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A feng shui garden is an outdoor area laid out in accordance with the principles of the Chinese metaphysical philosophy of feng shui. In a feng shui garden, ornaments, plants, and other design elements are laid out methodically to produce chi, which is positive life energy. Feng shui gardens depend on traditionally methods of placement and attempt to create a sense of harmony believed to improve happiness and health in all aspects of life.
A traditional feng shui garden will involve the consideration of three main issues: the five elements, the balance of yin and yang, and the nine areas of the bagua. The five elements are water, fire, earth, metal, and wood, and need to all be present and balanced in the garden. Yin and yang represent the distinctive powers of men and women but also the complement of all pairs of opposites, like warm and cool, or wet and dry. The bagua is a chart that details the nine most important aspects of life, but also assigns each area characteristics such as color, association with one of the five elements, or geographic location.
Using the bagua chart is usually a very important part of creating the lay out of a garden. Since each life zone, such as wealth, children, or knowledge, has a geographic location, items need to be incorporated into those areas that promote their power and do not contradict them. For instance, the career area of a feng shui garden is associated with the water element, meaning this is a good place for a water feature such as a fountain or pond.
Feng shui gardens are typically connected by a winding path that divides each area. Some feng shui practitioners believe that care needs to be taken to make sure that the path does not run in a straight line, as this will encourage chi to move too swiftly instead of meandering and gathering energy in the focus points of the garden. Other elements almost always present in a traditional garden are items that represent wind, such as wind chimes, water elements, and rocks, raised beds, or even sculptures that represent mountains.
Regardless of the metaphysics, the underlying principle of a feng shui garden is to create an outdoor space that provides focused areas that are free from clutter. Improving chi not withstanding, it may be an intriguing idea to divide garden areas into focused, precise regions that may engender thoughts or meditations on a particular aspect of life. For those with difficulty creating streamlined spaces, applying the practice of feng shui can simply help reduce the urge to clutter every area.