It has been a dim period for internet companies with an overwhelming amount of twists and turns in a year. As the cold winter approaches, many resort to superstitions for a peace of mind.
1. Opening the light — Buddhābhiseka
It’s literally translated as “open the light” in Chinese, which really means to open one’s eyes and to harness the power of the sacred to grant people wisdom. It can be roughly described as a sacred connection with the Buddha granted by monks or Taoist priests through performing rituals on the subject. Monks, who hold a relatively high rank usually, recite sutras or prayers while dotting on the Buddhist statuettes and bestowing upon the subject the power of the light. The ritual is said to give the subject a sort of spiritual power to dispel negative auras and energies. Many Chinese people would wear Buddhist pendants, amulets, or wooden bracelets after receiving the blessings from the “light opening” ritual.
Buddhists believe that this will bring them good fortune, while some think of it merely as a kind of placebo effect, for the mind and the spirit.
According to media reports, programmers of some gaming companies have even brought in their servers to Beijing Heping Temple, asking monks to perform the “opening light” ritual on their servers for good luck.
Later, Beijing Chici Heping Temple issued an official statement, saying that they have never performed such a ritual on gaming servers, since they believed internet games are the culprit of misfortune for some families. The two staff members dressed up as monks stuck their own self-made paper talismans on the machines, which is seen as a disgraceful behavior towards the temple and Buddhism.
2. Worshipping the gods
It is the 21st century. You can still see many traditional diefied figures like Guan Gong, a Chinese general serving under the warlord Liu Bei, who has been diefied into not only a warrior god, but a deity of wealth. Many Chinese internet companies, still to this day, enshrine and worship Guan Gong. These companies can usually be classified into the following three: traditional enterprises looking to transform; companies who decided to transform out of nowhere due to the bosses being brainwashed the “internet mindset”; and companies who are owned by people born in the Chaoshan Region, an area down South of China, who usually start their business in the field of commodity trade.
In this sense, these so called “internet companies” are really like half-breeds that are no different from traditional Chinese restaurants. Regardless of the office arrangements, they often put some Chinese tea sets together with statuettes as a way of worshipping the statuettes.
Speaking of worshipping, Jack Ma is one of the most pious Buddhists among internet tycoons, as he calls his fellow business partners “eighteen Arhats”, a Buddhist concept meaning the eighteen disciples of the Buddha.
The authentic internet companies now put their faith in the new gods. It’s similar to what’s depicted in the TV series American Gods, the old gods have already been left behind by the world’s trends. There are new gods in town now, and tech and media industries are the dominators of the new world.
In the internet community in China, the new gods are not imaginary figures, they in fact belong to the real world. They receive the most public attention and media exposure, and are mostly leaders of the largest platform providers in a certain field.
For instance, Jack Ma is regarded as the god of e-commerce. Zhang Xiaolong, creator of WeChat, is considered the god of WeChat official accounts.
Internet gods are created as fast as the iterations of internet products. Probably a few days later the human koi will be long forgotten, like a flash in the pan.
On August 25, 2017, CorePlayer, a media player company, updated its app in the app store with a statement saying, “We have mended the fatal error, and even sacrificed a programmer for it.”
Later, the company clarified that it is merely a bad joke from the product manager.
Two years ago, when Bilibili.com moved to a new office building, they held a big event, with everything prepared for a proper traditional Chinese sacrificial ceremony. They had flowers, oblations, paper talismans with unrecognizable drawings on them, Taoist priests, you name it. Leaked on-site photos showed the Danmaku on the wall (danmaku is characteristic of videos on Bilibili), which implies that it is indeed what happened at the new office building of Bilibili.com.
4. Numbers and dates
According to a friend from another internet company (which wish to remain unexposed), whenever they move to a new workplace, they will always hire a Taoist priest to choose an auspicious date for the move.
In China, there was an older calendar named Tung Shing (通勝), a Chinese divination guide and almanac. It consists primarily of a calendar based on the Chinese lunar year and indicates auspicious and inauspicious days for pretty much every decision. For every particular day, there will be relevant interpretations about the taboos of the day, or the fortunes. For example, December 18 of this year is good for holding weddings or burials, and is bad for buying properties, etc.
There is a long-held superstition that some internet products need to be online or updated at an accurate time and date, as if the whole project would fail if you miss the auspicious time.
It is also said that the domain name of the internet product needs to contain six or eight, which are the two lucky numbers in China. Eight in Chinese sounds like “making a fortune” or “hitting the jackpot”.
5. Zodiac superstition
According to zodiac signs, Capricorns are natural born workaholics. Therefore, many companies like to recruit Capricorns, which means frequent office birthday parties held between the end of December and mid January.
People might often feel like, “I’m probably a fake Capricorn.”
Similarly, some interviewers would take into consideration a person’s zodiacs. For instance, Sagittarius’ love freedom and art, and are meant for creative jobs. Virgos are perfectionists, who should do design. Leos are ambitious and born leaders.
But really, most people just read zodiac analyses to make themselves feel better or just for fun.
6. Feng Shui
Feng Shui is an ancient and mysterious science developed in China. It is also known as Chinese geomancy with a literal translation of “wind-water”. It is based on locations, directions, and everything that’s related to Chinese idioms and traditions.
For instance, Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou only builds seven floors, since there is an idiom called “seven up and eight down”. “Up” here is taken as something good while “down” is bad. So, it would be a bad omen to build another floor on top for Alibaba. The Tencent headquarters in Beijing is built like a giant ship to resist the “big waves” of the oceans, as the company is adjacent to one of its biggest competitors, Sina. And Sina’s Chinese name is called “new wave”.
In Feng Shui, everything has properties that relate to the five elements of earth, water, metal, fire, and wood, which is used for describing the reinforcing or counteracting relationships between them. For instance:
Wood feeds Fire;
Fire creates Earth (ash);
Earth bears Metal;
It has been known that the internet industry belongs to the fire element, which is susceptible to water. Therefore it is believed that Shanghai (lit. up sea) is not “a land of milk and honey” for internet companies, since the city is surrounded by the Yangtze River.
However, the Lixiang International Building at Zhongguancun in Beijing, also known as the cradle for entrepreneurs, has witnessed the glorious times of many internet startups including Baidu, Sina, and NIO. The place is then dubbed a “Feng Shui land of treasure”.
Ironically, early November this year, the ofo team moved away from this building because it couldn’t afford the rent.
For most internet workers in China, Mecca the holy land in their mind is the Silicon Valley.
Pilgrims will also send WeChat moments along the way every few steps, just like a typical Tibetan pilgrimage. At least once in their lifetime, Tibetans will travel to Lhasa, while kowtowing every three steps along the way.
Steve Jobs is a saint among saints. It is said that the owner of a listed internet company bought a house near the previous residence of Steve Jobs, dreaming of breathing the same air and feeling his presence in every inch of the land.
Maybe someday the saint will come back, and talk about his opinions about iPhone XS Max.
Featured photo credit to the japantimes.com