Happy is the Land with no History

Imperial Feng Shui

Happy is the Land with no History.

Thailand, early afternoon the second week in February 2012, the “land of smiles”: I have cynical thoughts as the plane circles to land at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi. I’ve spent a little time in Prague with its machine-gun toting police, in Rio de Janeiro and in Las Vegas. Sex tourism is an ugly phrase. But then so are “belly button” and “big pharma.” From the air what I see is a fertile country, green with canals and vegetation. On the ground I find a people gracious and uncomplicated. The lady who organises my limo to the hotel is short on English and long on smiles. The taxi driver apologises for the lines of Toyotas and Kias, bumper to bumper all the way to the distant nest of chrome and concrete high-rises that is Bangkok.

“Cutting edge cars and architecture but no better at handling traffic than London,” I laugh.

“Here on business?” he asks.

“To learn,” I answer.

He laughs several times on the way and is visibly appreciative of my small tip.

The admission of ignorance is the beginning of learning. I’m here to study date selection or zi re with Master Mas Kehardthum whose unorthodox approach appears to be the cutting edge.

I first came across Master Mas at the International Feng Shui Conference in Singapore in 2008. I remember Lillian Too flicking her magic scarf at him next to her. He had clearly pressed some buttons. Then I made a point of seeking him out at Montreux in September 2011 when the unorthodoxy of his date selection model became clear. It was possible he had the best and most authentic method I had come across.

Master Mas had two immediate claims to fame: one that in the summer of 2001 he warned a client to move out of the Twin Towers right away, the other that he had successfully selected in advance a date for a huge lottery win.  At the Montreux assembly which had advertised five Chinese Masters and fielded one, the material he presented was both outstanding and, like the conference, clearly incomplete. I was intrigued enough to speak with and discuss studying with him during 2012. But I wanted to fill such gaps as I might first.

The gaps were clearly intended. If, like me, you have been working with Xuan Kong Da Gua (don’t ask) for a decade or so with results that tend to but never actually arrive at 100% reliable, you will have been as certain as me that there remained something missing in the information passed down from the ancient Masters.

Curious, I attended his presentation at the 2011 Singapore gathering six weeks later. The material was again not whole. But with a different piece missing.

This may if you are unfamiliar with the world of feng shui, seem weird: that deliberately incomplete or even inaccurate information should be routine. The fact is that many Masters still subscribe to the traditional position that the ”secrets of heaven should not be divulged.”  A large proportion even of the small number of worthwhile feng shui books in English contain deliberate mistakes and omissions. Every teacher I have studied with, with the honourable exception of Derek Walters, has held back information.

Derek is incidentally in my experience pretty much the only European expert your average Chinese Master will offer the time of day. This is because he is respectful, learned, smart and does his homework. He knows and respects space-clearing, intuitive placement and Black Hat but knows that feng shui is a Chinese, Elemental thing.

So I found an air-conditioned Starbucks in a downtown Singapore mall, sat down for three days and pretty much worked it out. There remained holes but I was ready enough to email and book myself onto his next zi re training to fill them.

That’s the story so far.

The hotel is modern and large and so is my room. The toilet has an electronic flush with cartoons illustrating its use but I’ll draw a veil over that. Jet lagged to hell and back, I venture out. There are barrows of fresh fruit on the street. I am tempted by the deep red of the apples and the green of the melons but have a traveller’s fear of water-based street food.

Thai fruit is legendary. The rills and aqueducts I saw from the air were an indication why. This country is a market gardeners’ paradise.

There are two city rail systems in Bangkok: the underground MRT, pretty much indistinguishable from those crisscrossing Singapore and Hong Kong and the Sky Train whose track, much like its Berlin equivalent, is twenty feet or so up in the air. I take the Sky Train, not so much tempted by its exotic name as funnelled by the crowds. Three or four stops later, I get out at a sign that says “Golden Buddha.” I walk there, put my red Converse All Stars into a handy bag and sit before the Buddha in a British ex-public school version of the Lotus posture. Tourists come and go. Every now and then a European is gently requested to take off a hat or put on a scarf. In central China this place would be a nightmare of cheap construction and sweet wrappers but here it’s magical. I intend to stay a minute or two and remain more than an hour. But for the odd fidget, I sit still, feeling the presence of God.

I carry no watch and I lose track of time, spilling out blissed and in touch with the universe. I unfold my City map, forgetting that this is the accepted international sign for “Please take money from me” and am jolted by an elderly Chinese man trying to sell me river boat trips. He’s stressed – I can feel the striving in him – but backs off gently when I turn down his offer.

Back at the hotel and out on the street, I am again struck by the affability of the people. Stall after stall is selling knock-offs. I have a shopping list of handbags to buy and I haggle clumsily which the stallholders seem to enjoy. There are Calvins for Joey, my teenager who hates to wear low slung jeans but appreciates both designer labels and a bargain. Even the hookers who line the street, smile gently. They don’t appear desperate like their opposite numbers in the West.

The Date Selection Class consists of twelve of Master Mas’ students and myself. Although they are a cosmopolitan selection largely from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and mostly Chinese by culture and race, as so often happens, the only language they have in common is English. No wonder the British are such poor linguists. There’s no need to learn languages and hence to understand other cultures. Whose loss is that?

The lovely Li, Master Mas’ star student introduces me to Dragon Fruit which looks like a decorated melon but tastes more like an impossibly rich pear. Young Yulius whose self-chosen European name speaks of a deep hinterland of classical scholarship, entertains the class by being unable to sit still. I can’t help noticing however, from his comments, that he picks up every point first time. A trio of Chinese housewives appear on the face of it to be sharing some man-free down time but are razor sharp also. Master Mas’ material is radical and rigorously logical, derived from first principles. After each six-hour day I retire to my room and write up my notes. It’s the only way I’m going to stay on top of this. So I’m pretty antisocial and don’t get to know these welcoming people as I might.

“May you live in interesting times” is how the Chinese curse goes. There are ways to explain a country this fertile and this contented. Buddhism in action is one. Constitutional monarchy is another. But the key I think, is that this bottomlessly gracious nation never goes to war. A dozen or so monarchs of the Chakri dynasty have for centuries avoided conflicts with neighbours as volatile as Laos and Cambodia, charming successive waves of acquisitive Portuguese, Dutch, and British, even convincing the Japanese to travel discretely across the Southern uplands to Malaysia rather than invade. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse generally arrive together. Tilled fields are a sign of a peace that can be trusted.

The current King Rama IX, is the longest-serving head of state in the world. Sixty-five years, since you ask, six more than our own monarch.

The only exception to my self-imposed purdah is a sumptuous barbecue at Li’s home. Her house is a temple to feng shui: wou lou shaped fence, blinking light at the propitious North East, floor receding towards the rear. And the acid test is that her husband and children beam, her house is large, unshowy and comfortable and the shrimps are the size of footballs.

After ten days I emerge to catch a dawn long haul. I’m in no state to teach this material just yet but I can start to use it. Almost immediately an email from Kruno in Zagreb who has just landed the job offer he sought, the afternoon of the first Activation I prescribe in the light of the new information, bears out that I now know something. Meanwhile those who will settle for what I knew already can register for the Wind that Stops at the Water, starting  23rd June. We’d love to see you.

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