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Friday, August 28, 2015, 08:57

Art of conscience

By Raymond Wang

Editor’s note: The ancient Chinese art of geomancy is big business in Hong Kong. Hong Kong-born Nickie Shing and two mainland graduates in Hong Kong have turned to developing the art as a business, but with a conscience, believing that sticking to theory should be the name of the game.

Art of conscience
Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of geomancy, is still thriving among Chinese all over the world. Hong Kong has come a long way in preserving ancient Chinese culture like feng shui. And its practice can be observed everywhere in the city. A feng shui startup in Hong Kong not only meets clients’ needs in the city, but also embraces those from the mainland. (EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY)

Nickie Shing might not have known or even heard of Hong Kong’s superstar astrologists, or million-dollar feng shui masters — the likes of So Man-fung or Mak Ling-ling — when he was a kid.

But, it seems that the ancient Chinese art of geomancy, which dates back to thousands of years, was already in his blood.

As a primary school pupil, Shing had already developed a lust for computer games. He would sit in front of a computer screen for hours, wondering what the black-and-white trigram and the ancient characters that appeared in the game meant. To him, they were just fascinating at least to observe, yet, all of which at the time were beyond his limits of comprehension.

The ideogram he had before him is a bagua — a traditional tool used in Taoism cosmology to represent the fundamentals of matters, which is important to Chinese feng shui.

Feng shui, which could be traced back a few thousand years ago in ancient Chinese history, focuses on how people can live compatibly with their surrounding environment by way of positioning objects and buildings in harmony.

“What was in that computer game made me interested in all those things,” says Shing, who’s by now a feng shui practitioner and has just registered his company, Geomantic Omen Shing Ltd, in Hong Kong with two mainland students who graduated from Hong Kong Baptist University.

Hong Kong-born Shing had, in fact, spent more time on the Chinese mainland and in the UK, yet he still sees himself as a “Hong Kong drifter” — a colloquial term reserved for those who work in Hong Kong without permanent residency.

Shing says he does not have the same sense of belonging as locals do.

Since childhood, he has been fascinated by the alchemy of how feng shui theories, as written in books, were practiced in reality. His parents sent him to the UK for his secondary education and, before leaving for the UK, he had bought some books on feng shui for pleasure reading “just in case I get bored”.

“Feng shui isn’t popular outside Chinese culture,” Shing says of his time in the UK, “because most people there simply don’t have a clue as to what it is all about”.

He says he could only observe the art being practiced while he was standing in front of small take-out Chinese restaurants run by overseas Chinese.

In Hong Kong, the history and practice of feng shui are deep-rooted, vast and profound. Unperturbed by the turmoil of the “cultural revolution” (1966-76), Hong Kong has come a long way in preserving things that were deemed to be superstitious but were much touted in Chinese culture at that time, including feng shui. And its practice can be observed everywhere in the city — from the gleaming office towers in Central housing some of Hong Kong’s biggest and most powerful business conglomerates to small or luxury apartments rented or owned by local households.

Shing had a stint in feng shui consultancy before teaming up with his two partners. His clients were not just from Hong Kong, but also the mainland and Macao. In Macao, the belief in Chinese geomancy takes on even a much greater dimension than other Chinese-dominated cities around the world, greatly attributed to the city’s vibrant gaming industry.

Art of conscience
Nickie Shing, founder of a feng shui consultancy in Hong Kong, holds a bagua to test the environment in a residential neighborhood. Shing says fraudulent acts by some irresponsible players in the business could taint the industry’s reputation. (Provided to China Daily)

Shing traveled from place to place, meeting clients and offering consultancy services. To him, establishing credibility is more crucial than merely making money although, sometimes, his efforts have not been rewarding.

“Once I started talking with a client online that went on for about an hour. At the end of the conversation, he just put me on the blacklist and never responded,” Shing says, analyzing that the client simply didn’t want to pay him. That prompted him to start his own company.

Feng shui is just as popular as betting on the stock market and which everyone would talk about. The business is nurtured by the fact that local residents believe in its practice to a certain extent, with demand being stimulated by the media’s constant revelations of the feats of some of the city’s best known feng shui masters.

“We want to start our company in Hong Kong because of its favorable market,” says Shing, who managed to learn from many feng shui practitioners before taking the plunge himself.

Shing also traveled to many cities and counties on the mainland in search of known feng shui masters who could, perhaps, give him that extra touch in his business.

Despite local people’s obsession and belief in the art of feng shui, fraudulent acts by some irresponsible players in the business could taint the industry’s reputation.

“Sometimes, you’ll come across mountebanks instead of real practitioners,” says Shing. He suggests that the only way to know whether a person is an imposter or an expert is to simply talk to him. “If he tries to elicit any information from you before saying anything, he’s probably a fraudster,” he says.

According to Shing’s partner, they have an average of three clients a day going to them for consultancy. Besides providing feng shui consultancy, Shing also boasts fortune telling services.

He says clients would often ask him about marriage, health and careers. “Young people tend to be more interested in what the future holds for them in love and relationships, while elder people would want to know more about the health of themselves or their families and relatives.”

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