Hornbill Unleashed

November 30, 2010

A tale about Feng Shui

By Sim Kwang Yang

Years ago, before I opened a shop and started running a business, I was advised by a friend to consult this Feng Shui master in Kuching city.  Although I generally do not subscribe to geomancy, public opinion dictated that I should submit to an appraisal under that ancient system of belief.

The Feng Shui master turned up at my front door one fine morning. He was a frail man, bent by age, but looked energetic enough. Presently, he brought up his Lo Pan, the metallic instrument with which he read the changing features of the landscape.

He started to explain to me in very metaphorical language about how the landscape was going to help me in my business. In his description, the colourless features of the land in that corner of Jalan Ban Hock suddenly assumed animated characters, filled with qi and other forms of energy, invisible to the naked eye. The prognosis from his reading was that my business would thrive if I followed his instructions, in placing the cash register next to the stove.

In following the advice of the Feng Shui master, I was treading in the footsteps of numerous Chinese businessmen before me. In various parts of East Asia, and now in mainland China, people opening a new business would not dream of starting earthworks without first consulting a Feng Shui master.

Their services do not come cheap. Recently, I heard of someone hiring a Feng Shui master from Singapore to look at a shop lot in Kuching city. For that service, the owner had to cough up RM7,000 in cash for the Feng Shui master. Judging from this story told by friends, the craze of consulting a Feng Shui master has become such a hot trend that those fortune tellers of the Feng Shui and occult kind are laughing all the way to the bank.

In ancient China, it was said that where and how you bury your dead will determine the fortune of your next generation.

Fortune tellers are always looking for the Dragon Vein, the formation of land features, especially the rise and fall of hills and slopes. This promises a booming fortune for the descendants of anyone buried in it. In China, family members will postpone the burial for years to allow time for the Feng Shui master to search for the ideal cemetery plot. According to one tale, the choice of such a dragon plot can ensure the prosperity of the families of those buried for many generations.

Having been steeped in Chinese myths all my life, I am not unfamiliar with many of the stories surrounding Chinese Feng Shui.

On the one hand, custom dictates that I pay full respect to the practices of Feng Shui, although I do not understand its workings. The practice has centuries of history behind it and it takes people in the know to spew out all the secrets behind the science that makes Feng Shui work. On the face of it, it would be unreasonable for me to reject the entire art of Feng Shui altogether. After all, 5,000 years of civilisation cannot be completely wrong.

On the other hand, however, the practice of Feng Shui is couched in such esoteric and abstract metaphysical terms, that what is uttered by its practitioners means very little to me. As far as I can understand, the Feng Shui master’s understanding of his art has little connection with ordinary language in the real world. He might as well be speaking Greek to the world at large.

I suppose my criticism about Feng Shui can be applied to any branch of metaphysics that relies heavily on the obscure arts, which are less than accessible to ordinary human senses. I am thinking of all the ‘sciences of the occult’ which seem to find a permanent home among our human civilisations.

In ordinary terms, the native beliefs of our Iban people, for example, make little sense in a scientific context, and yet our Iban people hold to them like gospel truths.

In the face of so many mesmerising truths in our complex world, I have always tried to remain tolerant of truths that are not considered orthodox.  The world is a large place and there are many things which we do not understand. Instead of condemning all the truths that we do not like, sometimes it is better to suspend our personal convictions and to grant space to differing opinions, taken with a big grain of salt.

This is also a humble admission that we do not know everything. We live in a confusing world with many conflicting doctrines and dogmas, clamouring for our loyalty.

It is easy to forget that ‘truth’ has many faces, and plurality is a virtue in this confusing world of ours. For those who prefer Feng Shui, so be it, as long as their activity hurts nobody else. There is no point starting an ideological war over this abstract metaphysical doctrine. To each his own, I say!

(The author can be reached at kenyalang578@hotmail.com. All comments are welcomed.)



  1. Mr SKY, I think the readers here have misunderstood between Feng Shui and superstition. Even feng shui has feng shui for the living and the dead. Maybe that’s why people generally mix the two up. I may not believe feng shui for the dead where if you bury them at the right place the generations of the dead after this will enjoy good living. But certainly if you live near the road(especially at the corner of a cross road with heavy traffic) or if your house has too much tree shades(too much yin and too little yang), it will affect the health of those who live there because it is noisy and the house is too wet and have too much moisture. This is argument in science, not just blind belief. Bomoh, beliao, manang or even religions to a certain extent are belief of super natural. One cannot and should not mix this up with feng shui.

    Comment by Hope — December 5, 2010 @ 8:24 PM | Reply


    Our discussion should be to enlighten each other and not try to win with obtuse reasons and abuse.

    There is a lot of misunderstanding about “feng shui” especially among the Chinese believers themselves. This is because the believers (not all Chinese) are gullible and believe everything the “expert” says (not limited to feng shui}

    Many have willingly parted with good money for some nonsensical advice.

    I found this article on “Skeptics” Dictionary” which provides an explanation which is nearer to the orginal idea.

    “Feng shui (literally “wind water”) is part of an ancient Chinese philosophy of nature. Feng shui is often identified as a form of geomancy, divination by geographic features, but it is mainly concerned with understanding the relationships between nature and ourselves so that we might live in harmony within our environment.

    Feng shui is related to the very sensible notion that living with rather than against nature benefits both humans and our environment. It is also related to the equally sensible notion that our lives are deeply affected by our physical and emotional environs. If we surround ourselves with symbols of death, contempt, and indifference toward life and nature, with noise and various forms of ugliness, we will corrupt ourselves in the process. If we surround ourselves with beauty, gentleness, kindness, sympathy, music, and with various expressions of the sweetness of life, we ennoble ourselves as well as our environment.

    Alleged masters of feng shui, those who understand the five elements and the two energies such as chi and sha (hard energy, the opposite of chi), are supposed to be able to detect metaphysical energies and give directions for their optimal flow.

    Feng shui has become a kind of architectural acupuncture: wizards and magic insert themselves into buildings or landscapes and use their metaphysical sensors to detect the flow of good and bad “energy.” These masters for hire declare where bathrooms should go, which way doorways should face, where mirrors should hang, which room needs green plants and which one needs red flowers, which direction the head of the bed should face, etc. They decide these things on the basis of their feel for the flow of chi, electromagnetic fields, or whatever other form of energy the client will worry about. (If you and your lover are having trouble in the bedroom, call a feng shui master. You probably need to move a few things around to get the bedroom chi flowing properly. Only a person with special metaphysical sensors, however, can tell what really needs to be done.)

    In short, feng shui has become an aspect of interior decorating in the Western world and alleged masters of feng shui now hire themselves out for hefty sums to tell people such as Donald Trump which way his doors and other things should hang. Feng shui has also become another New Age “energy” scam with arrays of metaphysical products from paper cutouts of half moons and planets to octagonal mirrors to wooden flutes offered for sale to help you improve your health, maximize your potential, and guarantee fulfillment of some fortune cookie philosophy.

    According to Sutrisno Murtiyoso of Indonesia, in countries where belief in feng shui is still very strong, feng shui has become a hodgepodge of superstitions and unverified notions which are passed off in the university curriculum as scientific principles of architecture or city planning. Mr. Murtiyoso wrote me about a university lecturer who had written an article in Indonesia’s biggest newspaper “advocating feng shui as a guiding principle to Indonesia’s future architecture.” This upset Mr. Murtiyoso: “if it is done by a so-called ‘paranormal’, I wouldn’t be that mad. But a ‘colleague’, an architect . . . I just can’t imagine how my people can face the next millennium still under this ancient spell. How can we progress….through this techno-jungle.”

    If I were Mr. Murtiyoso, I wouldn’t worry until the architects start advocating ignoring the laws of physics in favor of metaphysical principles. We still bring in our priests to sprinkle holy water and utter incantations at the dedications of skyscrapers. So far, none have collapsed that I know of. And if being superstitious were a hindrance to progress, we’d all still be wandering the savannas with our hirsute ancestors.” end of article.

    If any of you see lights floating in the air do not panic. They may be just hot air lanterns with candles.

    Very easy to make. The Chinese invented them thousands of years ago before the French guy borrowed it and like any westerner made it into a commercial idea.

    Comment by Sarawakfreeinfoservice — December 1, 2010 @ 11:46 AM | Reply

    • Was a floating lantern wholly conceived of superstition or just a practical know how for appeasement of superstitious objects or power?

      For example a blowpipe could well be used in a superstitious rite, practice but there’s nothing superstitious about the blowpipe. Just as setting off fire crackers was believed to drive away evil spirits. As a very bid kid, I still have big fun letting off fire crackers! 😆

      Comment by Wayang Street — December 1, 2010 @ 11:53 PM | Reply

      • Here’s an article on Flying Lantern FYI: It’s original purpose was more practical than superstition.

        You may have read about the military strategist Zhuge Liang.


        According to popular lore, the Kongming Lantern (Chinese: 孔明灯) was the first hot air balloon, said to be invented by the sage and military strategist Zhuge Liang,[2] whose reverent term of address (i.e. Chinese style name) was Kongming. They were first deployed at the turn of the 3rd century as a type of signaling balloon or, it is claimed, as a type of spy blimp in warfare. Alternatively the name may come from the lantern’s resemblance to the hat Kongming is traditionally shown to be wearing.

        It is likely that this technological discovery is misattributed because of the Chinese historical practice of attributing great discoveries to significant historical figures rather than to the actual inventors. According to the sinologist and historian of science Joseph Needham, the Chinese experimented with mini-hot air balloons from as early as the 3rd century BC, during the Warring States period, which suggests that the attribution of its invention to Kongming is anachronistic and apocryphal.
        [edit] Usage in festivals
        [edit] Chinese festivals

        In ancient China, sky lanterns were strategically used in wars. However later on, non-military applications were employed as they became popular with children at carnivals. These lanterns were subsequently incorporated into festivals like the Chinese Mid-Autumn and Lantern Festivals. Pingsi in the Taipei County of Taiwan holds an annual Lantern Festival in which sky lanterns are released.

        Comment by Sarawakfreeinfoservice — December 2, 2010 @ 1:20 PM | Reply

  3. […] being a survivor and nearly 30years at the helm remains solid especially in times of adversities. Many have tried […]

    Pingback by Sarawak “Invisible Men” « Audie61′s Weblog — November 30, 2010 @ 1:31 PM | Reply

  4. Chinese believe in Feng Shui, Dayaks trust in Beliao or Manang etc…As you read more on the Holy Bible, you come to understand more of their wrong and curses. Many Chinese shops or even big companies who consulted Mr. & Mrs Feng Shui end up closing business and getting bankrupt. However, when they start to get into trouble, that is the time most will turn away from reality and seek this evil Feng Shui powers. Luckily, many Dayak/Ibans are turning to know Christ deeper and more, therefore awakened from all those evil and traditional believes..

    God’s great work is started to be seen, felt and trusted in Malaysia

    Comment by Salah Satu — November 30, 2010 @ 12:27 PM | Reply

  5. “Religion is an opium for the mass”.

    Comment by sam — November 30, 2010 @ 11:56 AM | Reply

    • Isn’t it?

      But even if there is no religion, there will be opium. Or won’t there be? 😆

      Comment by ctzen — November 30, 2010 @ 1:14 PM | Reply

    • Hey, Sam!

      Here’s for you to imagine! 😉

      Comment by ctzen — November 30, 2010 @ 2:09 PM | Reply

      • Beautiful song

        Comment by sam — December 1, 2010 @ 11:51 AM | Reply

  6. China is such an enormous country. It’s big, it’s old and right now it has a lot of junk US dollars.

    The Malaysian version is “bomohism”, as some would call it. Like the Feng Shui, but less sophisticated, bomohism is ruling civil society in Sarawak and has served it’s purpose well, as far as the money goes and as far as the gullible groups of Malays, Dayaks and Chinese hold on to this “faith” or “religion”.

    It beats me why this jerk, Taib, has the guts to tell everyone that he had gone to Mecca talking to his God and now has got an “inspiration” when to hold an election! It suggests that amongst the millions of Muslims who are very poor worldwide, his deity has got time to tell him when to curi some more? What faithlessness and rubbish?

    But, the catch is obvious! Taib’s religious pilgrimage, NOT WHAT HIS RELIGION IS ONLY ALL ABOUT, is a sham and a scam! For all you know he just needed an excuse to see his truant politician son, widely believed to be afflicted with Aids, and to give him some more money!

    Bomoh, Feng Shui are rubbish. But we should respect what people do with their hardearned money. You draw the line when people use politics and bomohism, fenshui to cheat. There could be some good strains of bomohism and feng shui, as in herbalism, that don’t involve being used to cheat people just as politics is being abused to do same!

    Maybe, there is so much lacking in our souls, after years of political suppression and abuse of human rights, the utter deprivation, that Sarawakian voters have been torn into shreds of desperation. Maybe we’ll still get them and help them sew back those shreds and help in some way, to regain some of their needless loss.

    Comment by Wayang Street — November 30, 2010 @ 11:20 AM | Reply

  7. Unfortunately 5,000 years of civilization has been wrong. Fengshui is only the art of making money out of gullible and superstitious Chinese.

    Comment by Steve Maeda — November 30, 2010 @ 9:59 AM | Reply

    • Maybe not all of Chinese civilization is wrong. What is possibly right is still buried and for 5,000 years now! 😉

      In any case, the original Chinese Federal Reserve Version 1.0 has come back to haunt them in Version 7.0 ! 😆

      And us, too! 🙄

      Comment by Wayang Street — November 30, 2010 @ 1:59 PM | Reply

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