Sun, Jan 07, 2001 - Page 17 News List

A matter of fengshui

It may not be enough that you are an accomplished businessman and have the best location in town. Without the blessing and guidance of a fengshui master, all of your work may come to naught because of a misplaced window or chair

By Lisa Chiu  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

The science of fengshui (風水), also called geomancy, has been practiced since time immemorial. At its simplest, it is a study and manipulation of the environment to provide mankind with greater felicity in his life. It is still practiced in Taiwan today, and although its practitioners now wear Western dress, the fundamentals of the art remain unchanged.

In the past, without the modern conveniences of double-glazing, air-conditioners and convection heaters, people had to rely on the blessings of nature for their comfort or even survival. For example, the principles of fengshui often dictate that the door of a building should face north, avoiding the glare of the rising sun and the direct heat of summer.

While this and many other principles of fengshui may have made perfectly good sense when building a mud brick house on the alluvial plains of the Yangtze River, they don't always seem to make sense in the modern world.

"Things have changed and many of the traditional fengshui applications are not practical and sometimes conflict with modern architecture," Lin Hung-ming (林弘敏), an interior designer said. He also said that interior designers often prefer to build more or larger windows to make buildings brighter and happier, but many fengshui masters object to such ideas as conflicting with fengshui taboos. "And most of them have not been trained in interior design," said Lin.

Expert Advice

During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), fengshui became popular among fortunetellers, who liked to draw connections between the place a person lived and that person's luck. The practice of fengshui drew heavily on the lore of divination and developed a complex system of rules and taboos that may seem quaint to the skeptical but still influence people today.

For example, the front door of a house must not be in a direct line with the back door, for it is believed that good fortune will not remain in your house. The toilet, no matter how clean it is, should never face the front entrance. A bed should never be placed under a load-bearing wall, and you should never sleep with your feet pointing towards the bedroom door.

This may seem simple enough, but the subtleties of the art are known only to the practitioners, and their skills do not come cheap. To have a house inspected by a professional in the field costs about NT$30,000 to NT$50,000, and this does not include alterations that the fengshui master might recommend.

When Lin Chuo-kung (林卓功), the owner of Sara House (莎諾義大利餐廳), an Italian restaurant in the up-market district of Tienmu chose his location, he consulted a fengshui master who recommended that he alter the position of the front door. "It was facing the Veterans Hospital (榮總) where the master said it was open to bad karma," Lin said, pointing to the new door that is no longer facing the hospital. The hospital has sick and dying people in it, and the chi, or energy, was bad, he said. Besides work to the doorway, Lin also spent an additional NT$2 million to make other alterations to the cashiers' counter and bathroom.

Tseng Chung-sen (曾中森), a fengshui master, explained that the practice of fengshui is like the study of human anatomy and that chi circulates through the house like blood in the human body. A doorway is considered as a person's mouth, "therefore, you must watch out what goes into your mouth," he said.

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