Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 17:01 GMT
The age of aquariums

Feng shui: More than putting five fish in your tank
Seen by cynics as little more than the art of shutting your loo seat or moving fish tanks, feng shui has had a huge impact on British life.

The ancient eastern art of placement - pronounced fong shway - has sparked an economic mini-boom, with millions of pounds a year spent on books, products and consultants.

Feng shui headlines
How to feng shui your Christmas dinner (Daily Express, Dec 1999)
How to feng shui your clothes (Sunday Mirror, Feb 1999)
Feng shui away your wedding day worries (Scotland on Sunday, Aug 1999)
Feng Shui roundabout: Oriental art to end road rage (Mirror, Mar 1998)
Lose weight the feng shui way (Daily Record, Oct 1998)
Thousands of corporations and individuals have looked to the art to enhance their lives.

And the interest in what some have dismissed as Hong Kong phooey is showing no signs of abating.

On Wednesday, the country's first dedicated feng shui shop opened, in Selfridges in Oxford Street in London.

Feng shui recently caused a row in the BBC, with head of religious broadcasting Rev Ernest Rea saying programmes should target the "huge interest, say, in feng shui," and presenter Joan Bakewell retorting: "BBC Religion should not be taking things like feng shui seriously."

In Far Eastern countries, the practice is fuelled by banks, who spend millions of pounds on applying the practice to improve their profitability.

Hong Kong bank HSBC takes the matter so seriously it provides a feng shui consultation allowance for its senior directors' homes.

Three-legged toads: Purported to bring wealth
And it appears that financial institutions here are following suit.

Last year, it was estimated the City was spending 5m a year on redesigning offices according to feng shui principles.

Blue-chip firms like Orange, WH Smith, Bupa and British Airways have all called in consultants for their UK offices.

Exponents say feng shui is the art of living in harmony with your natural environment, thus allowing a natural flow of energy, or chi.

It leads to the art of placement of buildings and furniture, and may cover aspects such as colour, light and sound.

There are now about 230 feng shui books in print; feng shui pages on teletext services, and retailers are offering "feng shui" branded products from make-up to frocks.

But has the art become so trivialised by such items that it can no longer be taken seriously?

Stephen Skinner, publishing director of Feng Shui For Modern Living Magazine, thinks not. He insists it is here to stay.

"It's become part of the mainstream just like Indian takeaways have become our national dish," he says.

"Now it's finally made it to these shores I have no doubt it will be around in 10, 20, 30 years time. It's not like Cabbage Patch dolls, it's a real practice which will survive."

However, he admitted the circulation of his magazine has sunk from 121,000 at launch in February 1998, to 53,000 now.

Only eight recommended practitioners in England?
Master Arto, the monk MD of the Feng Shui Association who has been practising for 47 years, is much less up beat about the future of the art in the UK.

"What has happened to feng shui in this country is very, very sad," he says.

He says the difficulty is that there is no regulation of the art, even in its country of origin, and thus no way of telling who is or is not a bona fide practitioner.

This has led, in turn, to people making all sorts of claims for feng shui which are simply not true - which has led to disappointment and anger.

Feng Shui products
Glass Buddha to hang in the window. Symbol of peace and light. 13.95
Three-legged toad god. To bring wealth. 18.99
10cm Pa Kua mirrors to disperse negative energy. 14.99
Pa Kua mousemats. 5.99
Hanging spirals to circulate chi. 9.99
source: Feng Shui Catalogue
"People are getting disillusioned with it," he says. "It can be quite useful, but people are saying feng shui can cure things which are not a feng shui problem".

Proper feng shui experts take six years' training in a Buddhist or Taoist monastery, he says - but no-one is bothering with the training because "everyone wants to become a practitioner in one weekend".

The situation has become so bad, says Master Arto, that of an estimated 8,000 practitioners in England, he would recommend only eight.

And even if you dodge the charlatans there's always the pranksters.

At the end of last season, Bristol Rovers fell for a television stunt in which two men posed as feng shui experts, placing a ceramic frog above the Memorial Stadium entrance, potted plants in the dressing room and a tank of toy fish behind the goal.

Rovers duly went on to lose the next match - a Second Division clash with Gillingham, 1-0.

However, a spokesman for the club later said: "They obviously knew a lot more than they thought because, since then, we have not stopped winning."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories