by Trung Hieu
When designing the layout of a new house and how the furniture is arranged, people these days are looking to the principles of feng shui with the hope of finding peace and wealth. But many people are putting too much faith in this Oriental geomantic art, and this not only wastes money but also causes arguments.
After a month abroad on business, Phan Anh returned home to what looked like another man's house.
All the rooms in his home had been painted pink, with four large yellow vases in the four corners of each room.
The kitchen had been moved to the second floor beside the bedroom, and the bedroom window had been covered with a large board to prevent light coming in. His bed had disappeared, and instead, Anh found a colourful mat.
Anh was still reeling from the shock, when his wife, My Van, came in and proclaimed: "I've met a feng-shui master." She went on to explain that because of the astrological sign she had been born under "Fire" the master had instructed her to make some changes to the house. The wooden bed was incompatible with her sign and the pink walls would bring business success and prosperity. "He also said the kitchen should be moved upstairs so my ‘Fire' can burn brighter!" she added.
She continued chatting away animatedly until Anh couldn't take any more and told her to shut up. A quarrel ensued and Anh criticised his wife for not consulting him before deciding to remodel their home.
The couple were so angry with each other that they didn't eat or sleep together for a month.
People who believe in feng shui often have to make structural and architectural alterations to their homes, especially if they weren't the designers.
Minh Lien, a stock broker, had difficulties on the stock and real estate markets last year, a common problem among many brokers given the economic climate. She decided to invite a feng shui master to her house in the hope it would change her fortunes.
As an ancient Vietnamese saying goes, Co kieng co lanh (Good luck goes to those who try to avoid bad omens), and many people take this very seriously.
My friend Kim Dung changed his mobile phone number many times because he believed the next one would be more in tune with his star sign, even though the old SIM had hundreds of contacts on it.
Many others buy a variety of bizarre items that they believe will bring them good fortune, such as three-legged toads, ty huu (a legendary animal), lions, eagles, horses, carp, stones and colourful balls, while others choose statues of ancient generals. These items are readily available today in large cities like Ha Noi, and some can cost up to millions of dong.
Many of these lucky charms are positioned in strange parts of the house, but when asked why, the owners simply reply: "It's feng shui."
Today, feng shui is becoming a popular trend or fashion in many urban Vietnamese families. Even youngsters insist on having their televisions facing into the spiritual wind of feng shui.
Many people love the art so much they are quick to purchase the newest items rumoured to bring good luck. Some spend hundreds of millions of dong to build rock gardens, or huge statues of horses, but then lose interest in them when they've gone out of fashion.
Rock gardens become overgrown and infested with mosquitoes, and statues become dusty.
I agree there's no reason why households should not be arranged in accordance with feng shui, but everything should have its limits.
Do Tien, an architect and feng shui expert from Dong Duong Construction Group, says that nowadays many people visit fortune tellers and feng shui experts to ask for tips for a better life and business.
"This is a perfectly natural request, but many do not understand the true science of feng shui. It is a science to be applied in houses and offices.
"Houses should be arranged to improve the living environment, and create a harmony between humans and Nature, not for the advancement of social position, perquisites or wealth.
"We can't apply feng shui principles to life arbitrarily. Our lifestyles dictate our fates and futures," he says.
Le Hung, an architect and interior designer, says feng shui should only be used to make a house comfortable and practical.
"Furniture should be arranged in a way that is convenient for the people who live there, and light and air should circulate well. With these conditions, the home owners will feel comfortable and healthy.
"People should find professional designers who can incorporate the art of feng shui with a beautiful home," he adds.
Some people may think feng shui has some form of mysterious powers, and as they become more encapsulated by this mystique, they fall prey to rogue fortune tellers, happy to take advantage of their over superstition.
There's nothing wrong with arranging houses following the principles of feng shui, and if furniture and household items are kept in order, then family members will remain safe and healthy.
Colours should be in tune with the surroundings, furniture should be tidy and the house should have some green ornamental trees. Of course, if you are not proficient, you should ask for advice from people who have experience in this field. — VNS