I was shopping on Overstock.com when I came across two surprising pages. The online retailer now offers a “Feng Shui Buying Guide”1 and a “Feng Shui Checklist”2 to ensure that your home décor purchases adhere to the principles of feng shui. Buddha forbid that you might buy a vase that blocks qi, or has too much yin energy! Overstock offers this advice to “make your home feel more balanced”, and to that end, they also sell a range of feng shui-friendly vases, office chairs, statues, decorative screens, lamps and other furnishings.
“Feng Shui” (pronounced “fung shway”) translates to “wind water”. This ancient Chinese practice is concerned with creating positive qi and keeping the balance of yin and yang in the home, workplace and other social environments. Specifically, it is the belief that the use of certain numbers, colors, and styles of architecture, landscaping and decoration can attract good fortune, and repel misfortune. In essence, it’s paranormal interior design.
Some feng shui “rules” make sense from a safety and hygiene perspective, such as to avoid clutter, keep the home clean, and keep frames clear of cobwebs. Other tips are purely aesthetic, such as display vases and statues to add beauty to the home. However, most feng shui is simply superstition. For example, the tenets state that you shouldn’t sit with your back to an entrance, while the strategic placement of wind chimes, coins, mirrors and statues of lions, frogs, fish, ducks, dogs and dragons will attract health, wealth and happiness. There’s even feng shui for the body; wearing red underpants to your interview is bound to get you that job!
Feng shui can be applied to every room in the house; even the restroom. Feng Shui Doctrine states, “Depending on where the toilet is located, it can impact your health, your wealth, your standing in the community -- even your romance.” They provide a list of suggestions for “Toilet Feng Shui”. For example, it is recommended that you “tie a red ribbon or use red tape around outgoing pipes. This will help keep the energy from flowing out.” 3
There are hundreds of books available on the topic, and hundreds of feng shui consultants who will help you buy a home, and then help you furnish it feng shui-style. Many of you have seen the episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! (Season 1, Episode 7) where three feng shui experts are invited to apply their “science” to a home. However, all three provide different and opposing layouts and suggestions, meanwhile pushing their own products. This episode also introduced us to feng shui haircuts. For some, a bad hair day is really a bad qi day that can be remedied for triple the price of a regular haircut.
Feng Shui is big business for businesses too. For a large fee, consultants are called in to help feng shui-ify restaurants, hotels, casinos, banks, and even zoos. At the Hacienda Heights McDonald’s in California, the golden arches are still golden, but the rest of the décor is decked out in earth tones, with leather seats instead of the usual plastic furniture, and added bamboo plants and water elements. Although this has a mystical guise, this kind of modern feng shui really only appeals to consumer psychology.
Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Richard Branson have all reputedly had great “success” with feng shui; presumably when used to attract believing clients and customers. However, feng shui consultancy couldn’t save the telecommunications company One. Tel from liquidation. The business, backed by heirs James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch, spent thousands of dollars adding fish, crystals and dragons to its offices, to no avail. Motorola decided to apply feng shui to the product instead of the office, offering the Feng Shui Phone4 that is able to “evaluate environment according to Feng Shui principles.” The phone determines the “order and balance” of surroundings, and provides distance from undesirable sites such as major airports, landfills and factories.
According to feng shui philosophy, people should not live near slaughter houses, hospitals, prisons, and cemeteries. These places have too much “yin energy”, and as living beings, we are “yang”. But when you have to be in the cemetery for the rest of your death, the cemetery itself should have good feng shui. Feng shui cemeteries are popping up across the United States, including sites in Houston and the Bay Area. Rose Hills Memorial Parks in California offer “positive feng shui”5 and provide the services of a feng shui master to determine how and when the deceased should be buried. Some clients put a high value on the afterlife and are eager to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a plot near a pagoda. Some are even willing to immigrate posthumously for eternal feng shui.
Rose Hills Memorial Park has excellent feng shui, making it the first choice for families who wish to bring the cremated remains of their ancestors from another country for reburial.
They also have very good reviews on Yelp. And so, the internet continues to have a strange effect on paranormal and pseudoscience.
1. Feng Shui Buying Guide. Overstock.
2. Feng Shui Checklist. Overstock.
3. Toilet Feng Shui.
4. Motorola’s Feng Shui Phone. Unwired View.com
5. Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuaries.
Dr. Karen Stollznow is a linguist, author, skeptical paranormal investigator and a research fellow for the James Randi Foundation. You can follow Karen on Twitter here.