October 23, 2019
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Dragon gates and more: how Feng Shui affects Hong Kong's architecture

By Mar Sanchez-Cascado

Hong Kong, May 16 (efe-epa).- Massive holes known as dragon gates appear in the middle of Hong Kong's towering skyscrapers, designed according to Feng Shui to allow the mythical flying beasts to pass every day on the way from their abodes in the mountains to reach the sea.

Apart from humongous modern buildings of glass and steel, the eclectic Hong Kong skyline is dotted with innumerable apartment blocks, which are divided into some of the smallest living spaces in the world.

While many skyscrapers have to make do with small and limited boundaries and climb as high as possible to make optimum use of space, others choose to incorporate these curious massive voids in their design, with the reason rooted in the ancient Chinese code of living Feng Shui.

Apart from dragons, air and the positive energy "qi" are also meant to pass through the holes.

"These holes, called dragon gates, serve to give way to these powerful, auspicious creatures who come down from the mountains, who love water, who breathe energy, and who are to be venerated. If their passage is blocked, bad luck will fall on any building that stands in their way," RD Ching, a Feng Shui master, teacher, architect and interior designer, told EFE.

Often known as "geomancy," the practice of this philosophy involves the meticulous use of its five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – in order to allow positive energy to flow around a particular space.

Together, this forms a part of the ancient Chinese tradition of arranging objects and buildings in harmony with nature to attract good fortune.

"For this reason, professionals of this Taoist geomatic art consult us for everything from the purchase of new homes and office plans, to the enormous architectural and engineering projects," said Ching.

He said the system was a "straightforward tool" to help people find the balance known as the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang.

"There are many factors to determine the qi (or chi) energy of a situation. It is the way for humanity to try to understand our place in the Universe," he added.

A good example of Feng Shui in practice is the HSBC Tower, designed by the prestigious British architecture studio Foster and Partners after extensive consultation with Feng Shui masters.

Instead of a ground floor, the building incorporates a high open atrium meant to bring in wind and the qi energy.

The escalators in the atrium are positioned at a certain angle to the entrance, ostensibly blocking stray evil spirits from flowing upwards inside the building.

Moreover, a couple of bronze lions guard the entrance, symbolizing wealth and prosperity.

As the bank has not done too badly for itself in business, some local residents like to touch the legs and noses of the lions, hoping that some of the good fortune would rub off on them.

Once the construction of the nearby Bank of China Building was finished, the HSBC Tower reportedly added two gun-like structures on its roof to divert the "negative energy" emanating from the rival bank.

The imperious Bank of China Building has been designed by famous architect IM Pei, and its triangular prism shape, imitating the elegance of a bamboo shoot, has become one of the biggest symbols of the city's structural expression.

However, the prism shape goes against the practices of Feng Shui, as the sharp edges are supposed to "cut" qi and emit negative energies towards nearby buildings.

During its construction, a series of unfortunate incidents also added fuel to the local superstitions surrounding its negative Feng Shui, such as the financial collapse of the original owner of the nearby Lippo Centre and the death of the governor of Hong Kong.

After receiving criticism from the public, some measures were taken to rectify the structure, such as adding a small waterfall and vegetation besides the structure along with giant rocks imported from mainland China, representing harmony, prosperity and stability.

Inaugurated in 1980, the 64-story Hopewell Centre was the tallest building in the city before being surpassed by the Bank of China's skyscraper a decade later.

After consulting a Feng Shui master, a circular swimming pool was added to its roof because it was believed that the thin cylindrical form of the building looked too much like a candle or a burning cigarette, which carry negative connotations such as fire and death in Chinese culture.

Similarly, hundreds of skyscrapers in Hong Kong incorporate massive holes and follow the rules of Feng Shui, with the owners aiming to ensure that dragons and the qi energy are able to pass freely and reach the sea.


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