By Dr. Guobin Wu, Translated by Zhihui Zou 2:55 pm PST

Tian Yin Zi, a Daoist health manual written by an anonymous author during the Tang dynasty, says, “an ideal dwelling is not a house with wide yards, iridescent decorations, or large beds. An ideal dwelling needs to face toward the south, and, when living in it, one’s head can face east while sleeping. The house needs no extravagant illumination; a gentle light, neither dim nor flashy will suffice. The roof does not need to be high raised, for the Sun would feel too bright in the room. The roof cannot be too low, since that creates a suffocating atmosphere.”

“A dwelling needs windows on all four sides to be closed when windy and opened when the sky is calm,” Tian Yin Zi continues. “A dwelling needs a screen in the front and back; close it when the Sun is bright; open it when the room begins to dim. Maintaining this balance between the light inside and outside of the dwelling eases our eyes. Strong light beams can only strain them. A pair of well-cared eyes gives us a tranquil heart and mind. When even external factors such as light could affect our soul, it is a sign that our own thoughts and emotions could do more harm to us when unregulated.”

This description from Tian Yin Zi might reminds people of fengshui, the Chinese art of arranging and designing rooms, such as placing furniture in such a way as to reach harmony. Many people criticize fengshui as superstition. However, fengshui, the arrangement and design of our living quarters, creates a more peaceful and comfortable space in which to work and live. If the roof of a house is so low that it barely allows light in, the dim environment will not make a comfortable living space. On the other hand, when we enter a room with high ceiling, the open space creates a relaxed environment.

Having a balance for illumination and space is the essential goal. A house needs just the right amount of lighting and usable space. A Chinese idiom says, “brightness hurts the soul, so does the dark.” With electric lighting, we constantly place ourselves in overly illuminated rooms. It is necessary to balance the brightness in our environment for our health and vision. For instance, routinely spending time in spaces such as the garden at night or underneath the stars allows a darker environment to balance the brightness around us.