A Feng Shui Primer

In 1997, when Leanna Sun was going through a divorce, she started studying feng shui (pronounced FUNG schway), the Chinese art of placement, to try to bring more happiness and success into her life.

In the ancient practice of feng shui, energy flow (chi) is influenced by the placement of doors, windows, rooms, furniture, and other elements in a home or workplace. According to the theory, that placement affects one's health, wealth, and personal relations.

In Sun's rented apartment, for instance, she activated the corner associated with wealth with symbols such as flowers, beads, bells, coins, and statues, and she eventually became a homeowner. Later, in her new home, she bolstered the corners associated with wealth and relations, and she ended up with a compatible Korean contractor who built a bedroom and bathroom addition that improved her life.

At work, Sun situated her desk in the southwest corner (the one associated with wealth), and she has progressed steadily in her career.

Decades ago, when feng shui came into the consciousness of the Western world, it was often dismissed as a hippie fad. But according to a recent article in The New York Times, feng shui has risen to become a respected technique for situating doors and offices and displays in New York commercial spaces and retail stores. The article reports on a feng shui consultant, Alex Stark, who counsels commercial building developers on how to make their future buildings more conducive to financial success. According to Stark, he did feng shui consultations on the Conde Nast Building in Times Square and he said he is developing the country's first credit-bearing course for a major architecture school (though the school was not named).

However, some commonly accepted principles of feng shui are not favored by architects. An article in the Feng Shui Times lists the feng shui principles that annoy architects most. Examples include ceiling beams in bedrooms (which are said in feng shui to cause relationship problems), high ceilings (which can make concentration and sleep difficult), and views from the front of the house to the back (which feng shui theory says will allow the energy of the house to escape and make it hard for inhabitants to save money).

For Sun, feng shui is not a theory, but a real force in her life. When she met remodeling contractor Brian Koh, she felt he had an intrinsic sense of feng shui and the flow of chi. “Chi is a very powerful thing,” Sun says. “Feng shui is an art that must be felt and followed.”