|Feng Shui prodigy Joey Yap has become an overnight sensation thanks to his business – centric approach to publicizing an ancient science. He offers Cheryl Ambrose a different perspective on the methods and reasonings behind tapping into the energies of a space. |
His business card reads principal and founder of the Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics; his website describes him as an author, speaker, consultant. Some, local or otherwise, have quickly labeled him the new guru of feng shui. But the question surrounding Joey Yap’s sudden popularity as evidenced by his TV appearances, best selling books and sold-out feng shui and Chinese Astrology classes isn’t so much about how he’s transformed an ancient science into a profitable business but why people are buying into it.
“ People are always intrigued by things that seem mystical,” Yap says matter-of-factly when we chat at his office at Mid Valley City.
It is no secret that humanity always has and always will find an avenue through which to seek hope. Feng shui is just one of those ancient avenues that have been revived through the advent of commercialism. Why else is the number of stores selling feng shui ‘cures’ multiplying as is the number of self-proclaimed feng shui experts locally and internationally? Obviously there is money to be made in selling hope.
Even as a student in Australia, Yap realized the potential in making money by adding the element of hope into people’s lives as opposed to, say, waiting tables as his university mates did. But while those uni mates went on to pursue the professions they were trained in, Yap opted instead to plunge full-time into his hobby, his passion.
“ I got interested in feng shui in secondary school. People assume that it’s a family influence but it’s purely my own interest,” he explains. So interested that he insisted on studying it, first unofficially with several teachers and later, officially with various teachers in Hong Kong. This was nine years ago when the metaphysics movement was just beginning to rock this part of Asia.
“ It wasn’t as popular then,” he adds. But when he returned from Australia armed with a degree in commerce about seven years ago, his parents, as most Asian parents are wont to, expected him to pursue a career in accounting. Understandably, they took the news of Yap’s insistence on becoming a feng shui master with a healthy dose of cynicism.
“ My parents thought I was crazy,” he says, with a grin. And not surprisingly, they refused to fund his feng shui studies, claiming that they had already given him an education.
But surely by now, they must be thrilled by his booming business? After all, he hasn’t even turned 29 but has already made a name for himself. He shrugs and offers an indecipherable grin.
Whatever his parents’ reaction to his booming business, Yap’s business-centric attitude has contributed to transforming his name into a brand in its own right. Many, locally and internationally, automatically equate the name Joey Yap with feng shui studies. That’s right, studies. Not ornaments and miracle cures.
Is he perhaps the guy who will finally paint a clear picture of true classical feng shui as opposed to promoting the tainted versions that have filtered out of China only to be distorted along the way?
Depending on your thoughts and beliefs of feng shui, Yap’s office could either shock you or pleasantly surprise you. Instead of what’s become accepted as ‘traditional cures’ like wind chimes, dragons and dust-collecting knick-knacks, Yap’s third floor office at Mid Valley City is spacious, bright and uncluttered. Minimalism is apparently a good concept in feng shui terms.
And here’s where Yap’s opinions of this ancient Chinese art differs drastically from that of some other practitioners, Lillian Too included.
“ Feng shui means tapping into the natural energies of a given room,” he explains, rejecting the commercialized views of feng shui, which place importance on displaying symbolic objects around the home or office to activate qi.
According to Yap’s philosophy, which is based on classical feng shui as opposed to ‘new age’ feng shui (for lack of a better term), tapping into the good energies of a room only concerns pathways, doors and open spaces and not the colour scheme. That’s it. No need for dragons, wind chimes and peonies.
“ Classical feng shui mainly deals with the principles originally practiced. Direction and location of property, natural things. New age feng shui is very product based,” he says and smiles coyly. Well, for obvious reasons. “Feng shui is a means to improve lives. It is a supportive element. You have to do your part and the environment plays a part. A lot of corporate offices engage feng shui practitioners and I can’t tell them to decorate the place with objects. I’m not an interior decorator.”
But he’s quick to say he doesn’t believe in criticizing anyone. “ I believe in giving an alternate point of view. You make your choice. Users themselves should decide what to believe. It should make sense to them.”
So, why do some practitioners promote using symbolic objects to activate chi?
He gives an example that makes perfect sense. Back in ancient China, a time before televisions, the Internet and other modern necessities, a feng shui master might recommend placing an artistically created dragon (or other object) in a specific part of a specific home in order to activate the chi in that person’s home. Specific advice because of the lack of things to do back then, art was held in high esteem. As such, people in the house and visitors were more likely to walk over to the feature and admire it. The presence of people in the area activates qi. “It has nothing to do with the dragon,” he says. Well, that makes sense.
“This is important for our corporate clients. They don’t want to turn their offices into a restaurant. Major accounting firms and other firms want the place to be neat and tidy. They’re doing pretty well even without wind chimes and dragons scattered about the place,” he says matter-of-factly. “ When people talk about wealth luck, what feng shui does is activate the qi so that they will be happier and have more passion in life. Then, they’ll work hard and the money will come in. You have to tap into a direction and know what you want. It all depends on the goal of clients.”
At the same time, Yap is quick to point out that he isn’t criticizing those who want to go ahead and surround themselves with positive motifs. This was a popular practice in ancient China because they believe in surrounding oneself with positive motifs would cause the psyche to react positively. “ But a lot of people misunderstand this and equate such customary Chinese practices with feng shui.”
Which leads to the next obvious question: Why aren’t more people aware of this fact?
Yap explains that older masters held the secrets of feng shui close to their hearts. Most didn’t want to share it for fear that their students will become smarter and therefore richer than them.
Yap’s stance is completely different.
“ I want people to understand the true meaning of feng shui,” he says. And in the quest to spread the true meaning of feng shui throughout the world, Joey Yap has tapped into the secret of gaining wealth through metaphysics: Education.
The more a person’s curiosity is sparked, the more questions they have. Answers, although available through a number of books, are easier gain from the classroom.
As such, Yap claims to have developed a syllabus for teaching feng shui and other Chinese metaphysics courses including Xuan Kong (pronounced Shuen Kong) which is a branch of feng shui dealing with the Flying Stars system and Chinese Astrology known as BaZi (or Four Pillars) which is the ‘science of destiny analysis’ through the Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics. Classes, usually limited to 40 or 50 students per session are conducted locally and internationally by Yap and other qualified practitioners.
According to Yap, simply reading about feng shui and following the advice blindly will not lead to much. “ You have to know how and why feng shui works. It is a science and it appeals to logical minded people.”
Could logic then be the cornerstone of feng shui? Judging by Yap’s reply, the answer is yes. For example, one feng shui rule that many of us have become acquainted with is the placement of toilets in our home. According to new age practitioners, toilets are bad luck and therefore having one in your bedroom isn’t such a hot idea. What many forget is that when this and other rules were conceptualized, modern day conveniences hadn’t been invented. Toilets in ancient China all those thousands of years ago probably resembled toilets in the rest of the world – holes in the ground. Imagine having one of those out-houses located in your bedroom. Obviously, such a breeding ground for disease is bound to bring bad luck!
Given modern day amenities like running water and anti-bacterial solutions, what then is the problem with en suite bathroom? Such are the myths that Yap attempts to debunk in his courses by studying the origins of practices, probing into the possible logical reasons such a practice might have made sense all those millennia ago.
“ It makes a difference to see when a certain feng shui rule was written. Classical feng shui operates on another level. We refer to ancient texts. We look for logic. Only then can we debate about the possible meanings of those texts and interpret them,” he explains. Apparently those ancient texts were written in poetic verses that therefore necessitates some amount of interpretation. How accurate the interpretations we’ve heard or read about is still open to argument. There’s still a lot to be discovered, says Yap, who continues to increase his wealth of knowledge by studying with various masters in Hong Kong until this day.
“ You never know what you might discover. I’m going backwards to go forward,” he says of the in-depth research he does into the original sources of feng shui principles.
His logical approach is exactly what makes Yap more believable than the number of so-called experts out there. And which instantly made his first book Stories and Lessons on Feng Shui a best seller. If you’re into feng shui but are constantly worrying about the number of fish in your aquarium or whether the water feature on the right hand side of your front door might make your husband or wife stray, or if you’re surrounded by feng shui junkies, then this is a laugh-a-loud volume to settle into.
Nothing that Yap propagates – whether through his books, seminars or courses – is new, however. Many local feng shui master have worked according to these classic principles over the years, but instead of building an international conglomerate, most have chosen to offer their services through small set-ups.
Yap, however, has changed all that in a matter of two years since he started Yap Global Consulting Sdn Bhd in 2004. But his age, he claims has never been a problem in the business, raises one niggling problem. That of time. Where does he find time to write his books (he has numerous books in print, many of them quite complex in nature), organize and research education materials for his course, film his DVDs, make TV appearances and fly around the world to teach?
He certainly is business – savvy. That isn’t in doubt given the way he has marketed his name as a brand.
When asked about his schedule, he simply replies that he just finds the time. “ Its my passion. I do it for the love of the art. I want people to know the difference between classical feng shui and new age feng shui. The perception of feng shui today is not correct. I want to tell people what classical feng shui is,” he pauses then adds, “ If you’re passionate about something, you’ll work harder. If I’m passionate, I can write my books until 2am. The wealth is a by – product.”
Time isn’t a concern at all, he says, adding that he doesn’t have much of a social life. That, however, is a little difficult to believe given his confidence, his smooth mannerisms and that slight hint of arrogance that occasionally rears its head. But then again, there’s always that thing about not judging a book by its cover. Yap could very well be holed up in his office or home writing and reading until the wee hours.
A more troubling issue are the allegations raised by the well-respected Malaysian feng shui master Grand Master Yap Cheng Hai (a man who is constantly mistaken as a relative of Joey Yap) about the younger Yap’s rise to stardom.
While Joey Yap claims that everything he has learnt about feng shui stemmed from his studies with various masters in Hong Kong, Master Yap claims he was the younger Yap’s teacher. Both Yaps practice classical feng shui and both of them have an academy, each teaching the basics of the ancient Chinese science throughout the world.
That might be negligible but Master Yap continues that Joey ended up working for him and together they set up an institution to teach feng shui worldwide (which is today called Yap Cheng Hai Academy). The problem is, Master Yap claims that with some help from others, Joey Yap transferred Master Yap’s years of work into a computer system and absconded with all the materials including teaching syllabus, information for his books and his accounts.
Joey Yap never once mentions Yap Cheng Hai during the interview except to say that they are not related. Of course, all this is purely hearsay. Legal proceedings have not been filed, allegations have only been made to third parties with no formal complaint out in the open. As to who’s telling the truth, no one knows for sure.
What is clear is that both of them rely on the same methods of teaching and on the same feng shui principles. Coincidence? Perhaps. The story goes that Joey Yap worked with Master Yap until 2003 and then started his own company a year later. Within a matter of months, Joey Yap’s self- published books had flooded the market. At that time, classical feng shui wasn’t publicized much. Master practitioners worked more as private consultants, keeping a low profile most of the time. Joey Yap has certainly changed that.
Despite the turbulence that’s bound to arise once Master Yap formalizes his allegations, Joey Yap continues to insist that his job is to increase the knowledge of classical feng shui. It helps of course that specializing in such a new age practices is a minefield these days.
“ Studying in Hong Kong was not cheap. No one wants to give up trade secrets. The older (practitioners) know the secrets. I had to go to various teachers and I had to pay a lot of money for them to teach me,” he says, determined that that shouldn’t be in the way.
Which comes back to his earlier stance of advocating education.
“ Competition is high but there’s no need to increase more practitioners, so the word spreads,” he explains. That really is his mission in life. “ My aim is to build up the industry. Only then can there be a breakthrough. For me, education is the most important thing. Even during consultations, I have to educate my clients because they have to know how the system works because feng shui changes. It’s not about putting a dragon in a corner and forgetting about it.”
That’s the difference between end – users and practitioners, he adds.
“ The end – users think that just by placing objects around, they will become rich. A practitioner understands that feng shui is in the design of the place. In an office, it’s the pathways, doors and open spaces that matter, not the color scheme, Yin and yang interaction is there. You just have to use the qi,” he continues.
In order to teach this and more to his loyal students who span numerous countries including UK, US, Australia and various locations in Europe, Yap claims that most of his time is spent researching.
“ I read about Western astrology, palmistry.. I need to know the correlations between Chinese and Western metaphysics for comparison and to see the similarities. There are a lot of astrologers in my classes as well as Vedic astrologers. If they say something about the planets, I have to know what they mean. Real professionals always continue learning.”
As for his future, although Yap has the ability to analyse the possible bumps on his path to stardom using Chinese astrology or BaZi, he claims that nothing is carved in stone.
“ It’s how you use your God-given talents and manage those challenges. Destiny is just a path. The ultimate destination of everyone – and I can say that this is 100% accurate – is that we’re all going to die someday. It’s about how you get from A to B.”
For now, his idea of B is to expand the academy to teach the different systems of feng shui. He’s obviously happy that his teachings are gaining wider acceptance and that people are beginning to understand the finer nuances of feng shui. Until point B is reached, Yap claims that he’ll be happy to carry on ‘consulting because it is challenging, writing books because it helps educate people and speaking at events because I love the attention.’
Given his obvious talent for business and marketing, there isn’t any doubt that he’ll give other more low – keyed practitioners a run for their money. He already has a knack for making people sit up and pay attention. He’s certainly raking in the dough. And to think he hasn’t even turned 30 yet.
|In response to certain sections in their Cover Story on 20th February 2006, Joey Yap wrote to The Edge-Options on 21st February 2006. The following is the text of the letter which was also published in The Edge-Options for the week 6th March 2006:|
|February 21 2006|
The Edge-Options Magazine
Re: Cover Story on Joey Yap in Options
Thank you for your recent cover story on me in the Options section of The Edge (February 20, 2006) entitled 'Riding the Qi' by Ms. Cheryl Ambrose. There are some sections of the article, however, which I feel could do with clarification.
In her article, Ms. Ambrose writes that Mr. Yap Cheng Hai was "my teacher" and that I “transferred Master Yap's years of work into a computer system and absconded with all the materials including teaching syllabus, information for his books and his accounts". I wish to state categorically that these claims and allegations are unfounded, baseless, and utterly false. At no time, did I or any third party, as written in the article, engage in any such activity.
All my information and knowledge have been acquired from teachers in Hong Kong and through my own extensive reading and research. There is also no question of 'absconding with his accounts' as all matters related to the financial affairs of the Company in which Mr Yap Cheng Hai and I were business partners are presently under the administration of the Liquidator in accordance with the winding-up proceedings.
Mr. Yap Cheng Hai and I were non-executive Director and Managing Director of the Company respectively and our shareholdings reflected an equal partnership. Our association ended in 2003 when we mutually agreed to wind up the Company, following disagreement over its future direction. It is therefore completely false and inaccurate to state that he was "my teacher" or that I had worked for him because the nature of our past relationship was neither one of these two.
Ms. Ambrose, in her article, further writes that "Legal proceedings haven't been filed, allegations have only been made to third parties with no formal complaint out in the open. As to who's telling the truth, no one knows for sure".
Ms. Ambrose goes on to write that, "Despite the turbulence that's bound to arise once Master Yap formalises his allegations..." This, unfortunately, gives the impression and presumes that these allegations have substance and legal basis. It also suggests that it is all a matter of time before "the truth" emerges.
The perception given to readers by these statements are not only misleading but are extremely damaging to my reputation and integrity as a Feng Shui trainer, practitioner, consultant and author.
I would have appreciated it greatly if Ms Ambrose had contacted me to verify or clarify the allegations therein, in the interests of balanced reporting especially as they were, in her own words, "pure hearsay". For the record, the subject of my relationship with Mr. Yap Cheng Hai was not broached during the interview.
I would thus appreciate the opportunity to rectify this situation in your publication as soon as possible and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Thank you again.