HUMAN MODIFICATION OF KOREAN LANDFORMS FOR GEOMANTIC PURPOSES

Authors


  • This article is based on and developed from an earlier conference paper (Yoon 2008). Parts of it were originally included in my doctoral dissertation (Yoon 1976, 131–143). I wish to thank ReneeMarie Yoon and David Bade for their reading of a draft of this manuscript and for providing editorial comments. This article was completed after I was in Korea as a Korea Foundation research fellow in 2009. I am grateful to the Korea Foundation for the field-research fellowship.

abstract.

The geomantic idea of chosan pibo is a particular way of remedying the inadequacies of a geomantic landscape by building small mounds of earth or stones and has been a significant motivation for modifying the environment in Korea. This idea is a part of ancient Chinese geomancy, or feng shui, for determining auspicious sites. Historically, three principal geomantic means have been used to compensate for shortcomings at an auspicious site: building religious structures, such as temples; creating hills, planting trees, or changing directions of watercourses; or making other symbolic gestures, such as naming objects and places. In this article I concentrate on the second, modifying landforms to compensate for the geomantic shortcomings of a place. The quasi-religious zeal shown by feng shui practitioners in Korea to improve the local geomantic landscape is worthy of comparing and contrasting with the European Christian idea, held by medieval monastic monks, that humanity is a partner of God in improving the environment.

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