user generated culture

Janet Li Hoi Yan

Feng Shui: a matter of identity

debate about #feng shui raised in #HongKong: an anti-colonial tool, a key element of a population or a cultural intimacy?

Recently in Hong Kong a debate exploded about the role of feng shui masters. Actually, how does feng shui affect our society? What is the relationship between feng shui and the identity of the population of Hong Kong? Cheung Chi-Kong, Executive Director of One Country Two Systems Research Institute Limited said “feng shui is an essential component of the Chinese secular culture. It is not entirely supernatural and it cannot be explained rationally. feng shui’s connotation is something wider than an environmental friendly furnishing. It is important for Hong Kong inhabitants in order to affirm their  identity as Chinese people. For the feng shui, Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese have the same  roots.” He continued: “Differently from “great tradition”, the secular culture has a relevant influence on our living. It affects every aspects of our living, including architecture, behavior and relationships between the government and the people.”

Joseph Bosco, associate professor of the Department of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong does not think that nowadays the majority of Hong Kong inhabitants sees feng shui so relevant for the construction of their identity . He said that it is easy to exaggerate feng shui’s importance in Hong Kong. feng shui is considered as part of being “Chinese”. However an Hong Kong Chinese knows that westerners tend to be skeptical about feng shui. This is the reason why they feel uncomfortable in talking about feng shui with foreigners. At the same time, they are also proud of their rationalism and modernity. Bosco explains that anthropologists call this type of phenomenon “cultural intimacies”: cultural patterns or beliefs that people are publicly embarrassed about. People will privately feel proud of beliefs and feelings that encapsulates part of the true character of their culture.”

Joseph Bosco connects feng shui to colonial time, when it was used as a way of talking about rights. “Chinese people would claim that building a railway line or a road would have endangered feng shui. Europeans (particularly British in Hong Kong) would discuss this with the natives and often pay the compensation. There is an instrumental aspect in it. However, it wouldn’t have work if it was completely instrumental and people did not have a basis of belief.” Joseph Bosco does not think that Hong Kong people “trust in feng shui”. It is more likely  that the Hong Kong people turn to feng shui when they are nervous or when other attempts of control do not work. He explained that feng shui principles, in many cases, are just a sort of background of people’s consciousness.

No matter whether feng shui creates the identity of Hong Kong people, feng shui has affected the life of Hong Kong people. This is the reason why it seems been part of Hong Kong culture.

*Janet Li Hoi Yan was born and studied in Hong Kong. She works as a journalist and translator for different outlets. After a degree in Humanities, she became keen in Arts and Culture.

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