ljlee: Queen... er, Lady Misil (misil)
[personal profile] ljlee
I am not the first of my line to write about my heroine's times. The celebrated thirteenth-century writer Lee Gyubo (李奎報, 1168~1241) wrote the Lay of the King in the Eastern Light (東明王篇), an epic poem about the first king of Goguryeoh a.k.a. my heroine's second husband. Lee, also known as Master White Cloud (白雲居士) and Lord of Gentle Prose (文順公), is my distant ancestor and one of the founders of my house.*

* We're known as the Lord of Gentle Prose branch of the Lee Clan of Yeoju (驪州 李氏 文順公派), taking after this famous ancestor's epithet.

I had admired Master White Cloud even before I knew he was my ancestor. I liked his sense of piercing wit and insight, as seen in the Tale of the Louse and the Dog (蝨犬說) which was in our school textbooks when I was young. Summarized, it goes like this:

A houseguest told me that he had seen a man beat a dog to death in the street, and the sight was so terrible that my guest swore never to eat dog meat again.** I told him in answer that I saw a man burn lice to death in a brazier after catching them, and the sight was so terrible that I resolved never to kill lice again. My guest protested, asking how I could equate the death of tiny vermin with large, useful animals like dogs. I answered him thus: Who is to say the value of a life matches its size or usefulness to people? Is not the horn of the snail as great as that of the ox, the humble quail as magnificent as a phoenix?

** Koreans were and remain dog-eaters. We used to consume considerably more dog meat than we do in the modern age when sources of protein are plentiful. It's considered a bit fringe and disgusting by the younger folk, but it's still a legal and thriving business.

So when I learned that Lord of Gentle Prose had his final resting place at Ganghwa Island where my husband and I were planning to vacation, I decided to drop in and pay my respects. And also to beg abjectly for help in my humble attempts to follow in his footsteps.

This is what the place looks like (see also this page for much nicer pictures):

Here's how the grave looks like from the bottom of the slope it's on.

the grave from a distance

There are two buildings to the left and right downslope of the grave. One holds the altar for performing rites, while the other holds a portrait of the deceased. I wasn't able to get into either building, but did find the image online:

portrait of Lee Gyubo
Good looks run in the family.

There are a pair of lotus lamp-holders and stone rams guarding the grave to the left and right. Evidently the rams are considered fine specimens of statues from the time period. (Incidentally I was born on a Year of the Ram.)

lotus tower

stone ram
Some people have lions guarding their graves. He gets flowers and sheep.

This is the grave proper, with an altar up front for placing offerings:

Lee Gyubo's grave

My offering was a paper cup of Coke. The usual is some sort of spirit such as soju (spirits for spirits, I guess), but we only had beer in the car, which was going to waste if opened since I'm not a big drinker and my husband was driving. And let's face it, ruining a can of German beer was a bigger sacrifice than I was willing to take for an ancestor who died 800+ years ago. Coke seemed like a good compromise, since it's not as weak as water and it must be a novel taste for Master White Cloud.

Having placed my offering I gave the greeting to the dead, two profound obeisances followed by a deep bow. I asked for the help of my illustrious ancestor in my endeavor to write about this ancient period of our people's history that he had contributed so much to. I sprinkled the Coke on his grave, using only half the cup since I was pretty sure killing the grass on his mound and attracting flies was not the best way to win ghostly favor. I drank the rest of the Coke with my husband and took my leave.

That's how I visited an ancestral grave to pay my respects and ask for help. Yes, I am that desperate. It was nice to reconnect with this part of my heritage, and I know whom to blame if this project doesn't pan out.

Postscript: Another ancestor, the 18th-century academic Lee Ik, came up in my research as a scholar on Yemaek groups and the origins of the Korean people. I appear to have a multi-generational obsession on my hands.

Date: 2016-05-16 05:41 pm (UTC)
lb_lee: A picture of Sneak smiling (sneak)
From: [personal profile] lb_lee
I know I replied to this post before, but why is the grave so big and round? Is he buried above ground?


Date: 2016-05-18 03:08 pm (UTC)
lb_lee: A picture of Sneak smiling (sneak)
From: [personal profile] lb_lee
Ah, okay! I asked because in places like New Orleans, a lot of people are buried above ground because the water table is so high, they get flooded out otherwise. (This still happens in times of heavy rain, since poor folks can't afford higher graves--you hear about awful bone thieves and such who steal the washed-out remains for magical purposes, which is such a mean thing to do!)

It's definitely a pretty mound though. I find it pleasing in its roundness.


Date: 2016-05-18 04:31 pm (UTC)
lb_lee: M.D. making a shocked, confused face (serious thought)
From: [personal profile] lb_lee
Rogan: Holy shit, those ARE enormous mounds.

Mac: Enormous BOOBY mounds! Obviously your people know how to bury someone with STYLE.

Sneak: That's a sad story about the king and the princess. It's sad that so many people died of childbirth back then. :( I'm glad they cared about each other though.

Date: 2016-05-18 05:26 pm (UTC)
lb_lee: A pencil drawing of Mac and Rogan canoodling with a little heart above their heads. (love)
From: [personal profile] lb_lee
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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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