From the compatibility of her groom, to the timing of her wedding and the naming of her child, Shen Yi-ching has always turned to fortune tellers for guidance on life’s big decisions. “It’s for good luck and peace of mind. I’d rather be safe than sorry,” said Taiwanese teacher Shen, 38, whose parents consulted a soothsayer to pick a name with an auspicious arrangement of Chinese characters for her.
Young and old, rich and poor, ancient spiritual practices and folk beliefs still sway daily life for many across Asia despite the region’s rapid modernisation. In ethnic Chinese communities, and societies where their influence remains strong such as Korea and Thailand, the age-old art of feng shui commands a huge following when it comes to seeking ideal homes, offices and burial sites. Many of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers were built in line with feng shui ‘rules’, while the direction of the world’s biggest observation wheel in Singapore was reversed after warnings it was sapping good fortune from the city-state.
“People who are not doing well want to reverse their bad luck, and people who are successful want to retain their wealth,” said Dave Hum of Singapore’s Classical Feng Shui Consultancy. Superstitious beliefs can often be extreme. Hong Kong property tycoon Nina Wang allegedly shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars for feng shui rituals aimed at curing her terminal cancer. A court in the city earlier this month rejected a “thoroughly dishonest” claim by a bartender-turned-fortune teller who laid claim to her estimated $13 billion estate.