Unlike in the West, where it is all the rage, and the East, where it originated, in Lebanon Feng Shui (pronounced ‘fung shway’), is still clouded by skepticism and ignorance. In a country where buildings spring up without any coherent urban plan, it may be asking too much for people to consider repositioning their front door to face southeast in the belief that its new position will bring health, happpiness and prosperity.
However, there are pockets of devotees and it may just be that the the benefits of this ancient art, in which harmonious living is enhanced by balancing the elements within our living environment, will filter down into Lebanon’s often conservative mentality. Take the Aboulhosn family, who “Feng Shui’d” their apartment in Beirut and their houses in Hammana, and Virginia in the US. “We used a Lebanese Feng Shui professional,” said Ayla Aboulhosn. “She did two on-sight consultations for our two homes in Lebanon and looked at the plans for our house in the US.”
In Lebanon, it costs about $1.80 per m2 to Feng Shui a residential home (it’s about $2,000 for designing Feng Shui-friendly houses, depending on the size of the property). A Feng Shui master “measures” using a Luo’pan or Geomancer’s compass. The Luo’pan is used to determine the most favorable orientation of a building and the correct arrangement of its interior contents and architectural features. It has four principal directions associated with the Four Animals: The Dragon, Tiger, Phoenix and the Turtle. They symbolize the forces of nature and each has its own mythology and characteristics and its own element. For the Aboulhosns, the expert took the names and birthdates of everyone living in the apartment and, based on these dates, calculated the measurements of everything including the positions of the front door and door frames to the oven and the head board of the beds. All need to be assessed in order to generate the maximum “chi” or positive energy. The Aboulhosns did however have a “problem” with their swimming pool, which was situated behind the house. In the world of Feng Shui, this encourages robbery and causes financial loss for its inhabitants. It is no coincidence, then, that the house has been broken into nine times in the past six years. The draining of the pool does not create good chi and mirrors money disappearing, as does the flushing of the toilet, hence the reason many devotees feel that the toilet seat and bathroom door should be shut at all times. The practice of Feng Shui, which originated about 5,000 years ago in China, is founded on the belief that the arrangement of our exterior world exerts a powerful influence on our interior equilibrium and personal happiness. The balance of hidden forces in the landscape is maintained when certain laws of object placement and design are adhered to. This is where your expert, or Feng Shui master (Hsien-Sheng), comes in to harness beneficial Chi (Sheng Chi) and to deflect destructive Chi (Shar Chi) from a given location, and to also determine the level of Yin and Yang in that place. Good Feng Shui – the pooling of Sheng Chi – results in health, wealth, success and stability, whereas bad Feng Shui – the predominance of Shar Chi – will lead to illness, unhappiness, accidents and financial loss. It’s all in the Chi, so to speak, which flows along hidden veins or ‘dragon lines’ in the earth, and is both beneficial and harmful. Over the centuries, Feng Shui has evolved into a highly complex art. It is intrinsically linked to traditional Taoist philosophy – which looked upon the Tao, the way of the universe, as the architect of essential laws – yet enriched by folklore, mystical beliefs, metaphysics, mathematics and astrology. In Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore its influence has never deteriorated and it is an extremely important part of everyday life, infiltrating both private and business worlds. Ninety percent of buildings in Hong Kong were built according to Feng Shui principles, including the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. Feng Shui has seen a marked increase in popularity in the West over the past fifteen years. Marks & Spencer, Body Shop and Virgin Megastore are only some of a few establishments that construct all their stores according to the principle of the Wind and Water. Even Hillary Clinton saw to the repositioning of the White House’s furniture with the aid of a Feng Shui master to bring a little harmony and stability in the first family’s life. But even Feng Shui couldn’t solve all Hillary’s problems.