15 March 2008

Geomancy in Singapore

Over the Chinese New Year, my good old friends and I had our usual gatherings and this story came up about our Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s staunch belief about Geomancy and how he incorporated a lot of it in his urban planning of our little island state.

The story brings us back to the 70s, when the then PM Lee Kuan Yew embarked on the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) project, which involves an extensive underground network of stations and rails to compliment Singapore’s public transport system and make up for our lack of land and roads. Eventually, as we know, the project was approved and construction commenced, seemingly uneventfully… However, shortly afterwards, Singapore’s economy dipped into a recession albeit heavy spending by the government on the project. PM Lee Kuan Yew, concerned with the recession, sought a monk’s advice about the cause of the recession and ways to remedy it. Rumors has it that it is a monk by the name of Reverend Hong Chuan, an expert at feng shui, but this a rumor and not a fact.

The Reverend advised the then PM Lee that the recession was caused by the SMRT project. His explanation is that there are 8 Dragon Veins in Singapore, which apparently is defined by 8 major roads, and by digging and placing of the metal elements in these 8 dragon veins, we have awoken the dragon spirits which are wreaking havoc in Singapore or something along that line. The Reverend further advised: in order to continue with the project in peace, every person in Singapore must carry with them a “Chinese Bagua”, so as to neutralize the negative elements brought about by the SMRT project. A Bagua is an eight sided mirror which is shaped like a perfect octagon and is used to reflect/neutralize negative energy or evil spirits and is commonly used in Chinese geomancy.

Thus, PM Lee was faced with a major problem: how do you make every person in Singapore carry a Chinese bagua, given that not everyone in Singapore believes in geomancy? Eventually, the problem was ingeniously solved with elegance and subtlety: The Singapore Dollar Coin.

The Singapore dollar coin was incorporated in 1987, 3 years after the construction of the MRT project first began. If you examine the coin, you will realise that there is an octagon inscribed on both sides of the coin. By inscribing a Bagua into each and every dollar coin, PM Lee has successfully made every Singaporean regardless of race and religion carry a Bagua.

Thus begs the question: did this eventually work to Singapore’s advantage? No one can tell for sure, but the Singapore economy experienced healthy growth from 1988 – 1996. Apparently, the Singapore Dollar Coin was not the only place where the octagon was implemented. If you would examine the new Singapore dollar notes, you will realize that there is a silver octagon on the front side of the notes. Additionally, the Singapore Road Tax decal was changed from circular to octagonal shape at some point in time. At this you might be tempted to think that during the Asian Economic Crisis in 1997, they went beserk and decided that the dollar coin bagua was not enough! Are all these coincidences, someone up there has an obsession with octagons?

Apparently, our SM Lee Kuan Yew was not the only person who believes in Geomancy. There are several other examples in Singapore where there is a geomancy element incorporated into the architecture of buildings. A famous example, and this was openly made known to the public, is Suntec City; which apparently is the centre of the Dragon Vein network and one of the most if not the most auspicious piece of land in Singapore. It is shaped like a palm with 5 fingers (Suntec City Towers 1 – 5) with the Fountain of Wealth in the centre.

Other not so well known buildings include the Conrad Hotel, which has a giant number “13” at the front fa├žade. In Cantonese, “13” is pronounced “Sap Sam” which means “sure to rise/prosper”. Another is the Ritz Carlton, which was instructed to have octagonal windows facing the mouth of the Singapore River, which apparently is not so good geomancy for Singapore. To further neutralize/drive away the bad elements at the mouth of the Singapore River, the merlion was shifted to face in its direction. Rumor also has it that our Orchard Road is the vein of the “Earth Dragon” and observably, all the shopping malls that have a water feature (water being compatible with the Earth element) have apparently all done considerably better than the others.

On the topic of Orchard Road, did you know that the Takashimaya Shopping Centre is built over a chinese cemetery site? And that is why if you look at Takashimaya Shopping Centre from the front, it resembles a large chinese tomb stone with it’s two main pillars resembling chinese candle offerings. According to geomancy, by shaping the shopping centre this way, it keeps the spirits happy so that they will not disrupt the prosperity of your business.

Also, precincts/new towns which were once cemeteries have prospered really well in terms of their property prices and the small businesses situated there. Some examples are Yishun/Chong Pang/Bishan.

Are these stories true or simply stories created by someone who is seeing the world through Chinese geomancy lenses? I guess no one can verify them but these stories are a great topic during the Lunar New Year and have given me new found flavor to Chinese Geomancy; and now I can’t help but look upon the Ritz, the dollar coin and the SMRT with an aura of geomancy mystery.

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