Friday, April 20, 2007

Feng shui and the billionairess

One more troubling bit that popped up just now: Hong Kong billionaire Nina Wang gave her family the finger by handing her fortune to her feng shui master. The headline on the Reuters wire story posted by AOL that's up right now reads:

"Wang Leaves Estate to Fortune Teller"

A feng shui master is not a fortune teller. Of all the fanciful Asian holistic arts -- including Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture -- feng shui is perhaps the most tangible, provable and practical. It is a set of principles, primarily applied to design, that makes living and working spaces feel more comfortable, more calm, more productive, more lucky.

In Las Vegas, the MGM Mirage has a full-time feng shui master to advise on ways to make their properties most inviting to sought-after Asian high-rollers. And what's interesting about that is that what those who use feng shui principles end up with is, in fact, a more pleasing, pleasant environment for everyone. The most famous example was the entrance to the MGM Grand, which required people to walk in through the mouth of a mustard-colored lion (see left). Asians protested and they changed it, and now it is one of the nicest marquees in the city (see right).

What feng shui masters do NOT do is predict futures or advise people on what they should do. It appears that Reuters knows better, as their headline does not refer to the heir as a "fortune teller." But neither did writer John Pomfret bother to explain what feng shui is -- and is not.