WUHAN: Fengshui, the traditional Chinese study of geomantic omens for buildings or cemeteries, is proving extremely popular as a new university course in Central China despite the endless conjecture over its status as a science or superstition.
On Saturday, 130 students attended the first "Buildings and Fengshui" lecture given by Ma Wei, a teacher at the School of Urban Construction with Wuhan University of Science and Technology Zhongnan branch.
Thirty of them were architecture majors.
"The course will comprise nine lectures, focusing on how to make residential buildings and their interior decor co-exist with their surrounding environments more harmoniously," Ma said.
, literally translated as "wind and water", has been widely practiced in China for thousands of years.
In modern times, however, it has been denigrated as a superstition rather than hailed as a cultural phenomenon.
Traditionally, fengshui practitioners were consulted before the construction or renovation of a building.
Ma said a person's physical environment affected their psychological state, possibly altering their character and thereby their fortunes.
"College students born after 1980 show a strong interest in traditional Chinese culture," he said. "The fengshui course is intended to help students learn about traditional culture in a scientific way."
A senior architecture student surnamed Gao said: "When I first heard there would be such a class, I had some doubts and considered whether it was spreading superstition.
"But after the lecture, I find some logic in it.
"For example, the side of a building exposed to the sun should be considered when a house is built. This is actually a matter of harmony between homes and environment."
In 2005, the China architectural culture center and Nanjing University based in Jiangsu province, launched a training program aimed at teaching the basics of traditional Chinese architecture and fengshui.
Though the government has never banned the practice officially, fengshui is defined in dictionaries as "superstitious beliefs in ancient China".
"The main reason why fengshui faces opposition is because many people and government officials think it is superstitious," said Zhang Liangren, vice-chairman of the Shanghai Life Esthetics Association.
"Fengshui is no science. It only swells the wallets of swindlers and raises unnecessary costs in building construction," said Tao Shilong, a noted science fiction writer.
His view was echoed by historian Gu Xiaoming, from Shanghai's Fudan University. "Fengshui contains too many mysterious elements which separate it from science."