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AT Ichow there lived a high official named Sung, whose family were all ardent supporters of FêngShui; so much so, that even the womenfolk read books on the subject, and understood the principles of the science. When Mr. Sung died, his two sons set up separate establishments, and each invited to his own house geomancers from far and near, who had any reputation in their art, to select a spot for the dead man’s grave. By degrees, they had collected together as many as a hundred apiece, and every day they would scour the country round, each at the head of his own particular regiment. After about a month of this work, both sides had fixed upon a suitable position for the grave; and the geomancers engaged by one brother, declared that if their spot was selected he would certainly some day be made a marquis, while the other brother was similarly informed, by his geomancers, that by adopting their choice he would infallibly rise to the rank of Secretary of State. Thus, neither brother would give way to the other, but each set about making the grave in his own particular place,—pitching marquees, and arranging banners, and making all necessary preparations for the funeral. Then when the coffin arrived at the point where roads branched off to the two graves, the two brothers, each leading on his own little army of geomancers, bore down upon it with a view to gaining possession of the corpse. From morn till dewy eve the battle raged; and as neither gained any advantage over the other, the mourners and friends, who had come to witness the ceremony of burial, stole away one by one; and the coolies, who were carrying the coffin, after changing the poles from one shoulder to another until they were quite worn out, put the body down by the roadside, and went off home. It then became necessary to make some protection for the coffin against the wind and rain; whereupon the elder brother immediately set about building a hut close by, in which he purposed leaving some of his attendants to keep guard; but he had no sooner begun than the younger brother followed his example; and when the elder built a second and third, the younger also built a second and third; and as this went on for the space of three whole years, by the end of that time the place had become quite a little village. By and by, both brothers died, one directly after the other; and then their two wives determined to cast to the winds the decision of each party of geomancers. Accordingly, they went together to the two spots in question; and after inspecting them carefully, declared that neither was suitable. The next step was to jointly engage another set of geomancers, who submitted for their approval several different spots, and ten days had hardly passed away before the two women had agreed upon the position for their father in law’s grave, which, as the wife of the younger brother prophesied, would surely give to the family a high military degree. So the body was buried, and within three years Mr. Sung’s eldest grandson, who had entered as a military cadet, actually took the corresponding degree to a literary master of arts.
[“FêngShui,” adds the great commentator I Shihshih, “may or may not be based upon sound principles; at any rate, to indulge a morbid belief in it is utter folly; and thus to join issue and fight while a coffin is relegated to the roadside, is hardly in accordance with the doctrines of filial piety or fraternal love. Can people believe that mere position will improve the fortunes of their family? At any rate, that two women should have thus quietly settled the matter is certainly worthy of record.”]




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