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[Opinion] The 300 Bags of Rice That Were Offered to a Buddhist Temple

[Opinion] The 300 Bags of Rice That Were Offered to a Buddhist Temple

Posted May. 20, 2005 23:24,   


A university essay topic was the following: Provide types of and solutions for suicide in line with the case of Simcheong (a fictional figure) who threw herself into the Indangsu (a lake) for 300 rice bags. There is no way of finding out what test takers wrote, but some might have written like this: It is not always the right thing to kill oneself and leave behind a blind father. The person cannot be perfectly sure that his or her father would recover his sight. Instead, something terrible might happen to him because he would be all on his own. No matter what the excuse, it is a case directly opposite of filial devotion for one to commit suicide when his or her parents are alive.

However, this kind of answer sheet will not be frequently found. “Simcheongjeon” (a folktale) represents filial devotion, and Simcheong is an ultimate manifestation of an obedient daughter. Very few are brave enough to offer themselves as a sacrifice to the Dragon King in order to restore their fathers’ eyesight. With her self-sacrificing love, in the end, she was crowned as a queen, and her father was able to see again at a party for the blind. The whole story is dotted with Confucianism and Buddhism, which put importance on filial piety and virtuous behavior for divine blessing, respectively.

The spirit of filial piety as found in “Simcheongjeon” is being revived in Gokseong-gun, Jeollanam-do. Annually, an event to collect 300 rice bags is hosted every autumn. They sell the rice. From the next summer on, they use the money to pay for eyesight recovery operations for low-income elderly people who are 60 years old or over. Every year, the event collects large amounts of rice. Quite a number of locals or those who left their hometown for another place send money instead of rice bags. From 2001 through last year, approximately 140 million won was accumulated. About 500 senior citizens with glaucoma, cataracts and other eye problems have gone through surgery. This year, 300 people are waiting for their turn.

Though farmers are very irritated by the issue of opening the domestic rice market, rice is food that still makes people feel nostalgic. Buddhist temples are offered rice all the time, and many Catholic churches have large jars of rice that anyone can add to and take from. A bowl of boiled rice cooked by mother makes one’s mouth water. One can be heartened that now rice once again gives hope to the elderly. If you are generous with sharing rice, you are already a Simcheong in your own way.

Song Yeong-eon, Editorial writer, youngeon@donga.com