Etymology

Dogs That Drive Away Evil Spirits

"Where there is a Sapsaree, even ghosts cannot stand to it" is a familiar saying that relates to Sapsarees. The word "Sapsaree" itself means to drive away ("Sap") evil spirits ("Sal"). Sapsarees must have been a close companion that brought peace and compassion to our ancestors. The following are few representative stories of how Sapsarees warded off evil spirits among many Sapsaree-related stories that were recorded and orally passed down by elderly people. Various interesting evidences showing how Sapsarees drove away evil spirits can be vividly seen in the post-Chosun folktale. It is told that Sapsarees were almost always reared in the spacious courts of kings and aristocrats. The people back then, especially those who lived in overly spacious houses or lands possessing strange spiritual influence, most likely believed that placing a Sapsaree in their court could suppress all undesirable spirits and bring peace. The art of repelling evil spirits was the result of an encounter between traditional belief of ordinary people and art. Such representative work is Moonbae-do. Moonbae-do normally refers to paintings of tigers, chickens, lions, or dogs that were posted on gates to block evil spirits. Although Moonbae-do was originally a genre painting, we can guess that the origin of Moonbae-do painting of Saparee derived from people's belief that a dog painting itself could block evil spirits. Sung-wook Hwang, who is a 17 generation-gap relative of Minister Hee Hwang of Bang-chon (a famous person during the late Koryo and early Chosun period) and who is a collector of ancient artworks, told of the following story about the encounter between Minster Hwang and Sapsaree. Minister Hwang 's glare was so intense that one strong glare from his eyes could frighten and kill any child or animal that dared to look at him. During the minister's old age, when the minister took a Sapsaree and glared at it with all his might, but the dog did not budge at all. After this, the minister was said to have lamented over his old age. This could be a story about how Sapsarees' glare was just as tough and furious as Minister Hwang's. Jong-sik Kim, an old man whose hometown was near an area in Kyungpook province, told of a story about Sapsaree that he heard from his grandmother when he was young. The story is as follows: There once lived an elderly man in a village who was rearing an old Sapsaree in his house. The old man got tired of hearing his Sapsaree's frequent barking noise, so he ordered his son to take the Sapsaree and eat it. Before being taken away to be killed, the aged Sapsaree, after realizing its fate, spent his last night with its daughter and sadly said, "I've been protecting my old master from the grim reaper, but, because the master is tired of hearing me bark, it seems that both my master's fate and mine are over now. The next day, the old man died together with his Sapsaree, who had blocked the grim reaper. Professor Bong-so Kim, who is currently teaching in Kyungpook National University, said that he remembered hearing old people call Sapsarees as "Sin-sun dog" or "Sun-bang" during his childhood. He added that he used to think Sapsarees were passive dogs that normally stayed motionless. Although Sapsaree is not fierce-looking, many people probably compared the bushy-haired and clever Sapsaree that recognized its master well to Sin-sun or an enlightened Buddhist dwelling in the mountainside.

1. A Moonbae-do that was used for driving away ghosts and bringing fortune. It is still presumed that the character is a haetae that was drawn in place of a lion, but it is very likely that the character is actually a Blue Sapsaree. The beast in the painting appears to be an animal that was raised in one's house. The lower body is orange and the upper body is blue, which is the typical color of a Blue Sapsaree. 2. A part of Sim-jun , Joong-sik Ahn's artwork that was displayed in the Harvard University Museum.
3. 18th century origin artwork by Yoo-bong Uh showing a Sapsaree with a halo depicting its mystical character

TOP