Feng Shui (literally wind/water) is a form of geomancy (the art of divination utilizing geological and environmental features) developed in China. It studies both the natural and humanly constructed elements of any environment. A specialist in feng shui observes any given environment — for example, an office space in a high-rise building, the landscape of a mountain valley, a building as a whole — and the manner in which the people inhabiting that environment interact with it. Based upon that observation, the specialist makes recommendations on improving the relationship of the people with their surroundings.
Feng shui developed as an art and science in ancient China. The accumulated knowledge was passed through a set of elite lineage holders into the modern world, but like many ancient secrets, in the twentieth century it became the subject of numerous books and papers. While the basic principles of eng shui may be learned from a book, proficiency requires practice and the development of a certain level of intuition in applying the principles. Thus a role remains for master practitioners to ply their trade.
Basic to understanding feng shui is the foundational principle of yin and yang. This desire to balance opposites and thus bring harmony is a foundation of Chinese thought. Yin/yang calls to mind a variety of polarities: male/female, light/dark, cold/hot, etc. Each opposite implies the other, and each half of a polarity always contains the seed of the other half.
Feng shui also draws on an understanding of the five elemental energies — earth, metal, fire, water, and wood — each of which would be an interaction in any given environment. Feng shui assumes that a variety of energies not visible to the average pe5rson are operating in the environment, and the harmonious flow of these subtle energies affect the happiness, well-being, creativity, and even the health of the inhabitants of the environment.
Long the exclusive practice of the Chinese, in the twentieth century feng shui has become popular around the world. In Chinese society, buildings would be erected and internal space shaped with reference to providing the most harmonious situation. Architects and others responsible for putting up structures in the increasingly secularized societies dominated by Chinese in Asia will have their buildings and other structures criticized if deemed to ignoring the analysis of feng shui. Furthermore, any veil that descends upon those who inhabit structures with "bad" feng shui will be blamed on the builders ignoring traditional wisdom.