The Dunhuang Party boss once entertained the visiting King and Queen of Norway. He lost everything for his belief in Feng Shui.
by Liu Mengyao
Until a few years ago, Zhan Shunzhou, the secretary of the CCP Dunhuang Municipal Committee of Gansu province, was hailed as a rising star in the Party. Today, his story is told in anti-superstition seminars all over the country as a cautionary tale of how CCP cadres may lose everything if they deviate from the official atheism and believe in Feng Shui. This traditional Chinese geomancy system is immensely popular, including among CCP members, but is increasingly denounced by Xi Jinping as a form of feudal superstition.
Zhan Shunzhou is now presented together with Tao Chenghua, once the most powerful CCP leader in the city of Jinhua, Zhejiang province, as an example not to be followed of Party bureaucrats corrupted and ruined by “superstition.”
Zhan was largely credited for the boom of tourism in Dunhuang and the promotion of the Mogao Caves, home to ancient Buddhist statues and murals, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. His moment of glory came in 2018, when Xi Jinping in person included Dunhuang in addition to Beijing and Shanghai in the itinerary of the state visit to China of King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway. In Dunhuang, the royal couple was hosted by Zhan, who showed them the Mogao Caves, the model kindergarten, and Gansu Dunhuang Solar Park, China’s first large-scale solar power plant.
However, participants to anti-superstition events are now told the sad story of how Zhan came under the influence of a Feng Shui master. He was even caught carrying with him “Five Emperors Coins” he had received from the master for protection. The Five Emperor Coins refer to the five Shunzhi, Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong, and Jiaqing Emperors of the Qing Dynasty (who reigned between 1643 and 1820), and are ubiquitous in Feng Shui to improve luck, protect houses, and ward off evil spirits.
Zhan was sanctioned under Article 40 of the 2020 “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administrative Sanctions for Public Officials,” calling for the dismissal of bureaucrats “participating in or supporting superstitious activities,” and his once brilliant career came to an end.
Xi Jinping constantly hails the “excellent traditional Chinese culture.” One would believe that Feng Shui is an essential part of it. But Xi’s approach to the Chinese tradition is selective, and excludes many elements that refer to spirituality as “superstition.”