14 September 2008

Before I fly to Seoul...

I should be airborne and well on my way to Seoul in less than 24 hours. Again, too bad I won't be flying with Sarah this time!

I need to make a final post before I go, however, by linking to the following article:

Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center

In particular, the article talks about the transgender history of East Asia's most beloved deity, Kwan Yin, commonly referred to as "Goddess of Mercy" by Westerners. My interest in Kwan Yin has gone up significantly in the past few weeks, and I'll be visiting many Buddhist sites throughout South Korea over the next several weeks to track her down. As this is a meditation trip, I really need to do my best to capture Kwan Yin's spirit of compassion, and think of what I can do for humankind.

Another section of this article talks about three distinct transgender traditions in Korea - ones that the Confucian and Christian revisionist historians have pretty much erased from the books. See below.

"In Korea, there are three distinct transgenderal traditions. Under the Silla dynasty, which unified the peninsula in the 7th century, the Hwarang warrior elite included many boys who dressed as women, wearing long gowns and make-up when they were not practicing archery or preparing for battle. In addition to the Flower Boys of Silla, there were the boy actors who played women’s roles in the Namsadang theatrical troupes that toured the villages of Korea until the end of the 19th century, often taken as lovers by the older males who played the men’s roles in those same companies. Finally, there was the tradition of the mudang, always a woman, but not always female. The paksu mudang was a male shaman who performed sacred rituals as a woman (and may have lived as a woman as well), and who was not only respected but also revered. However, the mudang culture has slowly died out, under the impact of Communism in the North (where the paksu mudang were particularly popular before World War II) and capitalism and conservative Christianity in the South. Ironically enough, the mudang tradition is in fact rooted in the Altaic origins of Korean culture having its origins in the Siberian homeland from which the Korean people migrated, and it long predates the introduction of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism to the peninsula under Chinese influence after the unification of Korea under the Silla."

Here also are Wikipedia articles on relevant subjects (though they pretty much reflect the Confucio-Christian views):

Korean shamanism

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