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Geomancy

In Korea, geomancy is a method of divination for locating favorable sites for cities, residences and burial grounds. This belief holds that happiness and prosperity will prevail over a house built on an ideal site. The site of the ancestral grave must be ideal as well, as the location is believed to exert a lasting and decisive influence over the destinies of the entire family.

The basic theory of geomancy stems from the belief that the earth, being the mother, is the producer of all things, and the fever or energy of the earth in each site exercises a decisive influence over those who utilize the land. The theory asserts that where male and female, that is heaven and earth, are in harmony with one another, the inner fever or energy will spring out and the outer energy will ferment, thereby producing wind and water. The Korean word for geomancy is p'ungsu, literally meaning wind and water.

Geomancy uses landmarks to determine when the earth's energy is stored and flows. The ideal or propitious site (called myongdang) is a place surrounded by mountains-a high, rugged range to the north flanked by hills folded into many ranges. The range to the east of the ideal site is called the blue dragon, while that to the west is referred to as the white tiger. A building or tomb must face a low hill in the south; the center of the site should command a relatively wide expanse of plain to the front. A river flowing through the plain makes it an even better location.

Such requirements were met precisely by the capital city of Seoul. The location was selected about 600 years ago after much research and consideration by King T'aejo, the founder of the ChosCon Dynasty. The city is surrounded by mountains-the high, rugged Mt. Pugaksan to the north, Mt. Naksan to the east, Mt. Inwangsan to the west, and Mt. Namsan to the south. Through the basin flows the Han-gang river and the Ch'hong gyech'.on stream, making the site the perfect seat for the government. As it was, the Choson Dynasty prospered for some 500 years.

If a person or family experiences one misfortune after another, it is attributed to the disadvantageous location of the residence or ancestral tomb. If the site of a village has been well selected, villagers should receive many benefits, including an abundance of filial sons, loyal subjects, and faithful wives. The modern cemetery has frustrated the attempts of urban dwellers to locate the ideal burial ground, but many rural people still are preoccupied with the principles of geomancy, going to great length to find the choice myongdang.

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