Revenge is a Dish Best Served Carved

Daeungjeon - the mail hall at Jeondeungsa Temple

Daeungjeon – the main hall at Jeondeungsa Temple

In the next year or two I want to travel to South Korea and lately have been researching temple stays. One temple that is very appealing is Jeondeungsa Temple on Ganghwa-gun Island, Incheon. The temple is located within the Samnangseong Fortress and is the oldest Buddhist temple in Korea. Daeungjeon, the main hall, was built in 381.

Besides a week of fresh air and contemplation there are ancient trees and beautiful temple architecture to explore….and the legend of the lovelorn carpenter. It seems the head carpenter of Daeungjeon had love issues.

There are variations to the legend as one would expect after 1,635 years. Some say the head carpenter met and fell in love with a local woman who scorned him and stole his money. Heartbroken and miserable he carved four figures of women and placed each one under the eaves of the temple roof. The small crouched figures are easy to spot under the lovely wood and faded paint of the eaves.

My favorite version (of course it is!) is more specific as to the intentions of the carpenter: his wife grew tired of waiting for him to return and left him. He carved the small crouching figures holding up each corner of the roof to symbolize his wish for her to carry a heavy burden for the rest of her life. Omo!

Suzanne Ellison

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7 Responses to Revenge is a Dish Best Served Carved

  1. artisandcw says:

    Hi Suzanne

    An excellent group of observations and desires. I think that one of the great shortcomings of some American woodworkers is a lack of vision/curiosity about skillful artisanry in other places and cultures. China, Japan, Korea, Der Stihl, the Bauhaus, are all rich repositories from which we can mine the riches. I for one have held a longstanding fascination with oriental craftsmanship and design and hope you get to make this trip and post lots of blogs! That way I get to enjoy the experience vicariously, important as my resistance to travel increases with each new day. My two places I’d love to see are Tasmania and Kyoto, but since I pretty much refuse to enter airports these days the odds are slender for me in that regard. Maybe of they ever perfect VR…

  2. Hey Suzanne!!!

    I look forward to reading many more from you on this subject and what you discover about the glories of this culture’s traditional wood arts. While you plan your adventures on the Korean peninsula…do not overlook the Folk Architecture that Korea has in abundance. 한옥 (Hanok) farm houses and related architectural forms are a testament to the craft of rural farmers as wood Artisan. These traditional builders have plied their craft for millenia and speak to why the temples (a refined form) are as glories (and long lived) as they are.

    Great Post!!!

    • saucyindexer says:

      Jay, you read my mind (not a difficult thing to do). I’m reading about the hanok and love how these houses were built for the changing seasons.

  3. Paul Murphy says:

    Caryatids. They are (mostly) acknowledged to be a form of punishment.

  4. Paul, I do believe Caryatids (in the context you have shared) is more a European or old Greek application and out of context (and culture) in this case…Even Vitruvius’s view of punishment is of some strong academic disagreement and more akin to (maybe?) at worst the enslavement of woman, yet even this view is specific to region, culture and architecture.

    In this contextual relationship they typically perform semblance of a story, and/or many (most) are actually guardians of the structure itself within both the tangible and spirit realm. Dr. R. Knapp has conducted a great deal of research in this area regarding Chinese acient structures and symbology. In Korean Mythology and Architecture there is a great deal of similar research covering such characteristics, as well as direct knowledge and application still within the culture.

  5. dechappuis says:

    Hello Chris et all…my account was blocked due to hackers, now going again, havnt had a post since sept 13…please keep me on board..thanks..Mark

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