Pooling Qi (and Pollution)

We just got back from a great week in Beijing and Xi’An. So far, Beijing is the city that I have liked most. The people are more friendly, the culture is rich, the scenery is beautiful, but what made it most enjoyable for me was the lack of pollution. Usually, Beijing has moderate to severe pollution year round, but our trip coincided with APEC, a massive economic conference with 21 participating countries. And because of the conference, Chinese officials shutdown factories to make the environment more hospitable to visiting diplomats.

For me this meant one thing. BLUE SKIES.  I woke up my first morning in Beijing to find that the pollution level was 8 on China’s Air Quality Index (AQI). Yes, 8. I have been in China for 6 months so far, and this was the lowest I had seen it anywhere. Usually in Beijing, smog levels are between 200-400, which means that year round the city is blanketed in a post-apocolyptic whitewash. People wear masks; visibility is low; and longterm outdoor activities can cause headaches and irritate the respiratory system, eyes, skin, etc. It’s almost like a more toxic, permanent version of San Fransisco’s morning fog. A reading of 8 on the AQI meant that for our visit to the Great Wall, we’d have great visibility and that air that would not smell like chemicals. Woohoo!  The picture below says it all.


IMG_5596 (1)

Ironically, we took this pollution-free picture standing on the mountains that are partially to blame for Beijing’s infamous smog. For many dynasties, Beijing has been a capital city because of its auspicious fengshui. In fengshui’s crudest form, the alignment of specific geographical features harness the positive energies of the universe and influence the wellbeing of an area. First, a city with favorable fengshui shthould face south; sit in front of large mountains (or protecting turtles). Second, to the west and east of the city should sit smaller, landmasses (the white tiger and green dragon, respectively.) The landmass to the east should be slightly larger than the landmass to the west.  Third, to the front and far ahead of the city should be a smaller landmass (called the red phoenix) and a river should run between the red Phoenix and the city itself. The sketch to the left illustrates these basics principles.

Beyond some corresponding spiritual implications, this type of fengshui has practicality. The sitting turtles– as well as the white tiger and green dragon– protect the back and sides of a city from enemies and the waterway in front provides a city with both protection and water resources. Specifically in China, cities that faced south faced away from the chilling Siberian winds.

For many centuries, the Chinese picked Beijing as their capital city because it fulfilled the most basic requirements for pooling good energy. At the same time, the geographical features also make it perfect for pooling pollution. Smog from Beijing and its neighboring cities gets trapped in the mountain ranges that surround the city and the tall mountains behind the city slow the northern winds that would otherwise push pollution southwards and out of the city.

I can’t help but wonder how would things be different had early fengshui masters, who advised the placement of cities, known about China’s modern pollution problems? Who knows, but for my time in Beijing, I was just happy skies were clear and that my views from the top of the protecting-turtle mountains were unbeatable.

Picture 2 — http://historyofarchitecture.weebly.com/feng-shui.html