B - International 1-99
<Just so - Feng shui consultant Peter So dances, demystifies and deflects the "killing wind.">

By Virginia A. Sheridan

Things aren't always as they appear to be in the world of feng shui consultant Peter So. Judging from the Tibetan decor of his office and his unusual name card - a photograph of the Potala Palace in Lhasa - you might assume he was a Buddhist.

Even So's below-the-shoulder-length locks contribute to the image of a holy man, lending an aura of mysticism to a first meeting as well as some confusion as to what this all has to do with the Chinese quasi-science of geomancy.

But the thirty-eight-year old Hung Kong native is quick to dispel the myths. 'I never cut my hair when I was a hairdresser. It was easier to let it grow then and it is the same now,' explains the energetic So, adding that he abandoned this first career because it was 'the same thing every day.' The name card and Buddha statues are the remnants of a time when the then part-time practitioner was also a dealer in Tibetan artifacts. 'People think I believe in that god, but it is really just fate. I couldn't sell these things, so I kept them.' He did, however, travel to Tibet once and has the photos to prove it.

The geomancer by day is a dancer by night. 'No one at the clubs knows what I do for a living,' he says, claiming his secrecy is not due to any disdain for his occupation, but rather a desire to keep it separate from his social life. Otherwise, work would consume him. 'People are always coming to me with problems. It makes me feel good to help, but I also need to give my brain a rest.'

So's candid interview style is refreshing. He does not try to market an image or aggrandize his abilities (indeed, he unabashedly asked a friend to standby as interpreter lest his English be misunderstood). Though his expertise has been sought by MTV, BBC television and sundry foreign newspapers (the clippings are displayed in his lobby-cum-classroom), his business consists mostly of regulars, built upon word-of-mouth within the local community. He claims it is easy to learn feng shui, the ancient principles guiding the placement of objects for optimum chi movement. 'It is all based on calculations. Anyone can do it with the right training,' he says, emphasizing that, other than a compass, no special tools are needed. 'Ihe materials used in feng shui are wood, metal, light - very basic things. Special power is not needed to practice feng shui,' says So, though he adds that it does take a certain skill to correct a bad situation.

Take, for example, an unusual arrangement of objectson the floor near his office window. "There's a construction site in that direction. It brings a'killing wind,'so I have to put something there to stop it," he explains. "The killing air is from the west, which is metal, so we need fire to balance it.'Thus the red lai see packet next to the window,because anything red or any light source can represent fire. Next in line comes a plant (wood), which is in a bowl of water (water), which is next to a music box (metal) and anchored by a stone globe (earth). These little guards, according to So, have kept fits business thriving despite the pile driving.

Helping people avert the bad "killing air' (or bad feng shui) is the juice of the job for So, who has been practicing his craft for fifteen years. He is particularly enthusiastic about a new method he devised to improve fertility. 'Before, all I knew was that there was a problem. Now'I can fix it, as long as there is no medical problem. I cannot help with medical problems.' The new method involves calculations of the direction of the home and bed, the date of birth of the parents and the exact placement of some stones. 'Eight means earth, one is water, two is earth, three and four is wood, five is earth,' he explains, quickly scribbling numbers and symbols on a piece of scrap paper. Ostensibly, this is to illustrate his explanation, though the markings seem like hieroglyphics to me. 'But two and five are not good, so I have to work with eight...'

Sensing my skepticism, he admits to having experienced some of his own. 'Before, I didn't believe it. I thought it was too weird. Why can one cup of water somewhere change your luck?' he asks rhetorically. 'But I followed my teacher even though I didn't believe it, and it still worked even though I didn't believe it. You find out that someone is in a sick place and they stay sick there, but if we change the feng shui, they get better.' In Singapore a few weeks before, So claims he was experiencing restlessness and bad dreams only to discover that his bed was in the worst possible place in the room. 'I moved the bed, I slept very well,' he adds.

But will the placement of things in Hong Kong - or the placement of Hong Kong itself - be affected by the impending Millenium? 'In our calculations, we don't use the year, only the Chinese Lunar year,' So explains. 'If the world is going to end, there is nothing you can put in your apartment to stop it.' Feng shui functions, apparently, in twenty-year cycles. 'After 2004 is another cycle and a better time for money,' So says. 'Now water to the cast is good -this is why the East Coast of the U.S. is strong," he adds, not explaining why the Asian countries with east coasts have fared so miserably of late. Further land reclamation in Hong Kong would eliminate the island's curves and speed up the water's feng shui - a very bad thing according to So. More scribbling, more sketching.

My eyes crossing from the dizzying parade of numbers and details, I focus on a teardrop-shaped medallion hanging on the pink blinds (the blinds and rug are of a red hue, So explained, to be compatible with his fire sign). 'That's metal because it's facing the west, right?' I ask, eager to try out the limited knowledge I have gleaned from this meeting. "That? It's a gift from a client. I put it there because it looks nice,' he says, smiling, and another myth meets its match.