Fung shui – traditional

Please don’t ask an American to explain their understanding of fung shui. It isn’t a new age religion or cult – like most religions, it is based on good, old fashioned common sense. ‘Fung‘ is air; ‘shui‘ is water. At the most fundamental level, fung shui is the practical flow of air and water in relation to to human existence, in for example, a village.

For comfortable habitation, a village requires a regular flow of water (to sustain life) without flooding during storms. Similarly, a village in southern China (amongst the most humid places on earth in the summer wet season) needed air circulated just to make life bearable. At the same time, the village would require protection from typhoon strength winds (and rains) by trees and landforms (such as hills).

So most historic villages in the new territories are constructed at the break of slope between the valley floor and the steep mountains. The villages have ‘fung shui‘ woodlands in an arch behind them which provides fruit, firewood and building materials; shelters the village from the wind an run-off.

Yung Shu O

Yung Shu O village has the classic features: a hilly backdrop with a fung shui woodland.

Sha Kok Mei

Sha Kok Mei also nestles between two streams with a hillside as a backdrop

Luk Keng

The deserted part of Luk Keng

Luk Keng

Another part of Luk Keng backed by dense fung shui woodland

Sha Lo Tung valley

The valley of Sha Lo Tung (near Tai Po) has two excellent examples of traditional villages: Cheung Uk and Lei Uk. Greatly appreciated by ecologists, the valley was a battleground (in more than one sense) between them, developers and descendants of indigenous villagers.

Sha Lo Tung

Unlike Lei Uk (which is completely abandoned and dilapidated), Cheung Uk is reasonably preserved and was inhabited by one remaining Cheung who retailed chilled canned drinks to hikers. This lonely, cheerful old chap was terrorised by idiot, weekend, paintball soldiers.

Sha Lo Tung

The painball heroes (seen here occupying Cheung Uk) would sometimes battle with BB-gun idiots. Passing through Sha Lo Tung on one occasion, I was shot in the back by BB-gun toting morons.

It also happens that in modern day terms, fung shui woodlands are species rich ecosystems.

Good common sense…how did it all get so warped in modern Hong Kong, where developers throw up houses in the middle of floodplains, next to dirty highways? See ‘Fung shui – modern’ to judge the respect developers and the common man have for keeping water and air (both vital to life) clean?

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2 responses to “Fung shui – traditional

  1. Came across your article after a google search. The photos really capture the beauty of Sha Lo Tung

    I recently went to Sha Lo Tung where my mum grew up and it was a joy to see her so happy. It was a very nostalgic trip as she had not been back for almost 20years!

    When we arrived at the village, it was if my mum had come home however is was a little saddening that her house had collapsed leaving only the entrance wall intact. She did however bump into a few of her friends whom she had not seen for over 30years, what were the chances of that happening???!!

    After a long conservation it was time to go, although nature is gradually taking back the land the village had left me with a everlasting impression. Sha Lo Tung may disappear over time but the memories will remain with me forever.

    • Hi Look
      Thank you for your personal story. I’m pleased you took the time to view and comment on my blog. It’s a shame that your ancestral home was collapsing, but as an environmentalist I’m pleased to read that you think nature is thriving there. When I left HK in 2003, Sha Lo Tung was being destroyed by developers with no compassion for native villagers or nature.

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