THE old family seat of Prince Ha Yun was in the County of Keum-chon. He was a famous Minister of State in the days of peace and prosperity, and used frequently to find rest and leisure in his summer-house in this same county. It was a large and well-ordered mansion, and was occupied by his children for many years after his death.
The people of that county used to tell a very strange story of Ha and his prosperity, which runs thus: He had placed in an upper room a large crock that was used to hold flour. One day one of the servants, wishing to get some flour from the jar, lifted the lid, when suddenly from the depths of it a huge snake made its appearance. The servant, startled, fell back in great alarm, and then went and told the master what had happened. The master sent his men-slaves and had the jar brought down. They broke it open and let out a huge, awful-looking snake, such as one had never seen before. Several of the servants joined in with clubs and killed the brute. They then piled wood on it and set fire to the whole. Vile fumes arose that filled the house. From the fumes all the people of the place died, leaving no one behind to represent the family. Others who entered the house died also, so that the place became cursed, and was left in desolation. A little later a mysterious fire broke out and burnt up the remaining buildings, leaving only the vacant site. To this day the place is known as "haunted," and no one ventures to build upon it.
Ha Yon graduated in the year 1396, and became magistrate of Anak County. He built many pavilions in and about his official place of residence, where people might rest. As he went about his district, seeing the farmers busy, he wrote many songs and verses to encourage them in their work. He became later a royal censor, and King Tai-jong commended him, saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Later he became Chief Justice. He cleared out the public offices of all disreputable officials, and made the Court clean. When he had leisure it was his habit to dress in ceremonial garb, burn incense, sit at attention, and write prayer verses the livelong day.
When he was young, once, in the Court of the Crown Prince, he wrote a verse which was commented upon thus: "Beautiful writing, beautiful thought; truly a treasure." He was a great student and a great inquirer, and grateful and lovable as a friend. He studied as a boy under the patriot Cheung Mong-ju, and was upright and pure in all his ways. His object was to become as one of the Ancients, and so he followed truth, and encouraged men in the study of the sacred books. He used to awake at first cock-crow of the morning, wash, dress, and never lay aside his book. On his right were pictures, on his left were books, and he happy between. He rose to be Prime Minister.
Cursed by the Snake
Korean Folk Tales: Imps, Ghosts and Fairies
Bang, Im & Ryuk, Yi
E. P. Dutton & Co.
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