It might have been the seven gold and two black fish.
When the owners of Las Americas Jewelry put the nine fish in their small Chinatown store, as recommended by their feng shui master, business jumped 12% by the end of last year.
The personal lives of their employees are looking up, the owner has new business deals and the prescription marble floors generate great traffic flow.
“Not only that, there’s a harmony in the store, there’s no internal feuding--and we’re having two girls getting married this year!” manager Anna Fung said.
Just about anyone in New York’s Chinatown will tell you what they’ve known for years: The ancient practice of creating positive energy flow through a home or place of business brings good luck and fortune.
But today, feng shui--the Chinese characters for wind and water, pronounced FUNG-shway--is making its way uptown. Way uptown. As in Donald Trump uptown.
The architects, designers and real estate moguls in Manhattan’s skyscrapers are discovering feng shui, due in part to the enormous influence of Asian financiers.
“He who has the dollars will make the decisions on how buildings are oriented and designed,” said Abe Wallach, vice president for the Trump Organization.
And those who have the dollars for Donald Trump’s billion-dollar Riverside South project are from Hong Kong, where the use of feng shui is rampant.
“If the capital sources are coming from this part of the world, those capital dollars come with certain perspectives that need to be recognized,” Wallach said in a telephone interview from Hong Kong.
Long before mainstream Manhattan discovered the practice, the ancient Chinese believed there were shaman who could interpret signs from the elements on where to build a house or cemetery to best harmonize with nature.
Feng shui masters have been revered in the Far East for centuries as priests and doctors able to read the heavens and take the pulse of the Earth.
Tin Sun, one of the most respected feng shui masters in New York, trained at a temple for nine years in Canton, southern China. Today, he has a radio show and writes columns on feng shui for Chinese-language publications.
“The universe is very mysterious. There’s so much energy to pick up, but most people don’t know how,” said the 66-year-old master.
It was Tin who advised the owner of Las Americas on everything from lighting, wall colors and the aquarium with nine fish, an auspicious number in Chinese culture.
“The two black fish always die because they absorb the negative energy,” said his daughter, Pun Yin. “I always tell people not to buy expensive fish.”
Much of what Tin does sounds like common-sense renovation. Although that’s true, he said, most people don’t know how to apply it properly.
So he guides them, using a Chinese compass called a luopan, the Chinese Almanac and a lunar calendar to combine metaphysics and intuition.
Working with Pun Yin, also a master, they enter a home and determine the most auspicious positioning for desks, beds, the dining-room table, the kitchen stove and mirrors, which should never be placed in front of or over the bed.
“Everyone has a soul,” Tin said. “Some people believe when the spirit travels, trying to go back to the body, it can bounce off the mirrors. Some people wake up with bruises.”
Clodagh, one of New York’s leading designers, worked with another feng shui master on her interior design at Felissimo, a cozy New Age department store just off Fifth Avenue.
“She helped us locate the best position to generate money,” said Clodagh, who uses only one name. “The Chinese are very pragmatic about money. Clean running water denotes money. So when you walk through Felissimo, you’ll see that there’s a lot of water going on.”
Clodagh worked on Felissimo and other projects with Sarah Rossbach, the author of three books on feng shui who studied for 10 years to become a master.
When she steps into a room, Rossbach said, “I’m seeing how the structure or the layout of the home and the office and the external elements are affecting that person.”
For example, Rossbach told one client designing a penthouse apartment that there was a bad feeling as you entered.
“When you walked in, she wanted to have an angle pointed at you, almost like this threatening knife, and I thought that was very hostile,” Rossbach said. So they softened the angle with light and plants.
Some masters charge by the square foot. Rossbach charges, depending on the type of job, $250 an hour or $750 for a half-day.
Steve Robinson, a Santa Fe, N.M., architect who follows pueblo Indian architecture in much of his designs, became interested in feng shui when he realized its similarities to the ancient belief of the southwestern American Indians, who built their pueblos to harmonize with the Earth’s energy.
They, too, had a term for it: “po-waha,” which roughly means that wind, water and breath is the essence of life, Robinson said.
Working on the design for a new art gallery, he sent the blueprints to Rossbach, who recommended several changes.
One focused on a western wing of the gallery, where visitors would enter on an axis toward a fireplace. “She felt there ought to be something suspended from the ceiling . . . something to catch the energy before it gets to the fireplace,” he said.
Feng shui is becoming so popular in the design field that Robinson said he fears it will lose its traditional roots.
“It’s on the verge, I’m afraid, of it becoming somewhat of a buzzword,” he said. “We’ll have to survive that. It’s far more powerful than that.”
Feng Shui Tips for Home and Office
Some basic principles of feng shui, according to several masters:
In the Home
* The bed should be cater-corner to the door so you can see anyone entering the bedroom. Don’t place mirrors in front of the bed, as they absorb negative “qi,” or life force, that can enter you while you sleep.
* Avoid placing the bed directly under a beam. A beam over your feet will hinder travel; a beam over the middle of a bed can disturb a couple’s love.
* During pregnancy, don’t dust under beds. Some Chinese believe the universe is full of “ling,” or spirits. The ling try to enter the womb during pregnancy to give the fetus its life force. Dusting can scatter the ling and cause the woman to miscarry.
* In ancient China, food represented wealth, so stoves are symbolic of fortune. Cooks should not have their backs to the kitchen door or domestic harmony will suffer.
In the Office
* The presence of water draws in money. Companies next to rivers or lakes can hang mirrors to reflect the water’s qi into their environment.
* Desks should sit cater-corner to the door with the occupant facing the door so they maintain control of their space.
* Homes should never be built next to cemeteries and bridges, which can reflect negative forces.
* Homes should not face oncoming traffic, which is like a knife to the heart. Offices should not face glass buildings, which absorb the negative energy of their surroundings and reflect back on the company.
* White is the most dreaded color because it symbolizes mourning and death, just as black does in the West. White rooms should always be dotted with red or green to break the color’s negative force.
* Red is the most auspicious color, denoting happiness, fire and power.
* Green symbolizes tranquillity, growth and good health.
Source: Associated Press