The Police Bureau Officer and the Buddhist Mourners – Martyr’s Country, Part 7

This post I’m reading more of volume 3 of Dowon Park’s Martyr’s Country (박도원의 ”순교자의 나라”)  and continuing to add some extra information from the manga that covers the life of Jeong Hasang among other figures.

Chapter 4 of part 1 continues with Inspector Son’s group meeting with Officer Baek in the mountains.  Han Ryangmok and Seokpal are accompanying the group of police bureau officers and hear Baek tell Son that he thinks there was a Westerner in disguise among a group of mourners he saw.  The text mentions to the reader that among this party of mourners is Kim Kapnyeong, now age 58, and Jeong Hasang is now a leader, entrusted with household and business matters.  He often spends time reading or diligently studying Latin in his room.  When his Latin was good enough, he received holy orders from the bishop.  This is an important responsibility for a community that hasn’t had access to priests for a lot of years, and often boys would go to Macau to receive holy orders and return.

After a brief mention of this, we return to the conversation between Inspector Son and Officer Baek.  He asks if Baek detained the mourner he suspected of being in disguise or took him to the police bureau.  He didn’t but did recognize Jeong Hasang among the group, however.   They also talk about returning to the Left Police Bureau in Hanyang to pursue a different criminal, this time a murderer, an arsonist.

An officer is dispatched as Inspector Son and Han Ryangmok smoke pipes together and talk further about the mourners.  At that moment, Officer Kang returns with the two officers Han Ryangmok had beaten over the captive women.  Kang declares the mourners are Joseon citizens.  Surprised, Inspector Son and Han Ryangmok determine after some questioning that one mourner in the party was missing when the officers had inspected them.  The officers think the remaining mourner could have hidden along the route down the mountain in the weeds. However, they also didn’t see the women who were going to the Buddhist mass that they had detained earlier among the group.  Ryangmok thinks this sounds strange, so he and Seokpal plan on going up to the temple themselves.

The next chapter shifts to the perspective of the temple and the sound of a wooden bell resounding through the thick foliage on the mountain.  This introduction leads into a fairly detailed description of the temple complex, including references to the bell house, a Big Dipper temple, and the temple dormitory.  The temple had had regular visitors, but these have fallen off after time.

When Han Ryangmok arrives at the temple’s main hall and approaches the Buddha, his heart skips a beat as he sees the figure of a woman in white mourning clothes as well as an old priest preparing an invocation nearby.  Ryangmok notes the woman’s beauty, completely enchanted by her.  After he is there a bit, he hears raised voices.  Seokpal is in the garden talking with a young monk in his early twenties.  Ryangmok goes out to them and asks if it is okay if they stay the night at the temple, pretending that they came across it by accident.  Since the temple is surrounded by a thick hedge, this is the only way he can investigate whether the Western priest is hiding there.

The monk Shijaseung takes them to their room, where they wait for the Buddhist service to finish.  At the end, the old priest comes out with the sisters Kim Hyoim and Kim Hyosun walking behind him.  When they see Ryangmok, they are jubilant, and Hyoim talks with him.  Surprisingly, he mentions his interest in the foreign priest hiding there, but she tells him he is mistaken about that, that the priest left quickly.  As Hyosun returns to their room because she is tired, Ryangmok realizes that Hyoim is very different from the gisaeng he frequents.  Meanwhile, Shijaseung asks him to come back for evening services, and Ryangmok returns to his room to eat and smoke.  He and Seokpal talk for awhile, especially about women.  Finally, Seokpal asks him if he came to the temple to find this woman, and Ryangmok surmises that Hyoim is a widow and explains why he thinks so to Seokpal.

The next chapter flashes back to the moment they met two years earlier at the dock in autumn.  Seokpal and his cousin Seokju dealt in medicinal herbs and came up to Hanyang.  Chapter 7 starts with a reference to a Buddhist monster, a geumkangyacha, which is more commonly known as a yaksha in English, crushing someone’s neck.   It’s running with a sword in its hand and has an angry face.



This monster was in Han Ryangmok’s dream that night, which we realize when he wakes up.  He talks with Seokpal awhile, then a bell rings in the temple, though it’s still dark outside.   In another room in the temple, Hyoim also awakens and worries about the priest Maubant.  Shortly after the sun rises, she leaves the temple with her sister, and Ryangmok is upset to hear from Shijaseung that she left without saying goodbye.  He and Seokpal leave the temple and end up at an inn in another village, but he’s still thinking about the sisters.

Meanwhile, Kim Hyoim and Kim Hyosun end up at a farmhouse in that same village.  The farmhouse is connected to the temple monks.  With the help of the old monk and Shijaseung, they arrange for the priests Maubant and Jeong Hasang to escape the temple by changing out of their mourning clothes and heading off through a cave.   Hyoim thought Han Ryangmok wasn’t a police bureau officer and was happy to see him at the temple, but she also felt flustered under his hot gaze.  Now in the farmhouse, she launches into a long prayer about it and later visits with the house’s owner and Shijaseung.

The next chapter returns to the priest Maubant and the party of believers fleeing the temple.  Maubant left before Inspector Son’s arrival and went with Jeong Hasang’s party to the docks to take a ship to Sonae.  His companions Kim Kapnyeong and Kim Sunseong remain behind to take care of traces they left behind at the inn they stayed at as they continued on their journey.  Jeong Hasang’s party crosses over to Majae, his hometown that he left 38 years before after the Sinyu persecution.  They discuss what the priest should do if the police start patrolling the area and come up with a few placess where other believers could be called upon.

Chapter 9 continues with Kim Kapnyeong and Kim Sunseong still near the Buddhist temple.  They meet up with Kim Hyoim and Kim Hyosun at the farmhouse and talk with them and Shijaseung.  This chapter mentions the six or so villages where Catholics now live in some of the households, which has served as their community base since the Sinyu persecution.  Kim Sunseong tells Hyoim about Han Ryangmok’s reputation in the capital for being a womanizing libertine, and she mentions a woman named Court Lady Park in the Royal Court who is watching there for any signs of danger for the community.  Lady Park is set to plead on the Catholic community’s behalf if need be and explain to the Queen Dowager that it isn’t heretical.   There’s more details about this and Han Ryangmok in the final chapter of part one, but the chapter ends with Han Ryangmok returning to Hanyang.

Part 2 of volume 3 is titled “Ssanghojeong and Baekryeongsa,” which seems to be a reference to two specific locations, probably Buddhist, and this part has 7 chapters.  Here is information on Baekryeonsa Temple, if that turns out to be the second reference:

In chapter 1 of part 2, the story returns to the police bureau’s chief official and his bureau officers at a special police box.  Inspector Son is here thinking about the Westerner he’s on the lookout for.  He considers his interest in this man isn’t trivial because of what happened 38 years earlier with the infiltration of the Chinese priest Chu Munmo.  This chapter goes into a fair amount of introspection on this topic by the inspector before he starts to smoke with a colleague who talks with him about nobleman Hyeong Pan, the Minister of Justice who lives at Ssanghojeong.  Son has just been summoned to visit Hyeong Pan at a private dinner.  Inspector Son sets off on horseback to the Minister’s villa.

At the start of the next chapter, Inspector Son arrives in front of Ssanghojeong, gets off of his horse and enters the house’s outdoor garden.  A man asks why he has come, and the inspector asks for the master of the house, Hyeong Pan, introducing himself as Police Bureau Officer Son Kyechang.  Son talks with the servant about Han Ryangmok awhile before meeting with Hyeong Pan, and they laugh about him.  When the servant takes Son through the gates and into the room where he is to meet with Hyeong Pan, he finds Cho Inyeong, the Minister of the Interior, waiting for him instead.   Cho Inyeong tells him they only summoned the most talented officers of the Left and Right Police Bureaus.  Son is overwhelmed by the honor.

The conversation finally turns to the Catholics, and Cho asks Inspector Son what he thinks of them.  He says he doesn’t know much about Catholics other than that they teach absurd things like going to heaven or hell when you die.  Cho agrees that it is a heresy that is deluding the masses.  Son also adds that they refrain from the ancestor ceremony.  Cho says that such an evil vice in their county should be pulled out by its roots, that letting it continue to grow would only make it a bigger concern.  Then he mentions the ladies in the Royal Court falling into this very heresy.  Son says he never heard about this situation and sits rigidly at attention as Cho continues to explain how the king is to the country as the heart is to the body in a long speech.  He complains that Western barbarism is like a virus infecting the Royal Court, leaving Son with the strong impression that they are to start looking for Catholics among the court ladies in order to purge them, especially in the Queen Dowager Sunwon’s circle.

Now I want to point out here as I end the reading for today’s post that the Confucian yangban were very much against any supernatural interpretation of life, which was also their complaint against the Buddhists, not just the Catholics.  This time period also saw the Buddhist sects losing influence and power, though they weren’t in as bad of a position as the Catholics and weren’t executed as far as I’ve read like them either.  Perhaps that’s why there’s such a strong identification in this particular volume of the Catholics with the Buddhists and why Buddhist monks were aiding them in evading the authorities.  Also, both Buddhism and to an even greater extent Christianity had doctrines of God and Buddha that struck at the central importance of the king to society, which was very strong in Confucianism.  There couldn’t be two rival leaders for the yangban’s loyalties.

Returning to the manga I started to look at last time, the section on Jeong Hasang jumps around a lot, going from scenes of the present where the monk is driving two kids to various monuments associated with the Jeong brothers, to scenes of the early activities of the Practical Learning movement that led to the Jeong brothers’ interest in Catholicism, then to scenes of Jeong Yakjong’s arrest and execution.  It goes on much further than that, with the monk and kids meeting Jeong Hasang himself and talking with him, but I’ll save that part of the story for later.  Here is the illustrated version of some of what we already read about Jeong Yakjong’s death in volume 2 in previous posts.

Martyrs Manga Pg 1

This is the part where they discover the church goods in the box and use it as a pretext for arrest.

Martyrs Manga Pg 2

Next we see Jeong Yakjong being interrogated.

Martyrs Manga Pg 3

Here is the lead up to his execution, which is not shown in the next frame.  While this book does show the severed heads in silhouette or hanging from stakes in the distance in the stories of the other martyrs, it is a fairly gentle treatment.  However, you do get to see the double executioners that I mentioned dancing before the procession to the execution place in previous posts.

I’ll determine if I need an extra post to finish this series next time.  I may just finish up with volume 3 and be done with it, since it is a matter of historical fact that many of these characters in the Catholic community were executed by beheading in 1839.  It’s not like we’re reading to see what happens, and the details of the executions get repetitive after awhile, though Hwang Sayeong was special.  His story had a lot of drama that needed to be covered separately and in depth.  However, when I have a minute to look ahead to volume 4 and see which characters it focuses on, I may change my mind.  I never need an excuse to read historical fiction, because I love it, but when I do multiple book series, I seem to top out at about 3 volumes maximum.  We’ll see if that record holds this time.

Part seven of an eight part series



About Lady Xiansa

Lady Xiansa is a writer, linguist, artist, and dancer. She has been a core volunteer for the Silk Screen Asian Arts Organization from 2007 to 2018 and has provided content for Pitt JCS anime events since 2011. She has taught both ESL and Beginning Korean. Her gothic horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, won the Bronze Award for Young Adult Fiction E-book in the 2016 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards and earned the 2018 Story Monsters Approved Seal in the Tween Category.
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