The Circle and Square Meaning in Feng Shui

“While we teach, we learn.” – Roman philosopher Seneca

They say that teaching is the best way to learn. I’ve been teaching feng shui in workshops and certification training since 2006. And the questions my students have asked me have given me the impetus for discovery to study and learn deeper.

In many feng shui workshops we talk about the Bagua Map. The Bagua Map is an energetic grid that we place over structures or places to help us divine and decode what is going on in the occupants life. (In feng shui, we recognize that our homes are a mirror reflection of what is going on inside our minds and in our lives.)

Each gua is represented by one of the Five Elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal or Water. And each of the areas has layers of symbolism. There are associated colors, materials, and shapes to name a few.

When reviewing the Bagua map in one of our classes, one student recently asked,

“Why is it that the circle is associated with the Metal Element and the square is associated with the Earth Element?”

The strange thing is, Big Metal is associated with Heaven energy and the masculine. It is often associated with sharp angular lines. In contrast, Big Earth is associated with yin, feminine energy and planet earth. But our modern views is that the earth is round. So why isn’t a circle related to Earth and female energy, and Metal related to square, angular shapes and male energy?

Well, we need to think back to ancient times. They observed the heavens as a sphere above us – therefore a circular shape. The earth however was a horizontal plane, therefore a square.

Upon bringing her into the discussion, a dear friend and feng shui colleague, Rosalie Prinzivalli, added that the energy of Earth is low and horizontal, as it follows the surface of the earth. Also, she sees in her mind’s eye, that when Metal contracts (which is the movement of metal), it becomes denser and pulls in on all sides, creating a circle.

The ancient Chinese, along with much of the ancient world, associated the circle with unity, perfection and completeness. Drawing a perfect circle is almost impossible without the use of instruments. A circle is mysterious and therefore, the circle was the shape of the unknowable, the heavens.

On the other hand, the square, with it’s straight lines and sharp corners, is associated with law and regulation, therefore, the realm of man. It is a stable structure and firmly grounded, therefore, the earth (for instance, think of a table with four legs).

In alchemy, the circle represents the spiritual because it is infinite, has no end. The square is often the symbol of material because the many physical things that are in fours, such as seasons, the elements (western), and directions. The angles point to the four compass directions.

Lastly, with all of this symbolism in mind, the Chinese use a circle within a square to represent Heaven on Earth. Using this symbol in architecture helps us to connect the Divine to our place on earth. How wonderful!

Do you have an example of this you’d like to share? Please post to my private Facebook page. Look forward to seeing you there!


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