Hong Kong has been my home for two decades, and there is so much I love about it — its vibrancy, the food, the people, and above all, the low tax rates.
But there is one thing I am yet to form an attachment to: feng shui, an ancient Chinese practice that uses “energy forces” to attract good fortune and ward off bad luck.
The belief — or rather, the obsession for some — in feng shui is astonishing for such a modern financial hub. But believe me when I say this: the finance industry has only contributed to this obsession.
A popular local tale has it that HSBC put cannon-like structures on the roof of its Hong Kong headquarters, following the advice of a famous feng shui master. This was to defend its business against its neighbour Bank of China, whose building is shaped somewhat like a sword with many edges — one pointing directly at its rival, apparently to send negative energy.
That may have been something that happened back in the day, but even some of today’s bankers seem to put their trust in feng shui.
Take two of my Chinese banker friends in Hong Kong, for instance. The other day, over lunch, we were talking about apartments, as one of them was on the lookout for a new place.
The second guy recommended a luxurious residential compound in Kowloon, where he lives.
But instead of inquiring about the location, facilities or the rent, my friend’s first question was about the feng shui in the building.
“Did you get any promotion or pay rise while living there?” he asked excitedly. “What was the return like on your investments?”
That was an eye opener, and got me thinking of what my first questions would have been: how far am I from Captain’s Bar and where is the closest pub?
We’ve all got our priorities, right?