Chinese officials are increasingly basing key budgetary and policy decisions on the ancient art of feng shui, as a revival of ancient mystical practices sweeps the communist state.

Observers claim that the art of attracting luck, prosperity and power through the arrangement of objects is gaining a growing number of adherents among Chinese officials, despite the state being nominally atheist.

Ordinary Chinese often see the practices as corrupt. "Officials aren't interested in helping the people when they practise feng shui," Duan Xiaowen, an anticorruption activist in Hunan Province told the New York Times. "All they can think of is getting a higher position."

Railway minister Liu Zhijun, who was in charge of constructing the world's largest high-speed rail network through the country, reportedly consulted a feng shui master when deciding when to begin major phases of the project.

He was sacked in 2011 and found guilty of a range of crimes including corruption and abuse of power after taking a reported $157 million in bribes. Also on the charge sheet was "belief in feudal superstitions," a crime in the atheist Marxist state.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that Yang Hong, an official in Shanxi Province, changed the name of a local mountain in order to attract luck and secure a promotion. He was later sacked and found guilty of corruption.

In 2009, $732,000 was spent by officials in Gansu province transporting a giant boulder to the county capital on the advice of feng shui masters.

According to a 2007 report by the Chinese Academy of Governance, 52% of the country's high ranking civil servants believed in a form of traditional divination, such as numerology and face reading, which have flourished after the relaxation of anti-religious policies.

Cheng Ping, a professor at the academy, said that businesspeople often curried favour with bureaucrats by securing them audiences and paying for consultations with respected practitioners.

Ping added that officials are often desperate for luck in a system where promotions are secured by gaining the favour of superiors rather than by hard work, and careers can be broken by a single negative impression.