HONG KONG — The modern pursuit of money in this territory of gleaming office towers and rural villages has long co-existed amicably with the embrace of ancient beliefs. Even a major brokerage firm issues an annual financial forecast based, albeit lightheartedly, on the Chinese horoscope.
But recent events have fueled fears that greed may be debasing the practice of feng shui, the Chinese system of geomancy by which the auspicious positioning of objects is believed to ensure harmony, health and fortune.
Some practitioners, worried that their profession may be falling into disrepute, recently formed a trade association that they hope will uphold quality standards and public confidence.
Other residents have called for investigations into how much the Hong Kong government’s willingness to accommodate feng shui adherents is costing taxpayers.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong lawmakers and civic groups are seeking details about how the government compensates villages that claim that development projects have damaged their feng shui.
Villages are entitled to ask the government to pay to repair any adverse changes to the landscape caused by such projects. That covers not just environmental damage as commonly understood but also the possibility of ill fortune brought about by tearing down a tree or placing a road in a way that might disturb the local qi, the energy that some Chinese believe pervades all things. Qi is a crucial factor in determining feng shui.
After the Communist victory on the mainland in 1949, feng shui was suppressed as superstition and is still subject to restrictions.
In Hong Kong, which maintains a separate legal system more than 13 years after its return to Chinese rule, the practice has maintained a steady following.
Estimating the exact number of people in Hong Kong who abide by its tenets is difficult, however.
Calculating the number of feng shui masters is equally difficult, ranging from the hundreds to the low thousands, according to instructors of the discipline.
Kerby Kuek, a self-styled feng shui master, says experts in the field can charge 400 dollars to 40,000 dollars to assess an apartment of 55 square meters, or about 600 square feet, depending on the fame of the consultant. Mr. Wong says feng shui classes can cost students about 250 dollars an hour.
With so many dollar signs floating around, it is little surprise that so many people want to learn feng shui and teach it to others, said Ms. Ho, the history center director.
Some feng shui teachers in Hong Kong are not convinced that the association will do more than serve the financial interests of the organizers, rather than enhance the reputation of a belief system possibly dating from 5,000 years ago.
“I agree with the idea of some organization to regulate feng shui in Hong Kong,” said Mr. Wong, the instructor. “But maybe this is a job for the government, and should not be left to individuals.”
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