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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 17:31 GMT
Feng shui booms in China
Many officials are turning to worship of Tao gods
Some officials secretly worship ancient Taoist deities
The Chinese media have been highlighting what it sees as a revival of ancient superstitions and religious practices such as Taoism, ancestor worship and the ancient science of feng shui.

Officials hid protective and lucky charms underneath the office courtyard

Local press report
The authorities are particularly concerned at the spread of such practices among party officials, despite a recent campaign to restore ideological purity.

Since Chairman Mao's ban on traditional beliefs was lifted in the mid-70s, feng shui has become immensely popular.

But rural unrest and the perceived threat of the popular Falun Gong spiritual movement have led to an all-out campaign against any revival of "feudal superstition" in the party.

Ancient beliefs persist in China
Ancient beliefs persist despite atheist campaign
China's media have reported officials being charged for fortune-telling, forming secret societies, worshipping ancestors and joining religious groups.

"Some officials burn joss sticks or worship the Buddha by kowtowing three times and kneeling down nine times to help them get promotion," the journal Qiushi said.

In a recent case, officials were fired for practising feng shui.

Feng shui, or "wind and water", dates back to neolithic times. It is the art of living in harmony with your natural environment, thus allowing a natural flow of energy, or qi.

Fears of rural instability

Since the Falun Gong movement was banned in 1999, President Jiang Zemin personally has launched a campaign to reindoctrinate party members away from "superstition" to a belief in science and technology.

Chinese media say many corrupt officials have embezzled village funds and imposed excessive taxes on farmers in order to build temples and practise "superstition".

Peasant unrest has followed. "In some rural areas, public order is in chaos," Qiushi warned.

'Superstitious' cadres under fire

A magistrate and official in rural Shanxi province were recently dismissed for practising feng shui. A local newspaper said they had employed geomancers to dispel negative qi from the Jiaokou county office.

Bank of China
Bank of China: Said to have bad feng shui
The dismissed officials believed the feng shui in the office was inauspicious.

"They hid protective and lucky charms underneath the office courtyard" to boost their luck and career prospects, the Shaanxi Xibu Fazhi Bao reported.

They even ordered a police station to be rebuilt because it blocked the view of the county office. A number of pailou - decorative archways - and feng shui walls were installed.

Officials investigating the case "dug up Taoist magic figures, peach wood charms, small bows and arrows, bronze mirrors and protective charms from the county office courtyard".

Enthusiasm waning?

Delegates at the current session of the National People's Congress appear ambivalent about the campaign against superstition. While Premier Zhu's attacks on corruption in his opening speech received hearty applause, his call to arms against Falun Gong was met with silence.

After years of Maoist austerity, traditional customs are a source of national pride to many Chinese. And for people living in impoverished rural areas, banning "superstition" may spark more dissent.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

02 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong members jailed
07 Jul 00 | Media reports
Chinese media attacks Falun Gong
20 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
China denies Falun Gong abuse claim
02 Mar 00 | UK
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