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Publication Date : 20-08-2013
When you are in Ganzhou city, you eat, breathe and sleep the intricacies of feng shui
It's mystic, according to believers. That feng shui thing. For example, the direction of the mansion door of a house could influence the life of a family. It could drain a family's entire fortune or guarantee high-ranking bureaucracy jobs for generations to come. In Bailu village, or the village of egrets near Ganzhou, Jiangxi province, villagers opt to err on the side of caution.
The village of Huizhou-style architecture, narrow brick alleys and quiet corners, looks like a scene from a landscape painting. It sits at the foot of five sprawling mountain ridges and faces a stream coming down from the east.
Its first settler, a middle-aged Hakka by the name of Zhong Yu, found the scenic place about 900 years ago. It is said that he had a dream of droves of egrets soaring into the clouds and leading him to wild nests of eggs. His dream came true and that's why he named the village after the auspicious birds. He also started his adventure of exploring the village of good omens.
Following his investigations, he concluded that the position of the mountains in the village welcomed Chinese dragons and the flowing waters bring wealth.
The village grew, all the while adhering to the principles of feng shui, directly translated as "wind and water".
Doors are built aligned with the direction of the stream. Houses are erected to face the valleys of the mountains for an "unblocked fortune".
Bats that invite happiness, cranes that ensure longevity, carps that promise high official ranks are engraved on gables, walls and stone blocks.
Now the village has more than 60 ancestral temples of grey tiles and white walls, believed to bring good qi, or energy, from heaven.
Every generation of the Zhong family has been blessed with good fortune, widely attributed to their qi management.
One descendant was so well-off that when he dispensed his fortunes among his sons in his twilight years, some 20 patios were filled with bars of silver and gold.
Mansions aside, the village is a picturesque and friendly hideout with clear water and balmy breezes.
One of the attractions of the village is the Zhong family temple, a high-ceilinged and grand worship sanctuary.
There, you will be greeted with bowls of homemade rice wine - sweet, cool and strong. Or bowls of tea that taste salty, warm and soothing. The tea is a mixture of ground peanuts, vegetables and sesame.
While sipping the wine or tea, you will most likely witness six to 12 men stripped to the waist circling a bucket of steaming millet, thumping at it with wooden clubs while chanting.
They will then produce cakes and balls of rice pudding - hot and smooth. The pudding goes well with the local dressing of soybean sauce and chilies. They also make crispy rice chips.
Occasionally, in the evenings, visitors can join in a show of fire.
All families chip in their share of tiles, wooden sticks, sulphur and most recently, kerosene for fuel. Strong young men lay them up and set the pointed pile on fire. Balls of flame would explode upward toward the starry sky.
The redder the tile gets, the more auspicious it is supposed to be. It's good feng shui for those who witness the event. Most people stay for hours until only the ashes remain.
Originally, the fire event was the Hakka ancestors' annual autumn harvest celebration to thank gods for good yields and wish for a plentiful new year.
The residents of Bailu are migrants from the north. Although they do not farm anymore, they continue to honour the tradition that brings good fortune to them.
As you return to your room for a rest, meditate on the engraved symbols around--snakes, toads, deer and bats. If you happen to dream of the egrets, good fortune may come your way.
When you are in Ganzhou, visit the scenic Sanliao village located in the north of Bailu village.
The village crowns itself as the origin of feng shui theories.
among the feng shui masters from the village are those who have chosen the sites for Beijing's Forbidden City and tombs of past emperors.
When one looks from afar, one is supposed to be able to see the perfect line-up of the village houses, shaped like a Chinese dragon, with very strong claws.
The village also has fortune-tellers who will offer to dissect your name, your zodiac sign, your birthday and wedding day.
And unless you follow a fortune-teller into the village now lined with newly erected mystic feng shui symbols and tablets, you will very likely be oblivious to the good omens, like how a water pond gathers good qi from the mountains and a family wall puts off evil spirits.
These fortune-tellers will imbue in you with time-honoured rules of feng shui that may one day come in handy: Place an elephant in your house, it's the most auspicious animal; put a gourd at home, it gathers good fortune; if you have golden toad figurines, their mouths should face the safe so that you will accumulate more wealth.
There are so many rules. Unless one is a professional, one can't remember all of them. But there is one wise sentence to take away with you: Nobody but the gods can determine your fate, but good virtues work a very long way.