FengShui: Don’t Put Your Stairs in Line with the Door


Chinese (Simplified): 风水
Chinese (Traditional): 風水
Romanization/Pingyin: fēngshuǐ
Literal Translation: wind water
Free Translation: “Chinese geomancy” (Wikipedia), essentially harmonizing with the natural world


Q: Did your parents believe in FengShui?

A: Yeah, they believe it. But even like our house, our people say, like the stairway? If the stairway directly point to front door, that mean all your money is gone. That mean

That’s why when you go to Chinese family you don’t see stairway pointing directly to front door.

Q: So is it just the way things are positioned?

A: Well, I mean they basically you directly point front door that mean all your your your wealth going out the door.


Q: How did you learn about FengShui?

Informant: I mean, the thing is I, I didn’t get as much knowledge as I should because when I, when the high school already away from my parents grandparents. […] Yeah, but, even then they aren’t experts. They always found somebody pointing a certain thing to them.

Q: Did a lot of people believe in FengShui?

Informant: Well… more and more now. I think the, in China, when Cultural Revolution came, they kinda destroyed a lot of those believes. But like, people in HongKong, Taiwan, they believe a lot more than mainland China. But in mainland China now, they have more and more people believe. Especially uh in my side of the area, those people.

Q: As in like in the country side or in your province?

Informant: Well in the province, but well I think now more and more people believe. In the whole China. Because they they, I mean, this is traditional culture so. So even though Cultural Revolution interrupt for a period of time, they those things coming back. Yeah, they have all kind of stuff, but as I say I don’t do a lot of study for this kind of stuff. 

Q: Do you know when it originated? Like what Dynasty? 

Informant: I’m not quite sure, I, I obviously I mean, follow the tradition I don’t know when it started. I’m not quite sure.

Q: How did the Cultural Revolution affect FengShui?

Informant: Well cultural revolution, Chairman Mao basically want to break all of the traditions, right. This this fengshui is tradition, I mean they they go through all this Well basically Chairman Mao break everything that is tradition. basically want a brand new culture, everything brand new. So it last for 10 years, obviously affect uhhh some people. I mean when I came to U.S., I found out a lot Taiwanese family, HongKong family, a lot more tradition. I mean they you go to their house, or even I work for a restaurant they always have some food put aside to to try to what you call, to feed your ancestors that kind of stuff. But in my time, in China, Cultural Revolution those things stopped. So we haven’t practiced for until a little bit later on, when Chairman Mao died, Cultural Revolution end. So maybe another 10 years people slowly slowly bring back the practice.

Personal Thoughts:

This one was really weird to me, because whenever I visited the homes of my non-Chinese friends, having the staircase lined up with the front door was a point of pride. On the other hand, I’ve always found it weird that the staircase in my home was slightly to the side of the front door.

In addition, I’ve always felt that my family has had less traditions than my friend’s family (who was Chinese-Malaysian). Then, coming to USC, I also saw a lot of Taiwanese and Hong Kong families with many more traditions than my own. It was interesting to learn that a lot of it is due to the Cultural Revolution trying to tamp down prior traditions. In addition, the Cultural Revolution essentially happened during my parents teen years, so even if they were told stuff when they were a kid they wouldn’t quite understand it, and they wouldn’t have been exposed to it in their teen years when they could understand.

Additional Notes:

For a similar discussion of the oppression of culture under Communism and Post-Communist revival, read:
Valk, Ulo. 2006. Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore. Journal of Folklore Research 43: 31-51