Going with the flow

Going with the flow

Forget the harbour and port, Hong Kong's success is due to the city being one of the premier fung shui hot spots in the world

Hong Kong is famous for its stunning harbour and for being one of the busiest and most efficient container ports in the world. Britain prized the territory for its accessibility to the sea and realised it had great commercial potential.

But fung shui masters say Hong Kong's success is due to the city being one of the premier fung shui hot spots in the world.

One of the earliest references to fung shui (literally meaning "wind water") dates back to The Book of Burial (Zang Shu), by Guo Pu (276-324 AD). In the classic text, Guo explains the flow of chi, the invisible universal life force, and its interaction with wind and water: "Qi [chi] rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water." In other words, chi travels with the wind until it reaches water, where it settles.

Originally, the text was a guide for creating the ideal location to bury the dead. Ancient Chinese believed that if tombs faced a certain direction, it would help ward off evil spirits. And by offering a proper burial, the dead were less likely to return and haunt the living.

These basic concepts - known as geomancy at the time - were applied to homes so chi would flow better through people's living spaces. Ancient Chinese believed that good chi resulted in better luck.

Fung shui is a complicated system that takes years to master. But basic fung shui states that a building should have a strong structure - mountains are ideal - behind it. The entrance should face an open space, or water to allow chi to flow into the building. This is why many entrances have water fountains.

In Hong Kong, one of the main sources of chi comes from the mainland's Kunlun Mountains. Since chi flows in areas where earth changes shape, it has a tendency to travel and pass from mountain to mountain. Once it reaches Central, a valley, the energy remains trapped between Victoria Peak - Hong Kong's highest point - and Victoria Harbour. For this reason, fung shui masters call Central "the Dragon's Den", a location that harbours the best chi anywhere in the territory.

When deciding where to establish a business, many companies employ fung shui principles. The HSBC Main Building in Central is the prime location in Hong Kong.

The building faces the harbour and there are mountains behind it. The ground floor of the complex is not flat - it is wavy and meant to resemble water. This helps to retain as much chi as possible. Escalators are designed to carry chi from the ground floor to the higher levels.

Many fung shui experts say the nearby Bank of China Tower creates negative energy. The tower resembles pyramids with sharp edges which "cut through" surrounding buildings, they say.

To the east is the Cheung Kong Centre, owned by property tycoon Li Ka-shing. The building looks less fancy, with its reflective windows and square shape helping to deflect the negative chi emitted from the Bank of China Tower. In addition, the main entrance is designed to collect chi from Queensway Road. A flight of steps allows chi to pour into the building.

One thing is certain: call it science, art or quackery, fung shui has helped build the landscape of Hong Kong.

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