Short Readings for Students from a Hong Kong Newspaper – The Dim Sum Anthology, Part 1

After that long series on the Korean martyrs, I’m going to do a few short series to get back on schedule.  First up is a collection of stories from the 1980s focusing on light, mundane topics such as school children, The Dim Sum Anthology, by Nong A (阿濃的“點心集 ”).  Reading a little more of the background to this collection of short essays, I’m not sure the title of the anthology is actually referring to desserts, but it’s the best I can do.  Nong A wrote for a time on the education page of the Hua Qiao Ri Bao, 華僑日報, a newspaper dedicated to high school and college news.  When a new editor came to the helm of the paper, Nong A was then asked to write short, education-focused essays.  These essays were later published in at least three anthologies since they were so popular, the first of which was compiled and published in 1980.  Selling over 200,000 copies, these anthologies are often read by middle school children in Hong Kong.

This particular anthology I am reading was published in 2012 and runs 262 pages with a very cute cartoon cover sketches and some sweet paintings on a few of the interior pages. A copy can be purchased here:

Dim Sum Cover

Cover Art for The Dim Sum Anthology

The anthology is split into 8 sections of single page essays running about 5 to ten paragraphs in length, and each section is color coded on semi-glossy paper with beautiful calligraphy and lightly printed hearts and cartoons softly framing the text on each page.  It’s a very high quality publication; the section title pages and table of contents are very beautifully colored and arranged, so the book is clearly meaningful to the reading public for such effort to be put into the design.

This time I’ll cover the first four sections: school writings, student-teacher writings, mother & father writings, and son & daughter writings.  Part 1, “School Writings,” has 18 essays and opens with the essay “At the Window.”  This essay is about a student who is sitting by the classroom window, not listening to the teacher’s lecture.  The unnamed student is lost in his daydreams and is distracted by things outside of the window, such as bugs and firetrucks.  The teacher tries calling on him, but the entire class’ attention is now drawn out the window too!

In the essay “Morning,” Nong A describes a rainy morning where the elementary school age children come in and are afraid that traffic will delay them arriving back at home on time after school.  The school decides to let them out early due to the weather and the crowded transportation system.

Dim Sum 1

An Interior Cartoon in The Dim Sum Anthology

In “Eradication,” the author describes a time when they were a young child during a dangerous epidemic of cowpox and maybe smallpox too.  Two students suffering from these illnesses were in class, and everyone curiously examined their symptoms, though Nong A tried not to be so insensitive and embarrass the ill students.  Later when becoming a teacher and relating this epidemic, Nong A was also wary of the possibility that someone in the class might be ill with these diseases and didn’t want to cause them lose their dignity through careless discussion.  However after decades of teaching higher level classes, she never encountered more students with these diseases.  She reads in the newspaper that smallpox took ten billion lives, but now it has been eradicated around the globe.

The essay “The Staircase” shows teachers gathering up their stuff and going out to the staircase after the class period ends, describing how the staircase connects the playground to five other stories; most of the essay describes how the age of the teachers makes taking the stairs more challenging for them and that they have to pause often on the way to the top floor because they are easily out of breath.

The last essay I’m going to review out of this section is “The Beard.”  It describes a holiday TV item on the school switching to a new educational method that has created a lively situation there.  The headmaster, teachers and students all appeared on the spot, and the big news is that the headmaster has grown a beard.  The essay gets into how stylish his beard is and how only some of the teachers and students who had beards wore them in such a fashionable way.  The students tell Nong A that they really liked the atmosphere of the school because of this new freedom.

Part 2, “Student-Teacher Writings,” has 32 essays, and the first we’ll look at titled “On Stage” kicks off this section.  This essay is about student participation in the school choir, the harmonious impression the students give that can’t easily be attributed to things like the music or teaching alone, and the happiness of parents and teachers after watching the students perform.

In the essay “The Gift,” the day before Christmas, the students decide they don’t need to bring their bookbags because there will be a carnival at school.  On the day of the carnival, every student looks in their gift envelopes, which are given to them to motivate them to work hard.  However, the teacher doesn’t give envelopes to class troublemakers.

Another interesting essay, “Tears and Mathematics,” starts off describing what time Nong A rises and goes for the train to make the first class and what time Nong A goes to bed in order to get a full seven hours of sleep at night.  However, Nong A’s oldest son regularly has a substantial amount of math homework that delays Nong A’s bedtime, which gets them both upset since Nong A isn’t in a great mood that late at night and can’t seem to get the oldest son to comprehend any explanations Nong A might give.  The son can’t make it through about 20 of the 100 questions assigned as homework and needs Nong A’s help to complete.  Nong A ends up shouting at and scolding the son, which makes him burst into tears.

The last essay I want to look at in this section, “Enemy,” mentions how on the first day of class, Nong A unknowingly makes enemies of some of the students.   These kids don’t listen to the lesson and disrupt the class so others can’t either.  The teacher wants to punish them, and the kids always seem on the verge of a fistfight, though one never starts.  On the day of an examination, Nong A comes to appreciate these students better.

The book’s next part, “Mother & Father Writings,” has 17 essays.   The essay “Loss” is about parents enduring the birth of their daughter and seeing it as a sort of liberation.  Each of the child’s milestones, like starting to walk or crossing the street, is also seen as liberation.  However, when their daughter is old enough to be independent and work a job, the parents feel a sense of loss.  More fierce emotions are stirred as the father gives away his daughter in marriage.

“Rough Hands” talks about a small conflict between a friend’s wife and young daughter that pops up when they go with a neighbor’s wife to shop at the market.  When the little girl is very interested in their trip, the neighbor takes her by the hand.  After they return home, the little girl comments how much she liked the neighbor’s hand since it was soft, unlike her mother’s rough hands, which she doesn’t like.  The mother tries to explain how her hands became rough after years of work, but she ends up thinking back to her own childhood about the time when her grandmother tried to warm her during cold weather with her rough hands.

The last essay in this section that I want to look at is “Manners.”  This essay notes that everyone scolds children who lack manners, yet there seems to be an observable difference between what is considered bad manners in children when compared with adult behavior.  The example it gives is the use of the phone word for “hello,” wei (喂).  Children say it to each other, adults say it to other adult friends, adults say it to children, all with no problem.  But when children say it to adults, it is considered impolite.

The last part I want to cover this time is part 4, “Son & Daughter Writings,” which has 15 essays.  “Fathers” relates how as they enter school young children see their fathers as important personalities that they adore, especially young boys.  Their father is their role model.  As the school years progress, the father’s position starts to decline until he is despised and his opinions are considered “old.”  Only when the children themselves have their own children does their opinion of their father take a turn for the better.

Nong A does talk some in a few essays here about classical and popular writings.  In this section, the author references Dream of Red Mansions, and two of the essays in this section reference the holiday for Wang Sima and his work, the four-panel manga Niuzai which ran for a ten year period.  I’m not going to delve into those essays, but here is a link showing some of Wang’s work on Niuzai:

Next time I’ll finish up this compilation.  It really seems to be a nice, light selection of readings that would be good for intermediate level Chinese language students.

Part one of a two part series

Posted in China | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Appearance Schedule for 2017

My summer schedule is shaping up to be very busy.  I just had confirmation that I will be selling my books and artwork in Artist Alley at this year’s Anthrocon, in addition to speaking there for the first time on July 2nd at 1PM on Hello Kitty.

That event runs from June 29th through July 2nd.

I will be appearing and probably reading at a Confluence promotional event on July 8th at Nine Stories Bookstore from 2-4PM.

July 15th is the summer conference for Anime Mini in Greensburg this year:

I’m waiting to hear back on whether I’ll be speaking at that event too.  My Korean class project, the Enlightened Rabbit Scholastic Society, is now a sponsor of their events.

Later in the summer, I’ll be speaking at Confluence, the local conference for science fiction and genre writers held August 4-6, 2017.  Right now the schedule is being put together, so I will have a complete list of presentations and panels that I will be participating in soon.

The following weekend, I’ll be selling my books at Steel City Con, which already has a nice line-up of appearances by stars of classic TV:

More details will be forthcoming!


Posted in Introduction | Leave a comment

After Several Lives in the Sea of Suffering She Had Purified the Waves – Journey to the West, Part 2

Now that I am finished working on my Korean textbook, I can catch up on the Literati corner as well.  This post will cover volume 2 of Journey to the West in my edition, which includes chapters 16 through 33.  I apologize for being so late, but I had a couple of delays with my workload, and a few unexpected opportunities to develop my overflow blog came up that took more time than expected.

Picking up with chapter 16, we launch into some of my favorite parts of the novel.  Sanzang and Monkey arrive at the Chan Monastery of Guanyin and greet the crowd of monks coming out to the gate.  Sanzang explains his task in going to the east and asks if they can stay the night because it’s getting late.  The strange monsterly aspect of Monkey startles the monks as Sanzang hastily explains Monkey is his disciple.  While Sanzang goes in to pray to Guanyin, Monkey sees to the horse and luggage then acts in more inappropriate ways that upsets the monks further.

After dinner, Sanzang meets the elderly head monk and admires the lavish accommodations.  Monkey pipes up that they also have a special treasure, a cassock that they were taking with them to the east.  Eyeing Monkey greedily, they get him to agree to show it to them as they display their own collection of cassocks made with brocade and silk with gold embroidery.  Sanzang is appalled by the show:

Sanzang drew Monkey aside and whispered to him, “Disciple, never try to compete with other people’s wealth.  You and I are alone in this foreign land, and I’m afraid there may be trouble.” “What trouble can come from letting him look at the cassock?” Monkey asked.  “You don’t understand,” Sanzang replied.  “The ancients used to say, ‘Don’t let greedy and treacherous men see rare or amusing things.’ If he lays his eyes on it, his mind will be disturbed, and if his mind is disturbed, he’s bound to start scheming.  If you were cautious, you would only have let him see it if he’d insisted: but as it is, this is no trifling matter, and may well be the end of us.” (p. 541)

The description of the cassock Sanzang is carrying is indeed splendid, and it is purported to have supernatural powers:

If it is worn, all demons are extinguished;

When donned it sends all monsters down to hell.

It was made by the hands of heavenly Immortals,

And none but a true monk should dare put it on. (p. 543)


Chinese TV Version of Journey to the West

As Sanzang fears, the head monk covets the cassock and schemes to steal it, and his monks decide the best way to get it is to kill Sanzang and Monkey in their sleep.  One comes up with a plot to burn them to death by setting fire to the hall where they are sleeping so their deaths could be blamed on their own carelessness.

Although Sanzang and he had gone to bed, the magical Monkey’s spirit remained alert and his eyes half open even when he was asleep.  His suspicions were aroused by the sound of people moving around outside and the rustling of firewood in the breeze.  “Why can I hear footsteps in the still of the night?” he wondered.  “Perhaps bandits are planning to murder us.”…he used his miraculous powers to turn himself into a bee with a shake of his body. (pp. 547-8)

Monkey notices the monks’ activities and rushes to see a few denizens of Heaven whom he can appeal to for aid.  Borrowing a magical cloak, he rushes back to save Sanzang.  A monster, a Bear Spirit, living nearby is disturbed by the fire, but when he arrives to help put it out, he sees the cassock, is enthralled with it, and flees with it immediately.  The temple has burned to the ground by morning; only the few rooms around Sanzang remain intact.  The head monk kills himself, while his disciples are terrified of Sanzang and Monkey.

Meanwhile Monkey discovers the Bear Spirit monster in Black Wind Cave nearby is a potential culprit in the theft of the cassock.  Monkey goes to Black Wind Cave to retrieve it, and spying on the fiends who live there, he confirms that they have it.  Monkey immediately attacks them but doesn’t succeed against them in spite of his attempts to use his favorite magical tricks.  Frustrated, Monkey goes to seek out Guanyin herself where she resides in the Southern Sea to appeal to her directly.  The Bodhisattva is less than moved by his entreaties for help.

“What nonsense, you ape,” the Bodhisattva retorted.  “Even if a bear spirit has stolen your cassock, what business have you to ask me to go and demand it for you?  It all happened because you wanted to show it off, you big-headed and evil baboon, in front of petty-minded people.  On top of that, in your wickedness you called up the wind to spread the fire that burnt down my monastery.  And now you have the nerve to try your tricks here.” (p. 595)

However, she agrees to go help Sanzang.  After some discussion, Guanyin disguises herself as an evil spirit with her powers to go ahead with their plan and trick the Bear Spirit.  It works, and Monkey returns to Sanzang with the cassock.

They next day they resume their journey and come upon a village Old Gao where they plan to look for lodging.  Monkey encounters a man there who explains the plight of his clan member whose daughter was forced to marry an evil spirit.  The spirit now has her in captivity.  Monkey offers to help.  Sanzang and Monkey pay the father a visit and hear the story of how his daughter Blue Orchid became the wife of a monster.


Monkey rescues Blue Orchid and uses his magic to disguise himself as her and waits for the monster to come home.  When their confrontation comes, the monster’s true heavenly identity is revealed, and he explains how he was punished as pig-monster Zhu Ganglie as a result.  He has been adding wealth to his in-laws, which Monkey cannot argue with in spite of what the Gao’s have said about him.  Monkey realizes the Gao just want to get rid of Zhu for the sake of appearances and that their position is unjust.

Finally, the situation is resolved when Pig reveals that Guanyin has converted him and asked him to wait for Sanzang to come along.  He is to accompany Sanzang on the way to fetch the scriptures in the West.  Sanzang formally accepts him as a disciple, and they move on, meeting a hermit and various monsters that the two disciples have to fight off. Monkey does more of his famous magic transformations:

As Monkey wanted to win glory he used an ‘extra body’ trick: plucking a hair out, he chewed it into little bits, blew them all out, and shouted, ‘Change!’ They turned into well over a hundred Monkeys, all dressed like him and wielding iron cudgels.  They surrounded the monster in mid-air, and in his fright he countered with a trick of his own.” (p. 699)

Monkey has to visit the Bodhisattva Lingji to get control over one of the monsters holding Sanzang in captivity.  When the company encounters an evil spirit in a very wide river they can’t figure out how to cross, they have to appeal to Guanyin for help, and they add another, final disciple to their group, Friar Sand.

Their next adventure is precipitated by Pig’s inability to forego any comfort when they try to find somewhere nice to sleep.  This leads them to a mansion where a widow lives with her three unmarried daughters, and the widow decides the four monks in their company would make good husbands for all of the women in the household!  As expected, Pig falls into their trap and discusses with the widow privately which of the daughters he should marry, and when he can’t decide, he offers to marry all of them!  This offer also emphasizes his greed, but before they settle the marriage question, Pig finds himself hog-tied in a trap!  However, it all proves to be an illusion, Guanyin’s test of their resolve in the religious vows they made.  The companions wake up to find the mansion gone, replaced by a grove of trees.  Alarmed, they go in search of Pig, and when they find him, they continue on to a Taoist temple in the mountains.

This temple is renown for its miraculous tree where manfruit grow and ripen every 10,000 years.  Shaped just like human newborns, the tree only produces a limited number at any time, and when the companions arrive, it only has 29.  The fruit bestows tens of thousands of years of immortality on anyone who eats or smells it.  However, Sanzang and his disciples are unsure what sort of temple this is at first, and the immortal who is its head is away.  He leaves his attendants instructions to serve Sanzang two of the manfruit, and when they try, Sanzang mistakes them for human babies and is outraged at the suggestion he should eat them.  The attendants take the manfruit back to their rooms to eat before the fruit goes bad, but Pig overhears them and suggests to Monkey they get some of the manfruit to try for themselves.  Given Monkey’s trouble-making past full of stolen magical fruit, he quickly comes up with a plan.

When he had crossed the vegetable garden he saw yet another gate, and when he opened it there was a huge tree in front of him with fragrant branches and shade-giving green leaves shaped rather like those of plantains.  The tree was about a thousand feet high, and its trunk was some seventy or eighty feet round.  Monkey leant against it and looked up, and on a branch that was pointing south he saw a manfruit, which really did look just like a newborn child. The stem came from its bottom, and as it hung from the branch its hands and feet waved wildly around and it shook its head.  Monkey was thoroughly delighted…”. (p.813)


Once he gets the knack of harvesting them, he brings down three and summons Friar Sand to join them.  Pig eats his too fast and causes such a commotion trying to get the fruit from the other two, the attendants overhear, and suspicious, they discover the theft and insult an oblivious Sanzang.  Monkey finally admits to the crime, but when the attendants get too abusive, he angrily goes out and destroys the tree, losing all of the manfruit remaining on it.  The attendants are terrified at the sight of the ruined tree.


The Intact Manfruit Tree

Sanzang and his disciples flee before they can be arrested by the attendants, but when the immortal returns and hears what happens, he pursues them and forces Monkey to try to make amends.  Monkey has three days to find a way to heal the tree or else Sanzang will be harmed.  As it is, the immortal has Monkey flogged and attempts to boil the disciples in oil.  Monkey appeals to Guanyin for help when his other immortal friends tell him they have no cure whatsoever for the tree.  After he admits he destroyed the tree in a fit of anger, she offers him her vase of dew that can knit the tree back together.  Arriving back at the temple, they go through a ritual and restore not only the tree but also the remaining manfruit.  Everyone is so happy that they have a banquet, eating more manfruit, including Sanzang who finally understands what they are.

The next story arc presents a conflict between Sanzang’s ethics and Monkey’s immortal perceptions.  As they attempt to cross another mountain, the local evil spirit decides to toy with them by appearing as a beautiful girl offering food to Sanzang, but Monkey sees through her to her true identity and kills her, but Sanzang is unconvinced she isn’t human.  As the spirit’s antics get him into more and more trouble with Sanzang, he is thrown out of the group and returns to his mountain to save his former monkey subjects from Erlang.

Meanwhile, Sanzang gets into a lot of trouble that Pig and Friar Sand can’t save him from.  The monster that holds him captive to eat has also kidnapped a princess from a nearby kingdom and forced her to be his wife.  She sends a letter with Sanzang when she helps him escape, and back at her father’s court, Sanzang gives him information that he can use to rescue his daughter.  Aggravated by his wife’s apparent betrayal, the monster gets the idea he should transform into a handsome man and present himself to his father-in-law to gain his acceptance.

Even though his father-in-law knows he is a demon, the monster confuses everyone by suggesting that a tiger demon has killed Sanzang and taken his place, and it is now at the court deceiving the king!  The king believes him, imprisoning Sanzang, but during a banquet, the demon loses him composure, gets drunk, and starts eating one of the female servants.  Pig and Friar Sand can’t help Sanzang, but the rumor about Sanzang being a demon reaches the White Horse tethered outside, who is actually the dragon prince.  Angered by this lie, seeing that the other disciples haven’t been able to save Sanzang, he transforms himself into a beautiful woman to confront the demon, which results in him becoming seriously wounded during the confrontation.  The White Dragon sends Pig to fetch Monkey since the three of them have failed.

The last few chapters in this volume shows Pig trying to convince Monkey to come back to serve Sanzang, save Sanzang from the monster, and continue along their journey.  The final chapter shows Monkey trapped again under a mountain, waiting for Prince Nezha to rescue him.

Part two of a six part series.




Posted in China, Literati Corner | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Korean Language Guide Available for Purchase

Finally, I finished my new project, my first non-fiction language book, Lady Xiansa’s Guide to Beginning Korean, which is now available in paperback on Amazon:


Koren Guide Cover Copy

My Korean Language Textbook Cover

I could have named it just Beginning Korean or something equally utilitarian, but I thought this had more pizazz and stood out better using my Lady Xiansa handle to reference this blog.  This book is available to the public, not just to my private students, and I hope it will be a valuable resource.  I wrote the textbook using an inductive language learning method instead of a more popular format –  after 12 years of teaching ESL I have a particular hatred of cloze exercises – and I tried to avoid putting together a book that would make my eyes glaze over.  My new book isn’t really a self-study textbook but more of a reference that should give students a good foundation.  I will use a lot more supplemental materials in my classes.  Right now, I have four classes available, and I’m going to be starting to prepare my class on North Korea next.  Like my Korean history class, this one will be heavy reading, but if you want an in depth look at the wild and wacky history of the world’s most notorious totalitarian society, this class will be right up your alley.

Additionally, I am planning a new project that I hope to start publishing on my class blog soon at the Enlightened Rabbit Scholastic Society site, and that will be a bilingual Korean-English novel delivered in microchapters called Sohyeon After Midnight (소현 자정이 지나면).  It’s shaping up to be a horror-fantasy novel with some Lovcraftian influence, and since it will be in two languages, it will be a little something for everyone.  For monolingual English speakers, you can just read the English; for Korean language students, you can look at the parallel construction of the novel and decide if it works; and for Korean language natives, you get the added entertainment value of watching a foreigner struggle to write in your language.  I don’t pretend that I’ll get it right all of the time, though I will strive to do a good job.  I want to have a good time with it.

There is actually some good pedagogy behind this bilingual novel project.  One exercise they recommended when I taught ESL was student-produced texts, which made room for student errors as part of the process.  So I’m going to lead by example here, though creating a bilingual novel from the ground up isn’t the same as just translating a novel into another language, not by a longshot, so it is an interesting project to tackle.  Details on that will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, I’m pushing ahead on my webcomic related to The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak on my overflow blog.  That story will shift in another 20 pages or so to the next ghost story in the series of four stories that the webcomic will encompass.  The current one is exploring a major character’s reaction to the aftermath of the novel’s historical massacre, but the next ghost story will shift to a creepy, gothic stepwell.  For those who are unfamiliar with Indian stepwells or my novel, I have a whole mythology in my novel built around one that is based on this famous structure in Gujarat and others like it around India.  Here are some photos of it:


The Rani Ki Vav, Photo By Bernard Gagnon

I intend on getting caught up again on this blog in the next month or so, too, because I want to be in a certain place with it when I speak at Anthrocon during the Fourth of July weekend.  You can get details for the event here:

This will mark my first year speaking for their event, and my topic will be Hello Kitty.  I will probably also have a table in artist alley where you can get my books and some of my artwork.

I have a number of other events in the works coming up this summer, so stay tuned!


Posted in Korea, Palace Interludes | Leave a comment

The Search for Hidden Heretics in the Joseon Royal Court – Martyr’s Country, Part 8

I am covering more of volume 3 from the 4 volume series of Dowon Park’s Martyr’s Country (박도원의 ”순교자의 나라”)  this time, and this will be the last installment of the series after all.   Chapter 3 continues with Inspector Kyechang Son, who is 38 years old, and elaborates on the details of how the left and right police bureaus function.   Son himself is characterized as wise and tenacious as an officer, but he is sympathetic to gisaeng and prostitutes, and participates in the drinking and carousing too.  The left and right police bureaus have around 70 men each, and Son is considered an ambitious officer.  He sees this request from Minister Cho to purge Catholics from the royal court as his opportunity to get a promotion.  He has also wild heard stories about how young Catholic women lose their minds over the west.  Some of these concerns in Joseon were rooted in the physical differences the yangban perceived between Joseon and Western men and the supposed emotional effect of Western men on women.

After speaking with Minister Cho, Inspector Son confers with Inspector Jang about throwing the believers into prison.  They plan on acquitting them if the women apostasize and discuss how taking children away from the women will break them more quickly.  They surmise that the Catholic women will apostasize in order to get their children back.  The inspectors don’t think the Catholic men will be as malleable and consider beating them, discussing in grisly detail how their blood will run down their bodies from the whipping.  The inspectors want to shut them up with their incessant talk about God.

Then the story shifts to the Samcheongdong Valley, where a strange scene is happening at Baekryeonsa Temple. Two people are there talking about theological issues such as the soul and heaven.  It’s already dark out.  One of the men is Yu Jingil, who is among the many Catholics executed in this 1839 persecution, and he is thinking about the fleeting nature of wealth and social status and considers the hardships to come. He soberly assesses that there are black clouds on the horizon for the community.

Yu is also thinking about a figure at the royal court, Kim Yugeun, who was more famously known by his pen name Yellow Mountain (Hwangshan). The text then goes into Hwangshan’s history in the royal court, tracing it back to Prince Sado’s death. Hwangshan is close to the current regent, Queen Dowager Sunwon, who is his sister.  He is her confidant that she consulted when she had any serious problem.  For whatever reason, other observers in the royal court make sarcastic remarks about this arrangement.

Hwangshan was the eldest son of Kim Josun, and their branch of the Kim clan was from the Andong Kim family.  When Sunjo ascended to the throne at age 11 and died at 45, he was mostly a puppet.  In reality, all of the political power rested with Kim Josun, his father-in-law after a certain point in his reign.  Queen Dowager Sunwon was Sunjo’s wife, and Kim Josun was her father.  Note that Kim Jeongsun, the Queen Dowager during Sunjo’s reign, was from the Gyeongju Kim clan.  They are not traditionally considered the same family, and when Jeongsun retired from power in 1804, time that Kim Josun most likely stepped into that power vacuum. The rest of this chapter reviews the factional fights in the royal court going back from Yeongjo and Sado to Jeongjo, the death of Catholics during the Sinyu Persecution,  and finally ending with more details about Sunjo’s reign.

Chapter 5 begins with a group of desperate people longing for the coming of a new world. Buddhist amulets are selling like hotcakes, and shamans are doing brisk business.  There is a general feeling that the social situation was very dark and that the Catholics were in danger.  They figure heaven will help them, and they discuss where the Catholic households were in a particular village and where they can eke out a living.  Most Catholics at this time live in poverty.

The characters mention in passing the connection between Catholic troubles and their unwillingness to perform the ancestor rites.  They also point out that Catholics don’t have their dead cremated when they die, as is the Buddhist custom, which makes them conspicuous.  The Catholic community coped with the aftermath of the Sinyu persecution by abandoning their houses and property and taking refuge in the sparsely populated areas of the mountains.  Then the chapter turns to the similarities between the child kings during that Sinyu era and the current one and delves into court politics surrounding Queen Dowager Sunwon again.  I think the Catholic community has some hope that Sunwon has softer views of them than previous monarchs.  However, since Kim Josun’s death, there is more uncertainty about how the Catholics will fare.

The next chapter begins with a description of a flourishing shop selling ramie fabric in the middle of a city.  I’m unclear how many shops this part is discussing, and it may be a second shop in the vicinity that sells needles, exotic cloth, fur items, ointments, and various kinds of sugary candies. The novel goes off on a long but interesting tangent into describing one of the merchant’s residences and his array of animal skins that he sells.   The man in question is Kim Juman, and the conversation focuses primarily on sable furs.   A middle-aged woman wearing a long hooded cape comes by the shop, and taking it off, she enters the shop or the house attached to it.  This house is where the Catholic community’s bishop resides and is considered the main place of worship as well.  In a room nearby, Jeong Hasang is reading aloud in Latin.

The story pauses to review some of the history of French priest Maubant and Bishop Imbert.  Then it notes that Kapnyeong has been entrusted with this shop’s day to day business.  Someone lets Hasang know that Court Lady Park is there to see him; I think this woman announcing her is pretending to be a married couple with Hasang for the sake of the larger village community.  The two go in to chat with Lady Park.  Among the news she brings, Lady Park mentions that Hyoim and Hyosun have taken a boat from Sonae and that Han Ryangmok was seen in the company of a police inspector.  They also discuss Ryangmok’s interest in Hyoim and some details about the Queen Dowager.  Eventually, Lady Park moves on to talk a bit with Kim Juman before leaving, trying to get more sable fur for the palace from him.

The final chapter of part 2, chapter 7, continues to follow this new character, Court Lady Huisun Park, who also goes by the baptismal name Lucia.  She joined the royal court when she was 13 and has lived there for more than 20 years.  At age 18, she encountered King Sunjo walking around the grounds, and he was commented on her beauty.  Sunjo was 29 at the time, in his prime, but Park Huisun was not as interested in him even though he sought her out among the court ladies.  As he went around the court looking for her, she asked another court lady for help evading him since she didn’t want to be  his concubine.  She got sick over it, and the king asked for medical assistance for her, disappointed that they couldn’t be together.  The story goes into her continuing difficulties evading the king but also highlights how she is now pulled into Queen Sunwon’s circle.  This part leaves the impression that she had quite a struggle against Sunjo’s romantic advances and that he was considered a somewhat ineffective, weak leader generally.

The rest of this chapter shows Lady Park meeting with Jeong Hasang to discuss police surveillance on a particular mountain where the community is hiding.  She’s starting to realize that, should another wave of persecution start, she may not be able to rely on Queen Dowager Sunwon for help as she had hoped.   She also mentions that it was her wish to turn the house where they were meeting for their chat into Joseon’s first convent and had been envious when the Western priests described Western convents to her.  Kim Hyoim enters the conversation here for a bit, too, since she is one of the group of women staying there and reads to the assembly about the ascension of Mary.  At the end of this chapter, Inspector Son is pondering his secret order to hunt down any Catholic ladies in the royal court.

It turns out that my souvenirs from Jeoldusan have a painting of Park Huisun among them that I’ll post here.

Park Huisun Card

She’s the one in the center.  I don’t know anything about the two women on either side of her in the picture.

Volume 3 continues with part 3, “A Wild Night,” which has 9 chapters.  In chapters 1 and 2, Han Ryangmok is still looking for the woman in the white mourning clothes, Hyoim, who has captured his interest so much.  The more dramatic Park Huisun drama picks up again in chapter 3.  This chapter begins with Lady Park and the court ladies finishing their religious services and finding two white porcelain jars and one sable fur left beside the door to the attic where they have been holed up.  Lady Park has left them there for Hyoim and Lady Bae to examine before she gives the items as a gift to Queen Dowager Sunwon, and the women wholeheartedly approves.

The scene changes rather abruptly, and after dawn three court ladies are out walking along the road past the back of the Left Police Bureau.  Inspector Son steps into their path, startling them.  When the court ladies hear his introduction, they all turn pale. They are escorted into the police bureau, and Inspector Baek and Inspector Jin are present to assist Inspector Son.  Inspector Son rips off the hooded cape Lady Bae is wearing over her head and throws it to the floor, while Inspector Jin does the same with the other two court ladies’ capes.  The other two court ladies are named Lady Seong and Lady Heo.  Lady Bae maintains her calm appearance while the other two are trembling in fright at the turn of events.  Inspectors Son and Jin grab Lady Bae roughly by the arms to take her in for questioning separately.

This begins the new wave of persecution of the Gihae year, and the rest of the volume follows the investigation by the Left Police Bureau.  In the next chapter, they raid the fur shop of Kim Juman where Jeong Hasang is staying with Bishop Imbert.  Hasang wakes the bishop as the police arrive so he can get dressed and leave.  Chapter 5 has Inspector Son and a young police bureau official at a house where they are screaming for someone to open the door, and the storyline just intensifies from here.

Martyrs 3

Although I’m skipping volume 4, we know from historical records that Park Huisun, Kim Hyoim, and Jeong Hasang among other characters introduced here are arrested and go to their deaths.  I’ll cover this section with more paintings from the Korean website that profiles the main figures and manga pages to explain the general storyline in lieu of reading the final volume. What I won’t be able to determine at this time is whether fictional character Kapnyeong dies in this wave or whether he survives to witness everything, but he hasn’t played that huge of a part in this section of the novel series to matter as much.  One difficulty with a novel of this scope is that the cast of characters is so large, you can’t focus on all of them, and there were thousands who died during these purges.  At least you get a taste of the little-known history from what I’ve covered here.

Martyrs 8

Turning to the manga version of the martyrs, the pages I picked out to close this series with jump around in the book a bit.  First, I have a page with Hasang as a young man talking with his mother Yu Sosa.


Martyrs Page 4

The next two pages are from a different chapter in the manga which has a summary of the Gihae persecution starting with the police bureau raid of a house and the execution of community members.  Notable here are the two or three Western priests included in the massacre this time.

Martyrs Page 5

This is the last page I’m posting from it. It looks like a former believer has informed on them to instigate the raid.  The police bureau are still looking for the Western priests.

Martyrs Page 6

I’ll end the series here since I need to get back on track with this year’s schedule.

Part eight of an eight part series

Next time:  We will return to China to look at children’s book The Dim Sum Anthology by A Nong!





Posted in Korea | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Dead Weekend – Haunting at Ice Pine Peak Alternate Artwork

In honor of the Living Dead Monroeville weekend, which is coming up in three weeks, I decided to draw a new cover page for my webcomic for my horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak for you to get you in the mood.

HIPP Alternate Splash Page Final Resized

Posted in Introduction | Leave a comment

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



Posted in Korea | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Anime Mini Appearance

I have a few new details on my upcoming appearances for May through June.  One is that I am now scheduled to be speaking at Anime Mini in Greensburg on “Musical Interludes: K-On, La Corda D’Oro and Beyond” on May 20th at 2PM.  Details on that event can be found here:

I will be at the Monroeville Library as scheduled later the next week, then for the Living Dead Weekend in June, I have more details on how this will be set up.  I wasn’t sure where it was going to be held exactly, but I will be in the Steel City Con portion at the convention center, while other parts of the event will be in the mall proper:

In other news, I’m making a lot of progress on my new Korean language textbook that I am preparing for my online classes, and here is the likely front cover:

Koren Guide Cover Copy

So that should be available in another month or so.  It is currently under review and revision.


Posted in Introduction | Leave a comment

A Yangban Scoundrel Meets a Beautiful Catechist – Martyr’s Country, Part 6

We’re starting volume 3 of Dowon Park’s Martyr’s Country (박도원의 ”순교자의 나라”)  this time, and we have a new fictional character that becomes the center of the action right away.   The year is 1839 now, the gihae year of the pig which the persecution takes its name from, and the current king is 12 year old King Heonjong who took the throne in 1834.  The regent is his grandmother Queen Sunwon who was also known as Queen Dowager Myeongyeong here; the young king is the grandson of the child king Sunjo who ruled during the earlier Sinyu persecution.  Oddly, we have the nearly exact same unstable political situation developing in this wave of persecution that precipitated the 1801 wave.

As in the beginning of volume 1, we have boats riding along the Han River on their way to Sonae.  We’re back at the dock unloading goods from a ship bearing a man of around 30 years old and his attendant.  He’s tall and stately, but his clothes give away that he doesn’t have a prominent government post.  People recognize him as Han Ryangmok and greet him.  He and his sidekick Seokpal are traveling through the region, and Han Ryangmok is hung over and looking for a hospital where he can get a rice cake cure for it.  The sailors nearby are all chattering about him, surprised that he isn’t more famous.  Ryangmok has a reputation as the head of a gang of ruffians although he is a yangban, and women consider him quite handsome.  There are rumors he may be an illegitimate son by way of explanation for his dissolute lifestyle of drinking, rabble-rousing and frequenting gisaeng houses back in Hanyang.  In fact, the word hanryang actually means “playboy” in Korean, a nice play on words by the author.

In these first few chapters, there are some festivals are going on in Sonae and Hanyang, filling them with the sound of raucous singing and laughter of the drunken revelers, troupes of traveling entertainers, and musical instruments like the gomungo.  Han Ryangmok starts off in the pubs then ends up at the kibang, the formal name for gisaeng houses.  Then the story shifts to Han Ryangmok and Seokpal riding around the mountains on their horses, encountering all sorts of different people.

In one place, he sees some people who are very  poor and sickly with a baby that disturbs him enough to throw some money at them before continuing on his journey.  He and Seokpal discuss the widespread corruption in the government, but their talk is interrupted as they find the pass blocked not far from a roadside shrine by two men and two women who have been arrested and apparently assaulted.  The men are positively identified as officials from the left police bureau.  The women, who are wearing white mourning clothes, try to make themselves look presentable by smoothing their hair and adjusting their clothes as Han Ryangmok and Seokpal approach them.

There is some controversy between Han Ryangmok and the police bureau officials over whether the women were violated.  The officials insist they have done nothing wrong, but Han Ryangmok looks at the women and thinks that it is plainly obvious that they were.  It comes out that the officials were in the mountain district to arrest Catholics because that’s where the group gathers at a Buddhist temple.  The police felt the women seemed suspicious, perhaps are catechists, and the men insist again that they didn’t rape the women, noting that believers wear a cross in their clothes as a strange talisman.  Han Ryangmok doesn’t believe them at all.

One of the women, who has a regal beauty and surprising bearing, explains to him that she was going with her sister to Buddhist services when they were arrested on the pretext of being Catholics.  The police bureau officials then asked them to take off their jackets and intimidated them.  The police listen to this explanation with impatience.  When it’s their turn to speak, they ask Han Ryangmok where in the world can such oppression be found?  They suggest they wouldn’t ask criminals under arrest to strip in the street.  The woman looks at them angrily, then complains to Ryangmok about the corruption and misrule of the people, noting how the police are like bandits.  Han Ryangmok flinches since he is also part of the social class she is trashing, and he blushes.

Suddenly, Seokpal brandishes his whip against the police bureau officials, who scream in terror and crawl away.  The woman tells him that heaven has sent them to help and mentions that their family lives near Dongdaemun gate with their mother, who also goes to the temple often.  The text notes she’s in her mid-twenties and describes her rare beauty in greater detail.  Seokpal suggests that it’s time to go, and the woman encourages them to leave.  The men head for another mountain pass through a valley where they pass through another village and stop briefly to chat.

In chapter 3, they stop at an inn where a man abruptly interrupts them to gruffly summon them into the next room.  It turns out to be left police bureau Inspector Son, whom Ryangmok is friends with, and he demands to know why they were visiting the mountains.  Ryangmok wants to know why that interests him.  They exchange jokes and order something to eat before turning vaguely to the subject of the arrested catechists.  Son wonders how he knew about it and won’t tell Ryangmok what he knows, but he mentions the assumption that the Catholics stir up trouble and are treasonous conspirators.

Martyrs 5

A Scene from the Sinyu Persecution of 1801

Again, the novel points out that Ryangmok is the capital city’s leading playboy and ruffian, yet he has the police bureau officers wrapped around his finger and cooperates with their investigations.   The barmaid and innkeeper bring in their food as the discussion continues.   Son asks Ryangmok if he heard the strange rumors about the Catholics sneaking foreign men in to spread their ideas.  Ryangmok asks what he means, and Son elaborates on the extraordinary appearance of these men, who have blue eyes and blond hair with features like a goblin’s face.  Son elaborates that there are three men from the west, which surprises Ryangmok, who expected Son was only talking about one man.  Ryangmok asks if these men have been arrested, and Son says they are gathering information on them at a Buddhist temple in the area.  The mention of the temple perks up Ryangmok’s ears.  He finally tells Son about the two women under arrest that he met in the mountains going to a Buddhist temple to attend a Buddhist service.  Son suspects the sisters were Catholics.  With this news, Ryangmok says he must leave.

But a young man, Officer Kang, runs in and greets Ryangmok before he can depart.  He talks to the men about seeing three or four men dressed in bamboo mourning hats, including a man over forty, at a temple.  Son confirms Kang’s impressions and answers his questions about which bureau officers are watching the temple in question, stating that it is Inspector Hwang and Officer Jin assigned to that location.  Ryangmok seems to think these are the police he routed when he encountered them with the women.  Officer Kang rushes out of the inn, leaving Ryangmok to probe Son about the identity of the mourner who has them so concerned.  Was the man a Westerner?  Son says yes, he’s sure it was given the very big differences between Western and Joseon faces.  He mentions a prediction he made has come true but doesn’t elaborate on what he means.  Ryangmok expresses a desire to see this “ghost face” for himself.  The three men leave the inn and head for the village near the temple.

In chapter 4, the plot shifts to the Buddhist monastery and activity there.  A young Western priest sits across from the 80 year old head Buddhist priest in a secluded room.  The young Western priest’s name is Maubant, but he goes by the Korean name Nabaekdarok.  To one side sit Jeong Hasang, Yu Jingil, and Cho Shincheol.  These men are the new generation of Catholics, and we now see young six year old Hasang from volumes 1 and 2 as an adult in his mid-forties.  They have all come to listen to the old Buddhist priest’s stories of when the Catholic community was first founded in Joseon.  This temple was apparently where those believers had gathered to study Western thought and Catholic doctrine.  The Buddhist priest complements the Western priest on his Korean and asks about his hardships since coming to Joseon, but Jeong Hasang interrupts to say that heaven has seen to the priest’s needs so there have been no hardships.

They talk a bit about the major characters we covered in volumes 1 and 2, many of them from the Jeong family, but they are interrupted by Kim Sunseong who has come to inform them that police have been spotted in the neighborhood.  He says Kim Hyoim had returned and told them about this development.  When she comes in behind him to elaborate, Maubant asks her if this is true.  She tells them the story of the police insulting her and Han Ryangmok saving her.  The assembly determines that the police have come from Hanyang looking for the Western priest and wonder how they picked up his trail.  They want to hide him somewhere else, but they don’t have a plan and ask the Buddhist priest for help.


A Scene of Catholics in Korea in the 1800s

The scene then shifts back to the three men leaving the inn.  Han Ryangmok, Inspector Son and Seokpal have now arrived at the outskirts of the village.  Inspector Son is walking in the lead, feeling triumphant with Inspector Shinim and five other left police bureau officers accompanying him and Han Ryangmok and Seokpal assisting them.  A Sapsal dog from the village is barking at them as they arrive.   Son inquires about Inspector Hwang, and he is told that both Inspectors Jin and Hwang went to watch the Buddhist temple.


The Korean Sapsal Dog, Dispeller of Ghosts and Evil Spirits

I’m going to stop there for now since I have a lot of other media I want to bring into the discussion at this point.  I added a few paintings up above from the Korean Catholic website I linked to a few posts back that I have been digging through for more interesting things to help teach this series.  I also have a painting with Kim Hyoim on it that I got when I was in Seoul at the museum.  It’s kind of exciting to finally have some idea who these people are.

Kim Hyoim Kim Hyoju

Kim Hyoim and Kim Hyoju (성 김효임, 성 김효주)

At this point, I want to start talking some about the manga I got at the related shrine in Seoul called Jeoldusan, which translates to “chopped head mountain,” because this section of the historical novel features some of the same figures that the manga does.  When I visited the shrine and its museum, I noticed the manga version of the lives and deaths of some of these figures commemorated there was available, which I thought was really unique and something I would find interesting to read once my Korean got better. The full-color manga is Gildong Na’s Great Korea’s Martyred Saints  (나길동의“위대한 한국의 순교성인들”), and it is widely available on Korean books sites, though I am unclear if it is available for shipping to the US. It was published in 2005 and is 200 pages long.  I’ve never seen anything like it at any religious site I’ve visited anywhere in the world, so I had to get it.  I will post some of the drawings from it here and in the next few installments of this series as I finish the novels.

Jeong Hasang

Jeong Hasang Paul (성 정하상 바오로)

This page is a really striking painting of Jeong Hasang that appears to be painted on some sort of cloth, maybe burlap.  It’s one of my favorite frames in the manga.  As you will see in later installments of this series, the manga style is not this sophisticated for the most part and includes real life photos of related places and artifacts.

The stories of the historical figures are framed by a conversation between a friar and two children who come to visit him in his study.  The manga jumps around to highlight different figures martyred at various times in the 1800s, going back and forth between the different waves of persecution, but I will highlight the section on Jeong Hasang Paul, as he is known here. This is a page where the friar explains to the children what happened to Jeong Yakyong (Dasan) during his exile and shows them his house in Majae when he returned from exile.  It looks like he was exiled for 18 years in Kangjin, Jeollado at the southern tip of Korea and spent the time writing 500 volumes of books.

Jeong Yakyong

I did discover in this manga that the Jeongs’ brother-in-law Yi Byeok mentioned in volume 1 of the novels is a real historical figure, and finally I found Hasang’s sister Jeong Jeong Hye at least in a few frames.  One page has a very small family tree of some of the peripheral figures showing Yi Byeok and Hwang Sayeong’s connection to the Jeong clan.  I’ll continue to weave portions of the manga in with the novels for the rest of the series, and I may add one more part to this series if I can’t finish the story adequately in the next two posts.

Part six of an eight part series

Posted in Korea | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Discussion of Jennifer Lin’s Book Promotion For Her Family Memoir

As promised, I got the second of my series on local Asian-American author appearances ready at my secondary blog.  Journalist and Chinese-American Jennifer Lin recently came to Pittsburgh to promote her new family memoir.  Her grandfather and great-uncle were Christian leaders during the tumultuous 20th century in China, and her presentation of the conflict makes for exciting reading.  Here is the link:

I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled series here shortly.


Posted in China, Palace Interludes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment