It is believed that feng shui originally was focused on analyzing the topographical features of the earth. Ancient shamans would "read" the land and look for important clues as to which areas would be most beneficial to place a home or village. They would search for areas where chi could gather and avoid places where chi dispersed.
These ideas have developed into what we now call "Landform" or "Form School." Form School Feng Shui is the foundation of all feng shui in practice and helps us to orient spaces based on the natural flow of chi from mountains and hills, as well as bodies of water.
Using these earth and water features as a guide, Form gives us basic guidelines as to how life can be best supported in the environment.
Using the simple illustration above, I will walk you through the basics of Form school:
The placement of a home or village is ideal when there is protection from both enemies and harsh winds on three sides. The "Black Tortoise" serves as the rear protector. It's a large mountain or mountain range behind the structure. When viewing the property from the front, the "Green Dragon" hills are to the right and the "White Tiger" hills are to the left. These hills provide further protection and security.
The Green Dragon hills represent yang, male energy and should be higher than the White Tiger. Why? The reason is in the orientation.
The Chinese typically oriented their homes facing south to get maximum benefit from solar gain as well as the greatest protection from harsh north winds. The Green Dragon, therefore, would be to the east, where the sun rises. The energy of the sunrise is much more yang and life-enhancing than the sunset (in the west, which is yin/feminine energy).
There should be an open expanse to the front of the property (this is called the "Ming Tang" or "Bright Hall") where chi can gather. A river to carry chi to the property. The "Red Phoenix" is another mountain range or hill in the distance which provides a view and further functions to retain chi.
The ideal spot for a home or village is called the "Dragon Lair" or "Dragon Nest" and is nestled roughly one-third up the Black Tortoise mountain, to protect from river flooding. There it will be supported by the hills, nourished by the water and everything is held together in a contained, yet open system.
How Does this Apply to Modern Environments?
Most of us are not in rural areas, so how does this structure work in urban/suburban environments? Very simple. Just substitute the mountains and hills for structures, trees and shrubs. Substitute bodies of water for roads.
Any questions? Just leave a comment!