Businessmen from Harbin to Hong Kong spend ungodly sums on feng shui. After consulting the most sought-after geomancers, they build artificial waterfalls in front of their office buildings, and plunk massive jade carvings in their foyers, all to direct good fortune their way. They’re gambling that all this good feng shui will cancel out the bad karma of breaking contracts and other commercial skullduggery. But as this ancient story shows, all the mystical qi-directing in the world doesn’t overcome the force of our actions.
So, here it goes…
Thousands of years ago there was a feng shui master famed not just for his skill but also his fiery temper. One sweltering summer he got a commission from a rich family to assess a burial site, in a range of mountains far from his home.
It took him five days of hiking to reach the site and another day to complete his work. After resting in a mountain cave, he packed up his geomancer compass and writings and trudged off on the long trek home. The going was exceedingly hot, and by the second day of the return journey he had run out of water. He was out of the mountains and saw rich fields of rice ready to be harvested, but could discern no wells.
He did see a young woman with three children in the distance, working a field, and so he headed towards them. The woman and children all ceased their labors, winnowing the stalks of rice, to stare at the feng shui master and his fine clothes.
“I beg of you, kind lady, a bowl of water. I’ll never make it back to my home alive unless I have some water.”
The woman hurried to the shade of a nearby tree, and hoisted a large pitcher of water, which she uncorked and poured into a wooden bowl. But before giving the bowl of water to the feng shui master, she tossed a small handful of chaff on the water’s surface.
The hotheaded master felt a surge of fury well up. He snatched the bowl from the woman without a word or sign of gratitude. Try as he might to gulp the water, he had to continually blow away the chaff in the water to the side, and drink it in small sips. Convinced that he had been gravely insulted, he plotted revenge as he drank.
“Where do you live?” the feng shui master asked the kind woman.
“In that hut at the edge of the field, with my three sons,” replied the woman. “My husband died some years ago. With these sons of mine to feed and care for, life is difficult. We are poor, but we work hard and manage.”
The feng shui master gazed off at the hut for some time and the land surrounding it. “It’s no surprise you have to work so hard and fare so poorly,” he told the woman. “The feng shui of your house is most unfortunate. As long as you dwell in this place you will know only poverty and naught of prosperity. But I can help you. On the other side of that mountain lie an abandoned field and a ramshackle old house. The land needs cultivating, and the house many repairs, yet the feng shui there is superb. I recommend that you move your family there as soon as possible.”
Both the woman and her sons bowed to the master and thanked him over and over for his sage advice. He simply hefted his bags and set off down the road without a word in reply. Not a twinge of remorse did he feel for sending them off to a “Five Ghosts Death Site”, a place so exceedingly inauspicious that it would be a miracle should one of her sons live to reach manhood. The master felt it fitting retribution for the insult he had suffered.
Ten years passed by the time the feng shui master had cause to be in the area again. Remembering the family he had cursed, he made a point of stopping by to witness their ill fate. As he approached their house, the woman, older but still graceful, and quite prosperous looking, came out and bowed to him.
“I don’t suppose you remember me.”
“Of course, master. How could we forget one as kind as you? Since moving to this new place our lands have been uncommonly fruitful. Out of the abundance I have sent two of my sons to study for official posts, and my third son will soon take a wise old tutor. Won’t you come in and allow me to prepare a feast to thank you?”
Not long after, the feng shui master sat full of salted duck, roast pig, and a dozen other dainty viands. He gazed in bafflement at the plastered walls and rich furnishings. “How could this have transpired?” he wondered. “The site is still a magnet for the worst kind of feng shui, and I don’t see any charms about with which she could protect herself.”
At wit’s end, he confessed to the woman. “When I was thirsty, you gave me water. But instead of giving me pure water, you tossed chaff in just to spite an old man. That’s why I sent you here, to a place of ill omen, a Five Ghost Death site. Yet you and your family prosper. This goes against everything I’ve ever learned.”
The woman listened, her eyes wide, but in the end threw her head back and laughed. “Don’t you see? It was an extremely hot day, and I could see what a state you were in. As thirsty as you were, you would have gulped the cold water as fast as you could, and most likely have dropped dead from the shock. With the chaff in, you had to blow on the water and sip it slowly. I was only trying to spare you from harm.”
At last the feng shui master understood.
“I am an old fool. I sent you to an evil place, yet no lasting evil can come to you. Each and every day Heaven and the Buddha bless you for your kind heart and benevolent actions.”