Geomantic Compass


by Andrew Keys on March 29, 2012

Hey! Why isn’t he writing about plants? See here.

Beijing, July 2006—I learned how to haggle at a market in China.

Our first day in Beijing was Sunday, and all I knew was I had to be at something called the Ghost Market. Not its REAL real name–a transliteration that says “meh” to who knows how much meaning, but more importantly, a market where goods consisted largely of antiquey things. CHINESE antiquey things. And THAT, reader, I was not going to miss.

Geomantic CompassThis is a geomantic compass, and it’s one of my most favorite things. The woman’s stall where I bought it was the type of semi-permanent setup that spells higher prices, but when I saw this gold thing in all its glory, I knew we were meant to be. Lucky for me she didn’t want that much for it, but she wasn’t giving it away, and I wasn’t leaving without it. (Which I tried very hard not to let on.) She pecked her price out on a calculator, which we passed back and forth, gesticulating, until we settled. It was $40 US. Yep, I probably paid too much, but honestly? It was my first real bargaining experience. Ever. It felt fair. I paid for both the thing and the memory of learning to bargain in a dusty Chinese market, right there, and I will never forget that.

What? Oh. Geomantic compasses are used in feng shui. They’re used to… Well, to determine the feng shui of things. I can’t imagine what the characters mean, and frankly, I’ve suspected this one isn’t that old. The center compass piece doesn’t work, so I can’t feng shui with it, but nonetheless it sits on our coffee table where I can see it each and every day, and in my mind, it’s emblematic of how fortunate I’ve been to travel where I have.

$40. Worth it.

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