If you’ve ever visited a Chinese cemetery, you might have noticed how many gravestones are on a slope, often overlooking a pond. The Chinese clearly put a lot of thought into how graves are placed. I asked a feng shui grand master to explain it to me.
“Feng shui is about the earth,” he said. “Contact with the earth is important, especially in death. The way a body is placed can affect the descendants.”
What, then, did he think about the effects of cremation? Cremation is an increasingly popular option in the Anglophone countries, while in Japan it’s close to 99%.
The grand master hemmed and hawed for a bit.
“You must understand that feng shui is a Chinese philosophy and that other cultures have their own ways of doing things that are right for them,” he said.
This sounded like a weasel answer to me.
“Is there a problem with cremation?” I asked.
“It is not recommended,” he said.
More hemming and hawing.
“It brings bad luck.”
“How much bad luck?”
“Three generations’ worth.”
Who knew? And what other traps might we be laying for ourselves, by our funerary practises? I’d been reading about new, whiz-bang ways of dispatching people, so I tried a few scenarios on him.
First off, what did the grand master think of turning dead bodies into diamonds, a la Life Gem? Apparently they take your body, cremate it in such a way that it turns into charcoal rather than ash, and then put the charcoal under immense pressure. Out pops an industrial diamond that costs a lot more than a real one. Over time, your whole family can build up into a valuable collection.
The grand master, much to my surprise, thought that not only was this OK, but also good feng shui. “Diamonds are crystals and crystals are good in feng shui,” he said. “You would be creating something permanent and precious, with good energy.”
So what did the grand master think about cryogenics? This is when you stick the body upside down inside a barrel full of something that snap-freezes it, so some later generation can revive it when they have the cure for whatever caused the death in the first place. Assuming they need manpower so badly they’re prepared to waste resources resuscitating some cancer-raddled geezer.
“Hmmm,” said the grand master. “I am improvising here, you understand… but I think this is OK feng shui.”
“The first Daoists were very interested in immortality of the body,” said the grand master. “This is not a bad goal in feng shui, as it is in some Western beliefs. Treating a body so that it may revive is not bad."
Before you do this to granny, however, please note that he also added that he was guessing. If he’s wrong, you could be looking at many generations of bad luck.
Next, I tried the ashes-in-rocket idea on him. Apparently you can pay someone in Houston money to stick the remains into a canister that’s blasted into space. You can even engrave best wishes for the journey on the tin.
The grand master was so horrified that all I got was a sharp intake of breath.
“What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Feng shui is about the earth,” he said. “You shoot a body into space – you are sending it the wrong way!”
That’s sure going to suck for the descendants of the first space tourist to die in space and be tossed overboard. Just think: hundreds of years of bad stuff out of the blue, with absolutely no idea why.