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SINGAPORE: In his Facebook profile, Sean Chan describes himself as “an 82-year-old man stuck in the body of a 32-year-old; an imperial scholar born in the wrong era”.
Master Chan is a Chinese metaphysics consultant, which means his field of work covers bazi readings, fengshui, Chinese name selection and auspicious dates for your wedding, business opening or caesarean section.
“People who do this are often associated with grey-haired old men,” he chuckled. But although he may be an old soul, this 32-year-old is also industriously moving an ancient discipline into the digital age.
Chan conducts the bulk of his consultations online, especially when it comes to bazi readings, which account for 80 per cent of his work. In Chinese astrology, bazi is the unique set of characteristics surrounding the date and hour of your birth, which can then be interpreted into how situations in your life might pan out.
Via his website, masterseanchan.com, clients start their experience by filling out a digital form with the required information for a reading – their date, time and place of birth – as well as the question or problem they seek answers to.
“Everyone’s bothered by the same things: Love, career and wealth,” he said. The most commonly asked questions are, ‘Will I be rich?’, ‘Will my marriage be happy?’ and ‘When will I strike the lottery?’”
Chan then fires up his bazi app, which converts the information into a chart that, if you know how to read it, tells you things about yourself.
“There is a formula (for generating charts) which people would plot manually in the past. Modern day practitioners don’t memorise the formula – they just rely on the app,” he said, showing us the interface on his mobile phone. “This one is very reliable. You can check it against the formula.”
After that, “I type out a very comprehensive report for them that breaks their chart down logically. If you have a written report, you can refer to it any time you need a refresher. Following that, there will be a seven-day question-and-answer period – I give them seven days to ask me whatever they wish via email, and I reply accordingly.”
A bazi consultation starts at S$388, while a fengshui audit starts from S$1,288 – prices he admits are not modest.
Chan started his website in 2015 and now handles “at least one client a day”. This is quite an impressive feat on his part, seeing as he still retains his day job as a manager.
“I work in the tech industry, so I’m familiar with things like digital marketing and search engine optimisation,” he said. He designed and built his website largely on his own.
On the site, Chan also blogs about various Chinese metaphysical topics, and many of the posts are impassioned dissertations about how the discipline has been misunderstood, bastardised, exploited and conflated with superstition.
“One guy asked me to find his father, who had passed away in an accident a long time ago. He thought I was a medium. This is an example of how we (Chinese metaphysicians) are associated with Taoist priests, which is not an accurate portrayal of what we do,” he said.
Chan's distaste is clear when he talks about how he doesn’t deal in talismans, good luck charms, 4D numbers or lucky colours.
“People are like, 'Oh, your bazi lacks fire, so wear red'. The reason colours are associated with certain directions is that during the Qin dynasty, when they were developing maps, they assigned colours to certain areas and these stuck. It’s not that colours have a magical effect on you.”
Instead, he practises a purer form of metaphysics gleaned from the rigorous self-study of ancient Qing and Ming dynasty texts.
CHARTING HIS LIFE
Born in Taiwan, Chan’s family moved to Singapore when he was four months old. He is proficient in the Chinese language, and growing up, the house was full of his mother’s books on Chinese philosophy and astrology.
But it wasn’t a happy childhood for Chan and his older sister. “I grew up in a very tough environment. My parents were abusive. I think one of the reasons I turned to astrology or metaphysics was to seek the answers to why I was going through these things,” he shared.
After trying to start his own trading business in 2012, an experience that resulted in getting “betrayed by my business partner” and “losing my life savings”, he took a long break and embarked on an in-depth study of Chinese philosophy and culture - and consequently, astrology.
“That was the period when everything clicked,” said Chan, who graduated in 2010 from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Business Administration. He was also a member of the University Scholars Programme, a multidisciplinary faculty for select students.
“One day, I could just read bazi charts. I could digest everything," he recalled.
"The very first chart I deciphered was, of course, my own. Whatever had happened in my life, I could see in the charts – my family environment, my relationship with my parents, all the rough patches that I had to go through – they were written in my bazi chart. It was sort of fated that I had to go through these things. That gave me some closure,” he said, adding: “Our ancestors believed that you have to go through some things in order to be molded into someone who can help others or give value.”
DRAWING THE LINE
One of the clients he has helped is Alfred Wu, 42, a business enterprise director who left his job at in IT company in April. “I asked Sean if I should quit my job. His verdict was that I shouldn’t, but I went against his advice and quit anyway,” Wu chuckled.
“I also asked if I would get a job offer if I were to quit. He said the next two years might not be good for me, but looking at my elements, I should have an offer coming this summer. True enough, I just got a job offer.”
Michelle Oh, a 30-year-old professional who works in the environmental management industry, approached Chan for a compatibility reading for herself and her partner, who are now preparing for marriage. He also advised her on when there would be a good window of opportunity for a career change. “He gave me great insights for planning and preparing based on what he read from my chart,” she said.
But if Chan senses that a client is in it for the wrong reasons, he declines to work with them. “Men have asked me, ‘Should I stay with my wife or go off with my mistress?’ I turn such clients away. If you’re married, then work on your marriage. It’s not right for me to tell you to divorce your wife and go off with your mistress. And the thing about such men is that they will eventually lose both.”
NOT JUST ABOUT YOUR FORTUNE
His discipline, Chan said, is a pseudo-science underpinned by eastern philosophy. “I take a very philosophical approach to all these things. Many people see us as fortune tellers. That’s not something we cannot do – it’s really just a system or set of laws that follows a certain order, and if you understand how these laws work, you will be able to tell the future,” he said.
“I always tell my clients that our ancestors wouldn’t have spent hundreds of years developing this just to tell you, ‘Hey, your life sucks, and you can’t do anything about it.’ They believed that once you are self aware, you can transcend your chart. That’s the whole point.”
It would seem that Chan has been able to apply that philosophy to his own life. Having overcome a dark and tumultuous childhood, he now has a stable job, a profitable sideline and a loving partner.
“People ask me, ‘Do you screen your girlfriends by reading their bazi?’ And, actually, I do!” he laughed.
He hasn’t won the lottery yet – or maybe, he has.