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Legacy Arch xmd-icymudang (January 2012)


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  1. Specs

  2. What’s this all about …
    1. The wallpaper
    2. Introducing Kim Soo-Nam
    3. On shamanism in Korea

  3. Links, Notes, and References
    1. Linux’n’stuffs
    2. Kim Soo-Nam
    3. Further readings on East Asian shamanism

1.  Specs

  • OS: Arch Linux
  • Kernel: 3.1.8-1-ARCH (i686)
  • WM: XMonad 0.10 (darcs)
  • screen res: 1920 × 1200 px
  • running apps: xmobar, Stalonetray, conky-cli, mpc, ibus

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2.  What’s this all about …

This is so far my favourite (and latest) desktop shot demonstrating my then new “icy39f” color scheme – named after the 0x3399ff prime HTML color and the ice-cold blue-grey-white character of the palette.  Sure this was also inspired by the Arch logo.  The screen here is empty, depicting workspace 5, which accommodates DTP stuff.  When there were clients, these would be tiled into one master and tabbed other panes by default, such as a PDF viewer, a TeX editor, and a terminal, respectively.  The icon on the upper left indicates this.  The tiling layout can be changed via hotkeys as well as clicking.

As usual, pretty printers, monitoring stuff, and the systray are being gathered at the top.  Partly in a single or in double line, hence I call it a “1 1/2 liner”, which I had developed some four months before.  And because there hadn’t been anything like this before (and still hasn’t), I was quite proud of it.  Great times: Tiling, the colors, fonts, the bar’s layout – it felt like getting closer to “the perfect desktop,” and a good starting point for further improvements at least!

This screenie with an empty desk is the latest and my favourite from the “icy” shots. – It is in memory of my former beloved huge 28" TFT, which broke down soon after a bit more than two years of service.  Due to its construction, it could not be repaired.  Damned obsolescence!

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2.1  The wallpaper

This wall was inspired by a photography depicting a female Korean shaman (무당 巫堂 mudang) in trance during an initiation rite (내림굿 naerim-gut) – a masterpiece by Kim Soo-Nam, which has become a “family member” ever since I got to know it in a journal, kind of one puts a nicely framed image onto the desk.  Too sad, there wasn’t a poster available of it. – Having “Bodhisattva Vow” playing (see the pretty printer) mustn’t been taken too seriously.  First, the Beasty Boys are one of my favourite bands.  Then beliefs usually appear in forms of syncretism anyway.  In Korea, there are tight connections between shamanism, Buddhishm, and Christianity.

Eventually I couldn’t resist to make the b/w shot to also look “icy.”  The beautiful dancer is colored blue like an untouchable, supernatural being.  Whereas moments before she was in motion but suddenly paused, I put the scenery into rotation, and the energy around her is glowing and about to burst.  The center of her cosmos is on her forehead, the eye of a storm.  The bulging vein just indicates the fragility of the calm situation.

Yet I haven’t witnessed a gut or any Korean shaman festivity myself, hopefully some day I do.  So far I just watched documentaries, went to exhibitions, or read about it.  Among the ritual objects, especially the colorfully decorated, impressive holy trees (e.g. 신목 神木 sinmok) always have attracted my interest.  And there’s is another fascinating evidence, the famous Crowns of Shilla are also shaped like trees.

Kim Soo-Nam is my personal hero!  I would be honored, if he himself could give proper permission for using his shot.  However, I’ve been looking for someone in charge.  So for now I won’t provide my wallpaper itself for download, as well as this screen shot remains watermarked.

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2.2  Introducing Kim Soo-Nam (김수남  1947/1949–2006)

“Good pictures result from closeness.”  Kim stated in the journal’s interview, as well as he insisted “not to be an artist” at all.  The instant tenderness to the subject evident in Kim’s photos comes from the restraint from any personal attitude.

Kim helps me to better understand the meaning of true photo journalism: Next to technical perfection, that is showing openmindedness, and empathy.  What is behind his works is no magic, but profession – in a way creating deep trust while the photographer him/herself becomes invisible.  I just get on my knees! In his element about Asian shamanism, Kim performs this tightrope act perfectly.  On one of his portraits, he reminds me of a Laughing Buddha.

Unfortunately, Kim Soo-Nam passed away too early – not only in the midth of his lifetime, but also when he just started to gain international reputation.  I would have liked to meet him in person and maybe to learn from him.  And if he also went there, I even missed him at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2005. – At least now I could promote the master’s tremendous œuvre by providing some weblinks and recommending his book as well as any exhibition presenting his shots!

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2.3  On shamanism in Korea

Especially since the last century, Korean shamanism has been in a tough position.  It has been competing with the Christian and Buddhist confessions as well as Confucian traditions.  Further Buddhism alike, it suffered from occupation, war devastation, and severe persecutions by “modernization” campaigns yet until a couple of decades ago.  (The latter also similarly happend at least in Mongolia.)

Nowadays confronted with foreign ideologies in both Koreas, shamanism is still being widely practiced by the common people though.  Probably that’s a reason why it has been declared “intangible cultural assets” – because simply the people still believe, and it can’t be ignored.  As a side-effect, the shaman roots could help to find an identity in times of globalization.  On the other hand in the South, officially shamanism isn’t called a proper religion, and eventually often serves as ethnic events for the flourishing tourism industry.

Christian communities (yet more Protestant than Roman Catholic ones in number) mainly connect all Koreans living in the diaspora, even if they were Buddhists (due to the lack of temples).  And so far as I can tell from my own experience, the expats tend to neglect shamanism as superstition – while on the other side, many are belonging to Baptized churches, where the devine services seem quite fervent and adjuratory to me.

Many Koreans I know care much about religious and aesthetic matters, and there’s hardly any other people bearing that many theologians, artists, and musicians.  Nonetheless I doubt the long-term continuity of shamanism in (South) Korea.  How would it fit into a modern society and survive in the times of K-Wave and turbo-capitalism?  Seemingly mainly for citizens of advanced age preferably in the countryside look for shaman services or join shaman festivities.  Due to statistics, the number of atheists steadily grows.  So how to recruit and train young mudang or baksu then?

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3.  Links, Notes, and References

3.1  Linux’n’stuffs

  • my dotfiles on github: [link]
  • XMonad homepage: [link]
  • xmobar at the ArchWiki: [link]
  • Dzen homepage: [link]
  • conky-cli in the AUR: [link]
  • MarVAlea dice font PKGBUILD in the AUR: [link]

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3.2  Kim Soo-Nam

  • posthumous homepage: [link] (KO, EN)
  • Kim Soo-Nam, Korean Shamanic Ritual – Songs Calling Spirits (2005): [link] (publisher’s website, EN)
  • The issue “Korea Forum 2005” by Koreaverband containing Kim’s stunning photographies: [link] – yet there are some copies left for a special price! (DE)

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3.3  Further readings on East Asian shamanism

  • Wikipedia entry: [link]; see also among others
    • the article about gut rituals, [link]
    • the article “Religion in Korea”, [link] and others
  • look for “shaman” at the website of ROK’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism: [link]
  • website “Folk Religion”, published by Korean Tourist Organization: [link] (EN)
  • Korean Art Society Journal #1 (2009), Korean Shaman Art: [link] (PDF)
  • R. Al-Lahham, Schamanismus in Korea: [link] (hobbyist, DE)
  • eRenlai Magazine (April 2008), D. Kister, Korean Shamanism from Christian Perspectives: [link 1]   [link 2] (PDF); see also (ZH/TW, intl.)
    • “Religions at the Crossroads  當神人相遇”, [link]
    • results for “shamanism”, [link]
  • Choe S. H., In the age of the Internet, Korean shamans regain popularity: [link] (The New York Times 2007-07-06)
  • H. I. Fenkl, Dancing on Knives: An Introduction to the Politics of Sexuality and Gender in Korean Shamanism (late 1980s): [link]
  • Journal für Religionskultur #54 (2002), An B. R., Zur religiös-kulturellen Situation im Korea der Gegenwart: [link] (PDF, DE)
  • Journal Ethnologie (2007), D. Schlottmann, Was ist ein Schamane? – koreanischer Schamanismus heute: [link] (DE)
  • Journal Ethnologie (2008), D. Schlottmann, Über koreanische Schamanenrituale und die Konstruktion kollektiver Identität in Krisenzeiten: [link] (DE)
  • D. Schlottmann, Korean Shaman Lee Hae-Kyeong (이해경): [link] (EN); see also
    • this literature list, [link] (EN, DE)
    • NB: Once a great photo series about Korean shaman trees had been published there, very likely provided by Dr. Schlottmann himself. Unfortunately these were taken off-line in the meantime.
  • entries for “shamanism” at Altaic Wiki: [link] (hobbyist, currently unavailable)
  • look for the exhibition catalogue “S. Knödel, Heilrituale und Handys – Schamaninnen in Korea” (1998) here: [link] (DE)
  • Wikipedia article on sotdae 솟대 wooden poles: [link]
  • 동복아역사재단 / Northeast History Foundation (ed.), 최혜영 / Choi H. ­Y.,  버드나무 신화소를 통해 본 유라시아 지역의 문명 교류의 가능성 혹은 그 接點 / A Study on the Myths of Willow Tree of the Eurasian Country, in: 동복아역사논총 / Journal of Northeast Asian History, Dec. 2008, 22:187–­217 [link] (PDF, KO)
    • Wikipedia article for 신단수 Sindansu, a mystic tree associated with legendary King Dangun: [link] (KO),
    • same for the Dangun myth 단군신화: [link] (KO),
    • and Crowns of Shilla 신라 금관: [link]
  • impressions from a public shamanic ritual festival around Seoul (2007): [link] (hobbyist, EN)
  • Asiana Airlines (ed.), Asiana #6(2), John Holstein/Kwon S. P., Kuksadang – Seoul’s Shaman Village (1994): [link] (PDF, EN)
  • Korea Foundation (ed.), Koreana #6(2), Kim Y. K. 김열규, Shamanistic Images in Korean Mythology (1992): [link] (EN); Prof. Kim also explains the specifications of the “Korean cosmic trees”
  • Kim A. E., Korean Religious Culture and Its Affinity to Christianity (2000): [link] (free abstract)
  • ISARS (ed.), Seo J. S., Shamanic Influences on Korean Protestant Practices as Modulated by Confucianism, in: Shaman #21 (2013): [link] (free abstract, EN); see also
    • the other issues of this journal not only regarding shamanism in Korea or Asia, [link]
    • NB: The International Society for Academic Research on Shamanism (ISARS) is the successor organization of the International Society for Shamanistic Research (ISSR), [link]
  • Wikipedia article on pogroms against shamanism in Korean history: [link]
  • 한국신학마당 /, a Christian discussion forum: [link] (KO); no further shaman related topics at first sight though
  • offtopic – a shaman proverb at the Korean Wiki Project: [link] (2012)
  • for an initial supraregional and (pre)historic comparison, see the following articles at Wikipedia among others,
    • Dangun 단군: [link]
    • Shamanism in Siberia: [link]
    • Tengrism: [link]
    • (Hypothetical) phonological and etymological connections between “Khan” and 한 han: [link 1] (DE)  [link 2] (EN)  [link 3] (KO) – either way there are derivations to “Heaven”; relating hanja refer to 干, 汗 etc., and must not be confused with e. g. 恨 [link]
    • NB: Don’t mind the fact, (besides e. g. dangul dangul-ari or baksu) the terminology is dominated by Sino-Korean expressions; that’s pretty normal for the Korean language. However, the shared roots with other North and East Asian flavors of shamanism are evident, as well as the Koreans developed their own concepts.

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