The University of British Columbia’s Board of Governors has approved a 15-bed hospice on a campus location, even as some residents of a neighbouring high-rise condominium continue to object to the facility on what they say are cultural grounds. Their reasoning, according to the a letter written to the University Neighbourhood Association, subscribe to the belief that death is considered the “yin,” and life is the “yang” and when combining the two results in poverty, sickness and death because ghosts will invade and harass the living. This stems from the belief of feng shui, the belief that one can avoid “negative chi” through design. Building next to a hospital, cemetery, funeral home or hospice would expose the energy of death on its inhabitants.
While opponents have dismissed the residents’ concerns as mere superstition, resident and realtor Jane Li during a press conference at the time dismissed the notion that it was not due to superstition, but rather 5,000 years of culture and religion. She further added that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protected her rights to religious beliefs.
While I fully support that our rights to religious beliefs should be protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, one needs to distinguish what is considered superstition with what is considered religious practice or ritual. Having grown up in a traditional Chinese family, I am fully aware of Chinese superstitious practices. When I got married, my mother-in-law did not allow me to wash my hair on the Lunar New Year’s Day for fear of washing away all my good luck and fortunes. The ironic thing about this is that my mother-in-law is a practicing Catholic!
If the university was forcing Jewish and Muslim students or employees to consume pork or requiring Christian students and employees to marry only same-sex partners, I can understand that would be a fundamental violation of one’s religious rights and freedoms. But to protest the building of a hospice on the grounds that it violates one’s religious beliefs does not make sense. The article states another example of another neighbourhood protesting the construction of a funeral home, but in this case, the residents believed that it would prevent future buyers from choosing to live in the neighbourhood. I feel that the residents are more concerned about having their property value drop than believing that it violates their rights and freedoms to be living in close proximity to a hospice.
Finally, the residents claim that “yin” which represents death should not be in close proximity to “yang” which represents life and will result in bad luck. Close examination of the yin-yang symbol shows not a straight line, but rather a wavy line. The whole of the yin and yang is about life and life is not complete when only one is present. In other words, the yin and yang exists when the yang is next to the yin in order to make it whole because the Chinese believe that everything in life should be balanced. Hospice is a part of a life process. If there is life, there must be death.