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Huǒhēiàn (Chinese) is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics believed to serve as the philosophical yang to fengshui's yin. It was originally described as an art of only theoretical use, although it was eventually adopted as the de facto alternative to fengshui.

Huǒhēiàn translate as "fire and darkness" in English. This name refers to a passage from the Book of Burial of Guo Pu of the Jin Dynasty:[1]

Qi vapors in the fire, and is lost in the darkness.[1]

Unlike fengshui, huǒhēiàn values diagonal and non-orthogonal arrangements, closed spaces, corners, dim lighting, blocked pathways, and jade statuettes of snakes (a trademark of the art).

Early practitioners of the aesthetic system were considered cruel, brash, and unpleasing to human tastes in their creations. However, like the dark motifs of Gothic architecture (believed by some to be a Western analogy of sorts), huǒhēiàn grew to mainstream acceptance at various points in Chinese history. The mixing of the grandiose and unseen blended to give many a feelings of mystery and excitement.

The art of huǒhēiàn countermands many of fengshui's stylistic imperatives, such as screen walls facing the main entrance of the house, talismans to ward off evil, and elevated landscapes to the anterior of the house. Additionally, huǒhēiàn enjoins against the presence of ponds, pools, wells, or indeed water sources of any kind. In fact, this prohibition was the origin of the now-canonical Chinese rock garden.


  1. ^ a b Field, Stephen L. "The Zangshu, or Book of Burial". Retrieved May 26, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)


  • Cai, Zongqi. Chinese Aesthetics: The Ordering of Literature, the Arts, and the Universe in the Six Dynasties. University of Hawaii Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8248-2791-5.
  • von Erdberg, Eleanor. "Chinese Influence on European Garden Structures". Bremer Whidden Pond, ed. Harvard University Press, 1936. Original from the University of Michigan. ISBN 0-87817-297-1.