Archive for August, 2005

Strictly ornamental

Of late, since the launching of my 8TV – Discover Feng Shui program, I have been getting a number of questions from clients and students about, of all things, the Flower Horn Fish. All of them seem to have only one question on their mind – is this the ULTIMATE ‘Feng Shui fish’ for Period 8? A magical fish endowed with extremely powerful Feng Shui powers?

According to a breeder friend of mine, the Flower Horn fish, also known as Hua Luo Han, is a product of cross breeding of cichlids which results in the protruding lump on the forehead. It’s an aggressive fish with bright colours and some patterns which seem to resemble numbers or Chinese characters on its body. I don’t know how or where this got started but nearly every aquarium and pet store is now on the bandwagon – the Feng Shui Fish for your Feng Shui-ed home.

Even some usually practical students have begun to draw their own conclusions and new theories as to WHY this is a Feng Shui Fish. Just that day, one student explained the hypothesis to me.

He said that the Flower Horn was a Period 8 Feng Shui fish because Period 8 is represented by the Gua Gen or the ‘Mountain Image’ (based on the i-Ching Hexagram) and the Flower Horn supposedly has a lump on its head that looks like a mountain! ( I am afraid to ask what we Feng Shui practitioners are now supposed to make of cows, goats and other farm animals that also have prominent looking ‘mountains’ on their heads – will they join the list of Period 8 mascots?)

In Period 7, the Arowana was the Feng Shui fish for the period as it looked like a ‘Shining Blade’ and Period 7 was governed by the Dui Gua (of the i-Ching) which is the element of Metal, explained my enthusiastic student.

He appeared to have derived his theory from the Flying Star Feng Shui Gua attributes. My student happily acknowledged this.

“Yeah, I sort of figured it out one day when I was studying the Flying Star numbers – they seem to relate to the trigrams (Gua) a lot. So, I figured the elements and symbols of the Gua played an important role and it suddenly dawned on me that this is why the fishes (Arowana and Flower Horn) are so popular”.

I probed into this hypothesis a bit more, “Which ancient classics did you derive this theory from?”. He was quiet for a while and then he said he didn’t know if there were any classics relating to Flying Star Feng Shui and fish.

So, then I asked him, “You say the Arowana is a Period 7 fish, so obviously it’s not going to be much help in Period 8. Will you be flushing the poor thing down the drain now that it has supposedly outlived its usefulness?”. (Arowanas are also very expensive fish and can fetch a princely sum for larger very special varieties.)

Let’s set the record straight. There is NO such thing as a Feng Shui fish. If it swims like a fish, has fins like a fish and can breathe in water like a fish – it’s a fish.

A fish is definitely an attractive feature in the aquarium but I must point out that any reference it may have to wealth is only SYMBOLIC and has no Feng Shui value to it.

Feng Shui, contrary to popular belief, is really not just about symbols. It is about real Qi in our environment. A Flower Horn fish is not going to be emanating any Qi from its body. Furthermore, how can a fish, grown by aquatic breeders, make you money?! If so, how about the Siakap or PaTing fishes you eat in restaurants? They’re fishes too, don’t they emit some Feng Shui Qi then? Unless you’re an active competitor in Fish contests and win because of your beautiful Flower Horn fish, there is no way it’s going to be bringing you abundant wealth.

Whatever symbols you may be able to see on the fish’s body are merely its own marking and do not indicate any special Feng Shui powers.

“But the rich guys SWEAR by it”, my student insisted. “If they’re already rich, they can afford to spend the $10,000 for the fish and not feel it. Rather than adding to their wealth, it more likely massages their egos,” I explained to my student.

All this about the Flower Horn fish being the ultimate Feng Shui fish comes from a wholly incorrect notion that ‘water’ brings wealth or another popular notion that fish bring money luck. For Feng Shui to ever be recognized as a true science, we need to clearly separate the study of Feng Shui from superstitious cultural beliefs. Though it’s really nothing wrong to believed in ‘Flower Horns’, it’s not correct to call this ‘belief’ Feng Shui. In the actual practice of Feng Shui, there’s no need for any ‘beliefs’ as there are no references to symbols nor superstition.

I asked the student to do more research by reading up on some ancient classical literatures on Feng Shui. Needless to say, he thought that these books were only handed down by masters a day before they die! Again, I told him, that this is absolutely untrue. In this day and age, all the ancient literatures are easily available in Chinese bookstores. And you’d be surprise to find that NONE of these ancient books, talk about the use of Symbols or fishes as ‘Feng Shui’ enhancers.

Then why so much talk on Fishes and Water whenever the word Feng Shui pops up? Water helps activate the Qi in that particular area of the house and this helps you perform better and more readily take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. The fish is there to keep the water active and moving. (Because in the old days there are no ‘pump’ in the house and to avoid the breeding of mosquitoes, fishes are need). On its own, it does nothing to make you money! Keep in mind that it is the location of the aquarium that helps promote Qi in the house. If your aquarium is placed in the correct area of your home, then any fish will suffice.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should not be collecting Flower Horns. They are attractive fishes that fetch a high price and people are naturally inclined to keep them. By all means if you love to rare fishes, it’s really an excellent hobby. But in no way should a Flower Horn be regarded as a Feng Shui fish or having Feng Shui powers.

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Are you a Goat ?

r-u-a-goat.jpgOnce a month, I make it a point to catch up with some close friends who I don’t often get to meet due to my hectic travel and teaching schedule. We usually have dim-sum or meet to ‘yum-cha’(which is the Chinese version of sitting at a café and chatting away).

On this occasion, my friend brought along three of his lady friends. I had never met them before but they had heard that I was into Chinese Astrology and they were hoping I would be able to peer into their future for them.

Anyone who’s an Astrologer or does it for a living will have experienced this at some point or other. An acquaintance or friend will come along and expect some tips on their life over tea or dinner. And if you’re not as willing to vouch information or give them a generous dose of ‘you’ll-be-the-next-Bill-Gates’, you are labeled selfish and money-minded.

It’s not that I don’t want to give them some advice or tips on how to improve their lives but it could very well end up to be the most expensive tip they ever receive. By this, I mean that looking at one small aspect of their lives without considering the ‘big picture’ and then acting upon it could very well lead to a lot of disappointment. This is why you see many Astrologers refrain from handing out free tips on a person’s life.

Anyway, Girl A looks at me and proudly proclaims that she’s a Dragon. Girl B says, I’m born in the year of the Snake and Girl C says she’s a Horse.

In Spice Girls fashion all of asked me in unison to, “Tell me about me!”.

And then they all looked at me expectantly (I could swear they didn’t even blink while waiting for an answer), almost expecting me to give them each a reading on how they would marry good, rich husbands and spend the rest of their lives lounging at some country club.

I slowly explain to them that without a clear date and time of birth, any predictions I made might as well be a joke.

“Errrr….so, you’re not much of an Astrologer are you?”, Girl C enquired teasingly.

Girl A decided to read her own horoscope, “I mean, if the books can do it, why can’t you? I’m a Dragon you know. This year is bound to be good for me!”. She was beaming and it was with a heavy heart (well…almost heavy) that I decided to tell them the truth.

So, I asked them, “How many people were born in the same year as you? One million? Two million? Ten million?”.

“Is it possible all of them will behave the same way as you? Even your classmates, born in the same year as you could not have all been similar to each other”.

They nodded with a puzzled look on their face.

It’s not uncommon for people to look up their animal signs and read all about the nice traits that they are supposedly endowed with, having been born under that particular animal sign.

For example, one site I visited said that people born in the year of the Dog ‘act from a deep sense of loyalty and honesty, and inspire confidence because they can keep secrets’. I am inclined to disagree with this general notion. All people can have a sense of loyalty and honesty, not only those born in the year of the Dog. What if someone is now born in the year of the Pig? Do we expect them to be well rounded, greedy and oink once in a while?

The problem today is that people see Chinese Astrology as just another section right next to the Sunday Comics. The information there is based on nothing more than these so-called personality traits that authors make up on their own. Chinese Animal personality traits describing the dog as loyal and the rat as a hoarder are not serious Chinese Astrology. These things are written based on the perception of what the REAL animal may behave like ‘if they were in human form’. Naturally, people can’t be expected to behave like this! Have you seen a person oink or breathe fire (well maybe some Dragon-ladies but that’s another story).

Walk into any bookstore these days and you’ll see rows upon rows of books on Chinese Animal Astrology. 98% of them written solely on the personality traits of the twelve zodiac animal signs.

I am hoping that this article will give you an insight into what Chinese Astrology really is all about and spark an interest within yourselves to find our more.

In the olden days, not many people had the benefit of a formal education. The animal signs we keep referring to, are used as a metaphor in helping people remember the 12 Earthly Branches (Shi Er Di Zhi) used in Chinese Astrology and Feng Shui.

These 12 Characters, Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You, Xu and Hai, carry with them many intricate meanings of Qi where the aspects of time and elements are concerned.

In Chinese Metaphysical studies, they consistently used and references in analysis and calculations. As it was difficult for ordinary folk to remember them, the scholars of old assigned each character an animal symbology that gave it a visual representation.

So, when an ancient astrologer said “The Ox will encounter bad luck’, they meant that those born with the Chou Earth Branch in their Birth Chart would encounter difficulties because the Qi of the year is not beneficial to them.

Over time, this Animal symbology took a life of its own. People began to attach animalistic traits to those born under a certain animal sign. Very soon, Astrology became inapplicable as the true knowledge of it became muddled in the irrelevant information found in the Sunday newspapers.

I speak very passionately about Chinese Astrology because it is a part of my life’s work. It is a sophisticated study. There are two forms of Chinese Astrology that is widely used today. One being “BaZi” (Eight Characters or Four Pillars of Destiny) and the other “Zi Wei Dou Shu” (Purple Star Astrology). Both these systems take into account the year, month, day and time of birth – every individual will have a different chart.

I cannot stress this enough….the Animal Signs are ONLY used as a reference to the 12 Earthly Branches. It is possible to assess Qi influence and yearly influences based on a person’s animal branch but it is not possible to do so with a great level of accuracy. Neither is it possible to ascertain characteristics or personality traits based on the Animal sign alone.

So, the next time you pick up a magazine and it says people born under the year of the Goat or Ox are destined to eat grass and work hard, you’ll know better.

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Classical or New Age

The main goal of this weekly column on classical feng shui is simply to educated and inform.

The main purpose is to help you understand the difference between New Age and Classical feng shui.

Many people weren’t aware of the difference between these two methods of feng shui that are advocated today until they started reading this column.

Many times when the word “feng shui” is mentioned, the people will quickly assume it’s about fixing problems in a house by placing an object or item in a specific corner.

Well, if this is your impression of feng shui, then chances are you are practicing “New Age” feng shui.

Classical feng shui does not advocate the use of symbols or objects.

This type of feng shui taps into the environmental energy (qi) by using mainly four important factors – environmental features, building (direction and location), residents (birth data) and time.

All that is needed for a good feng shui is for the residents to tap the qi. No need to enhance or remedy anything.

Classical feng shui methods include San Yuan, Xuan Kong Da Gua, Ba Zhai and San He which are all traceable to ancient classical literature.

These works are available from libraries and Chinese bookstores and they document the actual form of feng shui as practices since the Tang Dynasty until the present day.

These works are available from libraries and Chinese bookstores and they document the actual form of feng shui as practiced since Tang Dynasty until the present day.

And, believe it or not, none of these words make any references to the use of symbols of objects in the house.

Hence, the term for feng shui that involves placement of objects and symbols is “New Age” feng shui simply because it’s really something very new.


After the introduction of this column, a number of readers have asked me how we can harness Qi and, more importantly, how they can apply it correctly in their own homes and offices.

And of course, as usual, they wanted something very easy to learn and be used immediately.

How many people would like a simple solution that will bring about an immense change in the feng shui of their property?


Me too. Honestly. I would really love it if feng shui were a weekend do-it-yourself project that required nothing more that a couple of screws, a hammer and an electric drill.

And possibly a simple diagram of what goes where.

However, the truth of the matter is that feng shui, like any science, requires a great deal of study and is not a weekend subject.

The various systems of classical feng shui – San Yuan, San He, Xuan Kong, Ba Zhai, etc are already an indication of how vast and rich the knowledge contained in feng shui is.

But readers are always interested in something they can implement “right now” and get quick answers and quick fixes to problems that they are facing.

It’s sad that people are willing to trade quality for a quick fix that may not even work effectively.

Although there is no such things as a quick fix, the easiest method I can prescribe for you would be the simple Ba Zhai (eight mansions) feng shui technique.

There are many parts to this system – House Gua, Life Gua,m Na Jia and Eight Mansions Water Method – to name a few.

Several distinct ancient classics relate to this particular system of feng shi and most of them are pretty sophisticated.

The simplest method available to us is the Life Gua method.

Your initial starting point for this methodology will be your date of birth.

Based on this, we will then ascertain your Life Gua or your Ming Gua.

Each Gua is unique and will indicate your favourable and unfavourable compass directions and locations.

A common mistake among beginners who attempt this method is using the Chinese lunar calendar rather than using the Chinese solar calendar, which is used for feng shui calculations.

The solar calendar is based on the 24 qi seasons and each year starts on the Western calendar’s Feb 4 (with a variance of one day on either side).

Feb 4 of the Western Gregorian calendar synchronizes with the first day of the Chinese solar calendar.

A primary difference between the Chinese solar and lunar calendars is that the former is based on the position of the Sun while the latter is based on the moon and as such contains an additional month every few years.

If you were born before Feb 4 of any year, use the previous year as your point of reference when calculating your Life Gua.

Once you have established your year of birth, refer to the following table for a step-by-step guide to calculating your Life Gua.

Notice that the males and females have different methods to calculate their Life Gua.

Calculate your Ming Gua using the directions shown in the graphic.

These numbers are categorized into two groups. The East and the West Group.

Some clients have asked me why are there no North and South groups. Well, these are just names to demarcate and Greater and Lesser Yin transformation of the Tai Ji.

They do not literally represent directions. East Group is the Yang group while the West Group is the Yin.

East Group Gua include 1, 3, 4 and 9. Those who are Gua 2, 6, 7, and 8 are West Group Gua.

The graphics (on “Compass Directions”) following table will give you a quick reference of the Auspicious and Inauspicious compass directions of the East and West Group.

Each direction is governed by a star. In the Chinese texts, these are called the “Wandering Stars”.

Sheng Qi (life generating), Tian Yi (heavenly doctor), Yan Nian (longevity) and Fu Wei (Stability) are suspicious stars.

(An interesting point to note here is that in some references, Yan Nian, meaning verbatim “Prolonging Years”.

If you are serious about feng shui, the terminology is very important and you need to ensure that you are correct.)
The Inauspicious Stars are Ho Hai (mishaps), Wu Gui (Five Ghosts), Liu Sha (six killings) and Jue Ming (life diminishing).

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Qi-ing our lives

We can improve feng shui potential within our homes. To tap into the power of qi, all that is needed is a clear understanding of how things work.

Understanding environmental influences of location versus that of direction is one question that often plagues beginners and enthusiasts.

All that is required is a clear understanding of how it works.

Master Lee, a famous master in Hong Kong, once made an interesting comment to me.

“Never underestimate the power of location,” he said.


If you take a closer look at the events that have come to pass in your life, the events you have come across and the opportunities life has presented you, these next few items will definitely have played a crucial role in all of them:

• The water and mountain positions you have in the vicinity of your home.
• The location and direction of your main door.
• The location in your bedroom and
• The location of your kitchen.

Indeed, the influence of “location” – be it in a city, a suburb, a township, within your house, the rooms – is a powerful factor that shapes our lives.

Students just beginning to see how potent feng shui can be will immediately look to changing the internal feng shui of their homes.

The way they shit, the direction of their bed and the décor of the house in general, are scrutinized from top to bottom to ensure “perfection”.


Aren’t we missing something here, you ask? Something we have overlooked, the big picture? Have we taken a bird’s eye view of the external picture?

First check and fix the main flaws in the external picture. Where is the building located? What are the mountain ranges and main roads that govern the main qi of the area?

Our property should ideally be tapping into the beneficial resources of the surrounding land. At the same time, we can tailor the internal qi to fit our lives.

Similarly, in your house or office, facing a good direction may be helpful but bring in the right location and facing a good direction spurs on the positive effects.

Of course, being in a disadvantaged location in the house may very well negate the good effects of facing your good direction. Which is why I constantly stress the importance of positioning your main door – the mouth of qi – in the right location in addition to it facing the correct direction.

You want it to receive the best possible quality of qi in your house and facing a favorable direction amplifies this effect.

You may often hear that décor or color is the thing to look out for if you want to enhance your feng shui. Not true.

Keep in mind the most crucial factors will always be location and direction. The color of walls and curtains will not influence the qi within your home.

If you have studied feng shui, you may have heard the term luan tou also known as ‘landscape’ feng shui. This is the area in which you live, the rivers and the surroundings.

Environmental factors are powerful. They can nudge us just a little bit and then a little bit more until we take a good look around and realize that we have gone completely off course. And often, this can be detrimental of the feng shui goals that we have set out for ourselves.

Here are three questions you want to ask yourself to assess your current feng shui conditions.

1. Where is my house located? Within the housing estate or suburb, am I in the northern sector or eastern sector?

Also make a mental note of the various mountain and water locations within your vicinity that you most often see.

2. Are these environmental features good or are they having a negative impact on my home?
3. What are their influences? Is the mountain in the right location in relation to my property? Is the water position correct? Is the road in and out of my property correct?

All I’m suggesting here in that you take a close and objective look. Everything is worth a second look, especially location features within the living environment surrounding your home or office.

Some might even dismiss this notion, especially if you have lives all your life in the same place. But these environmental features do matter and they do have a pronounced effect on your life. Ignorance in this case may become a setback in your endeavors to seek the beneficial effects of good feng shui.

Assess the environment and see if the scales may be tipped towards the positive or negative and then manage it from there.

It may often be natural and easier to get carried away with interior feng shui concerns when, if you just stopped and looked at things, the problem may very well be on the outside of your immediate living environment.

Take a moment and observe your environment and take note of incoming roads, mountains, mountain ranges, and tall buildings, negative and environmental features. These lay the foundation for good feng shui in your property.

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Copyright © 2008 by Joey Yap. All rights reserved worldwide.