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Disney uses feng shui to build Mickey's new kingdom in Hong Kong
2005-09-07 04:21:29 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HONG KONG, Sept 7 (AP) -- When Disney began designing its newest kingdom in Hong Kong, planners decided Mickey's magic wasn't enough for success. The park needed an extra boost from "feng shui."

The ancient Chinese practice involves ensuring that there is a good flow of energy, or "qi" (pronounced CHEE). Buildings and other structures need to face a certain direction depending on their surroundings. Elements such as wood, fire and earth have to be carefully balanced.

It's a tricky business, but few dare to ignore it in Hong Kong. Many believe bad feng shui (pronounced FUNG SHWAY) can cause financial ruin, and Disney wasn't about to risk it, said Tom Morris, a chief designer at Hong Kong Disneyland.

"Regarding feng shui, the thing that is most visible is the heavy usage of water in the park," Morris said.

Besides lakes and streams, many waterfalls are strategically placed around the park to accumulate good fortune and wealth, Morris said. Visitors are greeted at the entrance by a large bronze fountain with Mickey Mouse surfing on a jet of water sprouted by a whale.

Renowned feng shui master Peter So, who didn't work on the park, gives the design high marks.

"That fountain's function is to create wealth, and more importantly it serves to block the straight road leading into the park," said So, adding that curved roads enable qi to flow better than straight ones.

To the trained eye, subtle feng shui planning is evident everywhere. The park is painstakingly oriented so that it faces the sea and is flanked by the surrounding hills to maximize energy.

"Hills are benevolent to people," So said, adding that the park gains another plus point because it looks out to a water surface broken by a small island.

"Vast water surfaces are no good. Islands dotting the sea are like stars in the sky," he explained.

The park's main entrance is along the north-south direction, and the hotels are positioned so that they have water in their southwest to ensure prosperity.

So said the luck of a location changes every 20 years. Starting from 2004, a place with water to its southwest will ensure prosperity in the next two decades, he said.

"In fact, the park's geographical location is ideal and I can't see anything unlucky about the place at all," So said.

Designers have taken no chances with the smaller details. Ornamental "feng shui boulders" are placed carefully to promote stability and to make sure good fortune does not flow out the backs of the theme park and hotels.

In kitchens, stoves are placed in lucky locations and some areas are designated "no fire zones" to balance the five elements and to reduce accidents. In one Chinese restaurant, there's even "virtual fire" _ videotaped fire images projected on a wall _ at the bar to balance the elements.

One of the most telling examples of how much Disney respected its feng shui master was the decision to open the park on Sept. 12. Many American companies might be reluctant to schedule a celebratory event so close to the date of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. four years ago.

But according to "Tung Shing," a popular almanac dictating the "dos and don'ts" for every day of the year, Sept. 12 is a lucky day for business openings, banquets and moving house.

The Chinese love lucky numbers, and Hong Kong Disneyland has plenty of them hidden in its design. Exactly 2,238 crystal lotuses decorate the Chinese restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel because in the local dialect of Cantonese, the numbers sound like the phrase "easily generate wealth."

The main ballroom, where weddings are to be hosted, was designed to be 888 square meters _ another "wealthy" number. Neither of the two hotels has a fourth floor, because four sounds the same as the word for "death."

To top it all off, touches of the lucky color red are designed to ensure that the "happiest place on Earth" stays that way. "Particularly on Main Street, we see a lot of accents done in red," Morris said.

Disney has even ensured that traditional Chinese taboos do not find their way into their merchandise. Clocks are nowhere to be found in the shops: for the Chinese, presenting a clock as a gift to someone is strictly forbidden because "giving clock" sounds the same as "going to a funeral."

And shoppers looking for green hats in Disney stores will be disappointed, because in Chinese, a man putting on a green hat means he is cuckolded. Goofy, however, will be allowed to keep his.

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