Hong Kong is known as the feng shui city. The ancient practice – which involves positioning objects to achieve greater harmony and wellbeing – still shapes the modern metropolis. There are many masters in the city today, but one really stands out from the crowd. In an exclusive interview, Thierry Chow reveals how she’s breaking the traditional mould in a male-dominated industry with her unique take on feng shui, in which she fuses art, fashion and interior design.
Chow helps clients arrange their homes and office spaces in a way that encourages greater harmony and prosperity. She’s also authored books on the topic, and she’s currently working on her own product line of modern feng-shui objects for the home. Her driving goal is to make the practice fun, creative and accessible for everyone who is curious or who believes they can benefit from better energy in their lives. We caught up with Chow at her home studio in Hong Kong’s Chai Wan area to find out more about how feng shui has transformed her clients’ lives and her own.
First off, in your own words, what exactly is feng shui?
Feng shui is the relationship between the environment and the people and how it affects our mental and physical wellbeing.
How did you first get involved with feng shui?
Originally, growing up, I wanted nothing to do with feng shui. I grew up with my father (renowned feng shui master Chow Hon-Ming) moving things around the home. So, as a child, I thought that only older people would do feng shui. Honestly, before I started studying feng shui, I just thought it was superstitious nonsense.
What changed your mind about feng shui and made you want to pursue it as a career?
My interest in feng shui went from zero to 100 in a relatively short period of time. Originally, I studied fine art in the hopes that I would become a painter or designer. However, after I graduated from school in Canada, I came back to Hong Kong and worked a few jobs and was like, ok, I’m not as happy as I hoped to be. I was working a 9am-7pm job, six days a week, and I kept asking myself, ‘What am I doing?!’ This really pushed me to think that there must be something else out there that I could combine my creativity into – and then the idea just came one day, and I decided to learn feng shui from my dad.
So, learning feng shui from your dad really convinced you of its benefits?
Yes. I started seven years ago apprenticing under my father. I used to go to every single appointment with him. He would go to different offices, sometimes doing feng shui for a whole company with four different floors and 500 employees. We would go in and do the feng shui for the whole office, chatting with every single employee. To be honest, I jumped into it not really knowing what I would learn, but once I started learning more about it, I realised that feng shui does have a lot of wisdom and a theory that makes sense. Now I think it’s amazing.
Who are your typical clients?
My clients tend to be younger and creative people. A lot of them are English speaking – as I’m fluent in English, they tend to come to me as a feng shui master who can explain it to them in their language. They also know and respect my father and so feel more reassured hiring me that I know what I’m doing. We go to homes, offices, studios, factories – my dad’s even done the subway system in China. Basically, any space or environment that you can think of we consult for.
What happens at a typical feng shui consultation?
There are two main parts of what we do. Firstly, we do an analysis of the space and identify the things that we immediately notice are bad feng shui: things that are not good for your health – mentally and physically. We will then suggest ways to rotate your furniture, which colours to choose, which materials, and highlight everything that the owner needs to be more aware of.
The second step is a personal reading according to the client’s birthday. We would give them their birth chart and then put it into codes according to their birthday on the Chinese calendar; there are codes that we can take from it, and these will become a formula. From there, we will look at the codes, and they will tell us about the person. This is more like a personal therapy session where the client will tell us about their stories, needs, wants, fears and concerns, and we will advise them on the thing that they can do to help change their situation.
Is feng shui still big business in Hong Kong?
For masters that are well known in the industry, it can be big business. For me and my family, we charge by the square footage, and that’s the standard price. In Hong Kong, where most homes and apartments tend to only be a couple of hundred square feet, the price is only around HK$3,000 ($380 USD). This includes one year of feng shui because feng shui changes every year, so you need to renew it. In our experience, clients usually come back year after year.
Can you tell us more about how you’re working on merging feng shui with fashion?
When we do personal readings for people, we will advise on which colours are best for them, etc. So, I thought of combining fashion styling into that to create feng shui fashion. I advise clients on what their good elements are (China’s five elements: fire, metal, wood, earth and water) and how to apply them to their everyday dressing style to help bring better energy to their lives.
When I looked at feng shui when I was younger, I always felt that there wasn’t much design or art in the whole practice, and so I’m trying to be the link between the two. I think the two can combine quite nicely.
How do you determine which of the five Chinese elements a person needs more of, and how do you incorporate this into fashion?
I look at a person’s birth chart according to the Chinese calendar, and it will tell me which elements that person is lacking. So, if someone is lacking water, I will encourage them to wear more blue, black and elements that create water energy – like metallics – and from that I’m able to advise someone on how best to dress and what accessories they should wear, etc.
Do you ever teach others about how they can incorporate feng shui into their everyday lives?
I’ve done a lot of workshops teaching people how to apply feng shui principles to fashion. I’m also currently working on a couple of projects: one of them is a homeware product design line of modern feng shui objects, which will launch later this year. I’m also designing my own line of feng shui clothes.
How do you respond to the sceptics who just think feng shui is some form of witchcraft or superstition?
Sometimes people disregard things because they’re fearful of it or because they simply don’t understand it. An example is my husband; he grew up in Canada, so when he found out that my dad was a feng shui master, he thought it was something entirely Chinese that he didn’t really relate to. But now that we’ve been together for almost 11 years, he’s seen over time how I explain it, and he’s experienced feng shui for himself, and so now he fully understands and believes in it.
I also used to be dismissive of feng shui myself, but since studying it, I now understand it and deeply believe in its validity and value. Some feng shui masters might not have the best intentions in the world, but that goes for everything. Even doctors might not have the best intentions, lawyers, etc. It’s about choosing the right people to speak to with the right intentions.
So, what’s your mission? In what direction are you hoping to take feng shui?
Being able to translate feng shui into forms that people can relate to and enjoy is my mission. The reason I wanted to try and make feng shui more creative and apply it to fashion and designing household items is to try and make it easier for people to understand and be more fun. By branching out this way, I hope feng shui can become something that everyone can enjoy.
Do you foresee a bright future for feng shui?
I do. There are those who already really understand feng shui, and they will consult me because they just want harmony in their environment. It’s like healthy eating – they know that it’s something that you just do that helps to bring more wellness into your life. Take yoga as an example; years ago it was laughed at by people, but now look at it – loads of people do yoga because now they understand the benefit of it. Once you truly understand something and realise that it can make a difference, you’re more inclined to use it.