Bull and Bear Meet Wind and Water

How Wall Street is waking up to the economic advantages of feng shui.

BY: Ellen Leventry


Quick quiz. The Amex is overshadowed by the NYSE because:

  • It has a lower volume of trading.

  • It has lower-status company listings.

  • It was forced to merge with the Nasdaq to survive.

  • Too much yin.

It's obvious. The inauspicious location and a lack of free-flowing energy would add up to "D," says Brooklyn-based feng shui consultant Stephanie Roberts.

Chi-bang: Dark, reflective doors bounce positive chi back.
Photo credit: Ellen Leventry

Translated as "wind and water," feng shui (pronounced fung-shway) is a broad body of traditional Chinese knowledge primarily concerned with the flow and quality of the energy, or chi, occupying a space. (For those unfamiliar with the power of chi, see Jean-Claude Van Damme's 1987


Like the bull and the bear of the market, chi is composed of opposing forces -- yang and yin. Yang energy is light, high, bright and active, while yin energy is dark, low and inactive. An excess of yin translates into not enough energy for life -- which means not enough energy for business, says Roberts, who does residential and corporate consulting. Feng shui practitioners attempt to balance the opposing forces through the auspicious placement of buildings, doors, furniture and other objects in order to create harmony, prosperity and well-being.

Once solely a New Age preoccupation, feng shui has lured such soulful '90s converts as Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey. The Donald consulted a feng shui specialist before building his hulking Trump International Hotel in New York -- hence the blinding silver globe out front at Columbus Circle. And Oprah is purported to have worked out her chi issues with a consultant. Even Wall Street has taken stock of its chi flow.

Salomon Smith Barney is reported to have employed the services of feng shui specialists, and Credit Lyonnaise Securities Asia puts out a yearly feng shui index for the Chinese New Year.

Cemeteries and commerce, like oil and water.
Photo credit: Ellen Leventry

Unfortunately for the American Stock Exchange, it's got huge feng shui issues, says Roberts. For starters, it's downhill from the Trinity Church cemetery. A graveyard is as yin as they come -- it doesn't get any more inactive, folks. Then there's the exchange's downsized entryway that limits the amount of chi entering. The doors made of dark glass actually deflect what little free-flowing chi there is, and its flat facade fails to grab the attention and energy of passers-by. Put simply, the Amex is long on yin, short on yang.

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