Korean Folk Tales: Imps, Ghosts and Fairies | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications. Many of the tales in this collection included introductory and/or end note text which has been moved to the Notes section for each tale.

Geomancer, The

THERE was a geomancer once, Yi Eui-sin, who in seeking out a special mountain vein, started with the Dragon Ridge in North Ham-kyong Province, and traced it as far as Pine Mountain in Yang-ju County, where it stopped in a beautifully rounded end, forming a perfect site for burial. After wandering all day in the hills, Yi's hungry spirit cried out for food. He saw beneath the hill a small house, to which he went, and rapping at the door asked for something to eat. A mourner, recently bereaved, came out in a respectful and kindly way, and gave him a dish of white gruel. Yi, after he had eaten, asked what time the friend had become a mourner, and if he had already passed the funeral. The owner answered, "I am just now entering upon full mourning, but we have not yet arranged for the funeral." He spoke in a sad and disheartened way.

               Yi felt sorry for him, and asked the reason. "I wonder if it's because you are poor that you have not yet made the necessary arrangements, or perhaps you have not yet found a suitable site! I am an expert in reading the hills, and I'll tell you of a site; would you care to see it?"

               The mourner thanked him most gratefully, and said, "I'll be delighted to know of it."

               Yi then showed him the end of the great vein that he had just discovered, also the spot for the grave and how to place its compass points. "After possessing this site," said he, "you will be greatly enriched, but in ten years you will have cause to arrange for another site. When that comes to pass please call me, won't you? In calling for me just ask for Yi So-pang, who lives in West School Ward, Seoul."

               The mourner did as directed, and as the geomancer had foretold, all his affairs prospered. He built a large tiled house, and ornamented the grave with great stones as a prosperous and high-minded country gentleman should do.

               After ten years a guest called one day, and saluting him asked, "Is that grave yonder, beyond the stream, yours?" The master answered, "It is mine." Then the stranger said, "That is a famous site, but ten years have passed since you have come into possession of it, and the luck is gone; why do you not make a change? If you wait too long you will rue it and may meet with great disaster."

               The owner, hearing this, thought of Yi the geomancer, and what he had said years before. Remembering that, he asked the stranger to remain as his guest while he went next day to Seoul to look up Yi in West School Ward. He found him, and told him why he had come.

               Yi said, "I already knew of this." So the two journeyed together to the inquirer's home. When there, they went with the guest up the hill. Yi asked of the guest, "Why did you tell the master to change the site?"

               The guest replied, "This hill is a Kneeling Pheasant formation. If the pheasant kneels too long it cannot endure it, so that within a limited time it must fly. Ten years is the time; that's why I spoke."

               Yi laughed and said, "Your idea is only a partial view, you have thought of only one thing, there are other conditions that enter." Then he showed the peak to the rear, and said, "Yonder is Dog Hill," and then one below, "which," said he, "is Falcon Hill," and then the stream in front, "which," said he, "is Cat River. This is the whole group, the dog behind, the falcon just above, and the cat in front, how then can the pheasant fly? It dares not."

               The guest replied, "Teacher, surely your eyes are enlightened, and see further than those of ordinary men."

               From that day forth the Yis of Pine Hill became a great and noted family.



Yi Eui-sin was a specialist in Geomancy. His craft came into being evidently as a by-product of Taoism, but has had mixed in it elements of ancient Chinese philosophy. The Positive and the Negative, the Two Primary Principles in Nature, play a great part; also the Five Elements, Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. In the selection of a site, that for a house is called a "male" choice, while the grave is denominated the "female" choice.

               Millions of money have been expended in Korea on the geomancer and his associates in the hope of finding lucky homes for the living and auspicious resting-places for the dead, the Korean idea being that, in some mysterious way, all our fortune is associated with Mother Earth.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Geomancer, The
Tale Author/Editor: Anonymous
Book Title: Korean Folk Tales: Imps, Ghosts and Fairies
Book Author/Editor: Bang, Im & Ryuk, Yi
Publisher: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1913
Country of Origin: Korea
Classification: unclassified

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