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Setting Poetic Intentions Around the Mouth of Ch’i

In Feng Shui, one of the most important features (if not THE most important feature) is the front door. We refer to it as the mouth of ch’i—-a place where opportunities, positive energy, good luck and prosperity, to name a few, enter the home. We want and need the front door to attract these good qualities.

Every spring, at the start of the Chinese New Year, the importance of the front door as a portal for positive events becomes apparent in China as well. A poem expressing this intention is pasted on the door frame in the form of a set poetic format. What started as a tradition to keep ghosts away during the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BC) evolved into a very popular tradition of bringing in good luck by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1912).

The Chinese poem or couplet is comprised of two poetic lines of calligraphy that have the same number of characters on each and the same phrasing. As well, there is a horizontal scroll across the top of the door frame which summarizes the overall theme or wish in 4 characters.

Here is an example of a New Year spring couplet:

First scroll: Everything goes well as you expect

            Second scroll: Career rises steadily as you want

            Horizontal scroll: Luck knocks on the door

These wishes are expressed in black or gold ink calligraphed on red paper. Although traditional couplets are done by a calligrapher with ink and brush, nowadays, the most commonly seen couplets are pre-printed ones that can be purchased.

There is a particular order in which the 3 parts of the couplet should be pasted up on the door frame. In the past, the Chinese were accustomed to writing in vertical lines (top to bottom) with the first vertical column of characters on the right side of the page or scroll, moving to the left. But things have changed. Now the horizontal scroll that is placed across the top determines how the two other scrolls are positioned.

If the 4 characters on the horizontal scroll are written from left to right (the modern version), the first vertical scroll will be on the left and the second vertical scroll on the right. If the characters of the horizontal scroll are reversed (reading from right to left, the traditional version), the two side scrolls would be reversed. The first vertical scroll is pasted up first, the second vertical scroll is pasted up second and the horizontal one is put up last.

People typically do not remove the scrolls until the next New Year when new scrolls will be pasted up.

Although putting up visible couplets around a front door is not our custom, we can still create our own poem or saying or intention that is embedded within the walls during construction. Or we can print out our poem, frame it and have it near the front entry to remind us of the importance of the mouth of ch’i.