Balance, symmetry and placement are feng shui principles that the Forbidden City of China was built upon. Here’s how to mirror that mantra at home

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I just heard from my friend that you went to the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, and gave a detailed talk to her group about how it was built completely based on feng shui. I would have loved to be there! Can you please share some of this information in one of your upcoming columns?

Thank you for asking. This trip was meaningful to me because when I first began to seriously study feng shui over a dozen years ago, I learned about the Forbidden City and how feng shui was incorporated into every facet of its development. It was interesting to learn about it in class, but to have the opportunity to visit the city in person was amazing. To prepare for this talk, I did some additional work and correlated many of the ancient, key feng shui principles shown in the city and related them to easy-to-implement concepts that you could use in your current environment. Today, I’ve chosen three key concepts that I’d love to share with you!

Condensed history of the Forbidden City

Built between 1406 and 1420, during the Ming Dynasty, the Forbidden City is where the emperors of each dynasty ruled the country and the members of their court (mostly 7,000 eunuchs and about 3,000 concubines) lived. It was built with the intent to be not only the most powerful place on earth, but also the “center of the universe” and a place where the rulers could rule most effectively. The complex is huge — close to eight million square feet — and comprised of 980 buildings and 9,999 rooms.

Using feng shui came into play when in the early 1400s, during the reign of Emperor Yong Lo, he called together 80 of the highest-ranked feng shui masters in the country to collaborate and create a master plan for a complex that would allow China to have the greatest energetic benefit. They used every known feng shui principle to create a place on earth that would reflect and match the divine power and order of the heavens above.

Why is it called the “Forbidden” City?


The emperors allowed into the city only members of the court and those who lived there. Any intruder or trespasser was punished by a torturous death through a method called, “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” where chunks of tissue were taken out of the “criminal,” while avoiding vital organs so that the person remained awake until finally dying. Nonetheless, many people were curious about what was happening inside the city and broke in to get a glimpse of this mysterious place.

How feng shui was used

When feng shui principles are used, many things are considered: placement, direction, symmetry, balance, elements, numbers, color and shapes, to name a few. In this article, I will share how the first three concepts were used in the building of the city and how you can use them to create an energetic flow and a more powerful environment.



The concept: According to feng shui, where things are placed is important, and having a mountain behind you balances the energy and adds stability and protection, preventing “enemies” from sneaking up from behind.

The Forbidden City: Based on the above principle, an artificial mountain was built at the rear of the city (north), and all the doors of the pavilions were built facing south so that the city had a mountain at its back. The panoramic image of the city was taken from the top of the mountain looking south.

Your environment: Place an image of a mountain behind your desk or above your bed for greater stability and symbolic protection.


The concept: Symmetry brings power. The human body is, for the most part, visually symmetrical. We have two eyes, two arms, two legs, etc., and if we were to draw a line from our head to the ground, the two halves of our body would mirror each other. When we match our environment to our body, we operate in power.


The Forbidden City:The principle buildings and pavilions in the city are aligned and symmetrical along a straight north to south axis, and all the major structures mirror each other. Note the symmetry in both of the images.

Your environment: Whenever you can, create symmetry in rooms or at the very least on some of your shelves. Even if you live alone, put a nightstand on each side of the bed or place matching figurines an equal distance apart on a shelf.


The concept: Balance around you supports balance within you. It is easier to stay centered from a place of balance. When one is centered, fears and doubts are kept at bay and we operate from a place of peace.

The Forbidden City: Every detail in the city was designed with balance in mind. Straight lines were balanced with curvy lines, points with waves, round archways with square doorways, light areas with dark areas, masculine representation (yang) with feminine (yin), etc. The Temple of Heaven is a good example of this.


Your environment: Make sure you have complementary opposites represented in your home. For example, if your sofa is boxy and square, use round throw pillows. If it is round and puffy, use square pillows. If you have a square dining table, select chairs that have a round back. If your bedroom furniture is linear, choose a flowing pattern for your bedspread.

This is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the degree to which feng shui was implemented in the Forbidden City. However, by just paying attention to the three basic feng shui concepts — placement, symmetry and balance — you can easily make a tangible energetic shift and increase the energetic support in your home.


Alice Inoue is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Happiness U, a friendly educational establishment at Na Lama Kukui (formerly known as Gentry Pacific Design Center) on Nimitz Highway. You’ll find inspiring classes geared toward personal growth. Visit