9. Sapsarees in Chinese Poetry, Novel, and Folk Songs

Sapsarees appear in many familiar old stories and writings. That is how significant the Sapsarees are to our ancestors' affection and, in fact, the Sapsarees are perfectly suitable dogs for the kind of mood our ancestors long for. Sapsarees began to appear in Chinese poetry during the Koryo Dynasty. A poem by Koryo's warlord Cheon-mae Yoo states that "the horses from the north do not heed to the whip and the pack of Sapsarees from the South keeps on barking as it stares at the sky. It is an exceptional merit that such horses and dogs were able to be tamed. This reminds me only of the portrait in Neung-yeon-gak." This song, which was composed to congratulate the Tam-la (now Jejudo) Conquest by General Bang-kyung Kim, describes the difficulty in taming northern horses and the toughness of Sapsarees from the South. We can see that the Sapsarees were, even at that time, appreciated as large and tough dogs during the Koryo Dynasty. However, the image of Sapsarees is slightly different in another Koyro poem, which is abundant with lyrical feelings.

"Stream flows deep into the land as it heads toward the mouth of the mountain, where land is good and water is plentiful. In every ridge, land is fertile. The day is late for Sapsaree to bark, but the petal continues to flap as spring wind hastily blows."

During the Chosun Dynasty, a Chinese letter meaning Sapsaree, frequently appears in several Chinese poetry. In a shijo (short lyrical poem) titled "Way to Young-jae" by Cheon-ryung Kim during the period of King Yeon-san's reign, the following lyric is found: "Exhausted horses shiver with cold but the destination lies far away. This barking noise of a Sapsaree from the forest... I wonder whose house this noise is coming from."

In a poem titled "Crossing the Yang-hwa River at Night" by Gwang-su Shin who lived during the Yeong-jo period, it says, "Blown by the wind, a maple leaf falls into a river. A noise of a Sapsaree barking can be heard in this lonely village of cold land." It seems that material-poverty and loneliness were familiar issues among poems of Chosun Dynasty.

Sapsarees also make wide appearances among popular novels. The dog that was raised in Chun-hyang's house was probably a Blue Sapsaree. A dog under a cassia tree barking and greeting a young man who is about to be a bridegroom is widely presumed to be a Sapsaree. Yellow Sapsaree and Blue Sapsaree appear as key figures in Sukhyang-jeon, which is a widely read Chinese novel in form of Korean manuscript. In the novel, a pure-hearted Mago Grandmother named Cheon-tae-san uses a Sapsaree as a messenger to help a young woman named Suk-hyang struggling after her nanny's death.

Sapsaree appears as mystical dogs that can write on dirt with its forefoot. Since Sapsarees appear in so many folk songs and lyrics, we will quote only a few. In a traditional dog-tune that descended from the Tong-yeong district, it says, Hey! Hey! Hey Sapsaree! When you hear a leaf making sound, please don't bark. Let me ask you Han-san-do. If my lover comes... Hey! Hey! Hey Sapsaree!" In another traditional folk song, the dog frequently appears as a disturber of romance. The song laments of the Sapsaree that barks every time a lover comes to secretly make romance at night. "Hey! Hey! Hey Sapsareee! Did I give you that food because I didn't want it? No! I gave it to you so that you wouldn't bark when you see the next-door lad coming over."