang-shu experts were also criticized harshly by Chu.
    [Kidder Smith, Jr., Peter K. Bol, Joseph A. Adler, and Don J. Wyatt, 1990, Beijing: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2003]

Cheng Yi, the master of the lineage of Chu Xi, rejected Shao Yung's numerical philosophy as something not in line with the I Ching:

  • a numerical interpretation of things like this is too rigid and too mechanical to leave any room for any human effort. There is no doubt that this mechanism was one factor for the unpopularity of his philosophy among Neo-Confucianists. Cheng I associated with him for thirty years and discussed with him many subjects but never touched on the subject of numbers. (Wing-Tsit Chan, 1963 p.490).

Chu Xi also pointed out a serious illogicality in the well-known Shao Yung's ring of 64 hexagrams. This will be discussed later in the fourth article.

The leading Confucianists of his time would not agree with Shao Yung. Shao Yung's understanding of the I Ching is highly defective.

The modern Mei Hua has only a semblance of the I Ching. Its claim to be based on the I Ching is basically a fraud, which can unfortunately fool the many who hardly read the I Ching.

See the next article - you will learn that there was a more original Mei Hua... and that the Shao Yung's version could well be a clever forgery.


Knowledgeable people are entitled a bit of nonsense now and then, isn't it?

Selected References:

  • Arthur Cotterell. 1990. China, A Cultural History. Penguin Book.
  • Arthur F. Wright. 1953. Studies in Chinese Thought. Robert Redfield and Milton Singer
  • Cheng Yi. 1033-1107. I Ching. The Tao of Organisation. translated by Thomas Cleary. Eastern Dragon Book.
  • Fung Yu-Lan. 1952-1953. A History of Chinese Philosophy, translated by Derk Bodde. Princeton University Press.
  • James Legge. 1963. The I Ching. Dover Publications, Inc.
  • Jou, T.H. 1984. The Tao of I Ching. Tai Chi Foundation, Taiwan.
  • Liu I-Ming. 1737. The Taoist I Ching. translated by Thomas Cleary. Eastern Dragon Book.
  • Ong Hean-Tatt. 2001. I Ching's Cyclic Strategies. Synergy Book International.
  • Derek Walters. 1983. The Alternative I Ching. Aquarian Press.
  • Richard Wilhelm. 1951. The I Ching. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • H.R.Williamson. 1937. Wang An Shih. Arthur Probsthian.
  • Wing-Tsit Chan. 1963. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton University Press.
  • Wing-Tsit Chan. 1963. Instructions for Practical Living and other Neo-Confucian Writings by Wang Yang Ming. Columbia University Press.

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