Feng Shui is the traditional art and practice of living in harmony with the environment, which is deeply embedded in Chinese culture, social and business life.
Feng Shui is often believed to have influence on the health and prosperity of people and also on the success of businesses.
It is a traditional worldview. So is it still practised heavily by Chinese businesses?
A team of researchers from the School of Business and Law at Edith Cowan University recently investigated feelings, attitudes, perceptions and experiences of owners and managers of Chinese restaurants in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore, about Feng Shui.
They found there was still a strong belief in Feng Shui and its impact on business.
Of the respondents interviewed, 76 per cent claimed to be Feng Shui believers, or ‘half believers’.
They practised it both ritually and symbolically. Younger respondents were less likely to actively ‘believe’, but they still engaged in Feng Shui since they saw no harm in practising it.
The researchers also found that the impact of Feng Shui practices on architecture, furniture and house layouts was significant, and symbolic artefacts, such as money dragons, the waving cat, and others, were used a lot.
So, Feng Shui in Chinese businesses is indeed well and alive.
Do Australian businesses need to know about Feng Shui?
There are a number of reasons to say yes. Firstly, China’s influence in world trade makes it important for everyone who wishes to connect and engage with Chinese businesses and people, either locally or internationally, to consider this tradition.
Secondly, Feng Shui is also shared by communities of people of Chinese descent in other parts of the world.
Hong Kong, Singapore and China, besides Japan, are the three largest Asian investors in Australia.
Data from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show the levels of Hong Kong’s and Chinese investment in Australia have grown in the past decade, reaching $101 billion and $87 billion respectively at the end of 2016.
One of the most obvious areas of influence and practice of Feng Shui in Australia is in the property industry.
Chinese investors and buyers have spent billions of dollars on Australian real estate, and Australian developers’ awareness of Feng Shui has continued to grow.
Many of its elements are commonly applied in the design of new buildings to attract Chinese buyers.
Numerology and the significance of numbers are also important. As a simple example, it is not strange to see high-rise residential and office buildings in Australia built with the absence of number four on all their floors, since it is considered ominous in Feng Shui.
Often initial business transactions can only happen if the number is right. Last year, for example, an Australian company partnered with its Chinese investor, and bought an office tower in Sydney for a symbolic price of $88,888,888, since in contrast to number four, number 8 is considered lucky.
It is evident Feng Shui plays a role as a business function within the Chinese entities and community.
As the marketplace becomes more global, anyone who aims to attract Chinese investors, business partners, or consumers should treat both the rituals and their costs as part of their investment and partnership strategies.
Feng Shui should be considered a feature that is entrenched within the value chain of a business or a project, starting from planning and continuing through negotiation and execution processes.
It can and should also be applied in marketing and communications, including social media and websites.
Whether or not to believe in Feng Shui and its impact on business is clearly up to each individual, but to indulge in the practices in order to satisfy business partners, investors and consumers, and their belief in the art, could surely have an influence on success.
That’s common sense.
• Associate Professor Hadrian G. Djajadikerta
Associate Dean Research
School of Business and Law
Edith Cowan University