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7. The Meaning of "Sapsaree"

In the Mool-myung-go, which was published during the 19th century, our native Korean dogs are classified into Sapsaree, Ba-dok-gae, Duh-pur-gae, and Barbaree. Since we know what the people at that time thought of dogs, we can presume that the original meaning of Sapsaree is "to ward off evil spirits." "Sal" refers to misfortune or evil spirit that harms humans and "sap" means to scoop out or to get rid of. Altogether, Sapsaree, which has been called Sap-sal dog or Sap-sa-ree, means to ward off evil spirits. In the latter half of the Chosun Dynasty, Sapsarees appear in diverse cultural genres. Since Sapsarees were often involved with people's joyful and sad moments, Sapsarees appear in many Korean folk songs and lyrics.

Although there are numerous musical tunes containing the joys and sorrows of the period, and as Sapsarees are connected to the sentiments of the populace, we can discover many traces of Sapsarees being used for warding off evil spirits here and there. The oral tradition describing how the Sapsarees were raised in order to drive away undesirable spirits dwelling in a housing lot, or how they were used for warding off evil spirits in a 99-room mansion that belonged to a great master, closely matches the literal character meaning of Sapsaree. Through the Chosun paintings, we can learn more about the two images of Sapsarees: one that is a powerful image of warding off evil spirits and the other which is a humble image of dwelling together with poor civilians as companions.

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