Sunday, December 12, 2010

Korean peculiar treasures, pt. 2: "A long-haired, ghost-dispersing and valued animal of power."

In addition to being [National] Treasure of Historic Beauty Natural Treasure number 53, the Jindo dog is apparently "Korean Peculiar Pet Treasure number 3."  This prompted me to search for Korean peculiar pet treasures numbers 1 and 2.  The search was fruitful:

The Sapsaree (or Sapsali) is a shaggy indigenous Korean dog breed which, as well as being cute as beans, has formidable spirit powers: "Sap" 삽 means to chase away, and "sal" 살 means ghosts ("li" 견 is just a name suffix).  According to geneticist and amateur dog historian Ha Ji-Hong, the 'lion dogs' which crop up throughout East Asian art and architecture were modeled on the Sapsaree: "based on those historical materials, we can make sure that a Korean Sapsaree is a long-haired, ghost-dispersing and valued animal of power."

This makes the Sapsaree the natural dog enemy of Snoop Dogg circa 2001, a long-haired, ghostly and valued animal of power.

In addition to scouring art-historical and literary records, Professor Ha conducted extensive genetic testing on the Sapsaree.  While he does not mention whether he succeeded in isolating a ghost-dispersing gene, he does offer a webpage with many confusing graphs proving that Korean dog breeds display greater genetic purity than their Japanese counterparts: 

Professor Ha speculates that this may be because unlike Korean dogs, which entered from the north along with the Korean people, Japanese dogs were "affected by the southern dogs."  In any case, the refreshingly unpolluted bloodlines of Korean dogs can be "considered to be interesting historic material to prove an ethnically homogenous country of Korea indirectly."

I guess Japanese dogs are just bad at resisting strangers' temptation.

Cultural politics aside, it is always good to learn we have another ally in the millenia-old struggle between the living and the dead.  Especially now that Dan Aykroyd has forsaken his ghostbusting duties for hawking novelty vodka and voicing effing Yogi Bear.  I suppose I don't blame him as combating Gozer the Gozerian was no pic-a-nic.

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