Table for the death messenger(使者床)

Headword

사자상 ( 使者床 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Sangnye|Jangnye

Writer ChoiWoonsik(崔雲植)

A table on which offerings are arranged to entertain the messengers from the underworld.

According to Korean folk belief, the death of a person in a family is followed by the visit of three messengers of death, who take the spirit of the dead to the underworld. Therefore, when a family member died, the remaining members prepared offerings to entertain the messengers, typically three bowls of cooked rice, three coins, and three pairs of woven straw shoes. These offerings were placed on sajasang, a table in the form of a thick woven straw mat, wicker tray, or tray table. The sajasang was sometimes prepared after chohon, and sometimes beforehand, in which case chohon was performed in front of the table. The preparation of sajasang was an essential part of the funeral until the 1980s, as most Korean families at the time held the funeral at home. The custom disappeared quickly after the 1990s when more and more families began using professional funeral services.

Past Koreans believed that life is a state where body and soul are united, and death is a state where the two are seaprated. The spirit, separated from the body, goes to the underworld under the guidance of the messengers of the underworld. The bereaved family tries to summon the departing spirit of their loved one or, if that proves impossible, prays to the messengers to safely guide the spirit to the underworld. Sajasang is hence a symbolic expression of family love and grief for the deceased member.

Table for the death messenger

Table for the death messenger
Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Sangnye|Jangnye

Writer ChoiWoonsik(崔雲植)

A table on which offerings are arranged to entertain the messengers from the underworld.

According to Korean folk belief, the death of a person in a family is followed by the visit of three messengers of death, who take the spirit of the dead to the underworld. Therefore, when a family member died, the remaining members prepared offerings to entertain the messengers, typically three bowls of cooked rice, three coins, and three pairs of woven straw shoes. These offerings were placed on sajasang, a table in the form of a thick woven straw mat, wicker tray, or tray table. The sajasang was sometimes prepared after chohon, and sometimes beforehand, in which case chohon was performed in front of the table. The preparation of sajasang was an essential part of the funeral until the 1980s, as most Korean families at the time held the funeral at home. The custom disappeared quickly after the 1990s when more and more families began using professional funeral services.

Past Koreans believed that life is a state where body and soul are united, and death is a state where the two are seaprated. The spirit, separated from the body, goes to the underworld under the guidance of the messengers of the underworld. The bereaved family tries to summon the departing spirit of their loved one or, if that proves impossible, prays to the messengers to safely guide the spirit to the underworld. Sajasang is hence a symbolic expression of family love and grief for the deceased member.