Chinese (Simplified): 风水
Chinese (Traditional): 風水
Literal Translation: wind water
Free Translation: “Chinese geomancy” (Wikipedia), essentially harmonizing with the natural world
Informant: Yeah you have anything, when I grew up I obviously my parents my grandparents talk a lot that stuff. But I don’t quite understand you know. They say a certain thing make a lot of sense like saying if you you have a house in front of your house, basically facing the same direction, generally you don’t want the front of the house taller than your back your your your house. Because that way all the fortune, block all the fortune you’re going to have. If we face the same direction, generally you don’t want the house in front of you taller than you are.
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.
With this particular piece of folklore, I find an interesting combination between practical logic and folk belief. If two houses are facing the same direction (the front of one house faces the back of another), it makes sense to not want the house in front of you to be taller. That would not only make your house difficult to find/see, but also block out sunlight, wind, etc. Perhaps people wouldn’t be able to find your house. What I find interesting is how these blocking of natural things has been equated with the blocking out of fortune. Perhaps having an accessible house or having your house be exposed to sunlight/wind are important things in Chinese culture.
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