While ancient practices of feng shui tend to focus down on one specific school of thought, modern methods of practice tend to bring together all types of concepts and ideas.
After all, if there are two solutions to a problem, and both area equally acceptable to the homeowner, why not choose the one that aligns with more feng shui principles? It would be common sense to do so.
In fact, this methodology if widely used in date selection where people are informed of good dates to undertake certain things which would also indicate the best date.
Feng shui is filled with major concepts and minor tips when put into practice. And one of those concepts that many practitioners don’t even realize they that practicing is the concept of the 4 intercardinal gates.
As the name might have already revealed, this refers to the 4 intercardinal, or ordinal, directional sectors of a house. Each associated to 4 corner gates that are overlaid onto the floor plan. These 4 gates are:
- Heaven gate (天门) at the northwest
- Earth gate (地户) at the southeast
- Ghost gate (鬼门) at the northeast
- Man gate (人门) at the southwest
These 4 gates have been in Chinese folklore even before feng shui, and can be found inscribed in the I-Ching.
Others might find this concept sounding familiar from the common phrase 天不足西北 地不满东南 which is a reference to the heaven gate and earth gate.
It is said that the northwest is the direction where the sun is observed to set during the summer solstice when yang energy peaks.
It is also because of the heaven gate’s position where several feng shui advice concerning the northwest originate from.
For example, the linkage to heavenly mentors, noblemen, wealth, etc.
Directly opposite the heaven gate is the earth gate.
This relationship can sometimes be illustrated by a diagonal line across the magic squares of the luo shu that connects the two.
Yin energy is said to reach it’s climax when the sun rise during the winter solstice. The direction of that solar activity is southeast.
Taoist also associate the earth gate with the entry point of the 5 ghosts. However, people have to note that this is not the same as the 5 ghost concept in feng shui.
Because of this, traditional orientation of houses tend to have a focus on having a door at the northwest for the heaven gate, and no doors at the southeast.
Because it is an area of wood energy, objects with considerably strong metal presence can disturb this sector.
Together with the alignment of the heaven gate, the common rule is to have the northwest being higher than the southeast with regards to landscape and contours. This helps a household maintain harmony and receive blessings.
In the event that the southeast is higher, a common remedy is to build a pond to balance the chi.
While the heaven gate is probably the best known among the 4 gates, the ghost gate is probably the second best known… for obvious reasons.
It’s almost impossible to avoid learning more about it when it’s name is connected to the supernatural.
The huge way in which the ghost gate captured people’s attention can even be said to have resulted in it being spun-off into it’s own subject.
Legend has it that thousands of spirits loiter at the ghost gate where they enter and exit this realm. This led to the ancient belief that gates and doors should not be installed at the northeast sector or property.
If you take a trip to some of the important historical sites of China, you’d find that there’s always reinforced walls built in this sector. Or that there are gates that are never opened.
It should be noted that further study of the ghost gate mentions the northeast as an outer gate (表鬼门) and the southwest being an inner gate (里鬼门). The former being the front door and the latter being the back door. Connecting these two point on a floor plan would show what is called the ghost gate line (鬼门线).
During the hungry ghost festival, cultural practice is that any doors in these two areas are to be closed at all times. Especially during yin hours.
It’s worth noting that in the divination practice of da liu ren (大六壬), similarities can be observed as yin is the ghost gate and shen is the man gate. However, the astrology technique of zi wei dou shu (紫微斗数) flips this association.
Which brings us to the man gate.
The word man here refers to mankind, human, people, etc. It is not a gender-bias term.
The man gate is seldom discussed in feng shui. In fact, the little attention that it enjoys can be attributed to it being opposite the ghost gate and thus mentioned in discussions.
Ancient inscriptions indicate that it’s role is more of an energy conversion point where yang become yin and the other way around.
It’s presence completes the 4 corners where the gates are located.
Application of the 4 gates
The presence of favorable and unfavorable stars, together with good and bad sectors, help practitioners identify whether the 4 gates are afflicted in any way.
It must be said however, that attention is mostly given to the heaven gate. But when homeowners seek consultation for paranormal activities, the ghost gate would be looked into.
For example, if a household is experiencing strange events which they suspect is related to supernatural entities, there might be something wrong with the northeast area such as having yin plants there.
And as the 4 gates can be linked to earthly branches, it can have applications in bazi as well.