ND Paper, a subsidiary of Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Ltd., purchased the Old Town mill in 2018. Credit: Nina Mahaleris

OLD TOWN, Maine — When Chinese investors touched down in Old Town more than a year ago, they stunned residents with not only the purchase of the shuttered mill, but also a unique grand-opening celebration — a feng shui cleansing.

The mill’s newest owner, Zhang Yin, who made Forbes’ list of China’s richest in 2019, is well-known for her multi-million-dollar company, Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Ltd., the leading producer of containerboard in China.

The Old Town mill is operated by an Illinois-based subsidiary of the company called ND Paper LLC, which also oversees the Rumford mill.

The purchase may have come as a surprise to some locals who were previously uncertain about the mill’s future. How Yin and her associates prepared for its revival may have shocked them even more.

Credit: Nina Mahaleris

Before reopening, the mill’s investors flew in a Hong Kong-based feng shui consultant known as “Feng Shui Eddie” to visit and review the property. The land posed some issues, he said. The mill bordered the Forest Hills Public Cemetery, which meant that “restless souls could peer into the factory grounds.”

To fix this, Eddie issued a 2,000-foot fence to be constructed along the entire property — “to keep the spirits on their side.” With it, workers planted a row of more than 200 peach trees to further protect the factory.

“The peach trees are another added layer to keep them over there — to keep the spirits in their own space,” the mill’s manager, Craig Kerschner told the New York Times.

Although ND Paper also owns the Rumford mill, the “most feng shui considerations” were taken in Old Town largely because the property abutted a cemetery and was shuttered for nearly four years, said Amy Lee, the company’s director of communications.

She added that the company considers “the guiding principles of feng shui” at all their locations.

Credit: Nina Mahaleris

Feng shui, which literally translates to “wind” and “water,” is an ancient Chinese practice to balance the flow of energy in a space. Sara Bird Nelson, a feng shui consultant and reiki master in Falmouth, said that a fence around the mill serves as a barrier to energy flow between the two properties.

It’s a stopping point for the energies, she explained. The consultant may have been trying to achieve separation of the energies while honoring the cemetery at the same time, she added.

“It’s his way of saying, ‘we honor you, but we’re moving forward.’”

The peach blossom trees are another important factor in creating this barrier, Nelson said. In traditional feng shui, peach blossoms symbolize love, luck and prosperity. “By planting the peach trees, he is looking to bring in new opportunities for that mill.”

“What a gift for that mill,” she said.