From teacher to millionaire fengshui master
MASTER Yun Long Zi is, in his own words, "a millionaire in any currency".
Home is a four-bedroom apartment in the heart of Marina Bay, he zips around in a chauffeur-driven BMW 7 series sedan and, at his upscale fengshui galleries in Sin Ming Road, jade pendants carry eye-popping price tags as high as $13,688,633.
The number is auspicious, and that is what his business is all about. And business is good.
In a typical month, Master Yun sees 30 to 60 clients, some of whom pay $2,300 just to get advice on the best colour to wear during the Chinese New Year. This month, his fengshui chain, known as Lotus on Water, could serve up to 200 clients.
Not bad, for a former primary-school teacher who started selling jade pieces from his home in 2002.
"My first client was a friend, and he gave me five more clients," recalled the 42-year-old, whose name means "dragon in the clouds". "Back then, I thought that if no one buys my jade, it's OK, because I am selling from my home."
Master Yun opened his first store in 2006, and there are now four, all located in Sin Ming. There, crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, lime trees reside in golden urns and custom-made carpets embroidered with golden phoenixes soften footsteps.
Butlers remind guests to remove their shoes, while a Bangladeshi "tea steward", dressed in a white suit and bow tie, makes sure your teacup is never empty.
Master Yun was dressed for success during his interview with MyPaper, held in a private room for clients who spend at least $18,000.
A $300,000 jade pendant hung around his neck, and there were four jade rings on his left hand, two of them on his middle finger. "It's peak season now, so I moved an extra ring there to bring in more customers," he explained.
His clientele is varied. There are chief executives, "a famous lady golfer in China", a crown prince and even a horse breeder who asked him to help his horses reproduce.
Most of his customers buy jade rings and pendants, which also come with free fengshui consultations. The hope is that the purchases will turn their luck around, though some clients have very specific requests.
One simply wanted her boyfriend to marry her after dating for several years. Master Yun convinced her to buy a $13,000 jade piece, and the couple got married soon after, he claimed.
"Parents also ask me for a good date for their child to be born by Caesarean. I will give them three dates," he said, adding that the child's personality would depend on which date was picked.
"So, do the parents want the child to be learned? Wealthy? Powerful? Kind?
"In Singapore, 90 per cent of my clients choose wealth. In Indonesia, they choose power."
Master Yun, whose real name is Barnabas Cheah, has been the subject of some controversy.
Last year, he took a a customer to court after the client failed to pay for a Goddess of Mercy statue that cost over $576,000. Lotus on Water won the case.
"We sometimes get unreasonable clients. There are a number of people who don't play fair," he said.
Some say his jade pieces are grossly overpriced, but Master Yun counters that by saying he designs them himself and pegs the prices to market rates.
He said his client base is young: More than half are aged between 25 and 40.
"Some think this is a sunset business. That's not true at all," said Master Yun. "People are optimistic here. There are a great number who want to do well, be more prosperous.
"These wants will always be there, human nature never changes."