by Vuong Ha & Trung Hieu
Even in modern times, many people continue to follow traditional feng shui practices. When building houses, they make sure the doors and windows face the correct direction. If something bad happens to their busineses, they study feng shui books to change the layout of their own houses.
Before building a house and choosing a place to locate the altar, many also consult feng shui books. Hoang Thai, who lives in Thanh Xuan District, Ha Noi, saved money for years and even took out loans so he could buy a small lot of land.
"I hoped to build my own house to get out of the apartment I shared with my two brothers and their families. But the land I bought was smaller than the other. And that land also had disadvantages that had to be carefully considered to avoid bad luck."
First, he bought a variety of feng shui books that offered advice on topics such as the direction of the main door and the way the rooms should be laid out.
"I read about a dozen books, but I felt lost, because each book offers a different solution for the same problem. I did not know which book contained the right advice."
In terms of the lot's shape, one book said his curved lot indicated good fortune.
Another book advised that because the lot's rear was smaller than its front, its owner should plant ornamental trees.
According to Eastern philosophy, Thai's element is "Water", so the house should face southeast.
He thought this meant his main door should face southeast.
But in another book, he read that the back of the house should face southeast.
"I did not know which was correct," he says.
Thai also wanted to know in which direction the altar for his ancestors should face. All his books said the altar should face northwest.
But he couldn't understand which way this was, because one book said the altar should face northwest while another book confirmed the person who stands to burn incense should face northwest.
"Confused, I sought out the ‘feng shui masters' to ask for their advice, but each has his own explaination."
After three months, he still did not know which way his house should face.
Finally, he decided the entrance door should face the street and did not obey any "masters" at all.
Nguyen Thi Lien, another Ha Noi resident, had a similar situation. A feng shui master told her that her element is "Earth" and belongs to the west, so her house's main door should face west. That would bring her family good luck, he said.
To follow his instructions, she had to build the main door in such a way that it opened into a small alley where two motorcycles could hardly avoid each other, even though there was a 3m wide alley on the other side of the lot.
There are houses that feng shui considers "bad" such as a house with a road leading up to its main entrance, or a house that the corner of the next house points directly at. The house is like a "patient" in the eyes of feng shui masters who consider themselves doctors, outlining a treatment regimen.
Many people are so fussy that even after buying a house they are ready to destroy all the rooms and rebuild them according to feng shui, even though this requires huge sums of money.
Increasing demand for "feng shui masters" means that these "masters" now appear like mushrooms after rain.
Nguyen Cung Ha, deputy head of the Psychological Department of Human Potential Research Centre, says: "In the past some provinces have had a famous master, but today, every village has a "master", and every street has people who advise on feng shui for a living. Many even start doing this after working in unrelated professions."
According to Ha, many "masters" simply offer general advice, rather than thinking about the customer's specific case.
"This is similar to when someone writes a horoscope. A computer can also make a horoscope, but not everyone can read and understand it, or interpret it for a specific person."
Therefore, many of the people who paid for the advice of these "masters" found themselves changing the structure and architecture of pre-existing houses.
Many researchers and construction professionals recognise the application of feng shui as a science.
But in Viet Nam, no one has been officially recognised as a feng shui master, and there's no official feng shui society. There are many websites about feng shui, but most have no clear sources.
Still, many identify themselves as feng shui experts, and some are even honoured as "masters".
Tran Thanh Hai, a home decoration expert, says that feng shui professionals should stop at helping people decorate their houses to be beautiful and convenient to use, with integrated natural light and air flow.
"In that case, the owner will feel comfortable and healthy at home. Everyone should go to professional interior design companies where they can receive a beautiful design that can also ensure feng shui based on science." — VNS