It was just an ordinary Friday morning on the beachfront here -
traffic buzzed on Ocean Boulevard, jets echoed overhead,
Rollerbladers clicked their wheels on the boardwalk cement.
But in the courtyard of a new $100 million, luxury high-rise
apartment, a quiet ceremony was beginning to catch the attention of
passersby. Behind a table festooned with fruits, flowers, and roast
fowl stood Feng Shui Master Chi Jen Liu in a white Mandarin jacket
alongside assistant Jenny Liu in floral silk. As Ms. Liu described
the meaning of his gestures in English, Master Liu gnarled his hands
into a dozen shapes, slicing the air like a Samurai swordsman
"This is not a trendy, quick fix," Ms. Liu said to the gathering
of mostly Western press. "Feng Shui is an 8,000-year-old art and
science of how to select, create, and live in harmony with the
The event was a ceremonial blessing that came at the end of an
arduous, time-consuming analysis performed by the Lius for the
of The Pacific, 16 stories of elegant condominiums priced from
$250,000 to more than $2 million.
For $1,500, the duo submitted a thick document containing
suggestions on where to place furniture, appliances, computers,
offices - as well as what colors, textures, and materials to use.
Such suggestions were based on the Chinese philosophy (pronounced
"fong schway") that tries to understand how to create a comfortable
environment in which the user can live and work efficiently. Some
theories are literally far out - how energy fields align between
earth, stars, and planets - while others are more down to earth,
as how terrestrial features (rocks, trees, waterways) collect or
scatter sunlight and wind.
The ceremony and the analysis are the subject of heated debate
among scholars and lay people in the US - and even in China, Korea,
Japan, Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam, where the practice has been
established. But whether Feng Shui is a religion, a science, or a
superstition, it makes a significant design contribution for
believers such as The Pacific developer James Ratkovich.
"Any builder in the US who refuses to consider the principles or
practice of Feng Shui does so at his peril," says Mr. Ratkovich, a
leading developer of buildings in Los Angeles.
Billionaire developer Donald Trump has incorporated notions into
his buildings, and others who have not say they have regretted it.
When Chinese architect I.M. Pei designed the new Bank of China, for
instance, he neglected to consult a Feng Shui master and met with
widespread opposition to the 70-story office tower in the middle of
Noting that 1 in 4 of his Long Beach tenants are of Asian
heritage, Ratkovich says: "We have found the principles and the
ceremony to be of very great significance to Asian buyers, and
increasingly, non-Asian buyers. …