Uniting China and Ireland through ancient belief

Wild Geese: Sam McDaid of Qi Consultancy in Hong Kong

A chance meeting with a feng shui master in Hong Kong's Man Mo temple led Donegal native Sam McDaid on to rather a different path than originally planned, but one she believes her grandmother had tried to teach her back in Ireland.

After studying fashion and textile design in Belfast and working in London as a designer for Ben Sherman, McDaid moved to Hong Kong eight years ago to teach at an international school. She is now dedicating all her spare time to her new company, incorporating all her learnings from the ancient to the modern.

“About three years ago, I walked into a very famous temple here called Man Mo. I met a master there. Master Ho read my face and told me I was in Hong Kong and I had come here to be a feng shui master,” she says. I started learning the principles behind five-element theory and then, from there, more seriously. Over the past two of years I’ve studied [different areas of feng shui] form school and classical compass school. I’ve trained with one of the five grand masters in the world, Master Raymond Lo.”

Company policy

While an ancient Chinese belief may be far from the priorities of Irish businesses, McDaid believes that by incorporating it into company policy, it could improve links between the two nations. Through Qi Consultancy she is doing just that.

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“Many a corporation here sets aside a portion of their annual budget for feng shui consultation. I think it’s important from an Irish perspective for any Irish business or corporation seeking to work with the Chinese sector. It’s important they understand these cultural beliefs and guiding principles,” she says.

"I've availed of opportunities to work with the Irish community, local architectural and interior design firms and individuals in Hong Kong and Shanghai. I did a consultation for the consul general so our consul general, Peter Ryan, is sitting in a good mountain star. So hopefully relationships with China will be very good."

Like with every belief, there are those who will call it “hocus-pocus”. McDaid admits that it is only now she is realising that this isn’t the first time someone has tried to teach her the elements of energy.

“My grandmother was a farmer and farmer’s wife. She always talked about the energy of the mountains and the sea. We kind of thought she was a little bit wacky as kids I suppose. Now that I’m older, I realise there are real health benefits of just being disconnected from technology and disconnected from your life generally. And spending some time taking your shoes off and standing on the grass and connecting all the energy that the Earth has got to give,” she says.

Hong Kong is a far cry from Donegal and now, even though she has residency status there, McDaid still seeks the simple pleasures from home.

“I have to consciously take myself to natural environments every so often. It’s a really big part of my identity, it’s a really big part of my experiences living in a positive way if I just take myself to the beach or go to the New Territories. In some parts, the New Territories remind me of Donegal, it’s quite mountainous and surrounded by sea,” she says.

According to McDaid, the low tax rate of 15 per cent is a major draw for expatriates to the island as well as its being a major transport hub. The one drawback would appear to be rental prices in both commercial and residential sectors.

“Although the taxes are really low, I guess then what we say in Hong Kong is that our rent becomes our tax because rent costs are incredibly high compared with Dublin, for example,” she says.

McDaid believes Hong Kong has great opportunities for new ideas, with many individuals looking for investment opportunities. She has recently been offered funding for a book that she is writing and says there are people willing to invest in you if your idea is good enough.

Private investors

“There are meets-ups, for example on a Tuesday morning, where you can go along and pitch the business idea to individuals who have money to invest in good ideas. I know people who have had private investors for business pursuits they have wanted to follow. It’s a very good place in that respect. There are a lot of very rich people who are keen to see a good idea come to fruition.”

McDaid is currently sourcing venues to bring her workshops to Europe with the first Dublin one at the end of July.

Eventually she would like to move back to her beloved Donegal and her long-term plan would be to build using the principles she has learned in Asia.

However, there are a few principles from the city she will be happy to leave behind. “One thing I actually miss about Ireland as well. You’re not allowed to sit on the grass here [in Hong Kong]. There are so many public parks but for some bizarre reason you’re not allowed to sit on the grass. There’s a whole list of what you’re not allowed to do,” she says.