… fengshui does not mean “the way of wind and water.” Instead, wind and water are means by which qi is controlled. Wind scatters qi, so we should block its ingress. Water collects qi, so we should encourage its presence. This will ensure that sufficient qi surrounds the tomb or house. A proper translation of fengshui therefore is “(hinder the) wind (and hoard the) water.”
So what is qi? One of the earliest descriptions of qi, appearing in a 4th century BC text, reads as follows:
Water is the root of all things and the source of all life…. Water is the blood and breath [qi] of the earth, functioning in similar fashion to the circulation of blood and breath in the sinews and veins. Guanzi, ch. 39.
Here, qi is breath, and water is the blood and breath of the earth. The Book of Burial elaborates: “Where the ground holds auspicious qi, the earth conforms and rises. When ridges hold accumulated qi, water conforms and accompanies them.” Ridges in this passage is a physiological term referring to the arterial branches or vessels of the dragon veins. Where water flows on the surface, qi flows beneath the surface. When the flow of qi is discovered, then we must look for the location where that flow slows down and pools or accumulates. The Book of Burial clarifies in this fashion:
Where the earth takes shape, qi flows accordingly; thereby things are born. For qi courses within the ground, its flow follows the contour of the ground, and its accumulation results from the halt of terrain.
This pooling or concentration of qi is an ancient concept that also began as an explanation of human physiology. The following passage is from a 4th century BC Daoist book of philosophy called the Zhuangzi (ch. 22): “Man’s life is the assembling of qi. The assembling is deemed birth; the dispersal is deemed death.” Which of course is why a pool of qi is advantageous for the lair. According to the Book of Burial: “Life is accumulated qi. It solidifies into bone, which alone remains after death. Burial returns qi to the bones, which is how the living are endowed.” Somehow the pooling of qi around the interred bones affects the lives of the descendants of the deceased. This final passage reveals the metaphysical aspect of qi–its ability to enhance the lives of people in its proximity.