Feng Shui (trad: 風水 simp: 风水 Mandarin: fēngshuǐ, Cantonese: fung1 seoi2, pronounced FUNG SHWAY), literally "wind water" is an ancient Chinese system of improving lifestyle through obeying of several rules relating to the arrangement and styles of furniture and other objects. While few families today practice it fervently, many will often observe it casually. It has its roots in ancient principles set down by Daoists among others, making it unique. Feng Shui is quite complex, probably too complex for this site, but unlike a religion, one can be a cafeteria fengshui-ist, because the purpose is for good luck rather than for divine goals.
Feng Shui began as a hodgepodge of ancient Chinese superstition; it has no single inventor. Many Chinese simply cling to it by habit. Because of religious mix and diversity, it is apparent among Daoists, Confucianists, Christians, and even non-religious people in China and the United States alike. Currently Feng Shui is receiving more and more popularity among westerners, and most Chinese retain at least some forms, despite the official discouragement by the Chinese Communist Party.
Currently Feng Shui is often used by businessmen to maximize profits. Some credit fengshui for bringing Hong Kong to the state of being one of the Four Asian Tigers, four Asian countries whose economies are highly developed. In fact, tiny Hong Kong is one of the largest ports and economic centers in the world.
The foundation is based on the belief in qi (trad: 氣 simp: 气 Mandarin: qí, Cantonese: hei3, pronounced CHEE) literally "vapor," an invisible force which can bring good or bad luck to those who concentrate it. Good qi can bring good luck, thus bad qi brings bad luck While some dismiss this theory as superstition, they may still follow feng shui for its aesthetic qualities.
Secondly, feng shui will often revolve around the Daoist principle of yin and yang. The two forces oppose each other as complete opposites. Yin is dark, female, and earthly, while yang is light, male, and heavenly. Neither one is per se "better," and it necessary to keep a balance of the two to ensure good feng shui. Without yin, there is no yang, as they are dependent on each other.
The third principle is the bagua (eight trigrams). The eight trigrams represent eight natural forces as well as the eight compass directions, and they hold many other symbolisms.
These are the eight symbols with their Chinese characters (traditional), pīnyīn, and English equivalents.
These principles seem lofty and inapplicable to daily life, but after careful study it is possible to apply these to everything from sleeping direction to bedsheet color to positions of tables and chairs.