GUANGZHOU - A group of feng shui masters recently went to a primary school in Guangdong province to exorcise ghosts in visits that have given rise to much controversy among the public.
The masters, schooled in the ancient Chinese art of placement, were invited to use magic arts at the Central Primary School of Gaozhou city's Pingshan township to improve the school's fortunes following the violent deaths of two students in the past two years.
One of the students died on his way to school in March 2009, after he had been knocked down by a vehicle owned by the local financial bureau. As compensation for the loss, the bureau gave the victim's family 320,000 yuan ($49,230).
The other student was killed in July last year in a fight with a classmate over a music and video player. The school paid the victim's family 200,000 yuan as a settlement.
Distraught at the deaths, Lu Ziqu, then headmaster of the school, came to believe that the cause of the school's misfortunes was bad feng shui. Desperate for a remedy, he asked a teacher named Li You to invite the local feng shui master Liang Shiming to the school in August 2010.
Liang, 70, thought the two fatal cases had something to do with the presence of an ancestral shrine, which commemorated a family named Li, inside the school. He also blamed the misfortunes on ghosts and placed three pieces of written incantations on the ancestral shrine in an attempt at exorcism.
In January, Lu was promoted to the township's educational office. His successor, Mo Huafeng, followed Lu's lead and invited two other feng shui masters, who he thought were better practitioners, to the school in March.
Those masters advised Mo to cut down five trees on the school grounds and to change the direction of the school's main gate.
Wei Yue, a superior to Mo, said the school's real reason for inviting feng shui masters was to have ghosts exorcised.
"Most people in Pingshan township, particularly farmers, are very superstitious," Wei said.
The Li family's ancestral shrine, which used to lie near the school, became the school's property when the school was expanded in 2008. According to an agreement reached between the school and the Li family, the Li family sold the land needed for the expansion to the school, while the school agreed to allow the family to keep paying visits to the ancestral shrine.
Chen Zhuofeng, a high school teacher in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, said the school gave students and local residents a bad example.
"Schools are places where knowledge is instilled and people are educated," Chen told China Daily on Thursday. "And headmasters and teachers should not observe bad local customs and invite feng shui masters in to practice magic arts."
Not everyone is of the same opinion. Li Ruihong, a local resident, said the school did not break any laws or regulations by inviting in the masters.
"It's common for local schools and residents to solicit the help of feng shui masters when they find themselves in difficulties," Li said.
An official from the Gaozhou city department of education said on Thursday that his department is investigating the case.