Acquiring Fortune Through Thousand-Coin Divination
This prophecy tale narrates the story of a poor man who, thanks to a prophecy purchased at a steep price, overcomes a series of crisis and acquires fortune.
A young man left his wife behind and boarded a pollack fishing ship to Hamgyeong Province. Several months later, upon the completion of the fishing trip, the young man visited a fortuneteller to find out how things were at home. The fortuneteller carried out three divination readings, charging a thousand coins for each“: On your return journey, do not tie up your boat between two rocks to take a break, ”“ Upon returning home, rub your hair with oil that falls, ” and “One mal of rice stalks reaps only three doe of rice.” The young man headed back home with the three readings written on paper and stopped at a port to lodge for the night. The rest of his party moored their boats at the pier, but the young man tied his outside the harbor, and overnight, a storm crushed all the boats in the harbor and only the young man survived. Upon returning home the young man reunited with his wife and as they slept after exchanging news, a bottle of oil fell by the pillow, which reminded the young man of the divination, and he rubbed the oil on his hair. In the middle of the night, the wife’s lover sneaked into the room to execute a murderous scheme he and the adulterous wife had planned, but when he touched the husband’s oil-rubbed hair, he thought the head belonged to the wife and killed the wife, mistaking her as the husband. Upon finding his wife murdered, the husband struggled to interprete the third divination, and consulted a neighbor who was a well-read scholar. The scholar told the husband to go find a monk named Gang Chil-seong at a nearby temple, and the monk, whose name reflected the divination, turned out to be the murderer.
This tale is transmitted in several variations. In the first variation, the protagonist is given three divinations, “ Take the wide road; If it’s ugly, say it’s pretty; If it welcomes you, crawl on your legs, ” which he follows and overcomes crisis. In the second variation, the divinations are, “ Do not tie the boat under the rock; Do not rinse the oil from hair; One mal of grains produces seven mal of grains, ” to which several more divinations are added. The third variation is similar in plot to the classican novel Jeongsugyeong jeon (Tale of Jeong Su-gyeong), which incorporates the motif of the practice of groom abduction (bossam). In this version, the protagonist is framed of murder but proves his innocence through a divination that says that the murderer’s name is made up of “three whites of yellow paper, ” interpreted as the name of a man name Hwang Baek-sam. The fourth variation features a uneducated protagonist learning to read, in the process of which the character 忍, meaning “to endure, ” becomes his mantra, and facing a frustrating situation, he endures his anger three times, and overcomes his crisis.
This narrative starts out from the fatalist view that one is born with a given fate, but the protagonist does not simply sit and wait for his fate but tries to overcome it, by means of paying three thousand coins, his entire posessions, to a fortuneteller for his divination. Running through the narrative is the popular belief that destiny can be overcome, reversed to build a happy life for oneself.