Suing bloggers over their metaphysical musings might sound like an April Fool’s joke story to some newspaper readers, but for Pan Shiyi, the chairman of SOHO China, it’s no laughing matter.
The property firm has just filed a law suit against a social media blogger whose name loosely translates as “Mystic Quacks Bureau”. Pan was upset by a recent post by the feng shui-focused blogger, which set out to answer questions on whether Wangjing SOHO, a commercial complex developed by Pan’s firm between Beijing’s fourth and fifth ring road, has bad feng shui (which roughly translates as “wind and water” and is a metaphysical concept relating to the orientation and spatial arrangement of energy, or qi).
With annotated maps and diagrams, Mystic Quacks Bureau noted that negative energy could be sucked into Wangjing SOHO and the shape of the office towers might also bring ill fortune for its tenants.
It’s not the first time the feng shui of Wangjing SOHO has been disputed. Some reckon the district was home to the royal family’s graveyard in imperial times (and given cemeteries are never associated with positive energy in the Chinese worldview, being located near them is best avoided). Some had even drawn comparison between the modernist buildings at Wangjing SOHO and tombstones.
Perhaps this is why Pan wants to gag discussions on the topic: once the feng shui reputation of a building or district is established among the Chinese community, it rarely goes away. As a result property prices can be malignly influenced.
According to the Global Times, Pan recently told a nervously giggling audience at a promotional event that “superstitious comments have not only infringed on the company’s reputation, they have also created psychological doubts for potential tenants”.
Completed in 2014 by the late architect Zaha Hadid, Wangjing SOHO has attracted a cluster of internet start-ups – including online dating platform Momo, bike-sharing company Bluegogo and live-streaming eSports site Panda TV.
But another reason Pan is so touchy is that many of the tenants of Wangjing SOHO are known to be under financial strain and some have already collapsed.
One particularly high-profile case is Panda TV, which was backed by Wanda Group’s heir Wang Sicong. Three years after its founding, Panda Live was liquidated last month. A day later its COO announced in a farewell letter that there had been no external investment for 22 months and the decision to fold was “helpless but rational”. The following day, Panda Live announced it was disconnecting its streaming server, ending its video operations.
Panda had been unable to pay off its staff in the chaotic aftermath of its collapse. Questionable management had been evident from early on: in 2016, Panda Live was investigated and subsequently punished by regulators for carrying content deemed obscene and violent.
The 31 year-old Wang had said that Panda Live’s advantage lay predominantly in “the integration and synergy of resources in the upstream and downstream of the industry”. According to IT Times, Panda ended up with Rmb1 billion ($148.8 million) of debt and in spite of being the third most watched eSports live-streamer had rapidly lost market share to its bigger Tencent-backed rivals Douyu and Huya. Technode, an industry news site, described the sector as “cutthroat” in its explanation of Panda’s rapid demise.
Nor is Panda the only tenant at the office that has experienced cash shortages. Caixin Weekly reports that Smartisan has also laid off staff and that its core smartphone offering has disappeared from Tmall. Other former tenants that have gone bust include Mimeng, Acfun and several P2P lenders.
The slew of closures has had media outlets such as Baijaihao referring to Wangjing SOHO as a “black hole of feng shui” for internet firms.
Netizens have also pointed out that despite Pan’s dismissive comments that Mystic Quacks Bureau was peddling “feudal superstition” – and that he himself “only believes in science” – he has previously posted photos taken alongside feng shui masters. Moreover in 2014 Pan wrote on his own widely followed weibo account that Wangjing SOHO had good feng shui…
Keeping track, Apr 12, 2019: SOHO China boss Pan Shiyi has won a libel case against a blogger who claimed the developer’s Wangjing SOHO office complex has bad feng shui (see WiC487). The WeChat-based blogger, who focuses on fortune telling and feng shui, was ordered by the Beijing court to make a public apology to SOHO China while paying Rmb200,000 in compensation. “This case suggests that there is still a long way to go for us to break away from superstition,” Beijing Youth Day suggests.
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