ABOVE: Ficus tinctoria var gibbosa “protecting” a 24 hour 7 ELEVEN store in the center of Kuching.
Long before Western architects dreamed up the concept of office blocks with green walls, Chinese shopkeepers in SE Asia made a pact with the epiphytic fig trees that grew on their shop houses.
You protect my shop from bad luck and evil spirits and I will protect you.
Ficus spathuliifolia in central Kuching.Only one example found.
Note that all the figs photographed on buildings in Kuching China town above are self sown. They have arrived as a result of bird droppings followed by secondary dispersal by ants. Although local shopkeepers never plant figs on their shophouses they consider their arrival to be a sign of good luck. Fig trees are considered by many to house benevolent spirits and to remove the trees once they have arrived might anger those spirits and bring bad luck.
The animist beliefs that attach to fig trees in Asia obviously date back many thousands of years and these beliefs have in turn been adopted and adapted by many of Asia’s great religions including Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism.