Windfalls for Feng Shui 'experts'
Updated: 2014-02-02 20:07
NANNING - Feng Shui, the traditional Chinese study of geomantic omens usually for buildings or cemeteries, is producing exorbitant profits for fake fortune-tellers during the lunar new year celebrations.
In Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, fortune-tellers are trying to tempt customers into their Feng Shui shops, which sell hundreds of charm bracelets, jade necklaces, Buddha statues and mascots of Qilin, or Chinese unicorns.
They claim that the lucky charms, which can cost more than 100,000 yuan (16,500 U.S. dollars), have been blessed by eminent monks and "will bring good luck" during the year of the horse, which comes seventh in the 12-animal rotation used by the Chinese to represent the year.
"Experts" in the Feng Shui shops also provide fortune-telling, saying that they can help customers pursue good fortune and avoid bad luck -- at a cost.
Zhang Yu, who lives in Nanning, went to a "free" fortune-telling session in a shop and was told she was going to have a bumpy 2014. Only the blessed jade stones in the shop could help.
"But the cheapest jade stone cost a staggering 1,980 yuan, which is ridiculous," Zhang sneered.
Feng Shui, literally meaning "wind and water", has been widely practiced in China for thousands of years, but it has been denigrated as superstition rather than recognized as a cultural phenomenon.
Feng Shui practitioners were usually consulted before the construction or renovation of a building.
Though the government has never banned the practice officially, Feng Shui is defined in Chinese dictionaries as "superstitious beliefs in ancient China".
But Feng Shui is attracting people into shops.
A fortune-teller in Dongge Road in Nanning said he made more than 3.8 million yuan in 2012. The cost of his shop was less than 800,000 yuan.
Feng Shui "masters" want a piece of the business, said Chen Lidan, who provides Feng Shui courses in the Pearl River Delta in southern China. "For instance, in Nanning, a city boasting a three-million population, there are at least 100 such shops."
But some Feng Shui "experts" are keeping things from customers.
A Feng Shui practitioner surnamed Huang in Nanning, said many of the fortune-tellers in shops are quite young, and many of them have had very little schooling.
Another Feng Shui "expert" said on condition of anonymity that new recruits in his shop would go through a basic fortune-telling training, and then deal with customers.
"If the customers do not know much about Feng Shui, then you should tell them that they are going to have a bumpy year, and ask them to buy lucky charms in the shop," he said.
Huang Bindi (a pseudonym) runs a Feng Shui consulting company that recommends his clients seeking good luck to various Feng Shui practitioners. He said that the business can be profitable provided you have extensive connections.
"Regardless of the masters' true identities, their titles that we recommend need to be really big to erase any doubts of the clients," Huang said, adding that titles which include "international" and "global" are most favored.
Huang said that the bigger the title, the more he could charge his clients. Last year, he recommended an overseas master to provide a half-day Feng Shui course to a company, and made more than 100,000 yuan.
"Many leading officers of companies that were relocating would come to me looking for Feng Shui masters, spending millions of yuan on stone lions, ancient trees and other things."
But Huang is under no illusions. He will only work in the Feng Shui business temporarily.
"I cannot stay in the fake business forever, maybe I will just go back home after this year's Spring Festival celebrations, who knows?"