Chinese Life in the Tibetan Foothills/Book 7/Geomancy

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Geomancy (陰陽), yin yang

It is the geomancer's work to select the site for a house; the direction in which it faces must not disagree with the life star of the owner. He decides how and where the doors and windows are to be placed; and which way it should be approached; hardly ever by a straight road. He also selects lucky days for beginning the foundations, for beginning the carpentry work, for putting up the frame-work; and above all, the lucky day and hour for hoisting the top beam on the roof. On this occasion the workmen have extra money, a feast, and the rest of the day free from work. He fixes the position for a burying place, and the way a grave will face. Traffic in the vicinity of the grave is stopped lest the spirit be disturbed. It is reckoned very unlucky to tread on or through a family graveyard.

To decide how a protecting wall round a grave should be built and when it may be built is the geomancer's duty, and when earth can be put on the graves. The proverb runs, chêng, san, wu, ch‘i, chiu, mu shên tso ti shou; In the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth moons, the spirit of the grave sits on the ground and guards; during these months no funerals of any importance are carried out and old graves are left severely alone.

He decides when the tombstone may be erected without disturbing the spirit of the grave, and fixes all the lucky times connected with a funeral. (See Funerals.)

Hsiu shêng chi (修生寄) is to prepare with the help of an astrologer the foundation for a grave before death, so as to be perfectly sure that it is all right; the coffin is often ready many years before.

Hsing chia is the astrologer who will look at the formation of a mountain before he will fix upon a grave. He makes much of the dragon, he uses the triad compass in his work. The triad is the san ho (三合), or heaven, earth and man.

Fa chia is the astrologer who simply decides the position of the grave, for prosperity to the progeny. He uses the eight-diagram compass. The ts‘e (擇) chia is an astrologer who simply decides lucky days, and is like the fortuneteller.

The following represents the transmigration or rotation of souls as far as the geomancer is concerned; hence his control over both the dwellings of the living and the dead. These stages are written on the above compass and used by both classes.

Born, 長生; washed, 沐浴; clothed, 冠帶; rank, 臨官; prosperity, 帝旺; aged, 衰; sick, 病; death, 死; buried, 墓; ended, 絕; conceived, 胎; nourished, 養.

To build a pagoda to make up a deficiency in the formation of the hills, or to break the monotony of a plain, in order that luck may attend the scholars of the district is called p‘ei fêng shui (配風水) and p‘u wên fêng (培文峯). These pagodas are all built in the shape of a Chinese pencil and almost always have an odd number of storeys, which is reckoned more lucky.

To dig a little on the wrong side is to transgress the geomantic influences, fan fêng shui. This is reckoned very serious, and must be counteracted, sometimes by buildings being pulled down or pieces added, doors and windows being closed up and fresh ones being opened.

A building erected hundreds of li distant may spoil the geomantic influences of a district or town.