“many people design spaces in hong kong and then consult a feng shui master. but it was very important for us to consult one from the beginning,” says philippa wong of m.int academy, a learning center in the aberdeen area of hong kong that offers music classes.
philippa and her sister andrea opened the center in august last year. Like many business owners in the city, they wanted to start off on the right foot and ensure optimal luck and a harmonious environment for their business to flourish. so they hired local feng shui master john choi to advise them on the most auspicious layout and design of their center.
Reading: Hong kong feng shui
“he advised us on the best places to locate different areas; the best position for the classrooms, our offices and performance spaces,” she says andrea. “He also calculated the exact time he needed to install the main entrance door. this is very significant in feng shui. the building management thought we were a little crazy, but we ended up having to install the door at a very specific time, like 4:01 p.m. m. it was very accurate. even every light in the building, every location, was calculated by john.”
the feng shui influence in the center even extends under the rugs. “john divided the school into some sections and in certain [some] we have three types of stickers; we have a blue sticker, a gold sticker and a blue and white striped sticker,” says philippa. “They help drive the flow of energy coming through the door. therefore, the gold decal helps boost money, and the other decals represent other types of fortune that combine to help boost our luck as a company and keep good energy flowing.”
Almost a year after the center opened, the sisters are convinced of the benefits. “We found that feng shui works for us,” Andrea says. “We have a 98% conversion rate when the customer actually comes to our center. so feng shui has definitely played a big role in that. it’s good energy.”
According to raymond lo, vice president of the international feng shui association and one of only five people to earn the title of “grand master,” feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice focused on how the environment affects the well-being of people. people. “in ancient china”, says lo, “they discovered that there are different types of energies in our environment. therefore, feng shui tells us where the good and bad energies are and how to maximize the benefit of prosperous energy and reduce negative energy.”
In the past, China’s emperors designed entire cities according to feng shui principles. Today, official adherence in cities like Hong Kong is less explicit, but the practice still influences urban design and architecture through the choices of developers, architects, and local people.
an example of this is the indigenous villagers of the new territories region of hong kong. After being forced to move to make way for new housing developments, villagers over the past decade received HK$10 million in public funds to spend on feng shui rituals for their new homes. “When the government has to take land from villages, the authorities must respect local people’s claims that new developments will destroy their feng shui,” says lo.
he does 60 feng shui consultations a year, on average, in hong kong and says it’s not just villagers who are still influenced by the ancient practice: “in my experience, the bigger the building or the development in hong kong, the more likely they are to consult a feng shui practitioner. I have a lot of clients in large companies and they usually keep it confidential because they don’t want the public to know which part of their building has bad feng shui.”
he says that the people behind the offices and new developments consult him for advice if the space is suitable, how to decorate it, where to locate the boss, where to locate the entrance and reception area, etc. “Businesses in Hong Kong are very concerned about their fortunes and prosperity,” he says. “so they want to make sure the boss is sitting in the right place to receive the prosperous energy.”
Although some skeptics dismiss feng shui as pure superstition, there is no doubt that it runs through the architectural veins of hong kong. in 2005, hong kong city university became the first in the world to offer a feng shui course as part of its master’s degree in construction and engineering. The local Hong Kong Tourist Board offers Feng Shui Tours three times a week that explain the influence of Feng Shui on notable landmark buildings. Stories abound of a feng shui battle taking place in Hong Kong’s central business district in which well-known skyscrapers use the practice in their architectural design to increase luck and ward off bad feng shui from neighboring buildings. /p>
“the hsbc headquarters building in hong kong is a classic example of feng shui in action,” says dr. manuela madeddu, architect and senior lecturer in urban environment at london south bank university. “The building has a garden in front of it, an empty space where energy is collected, and then the water beyond, which is wealth, according to feng shui. two buildings next to it, representing the Blue Dragon Hills on the east side and the White Tiger Hills on the west side, protect the building, and the mountains at its back support the building. this scheme reflects the ideal feng shui model of the formal school.”
the hsbc building is also believed to have cannons on the roof (actually service winches) to represent a defense against negative energy from the building in front of it, the bank of china tower, which is famous for going against of good feng shui. principles.
“the bank of china tower in hong kong has sharp angles in its design that create what we call ‘sha qi’ or ‘lethal energy,'” says lo. “sha qi is environmentally unfavorable energy. because an acute angle can damage, it is like a blade to attack”. lo and other feng shui experts believe that the blade shape of the porcelain bank tower has had a negative impact, reducing the fortunes of surrounding buildings.
Months after the completion of the Bank of China Tower in 1989, HSBC’s share price fell to an all-time low of £3.74. To counteract the negative energy, HSBC reportedly placed the two cannon-shaped objects on top of the building aimed directly at the Bank of China. Since then, legend has it, hsbc’s performance has improved.
choi says there are many other examples of well-known buildings in the city that have been influenced by feng shui in their design. “If you look at the architecture of Hong Kong’s new government complex at the Admiralty,” he says, “it’s a square shape with a hollow center. in feng shui, this hollow center represents a mouth. this means a lot of gossip. so inside that building they are arguing all the time. In my opinion, this is a design disaster.”
rocco yim, the architect who designed hong kong’s central government complex, which opened in 2011, says his firm’s works aren’t guided by specific feng shui principles, but he’s not ruling out feng shui entirely . “If we treat feng shui as an ‘environmental science,’” he says, “then the issues we prioritize in our designs, such as the fluidity of people’s movement in and around our buildings, improving lighting and ventilation through through buildings and, more importantly, the relationship of balance and harmony that we create between our buildings and their surroundings are, in my opinion, the essence of feng shui principles.”
Like the design of Hong Kong’s government complex, skyscrapers with holes in the middle have become a common feature in various city buildings and often arouse the public’s curiosity. a well-known example is the development of the reject bay. It is often believed that the gaping hole in the center of the building was designed for feng shui purposes: a feature known as a “dragon gate,” which legend says allows energy from the nearby mountain (or “dragon”) to pass through. towards the sea.
however, lo is quick to dispel this belief as pure myth. “This has nothing to do with feng shui. those holes in the buildings are just tricks,” he says. “When we talk about dragons in feng shui, the dragon is the energy of the earth. the energy of the earth passes through the mountains, it passes from underground, it does not pass through any holes. a lot of people don’t really understand feng shui and just make up stories.”
but when separating fact from fiction, there is a common claim that you believe it to be true, and that is that hong kong has the best feng shui in the world. “That’s very true. In fact, Hong Kong feng shui has a name: It’s called ‘the dragon turns its head to greet ancestors,'” says Lo. “The reason we call it feng shui is because ‘ feng’ means ‘wind’ and ‘shui’ means water. with its mountains and harbour, where all the energy gathers, hong kong is the only place in the world that exactly matches the best wind and water feng shui principle … I have traveled to many places in the world and I have not seen feng shui as good as [the one that] exists in Hong Kong.”
follow guardian cities on twitter, facebook and instagram to join the discussion and explore our archive here