THERE was a minister in olden days who once, when he was Palace Secretary, was getting ready for office in the morning. He had on his ceremonial dress. It was rather early, and as he leaned on his arm-rest for a moment, sleep overcame him. He dreamt, and in the dream he thought he was mounted and on his journey. He was crossing the bridge at the entrance to East Palace Street, when suddenly he saw his mother coming towards him on foot. He at once dismounted, bowed, and said, "Why do you come thus, mother, not in a chair, but on foot?"
She replied, "I have already left the world, and things are not where I am as they are where you are, and so I walk."
The secretary asked, "Where are you going, please?"
She replied, "We have a servant living at Yong-san, and they are having a witches' prayer service there just now, so I am going to partake of the sacrifice."
"But," said the secretary, "we have sacrificial days, many of them, at our own home, those of the four seasons, also on the first and fifteenth of each month. Why do you go to a servant's house and not to mine?"
The mother replied, "Your sacrifices are of no interest to me, I like the prayers of the witches. If there is no medium we spirits find no satisfaction. I am in a hurry," said she, "and cannot wait longer," so she spoke her farewell and was gone.
The secretary awoke with a start, but felt that he had actually seen what had come to pass.
He then called a servant and told him to go at once to So-and-So's house in Yong-san, and tell a certain servant to come that night without fail. "Go quickly," said the secretary, "so that you can be back before I enter the Palace." Then he sat down to meditate over it.
In a little the servant had gone and come again. It was not yet broad daylight, and because it was cold the servant did not enter straight, but went first into the kitchen to warm his hands before the fire. There was a fellow-servant there who asked him, "Have you had something to drink?"
He replied, "They are having a big witch business on at Yong-san, and while the mutang (witch) was performing, she said that the spirit that possessed her was the mother of the master here. On my appearance she called out my name and said, 'This is a servant from our house.' Then she called me and gave me a big glass of spirit. She added further, 'On my way here I met my son going into the Palace.'"
The secretary, overhearing this talk from the room where he was waiting, broke down and began to cry. He called in the servant and made fuller inquiry, and more than ever he felt assured that his mother's spirit had really gone that morning to share in the koot (witches' sacrificial ceremony). He then called the mutang, and in behalf of the spirit of his mother made her a great offering. Ever afterwards he sacrificed to her four times a year at each returning season.
Choi Yu-won.--(The story of meeting his mother's ghost is reported to be of this man.)
Choi Yu-won matriculated in 1579 and graduated in 1602, becoming Chief Justice and having conferred on him the rank of prince. When he was a boy his great-aunt once gave him cloth for a suit of clothes, but he refused to accept of it, and from this his aunt prophesied that he would yet become a famous man. He studied in the home of the great teacher Yul-gok, and Yul-gok also foretold that the day would come when he would be an honour to Korea.
Yu-won once met Chang Han-kang and inquired of him concerning Pyon-wha Keui-jil (a law by which the weak became strong, the wicked good, and the stupid wise). He also asked that if one be truly transformed will the soul change as well as the body, or the body only? Chang replied, "Both are changed, for how could the body change without the soul?" Yu-won asked Yul-gok concerning this also, and Yul-gok replied that Chang's words were true.
In 1607 Choi Yu-won memorialized the King, calling attention to a letter received from Japan in answer to a communication sent by his Majesty, which had on its address the name of the Prime Minister, written a space lower than good form required. The Korean envoy had not protested, as duty would require of him, and yet the King had advanced him in rank. The various officials commended him for his courage.
In 1612, while he was Chief Justice, King Kwang-hai tried to degrade the Queen Dowager, who was not his own mother, he being born of a concubine, but Yu-won besought him with tears not to do so illegal and unnatural a thing. Still the King overrode all opposition, and did according to his unfilial will. In it all Choi Yu-won was proven a good man and a just. He used to say to his companions, even as a youth, "Death is dreadful, but still, better death for righteousness' sake and honour than life in disgrace." Another saying of his runs, "All one's study is for the development of character; if it ends not in that it is in vain."
Korea's ancient belief was that the blood of a faithful son served as an elixir of life to the dying, so that when his mother was at the point of death Yu-won with a knife cut flesh from his thigh till the blood flowed, and with this he prepared his magic dose.
Visit from the Shades, The
Korean Folk Tales: Imps, Ghosts and Fairies
Bang, Im & Ryuk, Yi
E. P. Dutton & Co.
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