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This story is part of "Project 1947", which is part of the Basilicus project.

Cooperative: This story is coordinated by Laveaux. It is open to any new writers with characters alive during the year 1947 and have access to Korea. The coordinator asks that any writers that do join the story, complete a character description in accordance with this article. Note that writers can only write for their characters, the coordinator will write for all other characters and events. Use the talk page if you have questions or suggestions.

Current Active Writers:

  • This story has no current active writers. Any of the characters can be used by other writers.

January 1, 1947, 9:00am

The ancient and submerged skyline of Seoul echoes across the crisp morning sky with traditionally wavy rooftops and red tile. Palaces, temples, gardens, terraces, towers and elegantly crafted buildings erupt with splendor and glory. Only the ravages of war separated the ancient from the modern. Militant Japanese occupation transformed the philosophical landscape to one of terror, but only now under US occupation the spirits of the people have yet to be rejuvenated. Only the split of ideology between the nationalists and communists strike fire into the hearts of the people.

At the southern end of Old Seoul, the remains of ancient walls still marks the border of the park. Huge rolling gardens complete with Buddhist iconography, paths, ponds, and tree-covered walkways. It is a place of refuge for the spiritual and needy.

The park is active at this hour, with huge crowds frequenting the gardens.

The Americans were celebrating their New Year and so Cho Jin had the day to herself. Abandoning the western dress she wore for work, Cho Jin wore a traditional Korean hanbok, this one of yellow and blue. Her great length of hair too was worn in the traditional wound knot at the back of her head and her face wore a placid expression. The lady looked every inch Korean, except perhaps something in her features that was beyond the powers of most to identify.

Inwardly, Cho Jin, who had until the change of occupation been Akiko, still wondered at the transformation. She had traded her Japanese name for a Korean one, assuming her mother�s family name, and with it taking up the traditions and clothing of her Korean heritage, denying that of her Japanese.

From one extreme to the other, she thought wryly.

Still, her loyalty lay without question with her Korean lineage. The Japanese had taken far too much from her family, as well as her country. Now, it was an almost driving need within her to aid her country. Somehow she would find a way to help her country, her people, to become strong, united and independent. Cho Jin walked slowly through the ancient park, choosing a path the skirted one of the many ponds, hoping to find peace or inspiration as she gazed into its depths.

--Cho Jin


A whispering breeze caressed her face as she strolled along the parameter of the pond. Ripples crested delicately and native foul created tiny wakes in the restless surface. Just below the watery plane were huge goldfish flocking around a recently discarded morsel. For only a moment one could forget about political turmoil and the ravages of drowning warfare.

As was usual, there were monks about. Orange robes wrapped around olive skin. Shaved heads and pious expressions. A group of them coagulated along the shore underneath a willow, speaking softly to each other. One of them, perhaps the eldest, looked at Cho Jin with a vague expression of familiarity. After a moment he smiled and bowed his head as she passed.

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


Cho Jin stopped and watched the ripples, and then the fish beneath the water�s surface, losing herself in the moment and just enjoying the peacefulness here; the beauty of nature within a damaged city, a fractured country, a rapidly changing world. Finally, she continued on along the path, once again lost in thought.

There was not much for a woman to do, unless she was given the means by a man. Even now, it was her now 14-year-old brother who headed the family. If she or her sister, or even their mother, wished to do anything significant, he must approve. If Cho Jin wished to wed, it would be her baby brother who would give or withhold his consent. Had the family been left without a male heir, that authority would have reverted to Cho Jin�s grandfather, who patently disapproved of females becoming involved in the public sphere, despite all logical argument as to its necessity. They had, of course, no contact with her father�s family in Japan. Perhaps it was better this way, despite the discomfort of seeking approval from one who seemed to her to be still a child.

Spotting the monks, she broke from her reverie and offered a respectful nod to the elder who had acknowledged her, careful not to make eye contact. She had quickly adapted from the deep Japanese bow to the shy Korean nod expected of a female among her own people, but the Americans were so bold in their greetings.

Their ways she had not yet adapted to. They were all so indecently familiar; the shaking of hands, the eye contact, the use of given names, when they could manage the Korean names at all. Such a decadent people! Cho Jin nearly blushed at the thought of the embarrassment she endured each day at work. The Americans just did not understand about such things.

--Cho Jin


The inquisitive monk stepped away from his companions and with his head low joined Cho on her walk. His presence was very comforting, magical almost. Any fleeting thoughts were suddenly focused and all worries subsided. It was as if a warm comforting hand wrapped around her mind.

He spoke in Korean, although it was clear from his accent that Manderin was his language of choice.

"Child, what is your name. Your face is very familiar."

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


Cho Jin was both comforted and honoured by the presence of the cleric at her side. The feeling of peacefulness he instilled within her was most welcome and the young woman embraced it gladly. There was so little opportunity to experience such things in her world.

The monk�s question was a simple, ordinary one, but one that always caused her stomach to knot. Born Takayama Akiko, she was now denying her Japanese heritage and, along with it, her name, even as she had been forced to deny her Korean ancestry until only two years before. It left her with a sense of displaced identity.

�I am called Jegal Cho Jin, honoured one,� she replied pleasantly, and yet wondering if she should offer her previous name as well. Perhaps if he enquired further about her family, she would clarify, but he would know that everyone had changed from Japanese to Korean names following the switch in occupying forces. Having previously had a Japanese name had no particular significance, and would not immediately reveal her mixed parentage.

--Cho Jin


The monk smiled at her response and said, "Certainly I merit honor, but are you any less honorable? If you call me honored, I shall call you honored and then we walk the same path."

He paused, digesting the name.

"Jegal Cho Jin. Your name possesses irony. That is a trait often overlooked by the ambitious. I don't recall it, perhaps it is not your face that is familiar.

"Tell me what you see first when you close your eyes at night."

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


The young woman listened in respectful silence as the monk spoke, although her slight smile broadened a little at his assertion that they were somehow equals. She blinked in surprise however, at his last words, but Cho Jin did her best to answer honestly.

�Sometimes it is the faces of my father and brothers, lost to the war,� she began, her soft voice only hinting at the emotion beneath her words that Cho Jin would not express. �Sometimes it is my mother�s face that I see, etched with worry and sorrow. Sometimes it is my younger siblings, and I wonder what the future holds for them. Sometimes it is our country, our people that I see; suffering, grieving, searching to reclaim a lost identity.�

She was silent, thoughtful for a moment, and then she added philosophically, �Perhaps though, they are all one in the same thing.�

--Cho Jin


"You are more true than you know. It is not enough to speak of these things as one, but to know that all things are one. The space lying between us, the sounds of our voices, and the breeze upon our faces, these are all just parts of our higher selves.

"You look into your family and into the country and you see suffering, yes? You respond because of the suffering, yes? Suffering to you is victory to others and victory to you is suffering to others. Then are victory and suffering the same?

"If you do not know that you are but a single manifestation of All That Is, then you define a difference between suffering and victory. The more you lose your eyes, ears, nose and mouth the more you realize that the actions of others cause neither suffering nor victory."

He paused suddenly and then smiled, "I did not wish to bring you a sermon. I only wish to discover your true nature, to satisfy my own curiosity."

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


At first, Cho Jin nodded as he spoke, but then the monks� words began to puzzle her. She understood the concept but could not apply it to her reality. Perhaps it was not for her to do so just yet, but at some time in the future when she had gained maturity and wisdom.

The young woman smiled at the monk as he mentioned �a sermon�, but then he spoke of her nature and she was compelled to ask, �And have you made your discovery?�

She had said but little and Cho Jin could not help but wonder what conclusions the monk might be able to draw from so few words. The young woman would not ask such a question directly, of course, but he might offer to elaborate on his own. It would be very interesting to hear, since Cho Jin was uncertain of her true nature herself.

--Cho Jin


"A short interview and lecture is not enough to determine if I've made my discovery."

He stopped, ensuring she would too, and waited until their eyes were meeting.

"But indeed, I have. You are one of us."

He pulled back his robes to reveal a tattoo on his upper shoulder. What could be described as a religious icon was embroidered on his skin in faded black ink. It revealed an inverted triangle inside a circle with an eye in the center. She had never seen the image before, but it held incredible familiarity. In fact, it looked no more alien then her own name.

"Perhaps you are free for a meal?"

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


Cho Jin stopped when the monk did, regarding him with politely veiled curiosity. His words surprised her, but the icon sent a little thrill through her. Suddenly she had a cascade of questions running through her mind, and a sense of many possibilities that lay just out of sight. Cho Jin may never have seen the symbol before, but now it was clearly imprinted on her mind.

�I am,� the woman replied, with a respectful nod, her voice concealing her excitement behind her polite, placid tone. Perhaps her questions would be answered.

Cho Jin looked at the man and awaited his suggestion as to when and where, expectation in her dark eyes.

--Cho Jin


Gently taking her hand and smiling with uncontrolled glee, he said, "We have a humble temple on Kwanak Mountain. It is a fair journey, but if you are available it will not take more than a night. The train goes past Anyang in the South to Kwanak-san station. Take the stairs to the road and follow it left until you cross a small river. Up the hill are several monasteries in the woods. Our residence is there at the Wongaksa Temple."

"We will have a feast. Bean curd and eggplant. It is truly an honor to meet you."

He bowed slightly and then reached into his robes, pulling out a small rolled parchment. Exquisite calligraphy displayed:

?

?

?

?

It had only one meaning.

Daughter of ancient times.


--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


Cho Jin listened, excitement growing inside her, as the monk spoke. She was surprised at his touch, but she did not pull away. It was as if this physical connection was indicative of an inner bond that they shared.

�I will come,� she answered, her voice deceptively calm. �Shall I come tonight or tomorrow?� the young woman asked, just to be certain. She was prepared to go tonight, but, as she was the guest, Cho Jin would let the monk choose when she should visit.

�And what may I call you?� she asked, smiling and feeling fairly certain that it would not be impolite to enquire at this stage, as the monk reached into his robes.

Then Cho Jin accepted the rolled parchment from the monk and carefully unfurled it with her fingers. The writing was beautiful in itself, but the words reverberated in her soul.

--Cho Jin


"Perhaps you come tomorrow? You will then have the chance to spend the whole day on the mountain. There is much to see and to talk about. We have a place for you to rest, should you want to stay longer."

"I am called Ha-Neul," he bowed slightly in greeting.

"We shall meet tomorrow?"

He began walking back to the others but stopped in his tracks.

"You will not be a stranger to this world," he said, "You shall see everything she has to offer."

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


�I am pleased to meet you, Ha-Neul,� the young woman replied, with a smile and nod of her own, when he supplied his name.

Cho Jin hid her eagerness behind her smile, and replied, �Yes. I shall come tomorrow.�

And am very eager to learn more, she added to herself. She had never visited a monastery before, and this visit was to be even more special than an ordinary pilgrimage.

Cho Jin nodded at the monk�s departure. His parting words both puzzled and enthralled her. They held such promise, even beyond her hopes, but not all that the world held was pleasant and good. You shall see everything she has to offer, he had said. Those words stayed with her as she continued to walk the gardens.

--Cho Jin


Kwanak Mountain was less a mountain than a purely natural preserve in Seoul. A carpet of deciduous trees, ground cover and rich bushes delicately washed the landscape. Reddish-brown stones stood as monoliths above the vegetation holding simply built white buildings with red roofs. Wongaksa Temple rested at the top, cradled by natural stone pillars.

A dirt path carved its way up the mountain revealing more secret white buildings as it went. The overhanging trees kept the climate mild and aromatic. Private pathways stretched through various parts leading into gardens and solitude. All along the path devotees quietly went about their day.

The temple was active that morning. Orange-robed monks stood in a single file line each carrying a pitcher of water presumably from the nearby well next to the wall of rock above the monastery. They ritualistically poured the water onto the ground one by one. Among them was Ha-Neul who noticed very little but the water he was holding.

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


Cho Jin approached the monastery on foot, wearing a traditional hanbok, with ankle socks and casual shoe. In a satchel, the young woman carried her purse, a change of undergarments, a nightgown and various personal effects that she might need for her night�s stay. Although she wore her wristwatch and enamelled earrings, today she wore no makeup and no other adornments.

Seeing the row of monks pouring water in turn, Cho Jin stopped and stood in the path watching. She had no desire to interrupt or to invade the sanctity of their ritual, but she was quite curious as to what they were doing and why.

--Cho Jin


The ritual proceeded for a full hour before the monks returned their pitchers to the temple. Ha-Neul immediately strolled out to greet Cho with a traditional bow.

"We are grateful you came. You happened upon our morning ritual. Every day we must pour out the residue of the day before so the world is new and our minds clear.

"Have you been to Kwanak before? Many who come never wish to leave."

He went up the hill toward the temple and said, "I will show you around."

The temple was not very large, but it made good use of the space. The first room had a floor of stone tile and a large pillar at the center where handpainted images of Buddha were displayed. A stone fountain in the wall brought running water from well oustide to a small pool around the pillar through a shaft in the floor. A small arched wooden bridge provided passage across the meter-wide indoor canal. A statue of Buddha was placed at each of the four cardinal points of the pillar.

Half a dozen monks were seated in varous positions around the pillar in meditation.

"I will show you the Hall of Great Light only when you feel prepared," he said.

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


The ritual was long, but oddly captivating. The young woman stood patiently watching, wondering at its significance. The monk�s words came as a welcome explanation.

At his enquiry, Cho Jin smiled and replied, �No, this is my first visit, but it is very beautiful. Very peaceful.� The young woman followed the monk up the path toward the temple.

�Oh, yes, please do,� she replied to the offer of a tour. Her curiosity was piqued.

Then she found herself in awe of the simplistic beauty of the temple. The canal entranced her, with both the flow and the sound of the water. It was a deeply spiritual place and it touched her soul.

Cho Jin nodded silently at the monks words. Then she looked up to meet his gaze, indicating that she was ready to see the Hall of Great Light.

--Cho Jin


The Hall of Great Light was aptly named. A series of crimson tapestries lined gold-enameled walls. Hand carved wooden pillars created a corridor down an open atrium adorned with large fiscus trees. At the end of the corridor was a six-foot golden Buddha in the Enlightenment pose, reclined back wearing a smile. Rather rare for Korea, the Enlightenment pose was not traditionally recognized in local Buddhist monasteries. It was a signal that these Buddhists perhaps migrated from mainland China. If this was the case, they'd settled here for quite some time, as this room so no shortage of usage.

The canal flowed around Buddha and ran back into the other room. Rose petals were recently placed in the current and they gently bobbed their way through hall adding their own flavor to a sandalwood enriched air.

"Will you sit?" He asked gesturing to a velvet cushion at Buddha's feet, "Do you know Child's Pose? This pose may answer some of your questions."

--Laveaux 21:05, 9 December 2005 (CST)


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