Sunday, January 13, 2008

경복국의 풍수

In a small museum in Naksan, I came across a board which explained the fengshui of Gyeongbokgung (경복궁-景福宮). Gyeongbokgung is surrounded by four mountains. Bugaksan (북악산-北岳山, 342m) to the North, Mongmyeoksan or Namsan (목멱산/남산-木覓山/南山, 262m) to the South, Naksan (낙산-駱山, 125m) to the East and Imwangsan (인왕산-仁王山, 338m) to the West. The arrangment of these mountains are supposed to attribute Gyeongbokgung with a good fengshui.

The picture shows the disposition of the four mountains that surround Gyeongbokgung and which attribute it with a benign fengshui. In fengshui, there is a divine beast to represent each cardinal point. North is represented by Hyeonmu (현무-玄武). Hyeonmu is a black turtle with a snake coiled around it. South is Jujak (주작-朱雀) or red bird. East is Cheongnyong (청룡-靑龍) or green dragon. West is Baekho (백호-白虎) or white tiger.

However, when I look back into the history of Gyeongbokgung, it was not all that peaceful. The palace was first built in 1395 but 200 years later it was burnt down during the Japanese invasions from 1592 to 1598. It was reconstructed in 1868 but about 40 years later, Korea lost its sovereignty and was annexed by Japan. Gyeongbokgung was again demolished by the Japanese. In 1911, the Japanese built its Japanese General Government Building over the site of the demolished palace. But less than 35 years later, the Japanese lost the war. The Japanese General Government Building was demolished completely by the Korean government in 1997 and a new Gyeongbokgung was rebuilt as a tourist attraction. The present Gyeongbokgung is in fact the third "reincarnation".

If we are to believe history, the site where Gyeongbokgung is built may not be all that "auspicious". The moral of the story is that the fortune of a country is still best relied on wise, honest, hardworking and forward-looking leaders and officials. Fengshui gives peace to the mind but cannot be depended upon solely for good fortune.

The mountain behind the palace is Bugaksan, the highest of the four mountains which surround Gyeongbokgung. This photo is taken in a Northerly direction in Gyeongbokgung.

The mountain at the far end is Imwangsan. This photo is taken in an Westerly direction in Gyeongbokgung.

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