BEIJING - A university in eastern China has stirred up a storm of controversy about feng shui, with academics around the country sounding off on whether the ancient Chinese study of geomancy is a science or mere superstition.
Feng shui, or "wind and water", is the process of maximising the flow of energy to achieve harmony between people, structures and nature, for instance in making a decision about the siting of a building or placing of furniture in a room.
It is taken very seriously in Hong Kong, Taiwan and among overseas Chinese, but was branded a superstition on the mainland when the Communists swept to power in 1949.
In recent years it has staged a comeback in China, but a new feng shui course offered by an institute affiliated to Nanjing University has prompted calls from some academics to have it shut down, Xinhua reported on its English Web site, www.chinaview.cn.
"Feng shui is no science. It only fills the wallets of some charlatans," Chen Zhihua, an architect and professor at prestigious Tsinghua University, was quoted as saying.
An unnamed feng shui practitioner was quoted by Xinhua as saying at least 70 percent of the real estate projects in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, had been evaluated by masters before construction began.
"More and more individuals and organisations are approaching feng shui experts for various advice, from how to decorate their homes to where to rent office space," Xinhua said.
Before construction began on the new Disneyland in Hong Kong, which opened this week, designers consulted feng shui masters to make sure "qi", or energy, would flow smoothly through the park.
Sources connected to the Nanjing feng shui course said the classes would continue, despite the ill wind.