Power of Feng Shui

October - November 2000

When feng shui consultant and author Lillian Too talks about feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of harmonious living, people listen. Her formidable, record-breaking corporate background demands attention. After all, how many feng shui masters have credentials like being the first woman to run a Malaysian public listed company - Hong Leong Credit - in 1982, the first woman in Asia to be appointed CEO of Grindlays Dao Heng, the sixth largest bank in Hong Kong and the first Malaysia to take over Dragon Seed, the upmarket chain of department stores in Hong Kong? If this Harvard MBA graduate insists it was all due to good feng shui, who dares say nay?


Click here to read the Lillian Too Feng Shui Jewellery Page.

"I am the first to admit all my references, stories and examples about feng shui are anecdotal!" with this caveat, Lillian Too charmingly extricates herself from any responsibilities should your life refuse to turn the corner after applying every principle listed in her 43 best-selling books.

"The billion dollar question is whether feng shui really works. If, after following my advice, your business boomed, your love life flourised and you became richer in every sense of the word, would you credit your good luck to feng shui or would all these occur anyway without any feng shui influences?

"In hindsight, it's easy to credit or denounce feng shui since certain things have already happened. What is difficult to prove is whether the good things would have happened if you did not do anything at all? Some way it's a case of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you do certain things like re-arrange your work desk to face your propitious direction and then start expecting business to flow more smoothly and problems get solved in your favour, then the placebo effect might kick in and you might achieve what you wanted so desperately.

"The best solution is to have two sets of people, one group would follow feng shui principles while the other do not. Their progress and luck would then be followed and 'measured' in an empirical manner to see if there are any dramatic differences!"

But until that is done under the auspicious of a respected, neutral organization, the world may have to continue to rely on her books. Based on personal experiences as well as tales related by others including her own feng shui master Yap Cheng Hai, her tome reveal the hidden wealth of this ancient Chinese art. Her 43 books include big-time hits that occupied best-seller lists for months and entire racks in bookstores worldwide.

A few are re-packaged versions geared for specific markets and if you balk at ploughing through reams of text, the most definitive is The Complete Illustrated Guide to Feng Shui, a thick book packed with readable, entertaining and sensible information, a veritable crash course in feng shui. On the opposite spectrum are her Little Books of Feng Shui containing condensed snippets of information and gems of advice.

When released a few years ago, they leaped into the best-seller lists in Europe and America.

If the author's fame and fortune have been feng shui-aided, most would be grateful to attain a tenth of what Too has chalked up in a glittering corporate career filled with so many "firsts". Her name has always been linked to Quek Leng Chan of Hong Leong Group and through Hong Leong, Too would stage her spectacular rise to the pinnacle of corporate stardom in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Yet all was not well with her personal life. She attributes this to awful feng shui at her former house in Kenny Hills. When their new house was being built at Pantai Hills, she had the entire structure feng shui-ed and left for Boston to do her MBA at Harvard Business School. Upon her return armed with the master's degree in finance and business in 1976, it was to ask her husband for a divorce! After all, after 10 years of childless marriage, there was precious little to hold them together. But their new home worked wonders on the marital front. After having given up hope of ever getting a child, Too suddenly found herself pregnant and Jennifer arrived nine months later!

She was now on the verge of entering the Dragon's Gate...

"Having excellent feng shui does not mean being idle or lazy while expecting to win the lottery or four digits on a weekly basis!" intones the energetic Too.

"What is means is that a door of opportunities would unexpectedly open or people who would normally never enter your sphere of life would meet you or you get ideas to make a lucrative deal, or your existing business would be taken to greater heights: you know, things like that. But you still must work hard! Except you get more money-making opportunities while niggling, irritating problems like staff quarrels or equipment breakdown would disappear so your attention can be focused on important things.

"I was then working with Asiavest. After my maternity leave, I met Penny Chang who was with Hong Leong and she encouraged me to join Hong Leong. I met Quek Leng Chan whom I thought was obviously clever, focused, knowledgeable and very classy. And he offered me the job of Group Internal Auditor cum Director of Industrial Companies! Later we would transform Sovran Industries into Hong Leong Credit Berhad and Fancy Tile Works into Hong Leong Industries Berhad. I became the first Malaysian woman to be managing director of a public listed company."

In 1982 she again entered corporate history by being the first woman in Asia to be appointed CEO of a bank. Not some nondescript, offshore bank but Grindlays Dao Heng, the sixth largest bank in Hong Kong.

"I am the only CEO I know who took over the running of a bank in the middle of a bank run! It was so scary but we pulled through."

She then joined well-known Hong Kong entrepreneur Dickson Poon as executive deputy chairman of his group of companies, helping him build his vehicle Dickson Concepts. Retailing seemed promising and she acquired Dragon Seed, a sleepy chain of upmarket department stores. By coincidence, both Hong Leong and Dragon Seed had a dragon as their symbol.

"The dragon is the mightiest and most powerful bringer of fortune but not all dragons are equal. The first Hong Leong dragon was a 'hungry' or 'starving' dragon, very dangerous to business! So I did some design changes and transformed it into the auspicious 'pregnant' dragon of abundance. Sure enough, Hong Leong kept expanding and giving birth to new subsidiaries! Likewise, for Dragon Seed, I incorporated the dragon's swirling body to also represent a crown, another auspicious symbol, but a Western type crown so Dragon Seed represented the best of east and west. Another success story!"

Still, feng shui failed to save her from being caught in the stock market crash of 1987. "I did borrow to buy stocks and like all tycoons, was trapped when the Hong Kong index fell a thousand points in a day. Can you imagine watching the index collapsing knowing your hard earned money was vanishing before your eyes? I woke up in the middle of the night and told myself, 'God, I have nothing!' The banks saved me by not calling in the loans! They knew I was an investor, not speculator. So I held on and things recovered."

Vibrant and dynamic, Too was the toast of Hong Kong, sitting next to the British Governor-General at formal galas at Government House. She was only 44. Then came intense soul-searching. Having reached the top, she started sorting out her priorities in life. Her long-suffering husband was giving up on her and threatening to leave. Her daughter Jennifer was becoming a stranger despite the posh boarding schools and later Cambridge. She decided to take a quantum leap by liquidating all her corporate assests, selling her businesses, house, even car. She had cashed out at the peak of her life!

"I had nothing but a pile of money," she chuckles. "I was sick of the corporate world; my marriage was on the rocks again and I wanted to be a full time, serious mother! A career can be resurrected later in life but your children's childhood and growing up years are only about 10 years and after that, they are adults and leave your life. I retired aged 45 in 1990. I mended my marriage and Jennifer and I are so close we are best friends!"

"Jennifer and I now run World of Feng Shui and have gone on the Internet in a big way. My consuming project now is to build the world's largest statue of Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the Future, in Bogaya, India, the place where Gautama found enlightenment."

Click here to read the Lillian Too Feng Shui Jewellery Page.
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