Son Dol’s Rite(孫乭祭)
Sondolje (Kor. 손돌제, Chin. 孫乭祭, lit. Son Dol’s rite) is a rite held on the twentieth of the tenth lunar month in order to comfort the soul of Son Dol, a ferryman, who is said to have suffered an unjust death on this day centuries ago. According to local belief, the execution of the ferryman was ordered by King Gojong (1213-1259) of the Goryo dynasty (918-1392) whose court was temporarily transferred to Ganghwa Island off the west coast of Korea during a Mongol invasion in the 19th year of his reign (1232). The full name of the rite is Jusa Son Dol-gong Jinhonje (Kor. 주사 손돌공 진혼제, Chin. 舟師孫乭公鎭魂祭, lit. Rite to Comfort the Soul of Ferryman Son Dol). The ritual takes place at the ferryman’s grave in Deokpojin (san 103-1, Sinan-ri, Daegot-myeon, Gimpo), a site designated as Historical Site No. 292.
According to the legend, the king wrongfully accused Son Dol of being a traitor and ordered his execution. The king realized his mistake afterwards and had a tomb built for the ferryman and had services held in his memory. In the Appendix to the “Yeojidoseo” (Kor. 여지도서, Chin. 輿地圖書, Cultural Geography of Korea, 1757-1765), dealing with the temporary movement of the Goryeo capital to Ganghwa, one reads the following in the section on historical sites: “Fellow ferrymen buried his dead body on the river bank and named this area Song Dol Hang (Kor. 손돌항, lit. Son Dol Port). The burial mound has survived to the present day and can be seen at this site.” The tomb of Son Dol appears to have actually existed, and the services to comfort the soul of the innocent ferryman were held there possibly from the time of the creation of the legend. The grave of Son Dol in Deokpojin where the rite is currently held was built in 1970, a project initiated by the residents of Daegot Village.