Digging Into the Secret Feng Shui of Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The Happy Home Academy has a hidden set of rules for you to follow, but it doesn't stack up to real-life.

Back in May, Twitter user and daily Animal Crossing player @1c3b3rgmama appealed to New Horizons’ feng shui by placing four pop-eyed goldfish in the corners of her main room. Where she previously only caught one or two sturgeon a week, she started nabbing at least one a day. “At first I thought it was a glitch in the game and then I remembered I had placed the fish hoping for fishing luck!” she said. “I have also been catching way more ranchu goldfish in the ponds than the other types of goldfish, maybe one every couple of days instead of one a week.” Known as the “king of goldfish” in Japan, ranchu fetch 4,500 bells apiece in the game.

@1c3b3rgmama isn’t alone — since the launch of New Horizons in March, players have been getting acquainted (or reacquainted) with the byzantine feng shui system that’s semi-secretly present in every Animal Crossing game.

While New Horizons benefits from keeping feng shui as a mystical, unknowable element, it’s become a way for players to seek the blessing of the equally enigmatic Happy Home Academy. The HHA is the organization that peeps through your windows every Sunday and mails you meticulous evaluations of your home; one of my villagers, Apple, recently mentioned leaving their curtains open and doors unlocked for the HHA’s convenience. It’s safe to say Apple probably wouldn’t last very long in the real world.

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What we do know about Animal Crossing feng shui lies in the 1,000-page New Horizons guidebook, which went on sale in Japan this April. Inside is a short note that, unlike in previous Animal Crossing games, New Horizons’ feng shui only affects your HHA rating. It doesn’t goose your luck finding bells, rare creatures, and other cool stuff. Players must place specific colored furniture at specific cardinal points in the main room. Yellow items, for instance, should be placed in the west. After arranging her main room according to this rubric, player Chrissi Harper said, “my HHA score did fly off the charts, and I received S-ranks for every week I had that setup.”

But despite what the guide claims, feng shui still seems to boost the luck of diligent practitioners. Like @1c3b3rgmama, Twitter user @returnmagicIX (who shares this right and just opinion) did a little rearranging. Soon after they had better luck finding items around their island. After an hour of popping around 15 balloons, they harvested “more furniture than usual, such as neon signs… also money-wise, it tends to be 10,000 [bells] instead of 1,000.” It seems the in-home ugliness is worth it.

But feng shui isn’t just about luck or loading your house full of expensive things. It’s a Chinese divination practice with origins that date back to the Stone Age.

“To put it simply, it’s about harnessing energy, the chinese term qi, into the living space, [and] activation,” explained feng shui professional Fengshui Tang. “The purpose is to increase the effects of certain types of qi that give benefits to us, whether it’s in terms of career, relationships, health… and also to neutralize negative energy that works against us.”

acnh feng shui

Tang has studied metaphysics for 16 years, including energy healing, numerology, and tarot. He uses several schools of divination to ply his trade, combining different styles like bazi (birth charts), yijing (which uses hexagrams), and qimendunjia. He’s currently learning ziweidoshu: an astrological approach to fortune-telling. There are versions of metaphysical divination across world cultures, but for Tang, feng shui has prevailed as the most well-known. That’s because “the Chinese were always about maintaining power, longevity, and wealth” – a nod to its Imperial heritage. “I don’t make it woo-woo either, less on superstition and more on what works through experience,” he said of his younger clientele.

As cities and class structures began to develop in ancient China, feng shui became an important part of urban planning, and a defining feature of the Imperial Court. “Feng shui was a closely guarded secret in the old days and used for the burial of emperors to prolong their dynasties,” Tang said. “In old China you would need to accommodate the feng shui master and get an assistant to help him… so that could be like days or weeks, and only the rich could afford it then.”

Which brings us to the matter of the Happy Home Academy, Animal Crossing’s faceless arbiter of taste and fortune. At the start of the game, Animal Crossing copies the basic approach to a feng shui assessment. It asks for your birthday and encourages you to assess the land when building new structures. Tang’s client evaluation process includes obtaining their birth chart “to see what is happening at the current point of their life, to see what they want and plan with them what can be done,” going to their home to “block and survey the surroundings, landforms, [and] elemental balance,” and examining furniture that may be blocking qi. “The living room, sleeping area and kitchen are the most important areas to watch for,” he said, with the reminder that “there is no need to buy expensive statues or objects — using the right items will work better.”

acnh feng shui home academy

But the HHA (whom we only know through weekly letters) are also supposedly the ones judging your use of feng shui. According to Tang, New Horizons’ rules are problematic compared with real feng shui principles. In the game, the HHA encourages players to place yellow items to the west, green items to the south, and red items to the east. In feng shui, each cardinal point is associated with an element and related colors, as Tang explained: “South is fire (red), east is wood (green), west is metal (white, gold, silver) and north is water (black, blue, gray).”

New Horizons clashes with the style of feng shui practiced by Tang, who uses bazi as a reference. “The problem for the east side is because it’s wood and red is fire, so fire feeds on wood to burn and weakens the sector,” he continued. “If, say, a person needs wood in the bazi chart… this would mean the useful element is weakened and cannot help the person, for instance if wood represents resources, support and helpful people.” We’re guessing that “support” in the context of the island might mean better villagers (go away, Pietro) or maybe even more spawns of Wisp and Gulliver.

Ultimately, there’s no way to fully determine why you’re cursed to fish up trash or take in your friends’ rejects. There’s no full, public list of rules behind why New Horizons’ feng shui seems to affect some players’ luck, as well as their HHA rating. Of course, there’s also no way to know how deep the feng shui rabbit hole goes in ACNH. It’s just another wonderful distraction from the burning reality around us.

But it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Animal Crossing has hidden variables. This is, after all, the same game where even the most hardcore gardening nerds can’t fully figure out why some trees don’t grow. But it’s clearly not real feng shui. And one thing we all can agree on is the hideous aesthetic of color-blocking your home like a Lego starter pack to get better items and more bells…