Best-selling author Lillian Too is a devotee of the Chinese practice of feng shui.
She told STEVE PENNELS how it can work for everyone.

The West Magazine, Australia,
March 1999 interview
by Steve Pennells

"Not here," Lillian Too says, striding up to the table in one of Sydney's better hotels. "Bad feng shui here."

She pauses, briefly looks around the hotel foyer, then strides purposefully towards an atrium. "Over there." Too is not normally one to force her feng shui views on others, but when the mood takes her she has been known to shift the occasional plant in an office or move hotel rooms if the bed is facing the wrong way.

Her successful career - first as a businesswoman then as one of the world's best-selling feng shui authors - has been built, according to her, on a foundation of harmony with the environment.

Even the size, design and colors of her books are carefully chosen to foster prosperity. "Why do you think they sell so well?"

Today, in one of Sydney's better hotels, she is psyched for a publicity interview, and the yin and yang energy in the atrium is much better than the foyer. Good feng shui for an interview. She sits, as she always does, with a large open space in front of her and settles back, satisfied. "I think it is fine here," she says. "You open up to the sky and get really nice energy."

Lillian Too began her preoccupation with the Chinese practice of feng shui in the early 1970's. She was, she admits, very skeptical. That was until she avoided a marriage break-up and gave birth to a daughter she and her husband thought they could never have. "As long as you live in this house, you will never have children and your marriage will fail," her kung fu teacher, close friend and feng shui expert had told her. The culprit: a magnificent casuarina tree in her front yard. The solution: a new house, feng shui approved.

Once she made the move, Too says the change in her life was astounding. Her marriage, on the verge of divorce, was reinvigorated and within four months she was pregnant with her daughter, Jennifer. Then an executive, Too blazed a trail through the corporate world and became the first woman to head a publicly-listed company in Malaysia with her appointment as the managing director of Hong Leong Credit in the early 1980s.

She went on to become deputy chairman of Dickson Concepts, the billion-dollar conglomerate that owns ST Dupont of Paris and Harvey Nichols of London, and executive chairperson of the Dragon Seed department store group in Hong Kong after packaging a financially leveraged buy-out of the group. During this time, Too used her business influence to satisfy her newfound passion for feng shui, and traveled to China to study the art and examine ancient homes built to its principles. "I was accompanied by people who were very knowledgeable about the application of feng shui and the background," she says.

"Even in Hong Kong, because I was such a believer of feng shui I used to invite this feng shui master in to have a look at my business, and that developed over time. I suddenly realized when I retired from the corporate world that I had a whole store of knowledge. But I didn't want to write about just anything. I wanted to write about something I believed in strongly, but more than that, something that I knew about. And at that time there was not much about feng shui around. There was a crying need for it. It sounds rather grand to say but I thought I would see if I could bring these really wonderful Chinese techniques to the world. I decided to start really small and I wrote just for Malaysia and Singapore, where I come from. Then, you know, surprise surprise. It just took off."

That was about 10 years ago, when she was 45. Since then she has risen to become arguably the world's best known feng shui expert. Her first four books on the subject - she now has 12 and counting - are still going like boarding house butter. And late last year she filled the convention center at Sydney's Darling Harbour with people eager to hear her talk.

"How much of it do I actually attribute to feng shui? Quite a lot, I would say, quite a lot."

Given her business credentials, many people are taking her advice on board and her books constantly sit on bestseller lists around the world. Feng shui is enjoying a spectacular revival in its country of origin and increasing international popularity, something Too takes some credit for. Plans for new building and big property developments around Southern China and many of its coastal cities now bear testimony to the feng shui practitioner's input. And as an increasing number of Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore now actively look to feng shui to give them an extra edge in business.

In the US, Donald Trump's creditors were getting restless until Hong Kong investors joined him in a massive project involving 16 buildings and 5700 apartments on New York's Upper West Side. There was one condition - the entire project had to be built according to feng shui principles.

Even in Australia, more and more businesses are calling in feng shui consultants to redesign their offices. Not for aesthetics, but to improve prosperity. Some believe it will work, some simply want to keep, or attract, Asian clients and some think there's o harm in trying.

"You don't even have to believe that it will work for it to work," Too says. "It is really a technique. It is basically living with a great awareness f your environment - of all the structures and objects and angles and things - and then arranging, decorating and designing it in such a way that the energies are very harmonious. It blends well not just with each other - like the chair and the table and the plant - but it is also blending in well with the energies that you are emitting and taking in. That is how feng shui works. It is a really balanced play of energies."

Feng shui is known to have been practised in China at least since the Tang Dynasty and is believed to have been founded by Yang Yun Sang, principal advisor to the court of Emperor Hi Tsang (AD888). Master Yang's emphasis was on the shape of the mountains and the direction of water courses and feng shui was the name given to the practice of beneficially harnessing those energy forces. Flowing water, fish, light, and energetic animals are good. Straight lines and sharp angles coming at you are bad.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" Too asks suddenly. "Is there a mirror in your bedroom? Get rid of it immediately." A mirror that reflects the bed, she says, is likely to cause an unhappy relationship and end up with one of the partners cheating on the other.

Too says that in China, over centuries, feng shui was passed by word of mouth from generation to generation, so that those ignorant of its philosophical underpinnings have come to regard it as superstitious practice.

But feng shui, Too explains, is not a religion but a science and a logical extension of other Chinese practices like acupuncture, Chinese medicine and tai ch'i.

She laughs that an Australian once said he had been told that before he could learn feng shui he had to fast for three weeks and travel to China to pay respects to a monk. "I think the greatest thing about feng shui is not anything religious," Too says. "If you practise feng shui you are not compromising any of your spiritual or religious beliefs. I believe greatly in religion. I am a Buddhist. But I keep feng shui practices separate from my religion."

Too says she draws the line at giving unsolicited opinions and will politely stay quiet even if she visits a home or business that is obviously a feng shui disaster. "I leave it alone. People don't like to hear. If they are not interested why should you impose this on people. If they are interested they know who I am. They can open their mouth and ask me. And I never refuse to help when people ask." Her website ( gets hundreds of hits a day and she replies to all her emails.

"You don't have to practise difficult advanced feng shui for feng shui to work," she says. "You just use simple easy methods like I do. And that is what I am trying to do. I am trying to demystify feng shui. I am trying to make it simple and user-friendly. It costs you nothing. Try it."
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