Feng Shui of Mountains, Rivers, and Trees

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Feng shui of mountains, trees, and rivers around a house and other buildings.

It is a fact that some places emit a sense of well-being and peace and others a feeling of unease. When asked why, a feng shui master would not hesitate to answer: the forces of nature at work in the land and in the cosmological forces of creation may be in harmony at one place and in chaos at another.

Feng shui literally means “wind and water" – the elemental forces which shape a landscape also have the hidden power to affect human fortune. For the Chinese, feng shui has traditionally been a way of life. It is both an art and a science of reading a landscape so that buildings for the living and dead can be sited where the balance of yin and yang is positive and where ch’i, the life breath, can circulate freely.

Feng shui is a way of living harmoniously with, rather than conquering, the natural world. It is a model for dealing with reality, a means of positively aligning the fortunes of an individual or community with the Tao – the inevitable, powerful and harmonious way of the universe.

The art and science of Feng Shui is based on the belief that the hills and rivers have been and still are eroded by the forces of wind and water. The term feng shui represents the power of natural environment which is alive with hidden forces. By observing the patterns of change and understanding the natural processes of the land, a feng shui expert can discern favourable directions and good or malign influences at any spot on the ground.

Although a feng shui expert has a more detailed knowledge of the mysterious workings of the universe through Chinese arts and sciences, there are practical principles which anyone can follow. Many involve common sense, others are learnt, and others involve intuition. For example, a house on low-lying ground is likely to be flooded during heavy rains or a tree planted too close to the house is likely to affect the foundations. This is bad feng shui. At other times the view from a building may be pleasing to the eye and provide a sense of well-being. That in itself is positive feng shui.

The following describes how mountains, trees and rivers surrounding a house can radiate a good feng shui or bad feng shui.


  • Mountains and other raised features of the land are yang, and they are not only full of secret cosmological meaning to the geomancer, but are also the protectors of the site. An ideal site is on a slope, open to the south and protected from evil influences by mountains at the north. A pinnacle or a point on the top of the mountain range or a fast running stream on its slope or at its base will allow the ch’i to be dispersed too rapidly by wind or water.
  • Steeply flowing waterfalls threaten the site and steep mountain peaks will provide an excess of yang whereas a site that is low-lying among small hills or pools is undesirable since itr is a source of excess yin and likely place for sha to accumulate. A high mountain range as a backdrop is acceptable for the site if there are foothills in front so the excess yang caused by towering peaks is lessend.
  • A headland jutting out from a horse-shoe shaped mountain is a good choice of site as is a peninsula or headland jutting out from the centre of a forking formation. This type of headland is sometimes referred to as the dragon’s head. Two gently flowing streams should have their confluence in front of the site and then flow away to the sides, preferably out of sight. On a well-chosen site, these streams or a pool of water with adequate drainage, would be on a flat piece of land known as a Court Altar or Table.


  • In the absence of mountains, trees can have the same protective role provided that they are at the back and to the site of the house and not situated at the front.
  • Well established verdant trees, preferably evergreen, are likely to bring good fortune and are a source of yang. The tree should not be cut or scarred since this will detract from its beneficial influence. Often one well-sited evergreen tree is more important than a grove of trees at the site and is sometimes referred to as a feng shui tree.


  • In feng shui, the courses of streams and rivers should also be considered, since rivers are one of the natural features of the landscape that is most easily identified and occur on both high and low land. The twists, bends and branches of a river are known as the Water dragon as opposed to the Mountain dragon. The various formations of a watercourse are given a feng shui interpretation in the Water Dragon Classic which is found in the Imperial encyclopedia.
  • The confluence of two rivers is a positive thing, influences are concentrated, but a branch in a river often indicates a dispersal of positive forces. A sharp bend in a river is unlucky, since it forms straight, arrowlike lines compared to a meandering river which is considered a natural route of good influence.

Adapted from: The Elements Of FENG SHUI by MAN-HO Kwok with Joanne O’Brien, © 1991 Element, Inc., U.S.A.