Traditional feng shui theory has had its place in China since ancient times. It still has many believers today.
The term feng shui has entered English dictionaries that define it as the Chinese art or practice of creating harmonious surroundings that enhance the balance of yin and yang, as in arranging furniture or determining the sitting of a house.
If feng shui is treated as a branch of geo-science, it benefits people. Human beings and nature must and can co-exist in harmony. Indeed, people live, play and work more comfortably and constructively in a harmonious surrounding, be it macro-environments like mountains, seashores, rivers, forests, or the micro-environments within our homes.
Unfortunately, some people have applied it as a way to try to accelerate their unethical office promotion and wealth amassing overnight, or to seek protection or escape from punishment for their crimes.
Liu Zhijun, former railway minister who was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in 2013 for a series of grave crimes, had accepted the advice of a feng shui "master," by placing a large rock of "mountain to lean on" in his office, which was meant to firm up his relations with those more powerful. The "mountain to lean on" is a metaphor of someone high up that you have easy access to and can count on for further benefits.
Why do feng shui "masters" often succeed in selling their advice? Because they are well aware of psychology and marketing strategies, and take advantage of the weaknesses of human nature – desires that are never felt satisfied, greed, laziness, selfishness, timidity, and worship of unknown mighty powers…
Early this month I received a surprise phone call from someone I have known for over 20 years who is now engaged in jewelry business in Myanmar. His call immediately reminded me of an encounter not long ago.
One late morning of a warm winter day early this year, a feng shui master came to the Shenzhen office of his company, whose investment business performance had been deteriorating. He, president of the company, hoping desperately for a change in his fate, paid dearly for the arrival of the master who, holding a compass on his palm, inspected all the rooms with a serious face. I was a frequent guest of the president and was present that day. I followed the master, watching his movements. Fifteen minutes later, the master finally sat down on a sofa, pointing out that the furniture and fixtures must be relocated, adding that the flowerpots with many green plants and booming flowers were also inappropriately positioned and must also be moved elsewhere, because all these were causing bad luck. Action was immediately taken by staff based on his instruction. He assured the delighted president that his business would be significantly improved within three months and left the office apparently with confidence.
After three months the president called me to his office to say his business turned out even worse and he had paid even more to another more famous feng shui master for a quick turnaround. Before long the even more famous master descended. The master wore attire obviously different from ordinary people's and also used a compass and muttered incantations no one else understood. Soon he offered the president a solution totally overthrowing the previous positioning of the flowerpots, furniture and fixture. He then used a brush and ink to write words on a hanging scroll that meant the company would generate abundant wealth for the next hundred years to come.
"What beautiful calligraphy!" The admiring president sighed, although it was nothing more than mediocre in my eyes. The smiling master congratulated the president in advance that he would be making a great fortune in five or six months and waved goodbye to us.
Within five months, the company filed for bankruptcy, as I learned from the president – more accurately, ex-president – who phoned me from Myanmar. I hope he has truly turned around this time.
(The author is a former banking professional and a freelance writer who has been published extensively in China, Germany and Singapore.)