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Korean Villagers Offer Prayers to Jangseung

Dec. 1, 1919

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Jangseung mark the boundaries of a village, and keep evil spirits away

Korean villagers pray to the jangseung or village guardians, Dec. 1, 1919.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection

Korean villagers offer prayers to the local guardians, or jangseung. These carved wooden totem poles represent the protective spirits of ancestors, and mark the boundaries of the village. Their fierce grimaces and goggle eyes are meant to frighten away evil spirits.

The jangseung are one aspect of Korean shamanism that coexisted for centuries with Buddhism, which was an import from China and originally from India.

"Chosen" was the Japanese designation for Korea during Japan's occupation.

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