By Christina Chin
They look like young executives, wear cool designer suits and carry iPads and smart phones.
A new breed of feng shui consultants has emerged with the Net generation, slowly replacing the stereotype of old masters in Chinese costumes poring over thick, ancient almanacs and huge compasses.
Practitioners are not the only ones getting younger, however, as many who consult feng shui experts these days are hip and happening Gen Y professionals.
Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics instructor Sherwin Ng muses over how a growing percentage of the academy's clients are newlyweds, young corporate executives, new business owners and property brokers below 30 years of age.
"In one of our recent feng shui classes, we had two students who were 21 and 22. That was a pleasant surprise," says Ng, who at 29 is already a feng shui author and consultant.
"A decade ago, feng shui was based on the if I don't adhere, I will have bad luck' scare factor. Now people actually think and ask whether something makes sense or not."
Feng shui awareness has spiked because of the Internet yes, Facebook included observes Ng, whose expertise is in Bazi and Yijing. "Online feng shui courses allow people across the globe to study in the comfort of their homes. Books, especially the mini' ones, are cute, attractive and very easy to read. Gone are the days of old tomes and textbook-style feng shui books."
Ng says relationships are a hot topic for both men and women but destiny is not something we sit and wait for. He tells his clients that destiny can be created with strategic use of tools like feng shui and Bazi.
"After re-educating them, most are willing to take action and responsibility towards their own life, career, wealth, relationships and health."
A feng shui consultation today does not go "do this, this and that, end of story". It has become a very goal-oriented and knowledge-driven discipline which, as Ng points out, "is the only way we can empirically measure results".
"If there's an easier way to get things done, why not? When I first started consulting, it wasn't always easy to tell older clients who had so much more money than me to move their main door or that their new RM8mil home has bad feng shui.
"But after I explain how qi flows and works and appeal to their common sense, they get it," he says, adding that busy months are usually the year-end till February, which coincide with the start of another lunar year.
Ng's love affair with feng shui started accidentally seven years ago. He was having a break just before going off to further his studies in Australia when a feng shui course changed everything.
He started consulting professionally a year later, and the rest is history.
"I taught my first feng shui class in Perth in early 2010," he says.
Henry Fong, a professional feng shui and Chinese astrology consultant based in Kuala Lumpur, combines the San Yuan Yang House and Form School feng shui techniques with Zi Wei Dou Shu astrology to give his clients in-depth analysis on their current status and recommend effective measures to improve their wealth, health and relationships.
Fong also does face reading and has been practising feng shui professionally for 10 years. He says his clients' average age is between 35 and 45 years old but notes a slight shift towards younger clients in the last few years.
"Like me, most of my clients are urbanites who converse primarily in English. I have very few old, Chinese-speaking clients," he says, adding that while the majority of his clients are Chinese, he also gets "a sprinkling" of other races.
Much of feng shui's surge in popularity among young professionals and the English speaking-community is attributed to the availability of books, television shows and videos and the mushrooming of websites and classes.
Prior to this, most materials were in Chinese and the senior masters were less willing to teach, says Fong, who is trilingual.
"To the ancient Chinese scholars, feng shui and other related disciplines were a meta (or sort of) science.
"Authentic feng shui (as opposed to superstitious beliefs) are palatable to the scientific mind as many of the principles and practices are logical or have a meta-scientific explanation."
He notes that career and wealth are common questions from younger and middle-aged men while younger women usually seek relationship advice.
For the middle-aged ladies, it's all about children and relationship while among elderly men and women, health and grandchildren are the main concerns.
After spending more than two decades in the computer and telecommunication industry, it's no surprise that this former electronics engineer approaches feng shui with the same analytical and investigative approach.
"Consultations for ready-built properties are most common but I derive the greatest pleasure from assisting house owners and property developers to design properties from the ground up so that I can incorporate most, if not all, feng shui best practices into the design," he shares.
Geocosmic Centre of Yijing Metascience Research Malaysia academic consultant Dr Chuah Chong Cheng embraces feng shui as a metascientific offshoot of Yijing. The former Universiti Sains Malaysia professor sees mainly newlyweds and new parents.
According to him, the younger ones are interested in their careers while the elderly are concerned about their offspring's welfare and wealth distribution after they "emigrate to the next world".
"Most of my consultations are on marriage compatibility, wedding dates and, recently, nomenclature (name giving) of the newborn and name alterations based on Putonghua's isomorphic, homophonic and equisemantic dimensions.
"They want their kids to be great, clever, strong and never lose out in the rat race," he adds.
Dr Chuah says the younger generation is curious but sometimes ignorant about the amplification, ramifications and implications of feng shui.
Most young people, he observes, fall for the hocus-pocus part of it.
"Feng shui optimises equilibrium," he stresses. "It is a metascience, only a few inches away from superstition and a long way from science."
Dr Chuah, who describes himself as a scientist by inclination and training, has this invaluable advice to impart take feng shui with a pinch of salt.
Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics marketing manager Chan Sook Fen says feng shui today is not only more popular among the young but also among Westerners.
"The Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics was founded by Joey Yap in 2004. The first seminar Yap organised had only seven participants but today, it draws some 3,000.
"The feng shui industry has really grown. Truly, it has broken the boundaries of geography, culture and age."
Chan also foresees that feng shui will "very soon" be perceived as a legitimate field of study.
"Probably in two or three years. More colleges are responding positively to feng shui and Bazi and have approached us to give talks and workshops to their students."