In this edition of Interview with a Master we sit down and chat with one of Malaysia’s leading Feng Shui Masters – Master Yap Boh Chu.  As his father’s right-hand man, Boh Chu has helped Grand Master Yap Cheng Hai in various mega projects, including the 200ha Taman Memorial Graha Sentosa in Indonesia; as well as commercial buildings in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Canada.  Yap Cheng Hai Academy

1. How did you first become interested in Feng Shui. Please share some of your path of learning with us.

Being who I am and the family that I come from it is difficult to say when I first became really interested in Feng Shui, as I have been exposed to it since I was very young.

I remember when my father (GM Yap) would point things out and say “Hey look at this side of the street. Can you see there are more people in the shops than the other side? Do you know why?” and then he would go on to explain it and to me this was just a father talking to his son and pointing out things in life. I never realised that he was talking about Feng Shui. I just thought it was basic concepts, so I have been pretty much exposed to the practice of this all of my life.

Then of course, I went to Australia in my late teens to University for 10 years and that was when I was totally cut off from Feng Shui.  When I came back home to Malaysia I was qualified with a double Degree in Accounting and IT, so naturally I went out on my own as a Business IT Consultant.

Eventually GM Yap asked me to help him set up the Yap Cheng Hai Academy and of course I agreed, as I was in between projects at that time.  So not only did I set up all the IT, but I also started to get back into Feng Shui as I had to sit down with my father and go through everything that he wanted to include in the course material.

Okay what do you want to do I asked him? What should be in the course material? What is this? I have never experienced this before, or heard of it. It took many hours and many late nights, but finally I came to really appreciate what Feng Shui was essentially about.

Still I didn’t understand it that much, but I certainly understood the concept of how it should be used and how it should be taught. So I put that down into the course structure and curriculum.

You must understand however that all of this went through a little bit of a transition process as GM Yap was very traditional. The way he taught was completely the traditional way and I knew this wouldn’t work with western students. I had to turn it around and create a course curriculum and structure that could be taught in a more conventional teaching environment and that took a lot of work!

So after I did all of this work with my father, my knowledge of Feng Shui certainly increased and eventually I thought it was time to look for my next IT project, as the Academy was all set up and ready for GM Yap to run.

However that wasn’t to be, as we continued to have many arguments and discussions about the way it all should be run.  I came from a Western, logical way of thinking where you ask “how does this work?” and he came from a traditional, Chinese way of thinking which was “this is it, accept it and use it”.

So between the both of us we finally worked out the logic behind all the methods and practices, although he never used it and didn’t need to. But I needed to for my own understanding in order to be able to practice and teach it.

2. Many Feng Shui consultants feel that the further they study Feng Shui the more confused they become. Did you experience this during your own journey, and if so how did you overcome it?

My main teacher and Master was of course my father. One of the good things about GM Yap is that he always said there is no end to knowledge and he always encouraged me to learn from other Masters, which I did.

There was never any course material however. Everything was verbal or written on the board; to the extent that one of the Masters once told me, “you can follow me to see what I do and you can ask any question as I will answer them, but you are never to write down anything”.  So everything had to be committed to memory and never written down.

Of course, when you work on different practices and different styles things get very confused, but I think the most important thing for me was that I was very well grounded by my father. I knew that whatever I was taught by GM Yap worked because he had the examples to point to. Look at this and look at that he would say. You can see that building I did this way. So, I had the examples to see that all these things worked, whether I understood it or not at the time, it worked.

So when I came to new knowledge from other Masters, I did not know whether it worked. However whenever I got confused, whenever I was in doubt, I always fell back to my grounding, to the basic practice that I had received from GM Yap.

Infact this is how I realised what I needed to do with our courses. I split them up into various levels so that if you don’t know what is going on in the advanced levels you can go back to the basic level. The practice there will never be wrong as that is the foundation.

So, in a sense, yes definitely, as you assimilate new things you may get confused because sometimes it seems to contradict.  However it only does this because you don’t yet fully understand the foundations.

3. When did you turn Feng Shui into your profession?

I started at the Academy in 2003 so officially I would say that I started my professional career in Feng Shui also at that time. In the late 90’s I was already dabbling with Feng Shui, as my father insisted that I knew the basics and how to use it; which I did in the sense I suppose of being a business consultant.

To some of my IT business clients I would say, “Hey think about shifting your position to here or there”.  I was using the basic five principals, but I wasn’t professional in the sense that I gave advice and recommendations.  However I am the type of person who always wants to find out if I did it right, so I would check back with them to see how things were.

So in this sense I was practising Feng Shui at a basic level from the late 90’s to early 2000’s, until in 2003 I officially began full time Feng Shui.

There was also another tradition that GM Yap insisted on.  As long as you are giving Feng Shui advice there must be a transaction.  So, in Chinese we  place a small payment in a red packet, it can be any amount and thus I would take any small amount in return for my Feng Shui advice.

4. Is Feng Shui widely accepted and applied in your country and do you face any difficulties explaining Feng Shui to your clients?

Malaysia is a multi-racial country where Feng Shui is widely accepted and applied by both Malays and Muslims.  I don’t bring any religious aspects into Feng Shui, as it is not a religion, so there is never essentially any conflict with their traditional belief systems.

A lot of people however don’t know what ‘real’ Feng Shui is so they buy a frog or hang up a wind chime and think that is all that is required.  So when they engage my services I always explain that they must be prepared to change things like possibly knock down a wall, do some landscaping or change their furniture arrangement.  Almost always they are surprised to hear this.

So then I have to start explaining why and that is when we start to talk about what Feng Shui really is.  To me Feng Shui is essentially about the control of Ch’i. To bring in the Ch’i of the environment (whether it is from heaven or earth) into the house and control the flow of it. The problem that then arises is how do you explain Ch’i?  You can’t measure it and you can’t see it. It’s not like electricity where you have a wall metre to read its flow.

Ch’i actually encompasses many things like wind, flow, smell and light. These are the more visible things and then there’s the other things which we are sensitive to but can’t really see or feel, such as Magnetic Fields and Negative Ions.

So that’s always the difficult part. At the end of the day the client has to have some faith that Feng Shui works and when practised correctly they will get a result. However for me I feel they should also understand some of the basics of why you are doing it.

5. What is the most common reason that people engage you for a consultation?

The most common reason is when they want to change their house, such as they are renovating or moving and of course there is always the issue where they are suffering from either financial, relationship or health trouble. These are the most common reasons why they come to me.

Then there are those who are really into it and just want to make sure everything is going well and ensure it remains that way.  So for reasons of financial and mental security they make sure the next few years are taken care of whether it is via a new consultation of with a review of an existing consultation.

There are also those professional, corporate and commercial clients who look at Feng Shui from a business point of view. What it can do for me as a business tool? Can it change my bottom line?  Can it take me from the red to the black?

And then of course there are the builders and property developers. Some of them come to me because not only do they want to make sure their project goes smoothly, but also because they are able to use Feng Shui as a marketing tool.  They are smart enough to know that Feng Shui actually sells property!

6. Do you practice Yin House Feng Shui and if so do any of your clients engage you to select an auspicious burial site?

I am not very much into Yin House Feng Shui simply because I don’t like doing it. If you want to do it right you have to do it really from the start by selecting both the auspicous land, site and orientation.

This is a huge responsibility and you have to make sure every little detail is right.  If you make one little mistake that’s it. You can do 100 things right and one thing wrong and it can break the Feng Shui. The responsibility here is not just to one family, it can be to many families over generations.

Yin House Feng Shui is also dangerous to the Master. If the Master does something wrong then they are actually the first one to feel the negative effects. I can say that even when doing it together with GM Yap there was one occasion when I was flat on my back for five days and GM Yap said “ah ha, you didn’t do it right”.

7. What analysis methods do you use during your consultation process?

During my consultation process I use every and any tool that I have. This means that to me Feng Shui is Feng Shui, so I look at bringing different tools for each job.  In other words, once I identify what the problem is, then I use the right tool for the right job.

So to employ a metaphor; if you have a good toolbox at your disposal, then when you have to drive a nail into a wall to hang a picture you will have the right tool for that particular job.  In fact you may have have two options, so that you can either hammer a nail into the wall or drill a hole to put in a hook to get the job done right.

Both work. One is just a bit more elegant and looks better and the other one just does the job. Which is the right tool?  If all you have is a hammer, you use the hammer. If you have a full selection you use the most appropriate one. That’s how I see Feng Shui.

8. From your point of view, do you think the knowledge of destiny analysis is important when it comes to Feng Shui?

When it comes to Destiny Analysis, I defer to the Grand Masters of IFSA in the sense that I actually don’t use Destiny Analysis in my consultations.

The reason why?  First of all is what does Destiny Analysis tell you? Destiny Analysis tells you the ups and downs of the person and what is likely to happen during various periods of their lives, but the problem is can you change or avoid it?  What will happen will happen, but the quantum effect can be mitigated through the correct application of Feng Shui.

So if a person falls sick with stomach issues,  it can be something which is relatively simple to treat such as food poisoning or something which is much more serious such as cancer. They are both instances of falling sick and sick in the same part of the body, So what makes the difference between how we respond to them in order to regain our health?

First of all it’s our own decisions and choices with regard to lifestyle and treatment, but it’s also the Feng Shui of where we live and sleep. That is what Feng Shui does. It changes and mitigates the quantum of the intensity, whether for good or for bad. You can’t prevent it from happening if it is in your destiny, but you can affect the outcome.

Simply put, Feng Shui can make the good better and the bad not so bad so I prefer to focus on that aspect.

If I want to know what is wrong with a person, when something happened or is likely to happen then I look at the Feng Shui of their house and the surrounding environment.  From this I know what has happened to them previously and what may happen in the future.

I look at everything with a broader brush, which is enough for me to identify problems ahead of time and warn my clients accordingly. Every Feng Shui system has a time element, so you know what will happen when.  If someone wants more specific details then they can of course also utlise Destiny Analysis, but I have not found the need for it to date.

9. Please share with us a case study you have done which you found to be most interesting.

They are all interesting, that’s the problem with only one!

The most memorable I would have to say though was the time I was asked by a client to locate the right place to build his new house, on a very large piece of mountainous property he owned in Kazakhstan.

So bear in mind that this is in January during winter, so I am dressed up like a penguin as we set off in his 4WD!  Of course the land is mountainous, with half of it covered in pine trees and the other half covered in snow, so I can’t really see much of the terrain which means that I need to get to the highest point.

“Oh, sure come on, follow me”, my client says as he starts leading me up a 45-degree incline and through a metre of snow, where we have no idea what is beneath us!  This guy is your typical Kazak;  they are rough, tough and macho. They also drink like a fish and go hunting with their bare hands!

Let me tell you that I was struggling up this hill, but eventually I made it to the top. However I still couldn’t see anything because the highest point was now under some cloud. So then he leads me up another hill and when I look over the other side I still can’t see anything as it’s also covered in snow.

So my client asks me how long can I stay for so that he can make another time to view the site. A new appointment is made for two days time and when I go up there again he’s practically cleared all the snow from the entire site using only men with shovels and a team of buffalo!

And after all of that, once I get to take a proper look at the terrain, I had to tell him that the land was not suitable because the only place to build would mean that the house would not be orienated in a good direction or with supportive landform.

He looked at me and for a moment I thought he was going to shoot me!  Then he simply says, “alright we will look at another piece of land” and all I could think of was ‘not again’!

So that to me was the most memorable experience.

10. What is your Top Feng Shui ‘Do’ and Top Feng Shui ‘Don’t’?

I think that my top ‘don’t’ would be not to walk inside a house, plonk yourself down at the dining table and simply work from there. Some consultants only measure the front door and then just work from inside with the floorplan.  This is a definite ‘don’t’.

I have even seen people dress up in their nice stiletto heels when they conduct a site visit.  Most of the time I am dressed pretty rough and before I reach a site, I take a drive around and then if I need to I will even walk up a hill.

My other ‘don’t’ is that I never do off-site, remote consultations as it is impossible to take into account all the influences of the site and it’s surrounding environment.

What I do is look at everything even though you may think at that point it is inconsequential,  you should still take note of it because later you may find that it is actually quite important. So disregard nothing. Take notes and even photos of everything.  That’s my top ‘do’.

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