If the term pungsu does not mean anything to you at first glance, perhaps “feng shui” brings back memories, when it was the big trend in France in the mid-2000s. Well, pungsu is Korean geomancy! Yet another word and all this really means nothing to you? This article will give you all the information to better understand what I am talking about.

Pungsu? Feng shui? Geomance?

Feng shui is built with the words “wind” and “water” in Chinese. It is a thought originating in China which is based on the Taoist philosophical concept of yin and yang (eumyang ohaeng in Korean, 음양오행 ) and the theory of the five elements, manifestation of environmental energy, qi (pronounced chi ). These five elements are wood, metal, earth, water and fire. Feng shui is used to harmonize the qi energy of a place to increase the well-being, health and prosperity of the inhabitants.

Feng shui came to Korea during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC – 668 AD) through Buddhism. If feng shui is limited to habitat, pungsu ( 풍수 ) stands out by also positioning itself on a geographical scale. The locations of towns, villages, palaces, tombs, buildings were chosen mainly based on pungsu, with the help of a compass ( yundo , 윤도 ) which identifies the qualities of a site by indicating the cardinal points, intermediate points, etc. The goal is to take advantage of telluric energies in harmony with nature and the universe. Below, you will find a video released recently (in English), which precisely presents the yundo .

And geomancy in all this? This term comes from the Greek and designates an Arabic divination practice based on the observation of figures formed by earth or pebbles thrown at random on a flat surface. Nothing to do with what I explained above but the first Westerners having been confronted with feng shui and pungsu brought them closer to geomancy. I will avoid using this term too much because I find it really far from the concept.


Decorate your interior with pungsu

Whether it is pungsu or feng shui, the two agree in the concern for layout and decoration in living spaces, and this still today. Here are some tips to improve your well-being at home.

  • The qi must be in motion. To prevent it from stagnating, clutter and dirt should be avoided.
  • In the entrance, shoes must be stored. A plant on the piece of furniture where you store your shoes attracts good energy. Avoid putting a mirror in front of your entrance so that the qi does not return outside. Place it to the left of the entrance to increase your financial chances.
  • Your living room should be sunny. If not, lighting or potted plants will help. Avoid artificial flowers that trap dust. Position the sofa to face people entering the room.
  • In the kitchen, all sharp utensils should be in cases and not exposed to the air. It is recommended not to associate elements such as the oven and the fridge which are symbolized by opposite elements (fire and water). Adding a plant creates a synergy with these two elements.
  • Regarding your desk, do not place it facing the window which dissipates the qi, nor facing a wall which blocks it. The goal is to maximize your concentration. It has to be in order for your thoughts to be as well. Favor a place facing east and, if possible, the door visible from the office.
  • In your bedroom, the bed should point southeast and the headboard placed at an angle of the room. Avoid any mirror (especially if it faces the bed) as it will increase your number of nightmares and bring misfortune.
  • The bathroom should be well ventilated. With humidity, the qi stays more easily.
  • If you have stairs, they should be wide and lighted.
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The list is far from exhaustive and it can be complicated to implement everything. Experts can advise you…unless you’re a mess-loving person like me. Or, you don’t believe in this kind of concept and you will choose to apply only a few suggestions because it gave you decorating ideas.

The peculiarity of pungsu

The Korean system is based on the principles developed by the Taoist master Doseon (826-898). He studied in China to deepen his knowledge of Taoist esoteric teachings, astronomy, mathematics, feng shui, etc. Back in Korea, he travels the country taking notes on geography and energy sources. It highlights the spiritual and material energies contained in the reliefs of the Korean landscape. Each site built on a given place using pungsu brings prosperity and security no longer for a single habitat but on the scale of the kingdom! Alain Delissen defines pungsu in this wayby a “system of thought and set of practices allowing to situate, interpret, use and develop a country or a landscape in order to take advantage of its favorable qualities for the present or for the future. »

To find this ideal place, certain geographical conditions must be sought. The location should be at the foot of a mountain and close to a stream in order to obtain a convergence of the positive influences of qi and facilitate natural drainage. It should also be sunny and have clean air. This place is called myeongdang ( 명당 ). In 1861, Kim Jeong Ho published an atlas containing twenty-two plates, developing a cartography of Korean territory from pungsu. The Daedongyeojido is on display at the Gyujanggak Institute of Korean Studies at Seoul National University.

Atlas Daedongyeojido, map based on pungsu

Take the city of Seoul as an example. It is located in a basin framed by mountains and on the banks of the Han River. King Taejong, founder of the Joseon dynasty, asks the geomancers to find the ideal location to establish the new capital. The old one, Gaesang, had the reputation of no longer having telluric energies. Being aware of Doseon’s research, he chose the Hanyang region which had hills, mountains and rivers. If it was planned that the capital could accommodate two hundred thousand people, the geomancers had to take into account an extension to have more inhabitants. Four sites were selected and the northernmost one was chosen to establish the new capital. Changdeokgung Palace, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also built shortly after, as well as government buildings, always respecting the principles of pungsu .

Changdeokgung Palace built according to pungsu

Even today, Koreans believe in the harmony between natural phenomena and the geography of the environment. Building one’s house on a suitable site to live and be buried there will bring health, happiness and peace to oneself and to one’s descendants. Construction and urban planning in South Korea are largely influenced by pungsu and the layout of offices in large companies is no exception.


SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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