The drawings of JeungSanDo’s

           Sahng-jeh-nim in the Dojeon

                    and the bujeok talisman

                                in Korean shamanism





             Dr.  Fee-Alexandra HAASE,  D. Phil. (Tübingen Univ.),

             Formerly “Visiting Professor” at the National University,


             South Korea



This article focuses on the paintings falling within the tradition of the talisman drawings – locally known as bujeok - in Korean shamanism. They were made by a historical person called Sahng-jeh-nim: he lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Korea. He subsequently became the main deity of the contemporary spiritual Korean organization, known as JeungSanDo; the latter body then edited and published his life and works in a book called Dojeon. Korea is a country where ancestral cults and shamanism exist side by side with such world religions like Buddhism and Christianity, together with other social doctrines like Daoism and Confucianism. Shamanism is a spiritual practice and forms part of the culture of the common folk; as a practice , it is still in vogue. A bujeok is a talisman made of red writing on a slip of yellow or white mulberry paper, and these are  available either pre-manufactured or custom made for specific purposes. The creation and use of the bujeok constitute an important facet of Korean shamanic folk culture.[1][1]


Until the end of the 19th century shamanistic processes, such as, ceremonies took place all over Korea. Today there are 120,000 shamans in Korea; most of them are women and are enlisted by those who look for help in the “spirit world”. Female shamans are called mudang in Korean and hold a spiritual ceremony called kut. They also hold other services in order to encourage seekers of “good fortune”; besides, they purportedly cure illnesses by exorcising evil spirits, or propitiate local or village spirits. Such ceremonies are also held to guide the spirit of a deceased person into heaven.


In JeungSanDo, a Korean spiritual organization founded in the early 20th century, still in operation, the main spiritual deity, Sahng-jeh-nim is a historical person who lived from 1871 to 1909. This person is biographically described in the Dojeon, a book edited in Korean, and other languages, and which collects and edits various sources of Sahng-jeh-nim’s life. According to this source, Sahng-jeh-nim declared his profession as “doctor”, but, in accordance with the descriptions in the Dojeon, we find many elements which serve as pieces of historic shamanism. Jeung-san Sahng-jeh-nim was born in Korea in the second half of the 19th century. The multiple identification of the main deity with other religious persons is a typical Korean tradition of syncretism. The practitioners of JeungSanDo believe Sahng-jeh-nim is the ‘Ruling Spirit of the Universe’, identical with the ‘God of the West’, or the ‘Maitreya Buddha’ of Buddhism, or the ‘Shangdi’, and the ‘Jade Emperor’ of Daoism. All of these different names stand for the same entity, the ‘Ruling or Governing Spirit of the Universe’, which, according to Sahng-je-nim, is considered Jeung-san Sahng-jeh-nim. So in the Dojeon, Shakyamuni Buddha´s words about the Future Buddha Maitraya Buddha is mentioned (Dojeon 1:2:1:12). According to the beliefs of JeungSanDo the Future Buddha is Sahng-jeh-nim. Maitreya Buddha is one of the main Buddhas worshipped in Korea and his iconography leads back to ancient times of Korean early Three Kingdoms Period. JeungSanDo writes about Maitreya Buddha that he was announced as the Coming Maitreya Buddha of the future and Sahng-Je-Nim in person:


2 1 Shakyamuni Buddha said that in the time of disaster at the last stage of his dharma, the Lord of Tushita Heaven, Maitreya Buddha, would come to earth as a human being. He also said that Maitreya Buddha would save humanity by teaching His dharma in three stages and would open a new world called the Dragon Flower Paradise.

2 Maitreya Buddha, who is the Future Buddha, is the Buddha of Hope, the Savior Buddha.

3 Shakyamuni Buddha said, “There is a heaven called Tushita Heaven. Maitreya Buddha is the Lord of that heaven. Have faith in Him and follow His teachings.”

4 The following are verses from the sacred texts of Buddhism:

5 When the last stage of the Buddha’s dharma comes, the sun and moon will lose their light and the position of the stars will change. Terrible diseases will spread one after the other.

6 There is a land where the Great Healing King will reside among people. He will heal the diseased world.

7 Maitreya Buddha will dwell at home for only a short period, and then He will leave to meditate and attain ultimate enlightenment. Not far from Gyeh-du Castle, there is a bodhi tree called Dragon Flower. Sitting under this tree, Maitreya Buddha will reach ultimate enlightenment.

8 He will gather His family and others to teach them so that they can be enlightened.

9 When the time comes, the climate will become mild and there will be no difference between the four seasons. People will have no disease and there will be no greed, anger, foolishness, or harshness. The human mind will be in harmony, and it will come to pass that all people will be of one will.

10 People on earth will live well and there will be no discrimination. Their lives will be very long and free of disease.

11 Sankha, the Dharma King, will appear and govern according to right dharma. Without weapons being used, all nations will yield to him.

12 Maitreya Buddha will open the world of new life, allowing all people to be born as enlightened ones. This will be the paradise of creative change on earth, the world of Dragon Flower.

(Jeung San Do Dojeon. English Version. (1:1:1-12).


The Dojeon – a literary compilation of sources of the life of Sahng-je-nim – is a source for the use of shamanistic rituals in the late Joeseon dynasty of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the title shaman was neither given to Sahng-je-nim nor has he introduced himself as a shaman, the use of Chinese characters for fortune telling was, and the burning of paper was one element of his spiritual methods that we also find in shamanism. Shamans had low social status. Sahng-je-nim was active in a role which traditionally had been reserved for women in Korean society. Only a minority of shamans is male. The shaman is a specialist in mediating  between humans and the spirits (shin). The shaman is chosen by the spirits and by her patrons to mediate between the two worlds. Although males may incidentally participate in shamanic rites, Korean shamanism is predominantly a women's cult. Male participation, when it does occur, is rare. Male religious roles are associated with Confucianism and public village rituals. The shaman can be called on to manufacture spiritual talismans (bujeok) out of esoteric figures, diagrams, or characters; when performing a kut ceremony. Sahng-jeh-nim made drawings, in which he combined figures with Chinese characters. [2][2]


A few extant documents of Sahng-jeh-nim are his drawings described in the Dojeon as talisman. Most of them Sahng-jeh-nim destroyed after using them in the ceremonies; a few are still available. Bujeok is the Korean term for talisman, which is traditionally posted on a wall in a home to repel and protect inhabitants against evil spirits. It can also be folded and placed in clothing close to an individual’s body or burnt to ashes and consumed. The origin of bujeok dates back to early times, in which illustrations were drawn as a part of worship, and as rituals to supernatural powers. Modern designs vary greatly, depending on the purpose of the bujeok. Bujeoks range from systematic script to free-formation illustrations. The typical design usually includes Chinese characters, though others feature Sanskrit, astronomical signs, or religious symbols. In the Dojeon these ceremonies of painting and methods of using bujeoks are described, when they are performed by Sahng-je-nim.


According to the Dojeon at a Buddhist temple Gim Hyung-yul chanced upon meeting the one who he would later revere as Maitreya Buddha. Several years would pass before these two meet again under very different circumstances. In JeungSanDo’s Dojeon the Maitreya statue of Geum-sahn Temple is considered the place where Jeung-san Sahng-jeh-nim stayed before becoming the historical person Gahng, who called himself Sahng-jeh-nim (2:20:5):


5 He continued, “I first came down to the canopy tower in the nation of great law in the West and from there traveled the world.

 6 I then came to this Eastern land and stayed at the Maitreya statue of Geum-sahn Temple for thirty years.

 7 Later, I was born into the Gahng family in Gaeng-mahng Village in Go-bu County, and now I am visiting My host.

 8 Without substance (), there can be no function (). The west is associated with metal. That is why I have chosen the Gim family’s house as My residence.”


In section 10, it is said:


9 One day, Sahng-jeh-nim sent a message to Hyung-yul, telling him to go to Geum-sahn Temple.

10 When Hyung-yul reached the bridge in front of the temple, he saw the statue of Maitreya Buddha shining like gold and walking toward him.

11 Hyung-yul fell flat on the ground, trembling.


One of his followers, Gyung-hahk realized that Sahng-jeh-nim was the embodiment of Maitreya: Gyung-hahk thought it strange that Sahng-jeh-nim had used the word father when talking to Yohng-ju. He contemplated it for a while and remembered that, following the custom of presenting a child at a temple, he had presented his child in front of the Maitreya statue of Geum-sahn Temple. Gyung-hahk realized that Sahng-jeh-nim was the embodiment of Maitreya. (4:77:10)


하루는 약방 후원에 푸른 대나무 10 그루를 친히 심으신 뒤에

 깨끗한 종이에 약국의 비품물목(物目) 줄지어 적으시고 글을 주시니 이러하니라. 

世界有而此山出하니 紀運天藏物華

세계유이차산출     기운금천장물화

應須祖宗太昊伏인데 何事道人多佛歌

응수조종태호복     하사도인다불가

   세계가 생겨나고 산이 나왔으니

     후천 (가을)문명을 여는 운수가 ( 산에) 갊아있느니라

     마땅히 선천문명의 조종(祖宗) 태호복희씨인데

    웬일로 닦는 자들이 허다히 부처 타령들이냐!


 상제님께서 글을 박공우 김광찬에게 주시며 말씀하시기를

   금산사 미륵전 앞에 대장전(大藏殿) 있어 불편하니 너희 사람은 절에 가서 대장전 석가불상을 향하여 다른 데로 옮겨지기를 생각하고 종이를 태우라. 하시니라.

  사람이 금산사에 가서 명하신 대로 행하니라.

이로부터 뒤에 금산사를 중수(重修) 때에 석가 불전을 마당 서편으로 옮겨 세우니 이에 미륵전 앞이 넓어지니라.


In the JeungSanDo Dojeon, we find descriptions of the use of talismans. When a wandering fortuneteller came, Sahng-jeh-nim drew a talisman called ´Empty Soul´ (2:104:4). When teaching the disciples, Sahng-jeh-nim used talismans representing the Twelve Earthly Branches of the Korean calender (3:199:4). In his ‘work of renewal’, a term Sahng-jeh-nim used to describe the magic work he did, he wrote words or drew talismans (4:30:3). Sahng-jeh-nim said: “A talisman is a medium for spirits.” (4:50:4). For a period he wrote words and drew talismans on twenty-three pieces of paper every day, then burned them. Contemporary persons didn’t understand the meaning of this work. (4:50:6) Even his disciples could not understand the meaning of the talismans. When they tried to record his writings, he stopped them. (5:332:1) Sahng-jeh-nim summoned dozens of disciples and placed a classic Chinese book with the title The Great Learning, several mantras as texts to be recited in meditation, and a book of talismans in front of a woman called Su-bu-nim, who assisted him in his works. (10:7:3) In the JeungSanDo Dojeon we find many text passages where the painting activity of Sahng-je-nim is described. In chapter 3 we read how Sahng-jeh-nim painted and which material he used:


Before setting out on horseback, He would cut out a piece of white paper, paint one side black and the other red, and attach it to a pole that He carried. (3:13:2)

상제님께서 백지를 잘라 한쪽은 검게 한쪽은 붉게 칠해 막대기에 매달고 나가시면 (3:13:2) [3][3]


Red is the most important colour in shamanism. The colour red was incorporated into the bujeok for specific reasons. As symbol of blood and as the essence of life the colour red was traditionally believed to have powers to subdue evil. Cinnabar was the preferable material of choice for the red ink. Sahng-jeh-nim used different colours, but red was very important:


Using cinnabar paint, He colored each letter red. (5:188:7)

글자 획에 경면주사(鏡面朱砂) 바르신 뒤에 (5:188:7)[4][4]


In chapter 5, we read about the techniques used for painting:


With the blood-covered finger, He painted over the word shee on each of the twelve thousand papers. By the time He finished, all the lamb’s blood had been used. (5:130:2)

벽에 돌려 붙인 1 2 모실 () 위에 바르시니 글자 수가 다함에 또한 다하게 된지라. (5:130:2) [5][5]


Sahng-jeh-nim used cinnabar paint for painting on silk:


Sahng-jeh-nim ordered Gahp-chil, “Bring Me twenty-one ja of silk.” Sahng-jeh-nim ordered Gohng-ooh, “Bring Me some cinnabar paint.” Gahp-chil and Gohng-ooh brought these things to Sahng-jeh-nim.

15 After He finished carving the log, Sahng-jeh-nim applied cinnabar paint to the seal, lifted the entire log, and stamped the seal on the center of the silk, imprinting two characters. (5:291:8)

상제님께서 갑칠에게 명하시기를 “명주베 스물한 자를 구해 오라. 하시고 공우에게는 “경면주사(鏡面朱砂) 구해 오라. 하시거늘 공우와 갑칠이 구해오니라. (4절과 합쳐 압축함) (5:291:8) [6][6]


Chapter 5 gives a description of the writing of the girl Ho-Yeon (who followed Sahng-je-nim during his travels) painted:


When she filled the book, He gave her more paper to draw more horses. The pictures of horses kept piling up higher. (5:82:3)

그리면 다른 종이에 계속 그리게 하시니 그려진 그림이 많이 쌓이더라. (5:82:3) [7][7]


Not only Sahng-jeh-nim’s, but also Ho-Yeon’s pictures were burned by Sahng-jeh-nim:


Doing as she was told, she would make ink from an ink stick and draw the pictures, day and night. Sahng-jeh-nim would collect and burn them. She drew horses more often than any other animal. (5:271:2)

호연이 명하신 대로 밤낮 먹을 갈아서 그림을 그리고 점을 찍으면 상제님께서는 그것을 모아 불사르시는데 호연은 특히 말을 많이 그리니라. (5:271:2)[8][8]


Objects were also drawn by Sahng-jeh-nim in order to use them just like a bujeok to be placed at certain places. In chapter 9 we read how Sahng-jeh-nim painted a bird named Ho-Hahn (호한 (呼寒)):


Sahng-jeh-nim drew a picture of a bird called Ho-hahn, pasted it on a pillar outside the medicine room, and said, (9:87:1)

상제님께서 약방 기둥에다 호한(呼寒)이란 새를 그려 붙이시고 말씀하시기를 (9:87:1)[9][9]


In chapter 4 we read how Sahng-je-nim painted:


By simply drawing a dot with a brush, He could make a normal person
act like a clown (…). (4:30:4)

때에 따라서는 붓으로 점을 찍어 멀쩡한 사람을 광대로
만들기도 하시고 (4:30:4)[10][10]


The burning of the paper is a certain element in the shamanistic ceremony. After the act of burning paper, the shaman performs a ceremonial dance for receiving, entertaining and sending off the spirit (song shin). The shaman coaxes the spirit into making an appearance and pleads with him to bestow a prosperous coming year. To entice him into accepting the plea, the shaman entertains the spirit with wine and food and then sends it on its way. Sahng-jeh-nim drew talismans and burned them after the ceremony:


One day, Sahng-jeh-nim summoned spirits by drawing talismans on paper and burning them. (4:75:1)

하루는 () 그려 태우시며 각국 신명을 부르시는데 (4:75:1)[11][11]


In the chapters 4 and 7 we read how Sahng-jeh-nim painted using a notebook and destroyed the writings and drawings:


One day in October of 1908, Sahng-jeh-nim filled a notebook with writings and drawings. He then ripped out the pages one by one and had the disciples tear them up. After that, He counted all the pieces and burned them, one at a time. (7:46:1)

무신(戊申 : 道紀 38, 1908) 10월에 하루는 상제님께서 양지책에 글을 무수히 써서 장씩 떼시어 성도들로 하여금 마음대로 찢게 하신 뒤에 조각씩 세어서 불사르시니 모두 삼백여든세 조각이라. (7:46:1)[12][12]


In chapter 4 is described how Sahng-jeh-nim burned papers with words and symbols:


Jeung-san Sahng-jeh-nim is the Renewing God who opens a new heaven and earth. Throughout the nine years He performed the work of renewing heaven and earth, Sahng-jeh-nim burned paper on which He had written words and drawn symbols. (4:40:1)

증산 상제님은 천지를 열어 주신 개벽장 하느님이시니 9 동안 천지공사를 행하실 때마다 종이에 글이나 물형을 써서 불사르시니라. (4:40:1)[13][13]


One day, Sahng-jeh-nim summoned spirits by drawing talismans on paper and burning them. (4:75:1)

4:75:1 하루는 () 그려 태우시며 각국 신명을 부르시는데(4:75:1) [14][14]


In chapter 5, we read how Sahng-jeh-nim advised Ho-Yean to draw pictures:


In 1905, when Sahng-jeh-nim had Ho-yun meditate in a tent near a spring, He had her recite mainly the Chil-sung-gyung Mantra and the Gae-byuk Mantra and, at times, had her draw animals and make dots on paper.

2 He bound sheets of blank paper like a book, gave it to Ho-yun, and told her to draw horses in it.

3 When she filled the book, He gave her more paper to draw more horses. The pictures of horses kept piling up higher. (5:82:1)


을사년에 옆에 움막을 치고 호연을 공부시키실 칠성경과 개벽주를 주로 읽히시고 점을 찍고 동물을 그리게 하시니라. 백지를 책처럼 만들어 갖다 주시며 말을 종이에 그리게 하시고 그리면 다른 종이에 계속 그리게 하시니 그려진 그림이 많이 쌓이더라. (5:82:1)[15][15]


To feed her, Sahng-jeh-nim would draw her a mouth and eyes with a brush, and she would be able to open her eyes and eat. When she needed to relieve herself, waste matter would come out of her sides. (5:86:4)

호연에게 음식을 먹이실 붓으로 눈과 입을 그리시면 호연이 눈을 뜨고 입을 벌려 먹을 있고 똥과 오줌을 때는 옆구리로 나오도록 하시니라. (5:86:4)[16][16]


The painting of talismans was one of the elements used in the ´works of renewal´:


Using a stroke with which one would paint an orchid, Sahng-jeh-nim drew a talisman in the shape of a roundworm and folded the paper as if wrapping medicine. He then said, “If the roundworms inside your son live, he will live. If they die, he will die as well.” On the paper, Sahng-jeh-nim wrote, “September drink.” (2:86:6)

상제님께서 마치 () 치듯 () 모양으로 () 그리시어 약포지처럼 주시며 “뱃속에 회가 살면 병자도 살고 회가 죽으면 아들도 죽으리라. 하시고 종이에 구월음(九月飮)이라 써서 주시니 (2:86:6)[17][17]


A typical talisman is a strip of yellow paper with words written in red ink or blood, or black ink mixed with blood. The talisman usually contains words or symbols of power. In chapter 5 is described how Sahng-jeh-nim drew talismans as part of the cult:


When Sahng-jeh-nim conducted works of renewal, He would often write things or draw talismans and then burn the paper. (5:332:1)

공사를 보실 때는 언제나 글이나 물형을 써서 불사르시는데 (5:332:1)[18][18]


Sahng-je-nim’s paintings were drawn in Chinese characters. The pictures here are a combination of lines and Chinese characters. There are different elements of paintings: Chinese characters, which represent a certain word; lines which perform certain graphic forms that have no clear relation to representing an object, and single graphic objects. Drawings of Sahng-je-nim for the ceremonies show a difference in the form of the handwriting. Also the characters were written in both directions from right to left and left to right like in this drawing:

Picture 1. Characters of Sahng-je-nim [To view picture, click on:]


Picture 1 shows a drawing of Sang-je-nim’s using Chinese characters. The Chinese signs on the left side of the paper mean sa (work), jeong (government), yin and yang and chon (sky) and mun (army). Characters were arranged from left to right and from top to bottom. The characters of the right side can only be read when seen in a mirror. The lower four characters have the following meanings: kyeol (tie), o (five), cho (character), il (one). According to the Dojeon, not only painting of characters in Chinese was made by Sahng-jeh-nim; objects were also arranged in the formation of Chinese characters:


Speaking of what he had just buried, Sahng-jeh-nim said: “If it is left like this, animals will dig it up and eat it.” He put large stones on top of it, laying them in the shape of two Chinese characters. Ho-Yeon recognized the character ´moon´ but did not know the other one. (4:21:13)


The bell is typically current in shamanistic use. According to the Dojeon, around the bell Sahng-jeh-nim wrote the characters for the twenty-four directions and some other words. Sahng-jeh-nim cut paper in the shape of fish scales and pasted the pieces all around the bell: “In the end, it looked like armo[u]r.” (5:12:08) In the Dojeon, methods of drawing characters are described en detail. On a long strip of paper Sahng-jeh-nim wrote the characters of the Mantra Chil-sung-gyung in one vertical line. (5:1796) When Gim Duk-chahn finished, the writing filled the paper, leaving only enough space for three more characters. Seeing this, Sahng-jeh-nim said: “Write the three characters ‘chil’, ’sung’, and ‘gyung’.” After this had happened Sahng-jeh-nim burned the paper. (5:230:3-4) He made the log into a seal by carving large characters onto one end. (5:291:2)


In chapter six is described how Sahng-jeh-nim finished a ´work of renewal´ before sunrise. As the morning sun rose afterward, Sahng-jeh-nim wrote in large characters the words ‘dragon and phoenix’. The character ‘dragon’ was upside down above the character ‘phoenix’. (6:8:7) On a piece of paper, Sahng-jeh-nim wrote the characters of the twenty-four directions in a circle and, in the middle, wrote, ‘Virtuous sages who are venerated with offerings of food for a thousand autumns’. (6:51:2) The name Jeung San is a word game. Sahng-je-nim said about his name: “If you clearly understand the characters jeung, meaning ‘steamer’ and san, meaning ‘mountain’, you will survive.” (7:27:5)


Korean shaman painting is a kind of religious painting, which shape gods worshiped by shamans in human figures, put in a shrine. There are many words for Korean Shaman Painting such as hwan or sugarless painting. According to JeungSanDo belief, he and the contemporary Master and Grandmaster of JeungSanDo only understand the drawings Sahng-je-nim made. After the ´Gaebyeok´, a change of the world, which only JeungSanDo followers will survive, in a world of unified humans and gods the signs will be understood by everyone. According to the Dojeon, Sahng-je-nim wrote Chinese characters. On a piece of paper Sahng-je-nim wrote the Chinese character ‘moon’ and another character; He laid the paper over what he had put in the hole, and covered the hole with earth. (4:2:14) Speaking of what he had just buried, Sahng-jeh-nim said, ‘If it is left like this, animals will dig it up and eat it.’ Sahng-jeh-nim put large stones on top of it, laying them in the shape of two Chinese characters. As before, Ho-Yeon recognized the character ‘moon’ but did not know the other one. (4:2:13) Auspicious signs in the sky are also considered spiritual elements in shamanism. In the Dojeon, we read a description of such a sign: “Also, at the entrance of the village, the clouds form two lines in the shape of the Chinese character eight.” (4:37:2)


In chapter 10, the use of Chinese characters is described: “Instead of writing the Chinese character ‘queen’, Gyung-suk wrote the character ‘deceased mother’. Noticing this, Sahng-jeh-nim said, ‘You wrote it wrong.’ He burned the paper and had Gyung-suk write the message correctly and paste it onto the cabinet. (10:35:8) Opening paper that contains Chinese characters is also a method of fortune telling: “Peeling off the paper, he found four Chinese characters that read, ‘Follow the mandate. Open the teaching’. (10:68:7) According to the description of his childhood, Sahng-je-nim was educated in Chinese by teachers and one of the books he learned was the The Thousand Characters Text:


That year, though they were poor, the Sacred Father wanted Him to learn The Thousand Characters Text, so he hired a well-known teacher named Hwahng from Jahng-goon Village in Tae-in County. When the teacher arrived, Hahk-bohng opened the book and recited the words heaven and earth so loudly it shook the house. He then closed the book and left the room without saying anything else. After a few days, the teacher said, ‘Do you think you should study?’  Though the teacher continued trying to persuade Him, Hahk-bohng would not read from the book again.” (1:15:7)


Later on, the text of the Thousand Characters Text was used again by Sahng-jeh-nim. The Dojeon describes a scene when, surrounded by dozens of disciples at Chey Chahng-joa’s house, Sahng-jeh-nim said: ‘Each of you, call out three words.’ The first disciple recited the first three words from The Thousand Characters Text, and following his example, the others in turn recited from that text. When it was Chey Duk-gyum’s turn, the last word he called out was il. (7:47:1)

Picture 2. Drawing and characters of Sahng-jeh-nim [To view picture, click on:]


The four characters on the right side of picture 2 are kicho – dong – lyang with the meaning ´basic foundation and pinth [plinth]´. On the left side the characters are hunpaek ‘basic soul’ and dong – so – nampuk for ‘east, west, south, north’. On the left side the four characters kicho – dong – lyang with the meaning ´basic foundation and pinth [plinth]´ are written again. 

Picture 3. Drawings and characters of Sahng-jeh-nim [To view picture, click on:]


Picture 3 shows on the left side the on – cheongkaeryeong- shin talisman. The characters written from the bottom to the ground mean on the left side harmful – person – three - friend (son – cha – sam – u) and on the right side good – person – three – friend (ik – cha – sam -u). This is a citation taken from the Analects of Confucius (16.4). The four characters below them mean ki – so- che – dong with the meaning ‘Fortune is in the East’. The characters of the lower part are ki – so – che – dong  with the meaning energy – bring – good – East. With the characters kyeong - chon – mu, Sahng-je-nim indicates his canon of teachings; they are written next to the talisman. We also find them on the other drawings very often. Also on the right side, these characters are used next to the figure. The left line contains characters. These characters indicate that there is no reason for mutual conflict under heaven. The transcription is:


Su–hwa – gym – mogdae – shi – i - s –

Seong – su – seang – eo - hwa  

Ko – cheon – ha – mu – sang – gug – chi – ri

The translation is:              

                                     Water, fire, metal, and wood come to life,

                  having waited for the proper time.


                  Water is born from fire,

                  so there is no reason for mutual conflict under heaven.

(4:152:3) [19][19]


The drawings were dedicated to the spirits (shin); that is why they had no more meaning when the ceremony was performed. In shamanism, there are the shin of the sun, the moon, the shin of star, the shin of the seven stars, the shins of mountains, and other shins for specific places. These shins of nature govern the universe. Korean shaman paintings have religious images and function as amulets, employing simple design and primary colours. Techniques found in Korean shaman painting vary but most of them have kind and generous faces with smooth lines and colours. In these drawings the writing is placed mostly from the top to the bottom of the paper. Sahng-je-nim´s talismans are complex containing lines and Chinese characters. The Chinese language was used because it contains double or multiple meanings. Chinese is a language based upon the “transfer” of meanings, while Korean is a phonetic language with an alphabet similar to the western Latin-based alphabet. Sahng-je-nim was a teacher and knew the Chinese classical literature. Talismans in picture 4 and 5 consist of the drawings themselves, the characters kyeong - chon – mu for the canon of Sahng-je-nim’s teachings next to the talisman and a long text of Chinese characters.  


Picture 4. Characters and talismans of Sahng-jeh-nim [To view picture, click on:]


Picture 4 shows characters and two talismans of Sahng-jeh-nim. For the characters on the left side the transcription is:


Dong – eo- je – cha – cheongeo- yeo

Hwol - do – ri

Cheongeomu- reochukhwolmu – do – ri


This is a description of the Il-ggoon, the workers of JeungSanDo, which will survive the ‘Gaebyeok’. The translation is:


                  Acting according to propriety and stopping according to

                  propriety ― this is within reason.


                   Seeing rude conduct and not acting

                   this is outside of reason.                                                                                           

                                                          (8:107:2) [20][20]


For the characters on the right side the transcription is:

You – ki – so – baecheon – chi – chi – iak



The translation is:

1. To swear an oath is to make a paramount promise to boundless

                  and eternal heaven and earth.

 2.If you break such a promise, you will have difficulty in accomplishing anything, no matter how great and virtuous it is.



Picture 5. Characters and talisman of Sahng-jeh-nim [To view picture, click on:]


The characters of picture 5 on the left side are:

Cheon – chi – chi – chung – hang – shim – ya 

Go – dong – seonambuk  -shin – uieo – shim

The translation is:

The center of heaven and earth is the mind.

The north, south, east, and west of the universe

and the human body depends upon the mind. (2:137:2)[22][22]


The characters on the right side are:

      Chung – cha – yokyai – a k – cheong – cha – seonggeong

                 I – seoncheung – cha – seong – gong


The meaning of the characters on the right side is:

‘If you want something to become true, you need a will.

If something is realized through evil, it can be successful.

If something is realized through good, it can be successful’. 


To protect against evil forces Koreans post bujeok at certain places in and around the house such as the gate, the ceiling, over the door, or in the barn. Traditionally talismans were painted in red ink on yellow or white mulberry paper. Red possesses, in shamanistic belief, the power to suppress evil. For this reason red beans, red clay, red gowns and other red items are often used in shamanistic rites. Korean talismans range in style from structured geometric patterns to formless swirls and doodles like the ones Sahng-je-nim used. Some consist of a single Chinese ideograph and others incorporate lines of Chinese or Sanskrit into figures, star charts and religious symbols. In contemporary Korea, they are also used by Buddhists. Both types we find used by Sahng-je-nim. The talisman could have two main purposes: one was for exorcising evil spirits, the other in assisting those in need of special help. The employment of such talismans is an involved process requiring rites of purification, performing chants, painting the talisman, and posting them in the appropriate places. Sahng-je-nim drawings constitute an integral part of the tradition of bujeok and demonstrate their application, in the 20th century, in the context of Korean syncretism, spiritual belief of the folk and ancestral cults.





Primary Sources


Dojeon text editions used:


English Dojoen. Daewon Publishing. Seoul: 2004. 


Korean Dojoen. Unpublished Edition. Teajeon: February 2004.


Korean Dojeon. Korean Edition. Daewon publishing. Seoul: 2004.



Subsidiary Sources


1. Choi, Chung Moo: ‘Hegemony and Shamanism. The State, the Elite, and Shamans in Contemporary Korea.’ In: Religion and Society in Contemporary Korea. Ed. by Lewis R. Lancaster and Richard K. Payne. Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1997). Pp. 19-48.


2. Chong, Key Ray: Won Buddhism. A history and theology of Korea's new religion. Lewiston, NY 1997


3. Closs, Alois: ’‚Interdisziplinäre Schamanismusforschung an der indogermanischen Völkergruppe.’ In: Anthropos, 63/64 (1968/69). Pp. 967-973.


4. Covell, Alan Carter: Folk art and magic. Seoul 1986.


5. Francfort, Henry-Paul and Roberte N. Hamayon, in collaboration with Paul G. Bahn. Eds. The concept of shamanism. Uses and abuses.  Budapest 2001


6. Guisso, Richard W. L. and Chai-shin Yu. Eds. Shamanism. The spirit world of Korea. Studies in Korean religions and culture. Berkeley, Calif. 1988.


7. Hogarth, Hyun-key Kim: Syncretism of Buddhism and Shamanism in Korea. Edison, NJ 2002.


8. Hultkrantz, Aake: ‘A definition of shamanism.’ In: Temenos, 9 (1973). Pp. 25-37.


9. Jung, Young Lee: ‘The Communal Rituals of Korean Shamanism.’ In: Journal of Asian and African Studies, 9 (1974). Pp. 82-90.


10. Kim, In Ho: Korean Shamanism. A bibliographic Introduction. Berkeley, CA 1988.


11. Kim, Sung Hae: ‘Religious reality and coexistence in present-day Korea’. In: Korea Journal. 1988. 28 (3): 4-23.


12. Kim, Tae Gon: ‘The realities of Korean shamanism‘. In: Hoppal, M. and O. von Sadovszky (ed.): Korean cultural heritage. Presented by the Korean Foundation. Ed. by Son Chu-wan. Part 2. Thought and religion. Seoul 1996                


13. Kwon Ho-Youn. Ed. Korean cultural roots. Religion and cultural thoughts. North Park College and Theological Seminary. Chicago, Ill., 1995


15. Lancaster, Lewis R.: Religion and society in contemporary Korea. Berkeley, CA 1997


16. Lee, Jung Young: `Concerning the origin and formation of Korean shamanism.’ In: Numen, 20 (1973). Pp. 135-160.


17. Nickerson, Peter: ‘Shamans, demons, diviners and Taoists: Conflict and assimilation in medieval Chinese ritual practice (c. AD 100-1000).’ In: Taoist Resources, 5.1 (1994). Pp. 41-66.


18. Yi, Kris Yong Mi: ‘Shin-byung (divine illness) in a Korean Woman’. In: Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 24 (December 2000). Pp. 471-486.


19. Yi, Sang-taek: Religion and social formation in Korea. Berlin 1996




Edited, Composed & Published in Paris, France


           By T. Wignesan

                      for Centre de Recherches sur les Etudes Asiatiques,

                             B. P. 90145,

                             94004 Créteil Cedex,



         On April 5, 2005


         © T. Wignesan 2005


         ISSN 1298-0358

         Association n° 0941011951



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