In the East, the luck or karma of a house is called feng shui. I suppose this is something like the household gods of the Ancient Romans, which had to be kept happy with cakes, honey, wine and incense. But in the Orient, wherever the Chinese are predominant in the business community, feng shui has a more than religious significance — it can make or break a deal.

My host in Hong Kong this weekend had extremely good feng shui because his house overlooked two forested hills curving down towards a distant view of skyscrapers. A pearl between double dragons was how his Chinese dinner guest described this view.

. The house across the hill, on the other hand, probably wouldn't reach its 60 million Hong Kong dollar selling price because of its poor feng shui. Of its last four owners, two had died in the house and the others, even more blameworthy, had been fired from their jobs.

The Chinese chairman of my host's company had sent a feng shui man round to check out the suitability of his house, for all its wonderful location. When my host came back from his holiday in Europe he found men digging a large hole in his garden, round the corner from the swimming pool.

. He asked the maid what was going on. She explained that although the feng shui man had approved the house, he had declared that it would not be completely satisfactory without a fishpond.

Fish are very good feng shui, which is why some species — koi carp for example — can command prices running into thousands of pounds. Obediently, my host let the fish pond be dug, and put goldfish in it. They swam around for a couple of weeks. Then they died.

. This might be supposed to be the worst possible luck. Far from it. Chinese acquaintances explained that evil spirits had passed out of the house and its occupants into the fish, and so all was well. My host stocked the pond with more goldfish. They all died, too.

'Well,' said his Chinese friends, shaking their heads. Clearly a whole bunch of evil spirits had been overrunning his home. A good thing the feng shui man had ordered the fish pond to be dug, or business might have gone rapidly downhill.

. A third collection of goldfish went into the pond. My host took it into his head to ask his wife what she'd been feeding them, and should the mixture be changed? She stared at him.

'I thought you were feeding the fish,' she said.


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