Feng shui is something you cannot refuse to believe in,” said Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong’s former leader. “Only after the feng shui expert nods his head to a place do I feel comfortable.”
Indeed, feng shui is central to Chinese people’s ethos: houses are built only after the benediction of a feng shui master to insure propitious orientation with the landscape. Weddings are often scheduled and deals are struck after a seal of approval from a feng shui practitioner.
So it should be no surprise that a Hong Kong billionaire would pay a staggering $258 million for various services from a feng shui expert.
That’s what Nina Wang did. Known as “Little Sweetie“ for her girlie outfits and pigtail hairdo, Wang was one of Asia’s wealthiest women with a business empire which included the Chinachem Group, Hong Kong’s largest private property developer. She died of cancer in 2007 aged 69. After her death, former feng shui master and alleged lover Tony Chan Chun-chuen, 50, produced a will that he claimed bequeathed Wang’s $4 billion estate to him. However, the will also contradicts an earlier one drawn up in 2002 which left the fortune to the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, now run by Wang’s siblings.
An inheritance battle ensued, fascinating Hong Kongers with its often-bizarre stories of Chinese feng shui rituals and illicit love. Chan said during the trial he became involved with Wang when his wife was pregnant with their eldest son. In fact, the tycoon was so in love with him that she left him a pair of her pigtails for a keepsake. The two shared a passion for cooking, travelling, flying model helicopters and, of course, practicing feng shui.
Chan advised Wang to dig holes at her company’s properties to improve her luck. As many as 80 were dug, and jade pieces, gems, statues and ancient coins were buried in them. He also tried to use the art of feng shui to prolong her life, by burning bank notes with verses written on them.
Chan was not born a master of this elusive, astronomy-derived craft. He was a waiter, bartender, machinery salesman and market researcher before finding a book on feng shui on his father’s shelf and declaring himself a master of the ancient art, which can trace a history of more than 3,500 years.
But Chan’s skills as a fate-changing practitioner seem to have their limits. Last week, the judge in the dispute, Johnson Lam, ruled the 2006 will was a forgery, awarding the money to Wang’s charity. He described Chan as “not a credible witness” who “was prepared to say anything to advance his claim”.
He even offered a word of caution: “As far as Hong Kong is concerned, any person can run a feng shui class or hold himself out as a feng shui practitioner or master,” the judge wrote. “There is no independent objective assessment, and thus no quality assurance whatsoever.”
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