What are fung shui woods?
As the name suggests the purpose of a fung shui (or feng shui) wood is to channel energy to bring luck and prosperity to a village. They were common mainly around southern China but can also be found in parts of Japan and Korea. Typically there would be rice fields in the front with the woods rising behind the village.
In Hong Kong they can still be found at some of the more remote villages in the north-eastern New Territories. One of the best preserved is at Lai Chi Wo.
A village with good fung shui will be shielded on three sides by rolling hills. But when selecting a site the native flora must also be considered. A desirable plot will already have mature vegetation to which other plants can be added to develop a fung shui wood. As the wood matures it will take on a crescent shape enclosing the village. The woods have an ecological as well as cultural value. They help protect from landslides caused by typhoons, provide shade in the summer. They can block the cold north winds in the winter. Fruit trees planted on the edges of the wood can provide food and income, herbal medicines and firewood.
A fung shui wood is a dark and dense place with most of the daylight blocked by tall trees such as endospermum (Endospermum chinense) and schima (Schima superba), which can grow as much as 20 metres. Beneath these are smaller trees such as lanced-leaved sterculia (Sterculia lanceolata), agar wood (Aquilaria sinensis), chekiang machilus (Machilus chekiangensis) and fleshy nut tree (Sarcosperma laurinum). Lower still you might find wild coffee (Psychotria asiatica) and Asiatic ardisia (Ardisia quinquegona), and finally a carpet of ferns, mosses, and climbing and herbaceous plants.
Fung shui woods also provide a habitat for a rich variety of bird and insect life.
Picture: The fung shui wood rises behind the village of Kuk Po San Uk Ha in Plover Cove Country Park