As a Westerner living in Asia for many years, I have watched with bemused fascination as Feng Shui has earned a wide following in the Western world. It is a sine qua non for a luxurious New York penthouse apartment. Wall Street investment bankers, who can’t even spell Feng Shui, much less pronounce it properly (‘phung schway”) think nothing of paying $500 an hour to gain Feng Shui approval.
Literally, Feng Shui means ‘wind water” but in a broader sense, it is part of an ancient Chinese philosophy of nature. Although difficult to summarize, it generally has to do with the placement and orientation of your physical surroundings. Feng Shui centers around the very sensible notion that living with, rather than against, nature benefits both humans and our environment. It is also deeply related to the equally sensible notion that our lives are deeply affected by our physical and emotional environment.
Done correctly, it optimizes life’s five elements (earth, mineral, wood, water and fire) and two energies; chi and sha (soft and hard energy, respectively.) Get it wrong, however, and trouble will be lurking just around the corner, or so I was told. That’s all well and good, but what exactly does that mean?
Seeking enlightenment, I thought I’d begin by finding a geomancer, the Western label given to Feng Shui consultants. Not one to compromise, I sought out and found the most famous geomancer in all of Hong Kong. In speaking with his agent, (yes, like pop superstar, he has an agent) I was told that his minimum charge would be 3 hours at US$500 per hour. Negotiating fees with a geomancer is akin to asking your family doctor for a discount before he treats you – it just isn’t done in polite society.
I had a quick second look at my chi and sha and decided that they weren’t all that bad, and probably a journeyman geomancer could make the necessary adjustments to my surroundings. A few phone calls later, and an appointment was set for the following week with a Mr. Wong to come around to my office.
Since I was exploring the metaphysical, I expected to meet someone in the image of the Dali Lama, complete with saffron robes, shaved head and a golden aura. Instead, in walked Mr. Wong nattily attired in a charcoal gray pinstripe suit, a crisp blue cotton shirt with contrasting white collar and cuffs, a very trendy Hermes tie and Italian loafers. He looked like a Chinese version of Michael Douglas from the movie Wall Street.
Polite and very official, he set about with compass, map and hieroglyphic chart to locate and rearrange my chi, my sha, my wood, rain and generally whip my office space in to tip top shape. I was feeling better already. A week later and my office was sporting a new look complete with a fish bowl, eight plump goldfish, a painting of a lotus flower, and a few other less conventional items (a dried gourd behind my door, a clock hung high up on a wall where it can barely be read, and arrangements of eight coins tied together with red ribbon and placed behind curtains, in drawers, and other vital locations.)
It’s still too early to tell what effect all this will have, but I am keeping an open mind. After all, whose chi and sha couldn’t use a little fine-tuning every now and then?
Author: Rob Chipman @ Asian Tigers Hong Kong