Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Richard Jefferies mentioned feng shui in 1885

I fear that my current preoccupation with Richard Jefferies and Swindon may continue for a while yet, particulary if a writing project I have in mind comes to fruition. But the following passage may explain why I find Jefferies so fascinating.

It comes from the collection The Open Air, which was published in 1885, though the essay "Wild Flowers" in which it occurs may be a little older than that

Jefferies writes:

If you have been living in one house in the country for some time, and then go on a visit to another, though hardly half a mile distant, you will find a change in the air, the feeling and tone of the place. It is close by, but it is not the same.

To discover these minute differences, which make one locality and home happy, and the next adjoining unhealthy, the Chinese have invented the sceince of Feng-shui, spying about with cabalistic mystery, casting the horoscope of an acre. There is something in all superstitions; they are often the foundation of science.

How many Western writers were interested in feng shui in 1885? If Wikipedia is right, very few:

One of the grievances mentioned when the anti-Western Boxer Rebellion erupted was that Westerners were violating the basic principles of feng shui in their construction of railroads and other conspicuous public structures throughout China. At the time, Westerners had little idea of, or interest in, such Chinese traditions. After Richard Nixon journeyed to the People's Republic of China in 1972, feng shui became somewhat of an industry in the USA.
The Boxer Rebellion, of course, took place between 1898 and 1901.

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