Faces expressed in Jangseung (a Korean road idol)


Jangseung (a Korean road idol) is, a pole (one pole in each side respectively) standing at the entrance of a village or a temple, an idol which is believed to protect people. It is also called as Jangsung, Jangshin, Buksu, Bubsu or Dolharubang.
Ghost or human face is inscribed on the upper part of it and the letters on lower part that consists of a body. Some road idols have road directions inscribed in it, too. It shows that they were used as a milepost as well as guardian idol.
A road idol is made of stone or wood. Wooded one can be found at the upper area of the middle region and stone one at the southern region and islands. Each region has its own different names, showing the peculiarity of regional culture of a road idol. For example at the southern region it is called Buksu or Bubsu and in Jeju it is called Dolharubang.
As wooded road idol can easily be rotten by the wind and rain, it has to be newly built every year or every some years.
But stone one can maintain its original shape almost permanently. Thus stone road idol has more formative value than wooded one in its preservation of original shape.

Among stone road idols preserved now, there are those whose age is estimated to be back to the late 17th century and 18the century. Through faces expressed there can culture of our ancestors be found.
Though we cannot see the original shape, we can experience the pure and informative engagement of the people during those times.
As already mentioned above, some road idols are ghost-faced and others human -faced. The ghost - faced road idol has sharply raised eyes and long dogteeth raised out of the lips.
It stems from the ghost tile of Samkook era (Three nations era) Temple road idols, modeled after a Four Devas or a temple idol, have exaggerated and distorted faces to express dreadful guardian deity ; protuberant eyes, big noses and dog teeth and tightly shut mouths.
On the other hand Human-faced road idols have simple and artless faces without any great variation and formality by expressing natural and real human faces. Therefore the human-faced road idol represents Korean human faces in which lives of Korean common people are well expressed who lived simple lives, satisfied with destiny given to them. And it is also their religious products to which the common people with nothing to depend on preyed for their safety and welfare.
With the full usage of the quality of the materials and artless inscription, it can be called as a masterpiece of folk arts. Sometimes, road idols are called grandfather and grandmother. Closely looking at their faces, we can see that wrinkles and worn-out beards remind us of the images of grandparents. Some road idols have the faces of young men and some stone tomb idols have austere ones but most of them have familiar faces : those of Korean grandmother and grandfather, which represents Korean faces.

We also see the naivete in its face with a shy close of the eyes and a light smile. Sometimes they are angry with the eyes wide open and mouths closed ; but they hide their tempers; other road idols have half-moon eyes, lightly open mouth and sharp teeth, and sometimes poking ahead casually without any looks like our grandfather and grandmother who experienced their long lives.
If the purpose of a road idol lied only in expelling sundry evil spirits, it didn't have to have the images of grandfather and grandmother. Faces of grandfather and grandmother found in road idols have the primary role of guardian deity. For they are the faces of common people who overcame the great difficulties.
These double faced road idols, which have both generous smile and toughness bearing their burdens of life, truly portrait the common people.