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Go where the 'Chi' flows

Thursday, November 4, 2004
New Straits Times
By: Ruhayat X

Just because you have dragon in your home doesn't mean you've become an emperor, Joey Yap states coolly. He is talking about the practice of having dragon motifs or sculptures around in the hope of attaining power in life.

“If you're in the wrong place, no amount of decoration will do you any good. So forget about things like getting a good, strong worktable or scattering gold coins to attract wealth chi to you. It's not going to work.”

Ooh, this is good. Barely two minutes into our conversation and this affable feng shui master has already thrown some nuggets of wisdom out the window. You can almost hear the sound of a thousand would-be millionaires crashing to their knees all over the country, weeping over credit card bills that have been, as it turns out, for nothing.

But could there be salvation? Or have the spending sprees really been no more useful than a therapy-shopping binge?

Yap drives the knife further in. Apparently, the popular version of feng shui – you know, the one with the dragon paintings, water features and read walls – is just mumbo-jumbo mixed with some real feng shui. He grudgingly calls it new feng shui.

“Actually, we don't even regrd it as feng shui. Decoration is never part of feng shui. But then people say, ‘Eh, but you Chinese decorate with dragons and all that, isn't that feng shui?' Well, that is Chinese culture. It has nothing to do with feng shui.”

So what is the difference between new feng shui and real feng shui?

“New feng shui tells you to spend, spend, spend, right? If you want such-and-such effect, then you have to buy such-and-such a thing. That's what most people think feng shui is all about. But in real feng shui, or what I call classical feng shui, we don't tell you to spend on decorations. You just need to get the basics right.”

An ancient anti-consumerist philosophy, then. This is beginning to sound better by the minute.

But wait, feng shui is still about the prevalent force called chi, right?

“Yes,” comes the reply. “Chi is the invisible energy that flows throughout the universe.

It's like a magnetic field that runs through the Earth, affecting everything.”

Phew. At least the basic is still the same. Well, how do you go about directing the flow of this chi to your benefit if not with objects?

“By doing the right things in the right place,” is the cryptic response. So cryptic that he notices our puzzled expression.

“You cannot control chi by using man-made objects. Do you really think you can control nature with things like paintings and mirrors?” he helpfully offers. And there goes the last of our investments in squatting bullfrogs and antique wind chimes.

As Yap puts it, classical feng shui recognises that you cannot actually manipulate chi. You can only figure out where it is an then position yourself in its path.

It's a bit like wanting to bathe at a waterfall. The hardness of the stone means you cannot alter the course of the water so that it flows into your backyard. Instead, you have to find out where the waterfall is and go build your house there.

But wait, it's not as simple as it sounds. You also have to figure out which part of the waterfall works to invigorate which task. Taking his office as an example, Yap explains why the meeting room we are talking in is situated right there instead of, say, where the reception desk is.

“First of all, we looked at the big picture and chose Mid Valley Boulevard in Kuala Lumpur as the general location for our office, because of the good chi flowing from the hills behind it and the stream flowing in front. From there we zoomed in on the office block, and then the office unit, and finally which floor would be ideal.”

Once they had decided on the optimum unit, the planning focuses on how best to utilise the space. “This meeting room is here because it ahs the best chi for discussion and contemplation. We used the main door as the anchor; everything else flow from there.”

When you have sussed out the right location, he said, you may furnish it as you like. Even the bare minimum will suffice. Indeed, the public areas of his office are sparsely decorated. “Loke at the meeting room. Is there anything here to enhance the flow of chi? No. Because you don't need that. I bought this heavy table not because it attracts chi, but because I like the way it looks.”

After that everything else falls into place. “When your office is in the best place with the yang chi for working, you'll be motivated. And if your bedroom also has the best ying chi for relaxation, then you will be well rested. With such a good combination, how can your productivity not increase?”

So finding the ideal location is the key to god feng shui. But what if you already have an existing house or office?

“ Well, you can re-arrange the space to suit the chi. For instance, you may find out that it's better if your master bedroom is located in the place where your kitchen is right now. These rooms don't always have to be in a place where it makes conventional sense.”

In this case, would it help to introduce “new feng shui” elements to alleviate some of the problems you might have? What if you can't move the kitchen somewhere else, for example, or the cost of relocating the master bedroom is prohibitive? Couldn't you just install more windows in the bedroom?

The master is unmoved. “Buying something to improve the chi might help, but only in a psychological way. It is psychologically proven that certain colours affect you in a certain way, which is why red, for example, is good for work and dining spaces. But if you have the wrong chi in the first place, there is nothing you can do to change it.”

In fact, his opinion is that if the chi is so bad, the only option for your may be to move house.

All this is well and good. But Yap looks too young to be a feng shui master. Or at least a believable one. Then again, he must know a thing or two about harnessing the good stuff – with his glowing skin, good posture and firm handshake; he is a living embodiment of good health.

The articulate and confident young man has a degree in commerce from Curtin University in Australia . He has always had a deep interest in feng shui from primary school, he said and began studying it seriously in secondary school. By the time he got to Australia he was already practicing his craft.

“I got so many request for consultation that after graduating I decided to make it my full-time job. My parents were not very happy, they would rather I stay in accounting. But this is what I enjoy doing,” he said.

Despite the decision he has not left modern life behind. If you did not know him beforehand you would have guessed that he has a nice “professional” job. He does not dress differently from his peers, right up to the spiky coiffure. That image is deliberate, he said, to send the message that feng shui was not some mystical Asian aret.

“There is no such thing as secret manuals, that's handed down from master to student. In Taiwan , ancient texts on feng shui are published every month, like a magazine. So anyone can but them. You just have to learn the basic principles and then hone your skills. Sometimes, the younger generations can take the knowledge even further.”

By marrying feng shui principles with modern science, for instance. Which is what Yap is doing. Not for nothing is his company called the Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics. “Chi is metaphysical energy, so to a certain extent it can be calculated. This allows you to find where it is.”

Apart from consultations services, the academy runs four types of courses, starting from a simple one-day course designed to introduce the basic principles of feng shui. It is the kind of course that housewives and home-design enthusiasts would enjoy attending, Yap said. The main aim is to demystify feng shui and introduce it as a science.

He believes the emphasis on science is what has attracted a number of foreign students to study under him and his four feng shui masters. Despite the allusion to complex calculations, he insists that you do not require a head for mathematics to master feng shui. All you need is just a rational mind.

“That is very important especially when you speak to a Western audience. They don't really care about the hocus-pocus. If you tell them they should put a plant in a corner to enhance their health, they will ask you why. And they won't take anything less than a rational answer.”

Yap will be presenting a seminar called Feng Shui and Astrology For 2005 on Jan 16. To find out more, call Star Even International Sdn Bhd at 03-21610061.

Best Places to build your home

There isn't a simple cookie-cutter template you can apply when choosing a location for your home, or deciding on its plan. However, Yap offers a few general tips in his book, Stories and Lessons on Feng Shui.

The first step is to ascertain the best general location of chi. Usually this is to be found near a mountain with a flowing stream. But not just any mountain, he is quick to add. “ You should avoid the irregular shape ones. The best would be the ones that have a flat or rounded top.”

Try to locate within the nape of the valley. Building a home on top of the mountain is not necessarily bad, but only if you have a cluster of homes around you.

Even in the same place chi can change with elevation as well as direction. This means it doesn't always follow that the kitchen must be at the back of the house, or the bedrooms must be on the first floor. “ It depends on what you want. Generally, a south facing room is good for relationships, for instance.”

What complicates matters is that the sectors can change according to the year. The wealth sector for next year, for example, should face south, whereas in 2006, it should face north.

Some residential areas with the best chi in the Klang Valley , according to Yap , are Bandar Baru Kepong, Bandar Utama and Taman Seputeh.

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