Friday, March 16, 2012

Feng shui for the working poor

Hidden behind bolted doors in multimillion dollar high-rises in Hong Kong, thousands of working poor rent densely packed cages as their living quarters (not just bedrooms). Each space, with just enough headroom to sit up, costs about $200 a month to rent. They are miserable, depressed living conditions deemed only preferable to homelessness. Hong Kong was relinquished to China from Britain in 1997 under the principal of one country, two systems. Under the agreement, Hong Kong remained a capitalist economy & retains a different political system than mainland China. It is one of the world’s leading finance & trade centers & has a highly developed economy with the greatest concentration of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region. In an irony you just couldn’t make up, Hong Kong is romantically described as a place where “east meets west”, combining Chinese cultural traditions with British colonial influences. Reflecting the Chinese traditions, feng shui (a system of geomancy part mystic, part energetic to govern spatial arrangement & used in siting & designing buildings) is taken very seriously, with construction projects requiring consultants to determine placement of the building in relation to nature & surrounding buildings, & including interior design. Mirrors & many other objects & devices are used to deflect evil energy & spirits & buildings are often built without a floor numbered four due to its similarity to the word for “die” in Cantonese. Geomancy is not a system to stand in the way of greed however, so in the catacombs beneath the buildings the working poor are crammed like sardines & it could be said, generating enough evil energy to raze those buildings to the ground. (Photo by Brian Cassey)

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