Song of Jangja(长者解)

Song of Jangja

Headword

장자풀이 ( 长者解 , Jangjapuri )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Mythology

Writer HongTaehan(洪泰漢)

The shamanic myth“ Jangjapuri ”narrates the story of Jangja, who tries to deceive the underworld, and is recited as part of the segment gopuri (untying the knot) in the grievance cleansing ritual ssitgimgut of the Honam region of the southwestern coast.

The many versions of the tale’s plot can be summarized as follows:

  1. Samajangja is a miser who is not generous even in worshipping his ancestors: A related anecdote, similar to that also featured in legend of Jangjamot (Rich Man Pond), shows Jangja reacting in an abusive manner, breaking a gourd as a means of threat when a monk comes requesting donations, but his daughter-in-law treats the monk with generosity and hospitality. Other variations of the tale feature Jangja consulting a fortuneteller, who lists all his wrongdoings and brings him his due punishment.

  2. Samajangja has a dream of his death: This dream includes signs such as a spoon breaking or a table collapsing. Samajangja asks his family to interpret his dream, and everyone in the family misreads the dream, except for this daughter-in-law, who realizes that his death is imminent.

  3. After consulting a fortuneteller, Samajangja performs acts of goodwill and prepare to offer hospitality to the Messenger from the Underworld (Jeoseungsaja): At the advice of the fortuneteller, Samajangja shares his wealth with others and prepares to greet the Messenger from the Underworld, preparing food and staging a shamanic ritual.

  4. Samajangja succeeds in avoiding death. Or his scheme is revealed and he greets his death: While the first three plot lines are common to all versions of the myth, the conclusions vary, and can be divided into two types, by whether Samajangja lives or dies. The former can be characterized as a tale of prolonging one’s life, Samajangja is able to continue living as a result of the preparations he made, thanks to the help of the Messenger from the Underworld who takes with him to the underworld someone else in Jangja’s place—someone with a similar name, Umajangja, for instance; someone the same age as Jangja; or even a horse. In some regions, Jangja is immediately forgiven by the Underworld Messenger, skipping the section on his deception. In the latter type, Samajangja makes schemes to have another person be taken by the Underworld Messenger, but in the end he is found out and is taken to the underworld to be punished, which can be categorized as an afterlife tale. In other words, the central motif of this narrative can be summarized as Samajangja’s attempt to prolong his life and its consequences.

“Song of Jangja” is based on a deeply realistic view of the world. Samajangja’s attempts at deceiving the underworld to extend his life reflect a positive outlook on human reality, and also a proactive attitude that although death is a dreaded fate, humans can make the effort to evade death. It is a distinctively Korean view that human destiny can be altered through hard work. The old adage might go, “ Everything in life is decided by its Eight Pillars, ”referring to fate according to traditional divination, but in“ Song of Jangja, ”fate is something that can be altered, the individual defeating even supernatural powers.

When the fortuneteller tells him that he must pay for his bad deeds by sharing his wealth and saving others, Samajangja follows his instructions, fueled by the desire to continue his existence in the real world.

“ Song of Jangja ”reminds people of the distance between the dead and the living, helping them overcome their fear of death, and understand that death need not be feared, and that the underworld is an extension of the world of the living.

Song of Jangja

Song of Jangja
Headword

장자풀이 ( 长者解 , Jangjapuri )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Mythology

Writer HongTaehan(洪泰漢)

The shamanic myth“ Jangjapuri ”narrates the story of Jangja, who tries to deceive the underworld, and is recited as part of the segment gopuri (untying the knot) in the grievance cleansing ritual ssitgimgut of the Honam region of the southwestern coast.

The many versions of the tale’s plot can be summarized as follows:

Samajangja is a miser who is not generous even in worshipping his ancestors: A related anecdote, similar to that also featured in legend of Jangjamot (Rich Man Pond), shows Jangja reacting in an abusive manner, breaking a gourd as a means of threat when a monk comes requesting donations, but his daughter-in-law treats the monk with generosity and hospitality. Other variations of the tale feature Jangja consulting a fortuneteller, who lists all his wrongdoings and brings him his due punishment.

Samajangja has a dream of his death: This dream includes signs such as a spoon breaking or a table collapsing. Samajangja asks his family to interpret his dream, and everyone in the family misreads the dream, except for this daughter-in-law, who realizes that his death is imminent.

After consulting a fortuneteller, Samajangja performs acts of goodwill and prepare to offer hospitality to the Messenger from the Underworld (Jeoseungsaja): At the advice of the fortuneteller, Samajangja shares his wealth with others and prepares to greet the Messenger from the Underworld, preparing food and staging a shamanic ritual.

Samajangja succeeds in avoiding death. Or his scheme is revealed and he greets his death: While the first three plot lines are common to all versions of the myth, the conclusions vary, and can be divided into two types, by whether Samajangja lives or dies. The former can be characterized as a tale of prolonging one’s life, Samajangja is able to continue living as a result of the preparations he made, thanks to the help of the Messenger from the Underworld who takes with him to the underworld someone else in Jangja’s place—someone with a similar name, Umajangja, for instance; someone the same age as Jangja; or even a horse. In some regions, Jangja is immediately forgiven by the Underworld Messenger, skipping the section on his deception. In the latter type, Samajangja makes schemes to have another person be taken by the Underworld Messenger, but in the end he is found out and is taken to the underworld to be punished, which can be categorized as an afterlife tale. In other words, the central motif of this narrative can be summarized as Samajangja’s attempt to prolong his life and its consequences.

“Song of Jangja” is based on a deeply realistic view of the world. Samajangja’s attempts at deceiving the underworld to extend his life reflect a positive outlook on human reality, and also a proactive attitude that although death is a dreaded fate, humans can make the effort to evade death. It is a distinctively Korean view that human destiny can be altered through hard work. The old adage might go, “ Everything in life is decided by its Eight Pillars, ”referring to fate according to traditional divination, but in“ Song of Jangja, ”fate is something that can be altered, the individual defeating even supernatural powers.

When the fortuneteller tells him that he must pay for his bad deeds by sharing his wealth and saving others, Samajangja follows his instructions, fueled by the desire to continue his existence in the real world.

“ Song of Jangja ”reminds people of the distance between the dead and the living, helping them overcome their fear of death, and understand that death need not be feared, and that the underworld is an extension of the world of the living.