*This article was published in January 2019
Once the exclusive domain of Chinese emperors who applied feng shui in the construction of palaces and tombs, the practice of Chinese geomancy has been embraced by many around the world. One well-known adopter of feng shui is none other than US President Donald Trump who in the mid-1990s used the expertise of feng shui masters for the development of his Trump International Hotel & Tower at Columbus Circle in New York.
Fast-forward a couple of decades later, a Hong Kong feng shui master even correctly predicted that Trump would clinch the US presidency. The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick who was said to be a big believer of the ancient Chinese practice used the advice of a feng shui expert in the design of the stores. A new look Body Shop, based on feng shui advice focussed on the use of colours, furniture and materials, was opened in Brixton. The shop reported a 10% rise in turnover, and subsequently the design was rolled out to all its UK shops.
Other entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson, as well as companies like Coca-Cola and Disney, are said to have used feng shui for greater productivity and success, by applying feng shui principles in the office and the home. In building the new entrance to Hong Kong Disneyland, for example, Disney executives followed the advice of a feng shui master and shifted the angle of the front gate by 12 degrees. Cash registers are also close to corners or along walls, as this placement is believed to increase prosperity.
In Hong Kong, the most famous of the city’s landmarks, the HSBC Building was built after much consultation with feng shui masters, and is said to have very good feng shui. Instead of a ground floor, the building has a high, hollow atrium that invites wind and positive energy, and the escalators in the atrium are placed at an angle to the entrance – preventing wayward evil spirits from flowing upwards into the building. A pair of large bronze lions also guard the entrance, symbolising wealth and prosperity.
Closer to home, business tycoons such as Genting Group’s Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong and See Hoy Chan Group’s Tan Sri Teo Soo Cheng were firm followers. The latter even hired feng shui grandmaster Yap Cheng Hai to audit the feng shui of the first phase of 1 Utama.
So what is feng shui really, and how can it spell business success and good fortune? Literally translated, feng shui means wind and water, and renowned feng shui expert Lillian Too says it’s “basically how the winds blow and the waters flow in and around your living space and your environment.”
“Feng shui has to do with living in harmony with the five elements that make up our environment in their yin and yang manifestations. These five elements are fire, earth, metal, water and wood, which have a productive and destructive relationship with each other. When these elements are in harmony in our living spaces and in our homes we enjoy good feng shui, and when they are in discord, misfortunes can and do occur,” explains Too.
Thought to date as far back as 5,000 years, Chinese emperors used this traditional practice of being in harmony with the natural world to build grand palaces and imperial tombs. The emperors from the Qing Dynasty, for example, took special care to choose their burial sites with good feng shui. They believed that if they were buried at a site with good feng shui, it would bring prosperity not only to the dynasty, but also to their children.
The ancient Chinese also applied feng shui in the construction of their villages. Hongcun in China’s Anhui Province is said to have improved its feng shui by changing the village layout, forming a shape like a buffalo, and based on the advice of a feng shui master developed a complicated and practical water system that has served the village for more than 900 years. The village prospered after these changes and today this Insta-worthy village at the foothills of the Yellow Mountains is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that teems with visitors throughout the year.
Too says that the easiest dimension of feng shui practice is to correctly place auspicious objects to generate lucky vibrations within the interior space. This includes arranging furniture and lucky objects to generate and capture good auspicious qi or energy.
“We also take account of compass directions, locations and the visuals of the outside environment,” she adds. The placement of these objects tends to change annually depending on the shift of energy that takes place at the start of the Solar New Year (which is on 4 February this year).
“When the objects and things in the home are auspicious and have good connotations and they are placed in good harmony with each other, the feng shui created is very auspicious, but when they are negative and unlucky or if they are in discord with your home furniture, and are not in sync with the energy, direction or location of your home, that is when things can go wrong,” Too adds.
Often credited with popularising feng shui around the world – she has written more than 80 books on the subject, which have been translated into 30 languages – Too is living proof that feng shui works. “We enjoy good feng shui… we started in 2000 and we have come a long way indeed,” she says of the company, WOFS.com Sdn Bhd, which she founded with her daughter Jennifer Too in partnership with Berjaya Corp Bhd.
In the workplace, feng shui can spell harmony among the staff, good sales and profits continuously. Feng shui expert Leong Weng Suen says this starts with the owner of the company as well as the top management. “Using the owner or the boss’ date and time of birth as well as that of the top management’s we are then able to correctly identify their best seating position, the location of their rooms, the door position, to name a few. It’s all about harnessing the right energy and ensuring that there is balance and harmony, and you need to have that good energy in order to run the business,” he says.
His own brush with feng shui began almost two decades ago. Leong, who was at the time a maths tuition teacher, attended a talk on the use of crystals to bring wealth, and within just a month he saw an increase in the number of students – prompting him later to embark on its study under Yap Cheng Hai.
Leong (affectionately called Sifu Leongsir by his clients and students) believes that for business success it’s advisable to get feng shui advice prior to starting a business. “This means looking at it from A to Z, from the location of the business premises to the setting up of the office and placement of furniture and people.”
But more often that not his services are called for when there are problems and a remedy is required. These problems, he adds, usually manifest themselves in the form of declining sales, unhappy employees and the threat of lawsuits. “Depending on how severe the problem is, it generally takes about 30 to 60 days to make things right. In general about 80% of the time you will see a change but even then there are no guarantees. It’s just like going to see a doctor. If you have a severe illness, you can’t expect the doctor to cure you immediately.”
Still, Leong believes that feng shui does offer a light at the end of the tunnel. He cites a case where the business was shut down by the health department for health code violations. “I assessed the situation and placed objects to ensure that the authorities would be pleased with the clean-up that had been done. I also offered advice on how the employees could be better managed and how they could be motivated to do a better job, and within just one day, the restaurant received approval to resume business,” he says.
He concedes that there are cases when the feng shui remedies don’t achieve the desired results. “That’s when we need to delve deeper and look at the personal behaviour of the person. Are they stubborn? Have they changed the way they think and approach their staff and customers? All these have a bearing too, and in such cases the advice is to change their inner energy, change their attitude and thinking and adapt to the changes in business,” he adds.
If these adjustments still don’t translate to business success? Then it may well be the result of karma, which means that one has to make charitable contributions, and do voluntary work to effect change, says Leong. “If the money luck is there, you need that something in feng shui to click it but if the money luck is not there then it takes time.”
Experts stress the importance of understanding the ins and outs of feng shui to properly put it to practice. “You can learn and get tips from good books,” says Too. Leong concurs that it’s possible to take the DIY approach to feng shui. “But it’s better to get a feng shui master because if you are unsure of what you’re doing, you’ll end up with more problems and obstacles,” he adds. Too adds that the more experienced the consultant, the better the results.
Alternatively, one can also take up the study of feng shui. Too believes that feng shui is a living skill that is worth learning and benefitting from. “Those who use it know that often just getting their personal directions right, or placing a cure or a lucky enhancer makes all the difference in their luck for the year.” So what’s in store for the coming year? Too says that the Year of the Pig or Boar looks to be a more stable and peaceful year. “There will be fewer natural disasters, less fighting and more money-making! It is a balanced year and in 2019, red is the colour for wealth,” she adds.
Leong says that honesty and trustworthiness are key in the Year of the Pig. “It’s a good year to set up new networks but at the same time one has to set aside time for rest and exercise. It’s a good year for those born in the year of the Rabbit, Rooster and Ox, but those born in the year of the Pig, Tiger, Snake and Monkey need to be more careful. Be wary of making large investments and standing as guarantor.”