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.