FengShui: Where to Bury a Body

Chinese (Simplified): 风水
Chinese (Traditional): 風水
Romanization/Pingyin: fēngshuǐ
Literal Translation: wind water
Free Translation: “Chinese geomancy” (Wikipedia), essentially harmonizing with the natural world


Informant: My grandparents talk a lot of stuff. They also, they also told me a lot of my great father where bury, his location, how good it is, that kind of stuff. I- at that time I was quite young I don’t quite understand. He uh my grandparents basically looking everywhere to find a a a place to bury to bury my great great parent father. He he obviously he not expert, but he got somebody who claim to be expert. They found location in some mountain point in a certain direction, it’s just well, I mean, whatever you want to saying say it makes sense, they believe.

Informant: I mean, when people bury need to find a optimal location and direction. Well supposedly we find a good location and direction, we you you you can benefit your your offspring and all this stuff. That’s what they… claim. That’s fengshui.

Informant: That’s why I mean everything. House, location, direction inside the house furniture how to put it… is all fengshui.


Q: How did you learn about FengShui?

Informant: I mean, the thing is I, I didn’t get as much knowledge as I should because when I, when the high school already away from my parents grandparents. […] Yeah, but, even then they aren’t experts. They always found somebody pointing a certain thing to them.

Q: Did a lot of people believe in FengShui?

Informant: Well… more and more now. I think the, in China, when Cultural Revolution came, they kinda destroyed a lot of those believes. But like, people in HongKong, Taiwan, they believe a lot more than mainland China. But in mainland China now, they have more and more people believe. Especially uh in my side of the area, those people.

Q: As in like in the country side or in your province?

Informant: Well in the province, but well I think now more and more people believe. In the whole China. Because they they, I mean, this is traditional culture so. So even though Cultural Revolution interrupt for a period of time, they those things coming back. Yeah, they have all kind of stuff, but as I say I don’t do a lot of study for this kind of stuff. 

Q: Do you know when it originated? Like what Dynasty? 

Informant: I’m not quite sure, I, I obviously I mean, follow the tradition I don’t know when it started. I’m not quite sure.

Q: How did the Cultural Revolution affect FengShui?

Informant: Well cultural revolution, Chairman Mao basically want to break all of the traditions, right. This this fengshui is tradition, I mean they they go through all this Well basically Chairman Mao break everything that is tradition. basically want a brand new culture, everything brand new. So it last for 10 years, obviously affect uhhh some people. I mean when I came to U.S., I found out a lot Taiwanese family, HongKong family, a lot more tradition. I mean they you go to their house, or even I work for a restaurant they always have some food put aside to to try to what you call, to feed your ancestors that kind of stuff. But in my time, in China, Cultural Revolution those things stopped. So we haven’t practiced for until a little bit later on, when Chairman Mao died, Cultural Revolution end. So maybe another 10 years people slowly slowly bring back the practice.

Personal Thoughts:

China is incredibly, incredibly old. While people in England can trace back their family line centuries, people in China can trace back family lines even further. I think the meticulousness in choosing a burial place for passed family members is in part because of this massive traceable family history. In addition, Confucianism – one of the main philosophies in China that has existed for a long, long time – also places a heavy emphasis on family and the obligation of each member of a family. Confucianism also emphasizes the duty of young people to respect their elders, which is reflected by younger people finding a perfect place for their elders to rest. What I find particularly interesting about this though is the intersection between family dynamics and harmony with the natural world.

Additional Notes:

For a similar discussion of the oppression of culture under Communism and Post-Communist revival, read:
Valk, Ulo. 2006. Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore. Journal of Folklore Research 43: 31-51