Feng shui argument with landlord costs Chinese shopkeeper £100,000

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The Independent Online

A Chinese shopkeeper's stout defence of feng shui, the ancient art designed to promote wealth and prosperity, yesterday left him with an estimated £100,000 legal bill.

Tak Ping Yeung failed in a court challenge against a landlord's decision to move his giftshop next door, where he feared bad feng shui would ruin the family business.

Tak Ping Yeung claimed his family's human rights would be infringed if the move were enforced from six Gerrard Street to number four in the heart of London's Chinatown district.

Mr Yeung, whose shop sells ornaments, charms and horoscopes, claimed the move would affect the family's prosperity and threaten their physical well-being.

In Cantonese, the number four sounds like the word for "death". In most other respects the two buildings were the same but the landlord wanted him to move to make way for a new restaurant. But a judge yesterday ruled Mr Yeung's adherence to feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of arranging objects and space to promote well-being, was stifling normal economic interests.

At the Central London county court, Judge Anthony Hallgarten said there was no difference from not wanting to move because of fears that the house was haunted or on the basis of an astrological prediction.

"While I entirely respect and accept his belief in feng shui, I do not think that the landlord is obliged to comply with beliefs that would stifle normal economic interests," he said. The judge also refused Mr Yeung leave to appeal against the decision.

Mr Yeung is now faced with a large legal bill after being ordered to pay his landlord's estimated £40,000 costs plus his own after bringing the case under the Human Rights Act.

Last night, his family revealed that he had received substantial financial backing from the Chinese community to fight the case.

Mr Yeung, who was not in court to hear the judgment, will now have to leave his current premises within four months.

Mr Yeung's younger brother Wai, 37, said: "The judge has got it all wrong. I don't know why he is comparing feng shui to a belief in haunted houses or astrological predictions.

"Feng shui is part of our cultural and religious beliefs. We live in the heart of London's Chinatown and feng shui is a way of life for us."

Mr Yeung, 49, has been trading since 1979 but lawyers for his landlord, Waller Investment Trust, yesterday withdrew the offer to move him to number four. Instead they offered £67,000 in compensation.

The trust's solicitor, Simon Serota, said Mr Yeung was the only one of 10 tenants who had refused to leave.

He said: "The outcome is what we expected all along. It has been difficult for the Waller family to have to go through the legal process but there was never any doubt about the outcome."

The art of harnessing positive energy

Feng Shui is a 3,000-year-old Chinese art, also called the "art of placement", aimed at promoting positive energy, or "chi", to stay healthy and harmonious. The aim is to live in harmony with the environment, staying in structures and amid furniture shaped and formed to maximise the flow of chi. Here is a quick guide to its Do's and Don't's.

Don't: Live in a house that has a street running parallel in front of it. The street should wrap around the house to collect more chi. It is even worse if the street veers away from the house. That means losing chi and those living in the house will lose health and money.

Don't: Let your house have a messy façade. This means the children will not listen to their parents in that house.

Don't: Allow your house to take up its entire lot. Homes need to be able to breathe.

Don't: Let the back or front of the lavatory be in direct alignment with the bedroom. This will cause health problems.

Don't: Move into a house where the previous owners were unhappy, poor or ill.

Do: Stay organised and orderly.

Do: Use one's own intuition before making changes, and carefully consider the effects of the changes.

Do: Use colours to send strong messages. According to feng shui laws, different colours correspond with different energies. Yellow is ideal for kitchens, and grey for bathrooms.

Do: Use all five elements (fire, wood, metal, earth and water) in the immediate surroundings.

Do: Always keep garbage cans hidden.

Do: Put "softening" feng shui objects, such as special figures and balls, over sharp corners of furniture. Sharp corners and shapes cause negative chi.