Recently I had the pleasure of participating in a Feng Shui tour of Singapore with Grand Master Vincent Koh. It proved to be quite a hot and sticky day, even by Singapore standards, but as always GM Koh and his lovely wife Nancy took excellent care of us with an air conditioned bus, bottles of water and a delicious buffet lunch at Boat Quay by the Singapore River.
After meeting bright and early at the Redhill MRT Station, the first site for the day was a nearby HDB block of high rise apartments. Immediately, GM Koh drew our attention to the facing direction of the building in order to assess how the site received its Qi (energy). This was determined by the location of the main ground floor entrance which led to the lift lobby and is indeed a very important factor, as classical Feng Shui texts state that the main door of a building is the ‘mouth of the house’ through which the majority of Qi flows.
Nowadays the question is often raised as to which facing direction should be taken in a block of flats. Should it be the external street door to the whole block, or the internal apartment door that opens onto the corridor? Once again we can turn to classical Feng Shui texts to provide us with some guidance in this matter and these tell us that the external street door (ta- men) is the most important; whilst the individual apartment door (hu-men) is secondary. Therefore the external street door dictates the qualities of the incoming Qi into the building and the apartment door determines the overall fortune and well being of the occupants.
In this case however we were not looking at the individual apartments, but at the building as a whole and were focused on the macro Feng Shui, rather than the micro. Once the facing of the building was established GM Koh then examined the external surrounding landform and how the site and main ground floor entrance received and retained the Qi.
To assess the surrounding landscape of the HDB block of flats GM Koh looked at the areas on either side of the building and also at the rear and front of the site. These areas are given symbolic names which are:
A virtual mountain form, such as a large building at the left (looking out from the building) should be present and is the central requirement of good landform.
A smaller virtual mountain form or building should be present at the right (looking out from the building) and should merge with the Green Dragon to create an auspicious balance of Yin and Yang energy.
The virtual mountain support at the rear of the building should not be too near or too large, but should provide support to the site and help to contain the Qi or ‘Life Force Energy’.
An open, flat area at the front of the building should be present to allow for the Qi to accumulate. A distant or smaller mountain form should also be present to help contain the Qi at the front of the building.
Once GM Koh assessed these four areas he then looked at the flow of traffic passed the front of the site in order to determine the direction and quality of the Qi that the main entrance received.
Ideally the main entrance should not only open to an auspicious direction, but ancient classical Water Theory also states that it is important to know the relationship of water (or in this case) traffic flow to your main entrance. A correct flow of water or energy can bring abundance, wealth and prosperity, while an incorrect flow can contribute to bad luck, disharmony and loss of wealth.
There are many Water Formulas that can be applied to both public and private buildings and no Feng Shui assessment is complete without looking at the most relevant ones. In this case however we simply looked at the following:
Yin or Yang Water Flow Classification – This is useful as a quick gauge and is based on the direction the main entrance faces. Water (traffic) flow from left to right past the building is considered to be Yang and traffic flow from right to left is considered to be Yin. To determine this you should stand at the main entrance and look out towards the road. For a two way street look at the traffic flow nearest to you in order to assess the direction of the flow. The facing of the main entrance will then dictate whether a Yin or Yang flow is more auspicious for that building. (This theory is taught in the Basic Science of Feng Shui Course, which is available through the Singapore Feng Shui Centre).
Gradient of the Road – Check whether the road is flat or sloping as this will affect the quality of the energy that the main entrance receives. Good water or energy flows in a horizontal or gentle downward stream, whereas a steep gradient may increase the speed of the energy and cause it to flow past your site.
These are very important and are considered to be pools or spots of Qi which can effectively be tapped.
It is not very often that you actually find a building that meets most or all of the ideal landform or water theory criteria and often you learn more about the potential of Feng Shui from those places that do not. This was certainly the case with the second block of flats that GM Koh took us to.
This particular development actually suffered from a reversed landform formation. The front of the site had no Red Phoenix and the open, flat ground was located at the rear of the site and therefore offered no support or protection. The Ming Tang at the front of the building was also narrow and fell away steeply to the road below, which made it impossible for the Qi to be contained and therefore difficult for the occupants to be prosperous.
In addition to this the two connected rectangular blocks of flats on either side actually resembled a pair of arms twisted behind the back, rather than the more auspicious formation of two embracing arms. GM Koh advised us that this formation was likened to a ‘broken family’ and that the residents of this development had a long history of financial struggle, misfortune, depression, family separation and sadly even suicide.
The financial and human fortune of these residents was clearly compromised by the unsupportive and inauspicious surrounding landform. Once again this served to highlight the importance of the external environment in any Feng Shui assessment.
Often when selecting a home we tend to focus on the internal Flying Star energies of the apartment or landed property without first examining the effect that the macro environment has on the building itself. However this should always take precedence and can severely affect the quality of the internal energies.
Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre (SUNTEC City)
Our tour then took us to Suntec City, a large commercial centre where GM Koh explained the significance of various aspects of Feng Shui in the design and layout of this large scale site. Chinese tradition has it that you receive wealth with the left hand and thus this large commercial development is arranged so that it resembles a human hand. The 18 storey Suntec City Tower represents the thumb, the four 45 storey office towers the fingers, the Convention Centre the wrist and The Fountain of Wealth appears as a gold ring in the palm of the hand.
In addition to this GM Koh pointed out that the five basic elements of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood (which are central to the practice of Feng Shui and BaZi) are also incorporated into the shape and design features of the various buildings. The sails that adorn the roof of the Convention Centre are triangular and therefore belong to the Fire element. The 18 storey Suntec City Tower is square and this shape is of the Earth element. The four remaining 45 storey office towers are tall and rectangular and this shape we attribute to the Wood element. The Fountain of Wealth is circular, made of bronze and is a balance of both the Metal and Water elements. As an added point of interest, the design of the bronze ring of the fountain is also based on the Hindu Mandala, (which means universe) and is symbolic of spirit and unity and represents the equality and harmony of all the races and religions in Singapore.
The water from The Fountain of Wealth falls downwards in order to bring Qi and therefore business into the basement shops and restaurants located in the lower levels of the mall. This is quite a common use of water in Feng Shui and in fact the new Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre and shopping mall have also utilized the flow of water in such a manner. Water is not only a symbol of life and wealth in Chinese culture, but the inward and downward motion of the water also represents wealth and riches pouring in.
The Fountain of Wealth is turned off at specific times during the day and it is customary for visitors to walk three times around a smaller fountain at the central base with their hand touching the water, as this is said to bring good fortune. I’m not sure about the good fortune, but it certainly provided a wonderfully cool reprieve in a hot and humid day.
Finally the four bronze columns of The Fountain of Wealth are based on the four inter-cardinal or corner Trigra ms of the Later Heaven Arrangement and also represent four entrances or four pillars of Heaven.These are located in the Kun Trigram of the South West, the Chien Trigram of the North West, the Ken Trigram of the North East and the Sun Trigram of the South East.Around the perimeter of the fountain is a circular path with metal plaques which feature the 12 Earthly Branches or Chinese Astrological animals. The location of each of these plaques is designed to face their corresponding direction on the 24 Mountains of the Luo Pan. We checked the accuracy of these with our own Luo Pans and considering all the magnetic interference in the immediate environment, there was only a few degrees separating some of them from their correct positions.
Many more Feng Shui principles and formula have certainly been employed in the planning, design and construction of Suntec City. However in this case it was particularly interesting to see how positive symbolism, Chinese traditions and cultural beliefs have been cleverly incorporated into a contemporary, functional and aesthetically pleasing large scale urban development.
The Singapore Flyer was the last stop for the day on our Feng Shui tour of Singapore. Situated on the southeast tip of Marina Centre, this giant observation wheel was completed in 2008 and comprises a 150 meter diameter wheel which is built over a three-story terminal building that houses shops, bars, restaurants and a food court.
Initially the wheel rotated in a counter-clockwise direction when viewed from Marina Centre, but its direction was changed to clockwise on the 4 August 2008. A clockwise direction is more auspicious and follows the natural pattern of the sun and as GM Koh pointed out, it also allowed the motion of the wheel to scoop up or draw the Qi from the marina channel into the city of Singapore.
However the number of tourists visiting the Singapore Flyer still remained somewhat disappointing and Grand Master Koh was asked to consult on the site last year. Back then Feng Shui was not largely sought by the developers during the design phase of the terminal building and this resulted in basic flaws being made in some key areas.
The first flaw that GM Koh identified was the main entrance, as this was not only quite small, but also located adjacent to the laundry service area. He moved the main entrance to a more auspicious location which not only created a substantial Ming Tang, but also had a circular roundabout which readily allowed for a taxi and bus drop off zone. Not only does this movement of vehicles energize the entrance, but every time a car or bus stops for passengers to alight, it has the effect of holding the Qi and encouraging it to enter the main entrance of the terminal. Additional parking was also created nearby for the tourist coaches, which also helps to contain the Qi in this area.
In addition, GM Koh removed the existing water feature from the centre of the circular driveway, as the energy did not support this.Instead he recommended that a colorful garden bed be planted in this space and a large ‘Welcome to Singapore Flyer’ sign be erected to welcome the visitors on their arrival. Further to this he advised that a covered food court be constructed in the location of the old main entrance in order to further enhance the Qi flow while increasing marketing opportunities.
On the left, the Kallang River side of the Singapore Flyer, GM Koh also provided recommendations for those restaurants located there.These focused not only on attracting new business, but also on improving the alfresco dining experience of all their customers by taking better advantage of the lovely water front location.
To this end, GM Koh advised that the timber decking areas be extended towards the water front to harmonize with the incoming water flow from the Singapore River. In addition, more patrons could enjoy the water views whilst dining. Large plants were also strategically aligned along the perimeter in order to screen off various unattractive features of nearby buildings.
The erection of two additional cafes was also recommended by GM Koh. The first of these is currently under construction and is located at the end of the alfresco riverside area so as to encourage visitors to walk along the full length of the waterfront esplanade.
The second café will be located right on the banks of the Kallang River and is still in the design phase. It is based on a life boat theme as a sort of tongue in cheek connection with the observation deck of the Marina Bay Sands, which is clearly visible just across the river. Whilst Lillian Too has likened this roof structure to a wingless airplane, most of us agree that it more closely resembles the Titanic. With this ‘Life Boat Café’ theme GM Koh injects a playful sense of humor into the Singapore Flyer site, as well as creating an additional attraction and a very clever marketing opportunity.
In his audit of the Singapore Flyer, GM Koh employed various Feng Shui techniques and practices to assess the energies and influences that the site received. However he also demonstrated how important it is to ensure that any recommendations should be practical, viable, aesthetically pleasing and help to realize the full potential of the overall exhibit. Indeed this has already been verified by the increase in the number of people visiting the Singapore Flyer.
We visited three additional sites in our Feng Shui tour of Singapore which included the Merlion Statue (the icon of Singapore Tourism Board), The Arts House at the Old Parliament House and the Thian Hock Keng Taoist Temple, but I will leave these for a later article.
Needless to say the whole day was a wonderful experience and one that I would recommend to anyone, particularly if you are a student or practitioner of Feng Shui. A Feng Shui field trip such as this provides an invaluable opportunity to see first hand what a vital and contemporary role Feng Shui can play in the design and construction of both our private and public spaces. In addition to this it was such a marvelous learning experience for someone such as my self to simply listen and watch while Grand Master Koh generously shared some of his experience, knowledge and insights.