Feng Shui, Fung Shway or Functuay?

I think this is an important topic to cover as I see people being ridiculed and belittled for how they are pronouncing feng shui “wrong”.

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To understand why there is so much confusion, one need to know a little bit about the Chinese language.

There are over 200 documented Chinese dialects used in China. This means that probably not one individual in the world would be able to master all of them in a lifetime.

When we take into account of the different accents and slangs people from different parts of the country speak, people might not be able to understand each other in communication.

For example, a Chinese citizen from the north might not be able to communicate effectively with one from the south, when they speak in different dialects and accents of mandarin.

The magical part with all these is that even though people might not communicate effectively with each other through speech, if they are to write down what they are trying to say, they would be able to completely understand each other.

This means that the same Chinese word can be pronounced differently by people from different dialects.

But many many years ago, the leaders of China realized that this language barrier can be a problem for the nation, especially when important messages needed to be communicated to the masses.

So the common mandarin language, also know as standard Chinese or putonghua (普通话), was officially declared and used as the national language of communication.

I’m no historian, but that is a short basic summary of the complexity of the mandarin language in China.

The reason why some people pronounce feng shui as fung shway is due to which language or dialect the person is speaking from.

The words feng shui written in Chinese is 风水. This is what everyone would agree with. It literally translates to wind water.

If a practitioner is from Hong Kong, he or she would probably pronounce it in Cantonese or standard Chinese with a Cantonese accent.

Thus, resulting in fung shway or fung shwee.

If a practitioner is from Taiwan, it becomes more interesting.

As Hokkien is the common dialect used in Taiwan, feng shui is pronounced as hong chui.

Using Hokkien as an example, you can observe how much the pronunciation of the word can change. That’s not a typo. It’s hong chui.

When pronounced in standard mandarin, it is feng shui.

The same goes with bazi (八字) which can be pronounced as paht chee in Cantonese or puay di in Hokkien or something else depending on the dialect.

I’ve also heard of 风水 being pronounced as functuay. I am not aware of any dialects that would pronounce 风水 this way. I can only attribute it to an English speaker who does not speak Chinese trying to pronounce feng shui. Thus, ending with the sound functuay.

Not that it’s something to condemn.

I hope this clarifies any questions you might have on what is the correct pronunciation of feng shui.

There is no right or wrong.

If someone insists that one is right or another is wrong, either he or she does not know what he or she is talking about, or that you are being misled… maybe you are even the subject of ridicule for not knowing the Chinese language.

Anyway, I don’t see why people should be ridiculed for pronouncing it a certain way. As long as we know what’s being communicated, why give someone such a hard time?

After all, if you walk into Starbucks and tries to order one of those house blends given a foreign name, would you like to have the cashier make fun of you and refuse to take your order until you pronounce it right?

Be nice.

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