Hong Kong Dragon Holes

Hong Kong Drag­on Holes

A glance around Hong Kong and you might notice odd holes in the mid­dle of its sky­scrap­ers. An unusu­al and unique fea­ture of this city. Why build gaps into a build­ing in a city with some of the high­est real estate prices in the world? The answer lies in drag­ons and the prin­ci­ples of Feng Shui.

Chinese Dragons:

The drag­ons of Chi­nese cul­ture are dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent from their West­ern coun­ter­parts. In the phys­i­cal form its long (which inci­den­tal­ly means “Drag­on” in Chi­nese) wing­less, ser­pen­tine body swims through the air like a snake in the water. They aren’t mon­sters to be bat­tled but aus­pi­cious crea­tures with knowl­edge and pow­er, to be respect­ed. They con­trol the weath­er and rain and like the weath­er can be quite tem­pera­men­tal, in fact, the Chi­nese word for “tor­na­do” is “Lóng juǎn fēng” which means “Drag­on Twist­ing Wind”.

Chinese Dragon, associated with water

Chi­nese Drag­on, asso­ci­at­ed with water

Dragon and Phoenix by Jeff Bartels

Drag­on and Phoenix by Jeff Bar­tels

Drag­ons rep­re­sent the mas­cu­line, the Yang, bright and solar, bal­anc­ing the fem­i­nine Yin, rep­re­sent­ed by a Phoenix, dark and lunar. It’s the ancient Chi­nese Phi­los­o­phy of Tao­ism (Tao = The Way). Tao­ism posits the idea of a life ener­gy called “Qi” ( Chi ) flow­ing through every liv­ing thing. Chi is also believed to flow through under­ground rivers and streams and it’s a com­mon cus­tom in Chi­na to locate these streams of Chi and con­struct build­ings around them with­out inter­rupt­ing their flow. Dragon’s breath is the Chi of the Uni­verse.

These aren’t the Smaugs or the fire breathers to be slain before res­cu­ing a maid­en, and they do not respond to “Dracarys” before roast­ing an army. In fact, they are rarely if ever por­trayed as fire-breath­ing. Instead, they are close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with water, in addi­tion to the weath­er. Drag­ons are pow­er­ful, water-lov­ing, Chi breath­ing crea­tures to be revered.

Gates for Dragons:

Dwelling in the moun­tains above Hong Kong these Chi breathers fly down to the waters of Vic­to­ria Har­bor every day. But what hap­pens when a line of sky­scrap­ers blocks their path, deflect­ing the drag­ons on their dai­ly jour­ney? Well, you build holes, gaps into the build­ing, gates for drag­ons.

Dragon Hole in an apartment complex

Drag­on Hole in an apart­ment com­plex

Some­thing about the con­cept of drag­ons descend­ing the rocky forest­ed peaks of Hong Kong to the ocean every day just fas­ci­nates me. In Feng Shui drag­ons are encour­aged to fly through the build­ings thus bring­ing Chi, wealth and pros­per­i­ty to the peo­ple and busi­ness­es with­in. It’s not some pas­sive belief for the archi­tects and devel­op­ers of Hong Kong, the peo­ple who spend (and lose) count­less mil­lions of dol­lars leav­ing emp­ty gaps in build­ings in a city with some of the high­est real estate prices in the world.

Dragon Holes from the water

Drag­on Holes from the water

Feng Shui:

Lit­er­al­ly trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish it means “Wind Water”, Feng Shui is the Phi­los­o­phy and art of arrang­ing items in accor­dance with the Chi all around us. To max­i­mize the Chi so as to be wealthy, suc­cess­ful and hap­py, to be in align­ment with the ener­gy of the uni­verse.

Where do you build a build­ing so as not to block the nat­ur­al Chi flow­ing through the under­ground rivers? How does one arrange his fur­ni­ture so as to achieve a good flow of Chi through­out your liv­ing envi­ron­ment? These are ques­tions answered by the prin­ci­ples of Feng Shui.

HSBC Building and the battle of Feng Shui

HSBC and Bank of China Tower

HSBC Build­ing (Far Right) and Bank of Chi­na Tow­er (Far Left)

When con­struc­tion was fin­ished on Hong Kong’s HSBC build­ing in 1985 at HK$5.2 bil­lion, (rough­ly US $668 mil­lion or 1.5 bil­lion USD today), it was the most expen­sive build­ing ever con­struct­ed in the world, owing in part to the Feng Shui prin­ci­ples it adhered to.

I.M Pei and Part­ners most­ly ignored the prin­ci­ples of Feng Shui when they designed the near­by Bank of Chi­na Tow­er with its dis­tinc­tive knife-like edges, the first major build­ing in Hong Kong not adher­ing to these prin­ci­ples of Chi. Its screw­driv­er like shape is believed by some to be “Drilling the wealth out of Hong Kong”. The build­ing has been blamed for a num­ber of tragedies includ­ing bank­rupt­cy and a bad fall by Mar­garet Thatch­er.

HSBC’s answer was the instal­la­tion of Feng Shui “Can­nons” on top of the build­ing. Two crane-like struc­tures direct­ed at the Bank of Chi­na Tow­er, deflect­ing the bad ener­gy.


Prime real estate, for Dragons:

Repulse Bay Drag­on Hole

A city where the cheap­est hos­tel on the week­end is still over US $30 for a small dorm bed, a bed in a sar­dine room shared by 5 oth­er peo­ple, a room with someone’s inescapable funky foot odor, a bed you must share with your lug­gage as there’s just no oth­er place to put it.

This is Hong Kong, a high-rise city with neigh­bor­hoods like Mong Kok, one of the high­est pop­u­la­tion den­si­ties in the world. Take a stroll through Ikea and you’ll see com­pact — every­thing. Bath­rooms, liv­ing rooms, and bed­rooms; com­pact. They know their audi­ence. Every square foot counts here. A nor­mal HK bath­room has a show­er head over the toi­let, there’s no tub. (One learns quick­ly that you’d bet­ter move the TP before turn­ing on the water.)

"Dandy Dragon" by Florimond

Dandy Drag­on” by Flo­ri­mond

Think about this then; Drag­on Holes! Huge emp­ty gaps in the oth­er­wise dense­ly built sky­scraper, to allow drag­ons to pass through on their dai­ly jour­ney down to the ocean. No these peo­ple aren’t the Christ­mas-and-East­er Chris­tians of the Feng Shui world. They’re all in.

And so my jour­ney began; look­ing for the Drag­on Holes of Hong Kong.

Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment Com­plex Hong Kong

Sunset on Po Toi Island

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