Josin(调信)

Josin

Headword

조신 ( 调信 , Josin )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer ParkSungji(朴聖智)

This legend narrates the story of Josein, who had a dream while asleep in front of the statue of the Avalokitesvara, the Goddess of Mercy, at Naksan Temple, and attains enlightenment. The tale is recorded in Samgungnyusa (Memorabilia of Three Kingdoms), in the section titled, “Two Saints of Naksan; Avalokitesvara; Ananyagamin; and Josin, ” in the chapter “Tapsang (Pagodas and Buddhist Statues).”

Josin was working as a gardener at Sedal temple when he became enamoured with the daughter of Magistrate Kim Heun. He prayed to the Avalokitesvara at Naksan Temple for their union, but upon hearing news of her marriage, he sat in front of the Avalokitesvara to express his blame, but soon fell asleep. In his dream, he saw himself married to the magistrate’s daughter, with five children between them, but they were struggling in poverty, wandering across remote regions. Their dire hardship cost the lives of their children one by one, and when the wife begged him to separate, he eagerly agreed, which was when he awoke from the dream. Josin repented in front of the Avalokitesvara and diligently carried out good deeds, but his whereabouts in his later years are unknown.

The meaning of this legend lies in the significance and structure of the dream, interspersing reality with non-reality. In Buddhism, the universe is a void (空, sunyata), therefore, both reality and non-reality are all illusions, and humans should not be attached to either, for the truth of pratītya-samutpāda (dependent origination) is revealed only by going back and forth between the two. This Buddhist truth is evident is the legend of Josin: The reality of loving a woman of higher status in unrealistic, while the non-reality of his dream of wandering with his large family is depicted realistically. After experiencing a world that comprises many layers of reality and non-reality, Josin finally learns how to see the truth, and founds Jeongto Temple with his own money, where he carries out good deeds, but nothing is known about his later years. His story offers us a glimpse of the perspectives and torments of the Buddhist intellectual trying to accompany the people in their painful realities. This is what makes the legend a transcendental narrative, unlike most other accounts of spiritual experience, and also a unique narrative that rises above many other Korean tales influenced by Avalokitesvara encounter tales or the chuanqi (“tales of strange events”) genre of Tang China. The dream cycle structure of the Josin narrative, which goes from reality to surreality to reality again, was clearly influenced by the the chuanqi genre, and in turn influenced later works like the biographical novel Choe Chi-won, the mongyurok (“account of dream wandering”) genre in classical novels, and the novel Guunmong (A Cloud Nine Dream).

In conclusion, the Josin legend marked a milestone in the history of Buddhist literature in Korea, intricate in its narrative structure and vivid in its depiction of social reality. The story is firmly grounded in local tradition and the social instability of the late Silla and early Goryeo years, through which universal themes, both personal and collective, are explored. The narrative also takes up an important place in the history of Korean literature in the study of the Chinese-character-based literature of the time and also of the origin of the novel form in Korea.

Josin

Josin
Headword

조신 ( 调信 , Josin )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer ParkSungji(朴聖智)

This legend narrates the story of Josein, who had a dream while asleep in front of the statue of the Avalokitesvara, the Goddess of Mercy, at Naksan Temple, and attains enlightenment. The tale is recorded in Samgungnyusa (Memorabilia of Three Kingdoms), in the section titled, “Two Saints of Naksan; Avalokitesvara; Ananyagamin; and Josin, ” in the chapter “Tapsang (Pagodas and Buddhist Statues).”

Josin was working as a gardener at Sedal temple when he became enamoured with the daughter of Magistrate Kim Heun. He prayed to the Avalokitesvara at Naksan Temple for their union, but upon hearing news of her marriage, he sat in front of the Avalokitesvara to express his blame, but soon fell asleep. In his dream, he saw himself married to the magistrate’s daughter, with five children between them, but they were struggling in poverty, wandering across remote regions. Their dire hardship cost the lives of their children one by one, and when the wife begged him to separate, he eagerly agreed, which was when he awoke from the dream. Josin repented in front of the Avalokitesvara and diligently carried out good deeds, but his whereabouts in his later years are unknown.

The meaning of this legend lies in the significance and structure of the dream, interspersing reality with non-reality. In Buddhism, the universe is a void (空, sunyata), therefore, both reality and non-reality are all illusions, and humans should not be attached to either, for the truth of pratītya-samutpāda (dependent origination) is revealed only by going back and forth between the two. This Buddhist truth is evident is the legend of Josin: The reality of loving a woman of higher status in unrealistic, while the non-reality of his dream of wandering with his large family is depicted realistically. After experiencing a world that comprises many layers of reality and non-reality, Josin finally learns how to see the truth, and founds Jeongto Temple with his own money, where he carries out good deeds, but nothing is known about his later years. His story offers us a glimpse of the perspectives and torments of the Buddhist intellectual trying to accompany the people in their painful realities. This is what makes the legend a transcendental narrative, unlike most other accounts of spiritual experience, and also a unique narrative that rises above many other Korean tales influenced by Avalokitesvara encounter tales or the chuanqi (“tales of strange events”) genre of Tang China. The dream cycle structure of the Josin narrative, which goes from reality to surreality to reality again, was clearly influenced by the the chuanqi genre, and in turn influenced later works like the biographical novel Choe Chi-won, the mongyurok (“account of dream wandering”) genre in classical novels, and the novel Guunmong (A Cloud Nine Dream).

In conclusion, the Josin legend marked a milestone in the history of Buddhist literature in Korea, intricate in its narrative structure and vivid in its depiction of social reality. The story is firmly grounded in local tradition and the social instability of the late Silla and early Goryeo years, through which universal themes, both personal and collective, are explored. The narrative also takes up an important place in the history of Korean literature in the study of the Chinese-character-based literature of the time and also of the origin of the novel form in Korea.