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The Battle of Feng Shui and Luck in Macau – May the ‘qi’ be with you!
by Desmond Lam

I feel lucky to have an office that overlooks the skyline of Macau city. I can see the towering Grand Lisboa with its huge dome-shaped entrance, the classic Hotel Lisboa that has been a trademark of Macau for decades, the modern Wynn casino with its curvy-top roof, the new Galaxy StarWorld with its unique blue-red split color, and a side-view of the golden Sands Macau. Together with the bridges, the skyline looks especially beautiful at night. It is interesting to note that, hidden within the skyline of this small special administrative region of China, feng shui and luck play a vital part in the city's design and among its people.

For example, one cannot help but notice the large fountain at the front of Sands Macau. To the ordinary Chinese, it is a symbol of wealth - water, in this case, provides a positive orientation of qi force. Sands Macau's huge 50-ton central chandelier is also supposed to bring good luck to the Las-Vegas style casino. According to the press and many people, it looks like a giant beehive that can be used to store 'honey'. Similarly, we all saw the splendid display of lights and music at the musical fountain located at the front entrance of Wynn on its opening day. Another positive qi force for the casino and its patrons, I hope. By the way, the Chinese believe that qi or life energy exists all around us. Generally, the purpose of feng shui is to regulate the flow of qi so that it exists in harmony with the surroundings.

I am not an expert in feng shui and do not really believe in it (or in luck). However, my time in Macau has really made me realize how much feng shui influences building designs and businesses here. Whether it is true or not, the excessive emphasis on feng shui only adds another layer of mystique to this unique Chinese gaming entertainment city. Whether it is for the good of the operators or patrons, publicized feng shui elements in casinos and related facilities would certainly add to the Macau buzz.

There have been much rumor and buzz in recent years. You just don't know what to believe. Sands Macau appeared to be the first to join this feng shui battle. It was said that a feng shui master helped design every detail of its casino to ensure that all elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) were in harmony. This includes the round beehive-shaped casino floor to retain the casino's 'honey' and the chandelier.

When Wynn Macau first completed its curvy building-top roof, some people commented that it looks like a hand opening to grab something. 'Really', I responded. I never really noticed it until my friends commented. Last month, my mum and her friends came over from Singapore to pay me a visit. The very first discussion they had when they saw Wynn Macau from a distance was how much the roof looked like a curved knife. It must be designed to 'cut the throat' of its patrons', said one of her friends. Their discussion makes me realize how much we Chinese actually think about these superstitious stuff - whether they affect us or not.

One who sees the majestic Grand Lisboa that they are currently building would notice the huge pearl-like looking entrance hall and its gigantic hotel behind that. I remember reading a column in a business magazine a few weeks back that covered this topic. It wrote that a feng shui expert claimed to have influenced this Grand Lisboa design after taking into account Wynn's qi elements - a huge pearl building that represents treasure and a stamping tall building that stands for authority.

The feng shui battle does not just stop in building design. I remember reading that when Bally opened its office in Macau, a traditional Chinese ritual ceremony was conducted by a feng shui master before the official ribbon cutting. This is almost a necessity for new businesses here.

Back inside the gaming floor, the operators and, this time, the patrons themselves are involved in a more microscopic battle of luck, superstitions and feng shui. Immediately, one would notice that the number '4' was removed from all baccarat tables. Water that is used to channel 'qi' has become a common feature in many casinos. I guess that helps to please the patrons and sooth their feelings. A very wise move by the casinos. Looking at the ever increasing size of Macau's mass gaming market, these tactics seem to work!

Like the operators, patrons are too on a lookout for positive 'qi' and feng shui 'traps'. I was just doing my routine visit to one popular casino when I overheard conversations between two gamblers who were having a little break.

'Look at the sloping ceiling' said one of them in Cantonese.

'And those red lights' he continued and added 'This place looks like a scene from <Zu:
Warriors from the Magic Mountain> where the evil demon nestled.'

'This is too bloody' said the other guy…'Let's go to the lower floor'.

A few steps later, I came across a group of three gamblers who were playing baccarat. Something about them caught my eyes and I decided to stand behind them to observe. Interestingly, one guy appeared to be in charge of betting while the other two were performing some kind of ritual with coins. I realized immediately that they were placing their bets based on the results of their simple ritual. I guess it was supposed to help predict the game outcome. 'Very intriguing', I thought to myself and left.

On every table I visited that day, I realized that everyone was actively testing their luck.

(Things are not going smoothly today! I have no luck!), I overheard.

While some gamblers depended on their 'abilities' to tap positive 'qi' and luck, others are busy piggy-backing on the 'lucky stars'.

(Follow him! He has luck!), said one gambler to his friend.

Whether you like it or not, Macau is a battleground of the supernatural forces. A battle of feng shui and luck - not only between casinos and their patrons but also among casinos themselves. I believe there is nothing bad about this battle. Frankly, it is this interesting phenomenon that has helped fuel my growing interest in this city and in the Chinese people.

So, - Do you have any 'luck' today?



Date Posted: 27-Nov-2006

Desmond Lam is an Assistant Professor at the University of Macau. He is affiliated to the Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming (www.umac.mo/iscg) at the university. His expertise lies in gaming psychology, word-of-mouth and Internet marketing, and brand loyalty. Desmond can be contacted at DesmondL@umac.mo

 
 
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