Between the Old and New
Singugan (Kor. 신구간, Chin. 新舊間, lit. between the old and new) is the approximately one-week long period from the fifth day after the solar term Daehan (Kor. 대한, Chin. 大寒, Great Cold) to the third day before the solar term Ipchun (Kor. 입춘, Chin. 立春, Beginning of Spring). On Jeju Island, this is believed to be the only time when one can move or repair one’s house without any harmful consequences. According to folk belief, during this period between Daehan, the last seasonal term of an old year, and Ipchun, the first term of a new year, a transition takes place between the old gods and new gods who administer human and worldly affairs. In the chapter of the Cheongi Daeyo (Kor. 천기대요, Chin. 天機大要, The Great Compendium of Nature’s Secrets, 1737) on this succession of incumbent and new gods, singugan is said to include the five days immediately following Daehan and two days immediately preceding Ipchun. However, people in Jeju currently believe that the period starts on the fifth day following Daehan and lasts until the third day preceding Ipchun.
Singugan is the period of vacancy in the divine order when the gods assigned to protect human beings and oversee their affairs have returned to the heavens. They see their term coming to an end, while the new gods appointed by the Jade Emperor for the new year have not yet arrived on Earth. This gap means that there are no particularly auspicious or inauspicious days during this period. Consequently, people can attend to duties such as moving, household repairs, yard work or tree felling, without worrying that this could bring misfortune onto themselves or their family. As each section of the house was believed to be governed by its own god, any attempt to repair the kitchen, outhouse or stable, or dig the ground within the house lot, or fix the fence outside this period would be met by the ire of the gods. When households cannot manage to move during the singugan period, they try at least to move their sieves and winnows to the new house before the period is over, as relocating these essential household items is deemed equal to actual moving. Even during the singugan period, households have to pay attention to the direction towards which they move. Moving in a wrong direction known as myeongsam sari (Kor. 명삼살이) or haesam sari (Kor. 해삼살이) can be detrimental to the welfare of the family. It is risky to build a house in a spot situated in one of these directions, even if the spot is within one’s own house lot. However, the proscriptions are often ignored if a household moves to a far-away location.
Customs associated with singugan have shamanistic roots, as they are related to the household deities originating in the shamanistic faith.