Feng Shui is the Chinese philosophy of placing buildings and objects in harmony with nature to ensure good luck. Feng Shui dates back thousands of years in China but the Chinese were forbidden from the practice during the Cultural Revolution. Hong Kong’s citizens have held firm to their belief in the practice and much of the architecture in the city was built to honor those practices. The placement of Hong Kong Island itself is said to be excellent Feng Shui, which some say is why it’s become a banking powerhouse in Asia.
The basic tenets of Feng Shui can be understood through defining the words. Translating from Chinese to English Feng mean wind and Shui means water, two natural elements required for survival. Each of these elements gives us Qi, life force or energy. Therefore, simplified a lot, Feng Shui is the art of placement to help utilize the right amounts of wind and water to give the best energy.
The banks take Feng Shui seriously and most buildings have had Feng Shui consultants work on them in order to ensure companies that move in will be prosperous. One building worth visiting to understand the practice is HSBC’s Main Building, which in addition to having a great location for Feng Shui also changes to the architecture to ensure good fortune.
Looking at the practices with kids can be especially fun at this building because it involves going up and down escalators, rubbing Lion statues and trying to spot cannons, a kid’s dream! The building location itself has good Feng Shui as it sits between the water, victoria harbor and a mountain Victoria Peak thus insuring good qi, energy flow. Once an auspicious location for a building is chosen, as was the case for HSBC, than a Feng Shui Master is called in to look over architecture plans and make suggestions.
In the case of the HSBC building, Lord Norman Foster was the architect of the building and slight alterations have needed to be made in order to ensure continued good fortune for the bank. Foster was amenable to working with a Feng Shui Master, no surprise he has since been hired to design two other building for Hong Kong, the Chep Lap Kok airport and the upcoming West Kowloon Cultural District.
The building was originally supposed to have escalators on either side. The escalators now stretch diagonally across the atrium symbolizing the whiskers of a dragon sucking wealth into the building’s belly. To ensure prosperity the escalators begin from the most energetic corner of the property, the North West corner.
The Lion statues were placed in front of the building to guard the wealth of the bank. They are replicas of the originals, which remain in Shanghai. Stephen and Stitt, named for Shanghai bank and government officials, were made in Hong Kong in 1935. Locals believe rubbing the paw or head is good luck.
When I. M. Pei built the Bank of China Building in 1990, it was feared that the sharp edges pointed too directly at the HSBC building acting as a knife jabbing it. In order to maintain good Feng Shui, two canon shaped additions were added to the rooftop of the HSBC building pointing directly at Bank of China’s building.
Feng Shui can seem confusing or superstitious and having a piece of architecture to be able to look at and understand the basic principals can de-mystify it for both children and adults. Not only that but it is a great way to help kids study architecture and be able to better understand Chinese culture.
Details: HSBC Main Building, 1 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong; Open for escalator rides from 9am-530pm Monday through Friday and Saturday, from 9am -1pm.