I’m going to quickly finish up this volume of the second story arc of Kyeongni Park’s Land series (박경리의《토지》) this post so I can stay on schedule. Generally, I really like this second story arc better than the first since the second generation of characters has some nice moments and intriguing twists to their situations.
The next chapter of part 3, “Seokinyeo,” follows some new characters that I’m not interested in, so I’m going to skip that part. The following chapter, “Men,” returns to cover Hwan’s plotline, and he goes with Kansui to Yoon Tojip’s house where Yoon’s wife is having her 60th birthday party. The garden is peaceful and deserted, but they are drinking in the house. In reality, the special milestone birthday party is just a pretext for the Tonghak Party leadership to gather.
The room is wide, and ten or so people are sitting around it. Hwan and Kangsu sit down with them as Yang Jaegun opens the meeting with a speech. Yoon Tojip then speaks, and Kwansu rebuts his comments.
In the chapter “The Butcher’s Family,” this scene continues in the first segment with Hwan at Yoon Tojip’s house listening to an explanation of the Tonghak faith as well as details about the Tonghak party. However, the Tonghaks don’t attract as many people to their services as the Buddhist services do.
The second segment of the chapter features Yoon Tojip and Hyegwang requesting Kwansu help them find Bongsun. They ask if he knows where she is, and he says he knows her address. The house they are visiting has a garden with cows and cowhides, and Hyegwan repeats the Buddhist invocation to the bodhisattva Guanyin in response since he is most likely a vegetarian. A young woman and child are in the kitchen. After discussing Bongsun, Kwansu asks the monk where he’d like to spend the night and if the butcher’s house would be okay. Hyegwang gets so angry, his face turns scarlet, and he calls Kwansu a fool over and over again. He rants about getting a knife and killing Kwansu, and one of them actually does grab a knife. Kwansu admits he made a mistake, and the scene ends with Hyegwan invoking Guanyin again.
In the final chapter of part 3, “Accompaniment,” the first of three scenes features Kihwa, which is Bongsun’s adult name as a gisaeng. She is going to Seoul searching for the city’s notable gisaeng house. Hyegwan sees her, and they chat. Sanghyeon also comes along and greets her, mentioning a letter he got requesting a meeting. In the next scene, it shifts to the previous night when Sanghyeon was looking for Kihwa with the help of Seo Widon. The two men argue and talk about Seohui and Gilsang’s marriage back at the Choi Champan household.
In segment 3, Kihwa and Hyegwan walk together on the road the next day. He has been in Seoul for five days and reflects upon her transformation into a gisaeng. She talks to her dead mother in a soliloquy, stating she wouldn’t have become a gisaeng had her mother still been alive but Bongsun had no one else to rely on. A whistle sounds, and there are farmers in the field. The characters plan on visiting Mount Myohyang when they return to Pyeongyang, though Hyegwan doesn’t explain to Kihwa why they will go there.
As an aside, let me note that Mount Myohyang is of course in modern day North Korea, and here is a tourist page with photos to get a feel for the location:
Part 4 starts off with the chapter, “Tomb on Mount Myohyang,” and the scene continues with Sanghyeon searching for Choi Seohui’s house. Hyegwan talks with him then escorts Kihwa to the Choi Champan house where Seohui is reading the paper. Seohui sees them approach, and they chat. When she invites them in and they sit down, she asks if they encountered any trouble on the road, and they explain that they want to go north to Mount Myohyang. Seohui asks why, and it turns out they are looking for her mother Byeoldangasshi’s grave there. Seohui turns a bit cold at this news and wants to know why they are looking for that. She also reminisces a bit about seeing Hyegwan running errands when her grandmother Wife Yoon took the palanquin to visit Monk Wugwan at the temple.
Hyegwan makes a comment about drawing a picture of the thousand handed Guanyin at the temple for Monk Wugwan, and he asks where Gilsang is, but Seohui says Gilsang isn’t there at the moment. My readers may recall that Gilsang grew up in the temple and painted their icons, so the connection between his thought and Gilsang is rather natural. However, her guests are shocked since they expected Gilsang to be home after news of their marriage.
Seohui asks the monk if he’d like to go to the detached house and rest then surmises correctly that Bongsun is now a gisaeng, which they cry a little over. Kihwa says someone, maybe Gilsang, went to Seoul because he was going to Japan to study. None of the dialogue is tagged here as usual, and it’s hard to figure out who is talking and who is being referred to. The word 그분은 is used here to make matters worse, and it translates to maybe “him” but definitely “that person.” Vague, but interesting. They talk about Seoul and their memories for a bit, and soon dinner is served. During the lively conversation at dinner, one of the women refuses to continue on with the group to Mount Myohyang.
In the next chapter, “Meeting,” the story shifts to Gilsang for two scenes. In the first scene, he returns to an inn in Hanyang, or Seoul, after having dinner. I don’t know why they switched to the city’s old name suddenly or if it’s a proper name of the inn itself rather than the city. A servant tells him not to come to Huiryeong. Gilsang is lonely even though he is now married and part of a couple. Although a loving person, Choi Seohui is now a lonely wife. Okineo comes to talk with him a little about her child Oki. They are interrupted by a visit from Monk Kohyang, who brings news of Bongsun.
In the second scene, Gilsang talks with Wolseon over drinks, and she mentions that Bongsun has arrived in town with Monk Hyegwan. Gilsang goes to Monk Hyegwan’s rooms and meets with Bongsun and surprise guest Seohui, who has traveled with them to see him and arrived unannounced. Gilsang is dumbfounded to see her there and approaches the room where the women are waiting to see him in a cold sweat. Before the end of the chapter, he gets to talk with Bongsun about her new life in Jinju even as he and Seohui look at one another.
In “Tenacity and Solitude,” Kihwa and Seohui are outside together, discussing whether they should visit the temple and mentioning something going on with Kim Hunjang. Nothing really happens, and Gilsang is not present. The women just spend time together.
In the chapter’s second scene, Kihwa meets up with Wolseon, Yong Lee and Imineo. I’m skipping that scene and the last three chapters since they follow different characters whose storyline I’m not as interested in. Then in “Father and Son,” it shifts to a nameless father and son talking about the king among other minor characters.
The last chapter returns to the strange love triangle between Yoon Yibyeong, Geumnyeo, and Kim Dusu. It goes into how Yoon Yibyeong was excited about finding Geumnyeo but felt disillusioned with her since he’s a timid sort of man. She was sympathetic to him since she escaped Kim Dusu’s pursuit, and the chapter here mainly focuses on their relationship with the school. Geumnyeo ends up teaching hangul at a Korean school in Yeonchu. Yoon Yibyeong goes to the school, though it may not be the same one, and he writes a letter. Geumnyeo enters the classroom later, and they talk about how they are a couple now and whether their relationship is secret since it’s illicit. At the end of the book, the last few sentences describe how Geumnyeo picks up her shawl and leaves, while Yoon Yibyeong goes to Yeonchu the next day.
Part four of a six part series.
Next time: We return to China with the telenovel Princess Returning Pearl!