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Wealthy see their fate linked to feng shui (3)

By Peng Yining and He Na  (China Daily)

08:47, January 10, 2013

Zhang Xuedong in his study in Beijing. (Kuang Linhua / China Daily

Location, location, location

Tang Zhijun, 47, general manager of Beijing Changfeng Innovation Science and Technology Co, said some of his business friends from southern China are strong believers in feng shui.

"They constantly urged me to learn more about it, saying it has immense influence in enterprise development and the prosperity of our families," he said. "They even moved their ancestors' tombs because the master told them the deed would benefit their family."

As the owner of a company that makes scientific and high-technology items, Tang was disinclined to believe in the ancient practice. However, when the aficionados claimed that a few minor adjustments to the layout of his office would improve the company's performance, he decided to act on their advice, reasoning that even if it proved ineffectual, the move was harmless.

He began by rectifying a long-standing "problem". Tang often sat with his back to a north-facing window. "I changed it recently," he said. "The master said the window behind me represents a hole and that the money I earned would flow away through it," he said.

Following the master's suggestion, Tang placed a screen wall between his back and the window.

"Although the business hasn't made huge progress since then, I'm still surprised, because I've been feeling better since I put the screen in place. Before, I often felt that eyes were watching me from behind."

Tang now wants to learn more about the basic techniques concerning the location and decoration of homes. "Even now, we're unable to provide convincing explanations for lots of things in the world. If feng shui can provide a solution, why shouldn't we try it?" he said.

Most EMBA programs in China's major business schools, including the China Europe International Business School which charges a hefty 560,000 yuan for its part-time, two-year course, provide lectures on I Ching, The Book of Changes, feng shui and related issues.

Li Juanjuan, a student at Peking University's EMBA program, likes reading books about feng shui and watching related videos. The 32-year-old manager at Beijing Capital International Airport said she will invite a master to help decorate her new apartment. "It's all to provide a better life for my daughter. I've already changed her name to promote better feng shui," she said, declining to provide details to protect her daughter's privacy.

People who have recently become wealthy are fearful of losing their fortunes, and the prospects of making another, and feng shui provides a means of easing that tension, according to Zhang Xuedong, a researcher and lecturer on Tsinghua University's EMBA program.

Although he teaches ancient Chinese culture and philosophy in the program, the most frequently asked questions concern feng shui, said Zhang. He admitted that some people seem to miss the point.

"The students asked if I could predict their futures or use my knowledge to help them make more money," he said. "I advised them to be patient and to search for inner peace, but they asked for short cuts to finding inner peace, such as donations to temples or rearranging their offices," he said.

Chinese people have only recently become wealthy and have yet to learn how to deal with the pressures associated with large fortunes. Because it is part of ancient Chinese culture, people mistakenly believe that feng shui can provide an easy solution, according to Zhang.

"If simply moving your tables and installing a fish tank could help you make more money, everybody would try it," he said, and warned that it might not be wise to ask the so-called masters for business advice.

"The laws of economics may help you, but not the laws of feng shui," he said. "The 'masters' certainly do care about making money, but only for themselves."

He said the practice undoubtedly does contain many ancient wisdoms, but they are often commonplace or simply self-evident. For example, feng shui principles state that windows in Chinese houses should face south, but that's hardly a mystical revelation - the country's geographical location means that south-facing windows allow natural light to illuminate rooms for the optimum period every day.

"It's part of a rich heritage of traditional culture and folklore. To some extent, we should research and protect it," he said. "But it shouldn't be seen as an infallible way of living your life."

Jiang Xueqing contributed to this story.

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