Friday, October 21, 2005

wet Friday

The title isn't a reference to any ladies I know. It's simply been raining out here.

Charles of Liminality left a great comment below that includes two worthwhile links about the Four Heavenly Kings-- one to his site, and one to the Bulguk-sa site.

Charles wonders whether the fierce image on the door handle (third picture down in this post) might be a tokkaebi (Korean goblin with magical powers) instead of a hae-t'ae, which was my original guess. His speculation is plausible, because the door handle image has horns, whereas your typical hae-t'ae is something of a cross between a hornless lion and an equally hornless dog (in fact, isn't the hae-t'ae the Korean version of the Chinese fu dog?).

Another possibility occurred to me yesterday, though: perhaps we're looking at an asura, a Buddhist demon or fighting spirit. If you move down my post to the first Heavenly King and look at the face in his cummerbund region, you'll see that it sure looks a lot like the image on the door handle.

At this point I have to admit my boundless ignorance when it comes matters of Buddhist imagery, symbolism, ritual, liturgy, and folk cosmology. My own admittedly superficial Buddhist studies have been limited to philosophical matters like metaphysics and ethics. This became obvious last night as my father peppered me with questions about what we were seeing as we walked across the grounds of the still-under-renovation Chogye-sa, the official seat of most of Korean Buddhism. Dad wanted to know why people were circumambulating pagodas and bowing toward them. Earlier, he wanted to know why some temple shrines and dharma halls feature dark-raspberry-colored lotus lanterns hanging on their ceilings along with white lotus lanterns. I had no answers, but I'm glad he asked the questions: now it's time to do some research.*

But I won't be providing Dad any answers today: he and Mom went off to Chejudo this morning, escaping the rain for nicer weather down south. They'll be meeting their friends and enjoying some gourmet meals, perhaps doing a bit of walking and shopping as well. I'll see them again on Sunday, which will be their final full day in Korea, then they're off to the States Monday morning (with, I hope, no hitches in the standby space available process).

So today, Momless and Dadless, I go about the business of planning my lessons for next week, doing a bit more shopping, and getting ready to face the final six weeks of our semester before the month-long December break.

*The research begins! Info on Korean images (great, concise, but superficial source) can be found here.

A Google Answers reference to haetae is here, but the links on that page are mostly bad.

A French-language link to haetae is here. The site is a little bit goofy, taking a whimsical approach to the question of whether the haetae is dog, lion, or dog-lion. The French site appears to be the translation of an English site (or maybe it's vice versa).


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think you've got it with the asura. I'm not too familiar with Buddhist iconography/imagery, and even though I've read about asura in Buddhist literature, I've never actually seen a representation of one (or, more accurately, I've never seen a representation of one and been aware of what I was looking at). But seeing the image on the belt of the heavenly king, yes, I think that's most likely it. Now to figure out why they would put an asura in a door handle...