Feng Shui: It’s Serious Business

What is It?

It may help to begin with understanding that these two Chinese words, when translated to English, mean “wind and water”. Feng shui itself is the study of geomancy, which is ­­­the art of auspiciously placing or arranging buildings or other sites.  Fire, earth, metal, water and wood form the five elements of feng shui.

According to traditional Chinese beliefs, adhering to feng shui practices will help to maintain the balance of nature – and, in the process, appease the spirits. Such good energy is known as good qi (“chi”; also known as spirit) and bodes well for good fortune.  If proper feng shui is not followed, however, adherents will anticipate bad chi and disastrous results.

A Vancouverite’s Experience

Here in real estate-mad Vancouver, many adhere to the location, location, location maxim (although the latest mantra might be persuade the owner that your offer to purchase is better than all the others on the table).  At least equally important to others is the concept of feng shui. Many here adhere to the premise that elements of your home’s construction and the placement of your furnishings and other objects within the home will impact your happiness, health and financial success.

Such beliefs are not taken lightly; nor are they restricted to older generations. When my Mandarin-speaking sister-in-law and my brother bought their first house, they passed on what was otherwise a great home because the front door aligned directly with the street leading to the property. While westerners might have made the same decision on the basis of car lights shining into the living room windows, this was (for other reasons) bad chi and the decision was final.

In other cases, if a property has sufficient good chi, expertise will be called in and structural, landscaping or design changes will be made to counter or eliminate an element that represents bad chi.

The InterContinental Hong Kong and the Nine Dragons of Kowloon

Dragon of Kowloon IC HK Copyright Shelagh DonnellyAt the end of a month’s travels in Asia, I stayed at the InterContinental Hong Kong. This hotel is acclaimed not only for its views, but also for its status as one of Hong Kong’s most favourable feng shui buildings.

As you make your way through the hotel, its esthetically striking restaurants, spa and Pool Terrace, it would be easy to assume that most of the design elements are simply that. Once you’re familiar with the concept of feng shui, though, you’ll appreciate that there’s much more at stake.

Much of the hotel’s feng shui acclaim can be attributed to careful attention to the nine dragons of Kowloon. How so, you ask? Well, the word Kowloon means “nine dragons”.  The very nine dragons who, according to Chinese legend,  sweep down from the mountains  of Kowloon each morning to drink and bathe … that’s right. They dip down into Victoria Harbour, the waters over which the Salisbury Road InterContinental hotel is perched.

When the InterContinental brand took ownership of the former Regent Hong Kong in 1980, management consulted with a renowned feng shui Master. The company incorporated the Master’s recommendations, beginning with the exterior fountain.

IC HK 9906 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

What does a fountain have to do with feng shui? Well, as mentioned, the hotel has a striking and unobstructed panoramic view of Kowloon. This is because the hotel was built atop pile-ons, directly over Victoria Harbour. Since the hotel site would have blocked the pathway of the nine dragons and created a negative flow of chi, or energy, the hotel followed the Master’s recommendations – including installation of an entry fountain symbolising a pearl. A pearl, of course, is a symbol of wealth – and one that serves to entice the nine dragons to the hotel’s entrance.


The hotel entry is a wall of glass, since dragons can pass through it with ease enroute to the island reception area. There, the dragons can drop off some of their wealth before making their way through the lobby’s massive windows to bathe and drink in the harbour.

Feng Shui for High Achievers

CEO Suite Nine Dragons InterContinental Hong Kong Copyright Shelagh DonnellyThe InterContinental’s award winning design and attention to feng shui, including the pathway for the nine dragons, are accepted as having solidified the hotel’s good feng shui and reputation.

You’ll see elements of feng shui throughout, from the placement of signage on each of the private spa rooms to the luxurious President’s suite. As seen here, the office for those who can afford a stay in the hotel’s 7,000 square foot President’s Suite is designed with success in mind: statues of the nine dragons overlook the desk at which business is conducted.

Elsewhere in Hong Kong and Kowloon

Families pay attention to feng shui for their homes, and individuals and corporations consult with Masters for advice – which is reflected in the skyline of Kowloon, below.  While the density may be the first thing to catch your eye, have a look at the buildings’ shapes.

Kowloon 9772 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

When you look beyond the mass of structures, you’ll see that more than a couple of highrises have oversized openings – sometimes between floors – that could seem out of place to the uninformed eye.

Kowloon 9852 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

That is, until you know that they’re designed specifically to enable the nine dragons to fly through them on their way to or from Kowloon’s mountains and Victoria Harbour.

The variations in building designs reflects more than esthetics. When a new building is planned in Hong Kong and Kowloon (above and below), its design will incorporate feng shui elements that bode well for success.

Kowloon & HK 9842 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Architectural designs for bank headquarters and other buildings, for example, specifically counter or otherwise respond to the design of nearby buildings or businesses. Below, you’ll see some of Kowloon’s well known buildings in the foreground and Hong Kong just an arm’s reach across the harbour.

Kowloon & HK 9802 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Within business and home settings, plants, water and rocks are used to achieve good chi. It’s little coincidence that you’ll see more than a few lion statues on your journeys; in the world of feng shui, they represent protection. The HSBC office building is home to lion statues on both sides of its entrance to ensure the building’s energy is guarded.

Kowloon 1604 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Atop Victoria Peak on Kowloon, the view of the harbour and Hong Kong includes a series of lion sculptures protecting the settings below.

When you visit Hong Kong and Kowloon, even a bit of knowledge of feng shui brings a different perspective to how you view the sights!


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