Elwood 5566

Village Sentinels – Totems (장승)

Posted in Photo diary by 노강호 on November 22, 2010

a totem (장승)  being carved

In more rural Korean areas totems, changseung (장승) often guard the passage to villages. Their design varies from simplistic to elaborate and encompass original and artistic designs as well as ones either explicitly ‘pornographic’ or with ‘pornographic’ elements. At other times they are humorous or simply bizarre. I am fascinated by the manner in which Korean wood is twisted and knotted by the landscape and weather and as I wrote previously, in (Penis Paradise), I see so much of the character of Korean people and their history embodied in wood.  In the mountains one often sees the most interesting examples of contorted wood wood that almost seems to have been tortured.

a rather obvious example of ‘releasing’ the qualities inherent in the ‘raw’ material.

A few months ago, when I visited Palgongsan Park in Daegu, I bought a small carving which cost 10000 Won (£10), the nature of the wood is interesting; a section of branch or small stem which on one side, a burr (burl – US English) has caused to ‘explode’ in a fascinating manner.  I’m indebted to a reader  for identifying this feature and also drawing my attention to the fact it is highly weathered. The wood has been used to carve a  totem-like face  while the burl, now forming the back of the head, forces one to seek meaning in the combination. From another angle, a second, half face can be imagined.

resembles the face of a totem (chang-seung)

the back reveals some former ‘explosion’ caused by  a burl

in profile

a further resemblance of a face

projects in the process

Several months ago, I was visiting Kayasan National Park when in the middle of nowhere, our minibus broke down. We pulled down a slip road next to a basic cheong-cha (정자), to await recovery.

a basic cheong-cha (정자), they harbor breezes and shelter you from the sun.

Stood in a row along the small road, warding away demons and evil, were  a number of totems (jang-seung 장승)  Totems guard the approaches to villages and scare away evil spirits and were, and in some cases still are worshiped  (tutelary deities). Different parts of Korea have different totems and they are closely associated with shamanism.

Broken Down but even stuck in the mountains our mini-bus is picked up and repaired within 2 hours

with a kimchi pot on the head

angry

who’s your dentist?

I was the only one giving them any attention!

looking glum

another kimchi head

and every opportunity to carve a dick

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