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Is China Being Corrupted By The 'Feng Shui Economy'



BEIJING - Is Feng Shui a superstition or a true form of wisdom? A confessional article by a Chinese official published by the Zhejiang Daily recently sparked enthusiastic discussions among the Chinese public and press.

"Put a screen at the entrance to block the sight directly facing the exit. Potted plants, thornless ones, are to be located against the East and the South-West side of the walls. The chair is to go along the far left side of your desk so as to avoid the pressing beam behind you...", so went the guidelines from a Feng Shui master, practiced in the ancient art of placing everyday objects in a way to achieve pyschic harmony.

The official, Zhang Haibo (a pseudonym), writing the article, denounced such advice as little more than paid-for superstition.

As the Hubei Daily pointed out, Feng Shui has a long history in China. Through all ages there has never been a lack of officials or even emperors who were particularly obsessed with this vague and ambiguous alchemy. When things were not going right, instead of reflecting on their own responsibilities or listening and catering to people’s expectation, very often they’d rather call on these gurus.

Zhang Haibo deplores these so-called “masters” who grasp the opportunistic psychology of officials hungry for promotion so that their business booms.

Sometimes in order to win a public contract, unscrupulous businessmen do not hesitate to pressure superstitious officials to give in to them by using the ‘sage advice’ of these masters.

Some years ago Hu Jianxue, a former Party Secretary of Taian City in Shandong Province, believed so strongly in one Feng Shui guru’s advice that he diverted a planned national road through a reservoir because he needed a “bridge” in his fortune to become the Vice-Premier Minister. As a matter of fact, he was later convicted of corruption and sentenced to death, the Zhejing Daily recalled.

Consultations for Feng Shui are most common when officials are moving houses or offices. According to the China Times these bills are often paid by businessmen as a form of corruption or by taxpayers through declared public expenses.

Consulting fees for commenting on a static floor plan can cost up to $160 for a senior master or $100 by a less senior one, according to the Economic Observer. But as Zhang states, the advice usually involves changing decorations, buying certain mysterious objects, for example an expensive piece of stone or a written spell to be stuck somewhere in the office or at home, and this can all add up quickly to five-figure sums.

According to Zhang Gongyao, director of science and technology at the Social Development Research Institute of the Central South University, since China’s liberalization, Feng Shui has come back to the daily life of every social class. These so-called Feng Shui masters have become the guests of honor of the Chinese elite. Perhaps what is most worrying is not the “Feng Shui economy” that has been created, but the fact that “People have become psychologically dependent on it,” Zhang says.

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Feng Shui compass

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