05/24/2007, 00.00
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Officials have more faith in superstitions than the Party

In “atheist” China communism has proven unable to explain the tide of CP officials seeking the help of “masters” and clairvoyants toe help them achieve their ambitions. Experts: it is just one aspect of the general religious rebirth in the country.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An increasing number of “atheist” officials from the Chinese Communist Party are turning to traditional beliefs to gain success and know their future.  According to some experts maintain it indicates that people in general no longer feel that communism has the necessary answers to their daily reality and are seeking explanation elsewhere.

According to a China National School of Administration survey, 28% of the “atheist” Party believes in physiognomy (the art of determining character from the form or features of the face Zhou Gong's interpretation of dreams came second with 18 per cent. A further 13.7 per cent chose astrology and 6 per cent the use of I Ching divination, while only 47 per cent of the respondents said they did not believe in anything that could be considered "superstitious”.

Many turn to fung shui (literally “water wind”, an ancient discipline that indicate show to organize surrounding space for maximum harmony with the environment) to increase their chances of promotion.  Masters help them to choose an office in a favourable position, to arrange their furniture and to place talismans against malign spirits.

A fung shui master from Hangzhou (Zhejiang) told Guangzhou’s Southern Weekend that “in the last six month I have received over 30 new clients”. Masters take more than 100 thousand Yuan (10 thousand Euros) per year per client, compared to the average annual income of 10 thousand Yuan for urban residents.  

One senior Zhejiang official said he moved his ancestors' tombs thousands of kilometres to the foot of the famed Tian Shan Mountain in Xinjiang in an attempt to improve his career prospects”.

Fortune tellers, or suanming xiansheng, are increasingly in demand.  They read the future in facial features, hands, numerology, astrology and other methods even if the practise is forbidden and punishable by jail.  The “clairvoyants” are usually found near temples but can also be reached by phone and above all via internet.   Fortune tellers had an official role in the government until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, but they were derided by Mao Zedong as anachronistic remnants of "old China" and were an early target of the Communist Party.  Their popularity has survived a 2005 government ban on internet ads for fortune-telling services and a 1997 regulation that restricts "feudalistic" and "superstitious" content on the internet. Former president Jiang Zemin is said to have consulted suanming xiansheng on Wutai Mountain, a sacred Buddhist area of temples and monasteries in Shanxi.

Zhang Shu, is a fortune teller who has been blind since birth.  He works from a cramped office at the back of a bookshop near Beijing's Confucius Temple and explains that there are two types of customer: “government officials earn a lot of money”.  For 200 yuan, Zhang will give a brief consultation based on your birth date, but his regular customers receive a far more specialised, and expensive, service. Zhang says “Young people believe me more than the older generation, who were taught that it's just superstition”. Many believe in destiny and they want to know it.  

Li Janhua, professor of philosophy in Beijing’s central Party school, says “people still don’t think logically” and that “with time”, “scientific thought will prevail”. But other experts maintain that with Mao all forms of supernatural beliefs were denied and fought against even with prison and that as a result China is now experiencing a veritable religious rebirth as people search for the truth. According to official data 300 million Chinese believe in a religion, with at least 100 million Buddhists (above all young people who want to “improve their souls” and find spiritual sustenance in their daily life).

Wang Changjiang, professor at the central school, explains that these practices come about because communisms “revolutionary theories” are not capable of explaining the reality of daily life. (PB)


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