Chai Wan in Hong Kong. One car repair shop after another. Somewhere between the glittering Porsches, gleaming Maseratis and fluorescent Ferraris, is the entrance to an industrial loft building.
The harbour lies opposite, further away a large cemetery stands on a hilltop.
Thierry lives here with her husband Peter and her three little chihuahuas. Thierry is a designer, fashion icon and, the main reason I want to meet her, one of her father's feng shui students.
Feng means wind, shui water.
The Daoist harmony teachings of feng shui originated in China. The Book of Changes, the I Ching, one of the oldest surviving Chinese texts, explores the fundamentals of yin yang, the five elements and the eight trigrams. The book holds a magical attraction for me, although feng shui has nothing to do with magic or superstition. Instead, it helps us to understand better the world around us and how to use its energy in positive ways.
Meeting Thierry and her father, the highly acclaimed feng shui master Chow Hanming, opens up whole new perspectives on Hong Kong. Talking with them sharpens my senses as I look around the city, seeing how feng shui works to improve the surroundings.
Evidence is everywhere, dragons, tortoises, mirrors, copper clocks mounted on facades or standing in shops, apartments, galleries, public buildings.
Negative energy bounces off mirrors, for example. One of my favourite cafés in the Central district uses mirrors to deflect energies from a memorial inside a temple across the street. Prior to this, staff had fallen sick, had accidents, objects had fallen from the walls. Now, shielded from the energy of the dead, things are quiet. Overall, Hong Kong's feng shui is very good, bordered by water and mountains. So-called dragon lines lead from the mountains to the city. The summit of Victoria Peak is rounded, which also has a positive influence in feng shui principles. According to Chow Hanming, Central on Hong Kong Island has the best feng shui in the town, Tuen Mun in the New Territories the worst. And in Central the place with the best energy of all, anywhere in the city, is the HSBC Bank.
I learn that virtually everyone in Hong Kong, from the banks and government to small shops and newspaper kiosks, calls on the services of a feng shui master. Some of the stories I hear are quite astounding, Whole districts have been redesigned to correct poor feng shui. Cannon-like structures perch on top of Hong Kong's tallest buildings to neutralize the negative energy of neighbouring buildings. Like the HSBC Bank, for example. The Bank of China with its knife edge contours is the source of all evil. When the building was completed there was a fatality and an financial crash. The people of Hong Kong suspect malice aforethought. A Chinese bank structure responsible for the negative energy in Hong Kong, it's plain to see. All of the buildings in the immediate vicinity had to implement protective measures.
Thierry and her twin brother have been studying under their father for many years.
He is proud of Thierry. She brings her own ideas and creativity into her work as a feng shui master.
She hopes to make feng shui more accessible to others, combining it with contemporary design and fashion.
All over the world, interest in China's harmony teachings is growing. I can well imagine that her vision of bringing feng shui into the present will bear fruit.
Chou Hanming makes a big impression on me.
Our meeting is pleasant, there is a lightness in the air, buoyed by his circumspect intelligence and affability.
He is a Buddhist and meditates for hours every day, as he has done so for years. Thierry's twin has an explanation for their father's sensitivity. He can pick up on a person's negative, blocked qi as soon as they enter his office. We wait outside for his client to leave so we can speak with him again. The view from his office out onto Causeway Bay is imposing.
My time in Hong Kong has changed me. Brought me closer to this city. As if everything has become clearer and I can look deeper into its secrets.