5. Sapsaree Dogs and Buddhist Culture

In the Ji-jang-bosaldo painting, which was drawn during the Koryo Dynasty, there is a dog with long hair around its face lying down near the feet of Ji-jang-bosal. Ji-jang is holding a luxurious marble with his right hand and making symbolic signs with his left hand in front of his chest as he is sitting, facing the front, in Zen meditation form on top of a boulder.

Three sacred buddha images are displayed in the sides. The figure in the right is Seung-hyung, holding a long monk staff with both of his hands and the other figure in the left is Si-wang, one of the ten judges in the afterlife (according to Buddhist belief) who receives a box with his hands and crown around his head. From ancient times, this work has been called Ji-gil-sang-suk-ga, but its unique content, which has no origin, is believed to have some connection to Ji-jang-si-wang-gyung and China's fables within do-myung paintings. According to documents in China, the Ji-jang figure found in the Buddhist realm of Chinese and Japanese history is actually Kyo-gak Kim, who lived during China's Tang Dynasty and was a well respected teacher of Silla Dynasty.

In fact, according to nearly three hundred classic and modern literature records of China including Gu-hwa-san-ji and Sejo-jang-mun-hwa, Priest Kyo-gak Kim was born in July 15, 695 A.D. as the eldest son of Sung-duk-wang, who was the 33rd Emperor of Silla Dynasty. In 716 A.D., when Kim was 21 years old, he crossed over to Tang where he attained his Buddha-hood in Gu-hwa-san and later died in July 30, 794 A.D. at the age of 99. It is written in the literature records that Kim crossed over to Tang with a large Sapsaree in a sailing boat. Later, he settled in Ahn-hwee-sung, where he taught rice farming techniques. It is said that in the Buddhist shrine where Kim and his Sapsaree together performed penance, there are seven story high stone pagoda, a conservation palace that contains the body of Ji-jang, and a statue of Ji-jang riding on a Sapsaree dog, as well as many other precious keepsakes.

However, the pictures of Sasparees that were drawn during the Koryo Dynasty intentionally drew Sapsarees as unrealistic in order to depict them as mystical and arcane. The unique traits that are found in the face of Sapsarees commonly appearing in the Chosun Dynasty paintings include Goblin eyes, fist-like nose, large canine jaws, and drooping long-haired ears. A metal collar around the figure's neck implies that it is a dog, and all of the body areas excluding the face and armpit are drawn as bare skin. It was drawn this way to emphasize the mystical trait of Buddhist paintings. In other words, the dog was drawn and modified to look like a mystical dog that does not exist in the real world. No doubt this is a very interesting portrait of a dog that appears in Buddhist art.

It appears that dogs with long hair were recognized as a substitute for a lion and, consequently, considered as valuable in the high society of the Eastern Buddhist culture from long time ago.

The long-haired Tibetan Terrier of Tibet resembling the Sapsarees was considered valuable in the Lama Temple, so it earned the nickname of "Lion Dog" as it was believed to drive away ghosts.

During the Tang Dynasty, a small-size Chinese dog named Pekinis, whose nickname was "Golden Lion Dog," could only be raised by the royal family. Moreover, this long-haired dog, which is of Tibet origin, is known to have a blood-relationship with other Tibet dogs such as Rassaabso and Shitzu and thought to have been spread to China. The Ching Dog of Japan is known to have originally been a long-haired dog of Tibet that crossed over to Japan from China during the late 7th century. As expected, the Ching Dog was also considered an exclusive property that was enjoyed by the aristocratic society.

The oral tradition of long-haired dogs of the Unified-Silla period, particularly the Sapsarees, being raised only in royal palaces in the Gyeong-ju region and the relationship between the Priest Kyo-gak Kim, who was of the royal family, respected by both the Chinese and Japanese for being incarnation of Ji-jang-bosal and Sapsarees add to the credibility.

It is very interesting that the pet-raising culture of the three transoceanic nations (China, Japan, and Korea), which were influenced by religious ideology of Buddhism, can be learned through the Sapsaree, Lion dog.