15) Shimchong: the blindman’s daughter
Long time ago, maybe during the end of the HongPung era, there was a poor blind man named Shim Hakkyu. Him and his wife finally had a kid, but the tiredness of childbearing was too much for his wife so she passed away. Shim Hakkyu raised his daughter alone with great hardship, but his daughter grew up to be beautiful and kind.
One day, when Shim Hakkyu was out and about begging for alms, he fell into a ditch. As he was wailing about his ill fate, a monk came and helped him out; he told Shim Hakkyu that if he offers 300 sacks of rice to the temple and the Buddha, then it will have his sight restored. Shim Hakkyu was overjoyed by this kind offer and said yes in a whim. However, he soon realized that he has no means to get 300 sacks of rice. Shim Hakkyu told ShimChong that he was really really worried because what if they end up offending the Buddha???
That night, in ShimChong’s dream, her mother came to her and told her that if she goes and find this merchant at the harbor, he will give their family 300 sacks of rice. So the next day, ShimChong sets out to go to the harbor. The merchant is looking for a fair and beautiful girl to sacrifice to the dragon king so that they can finally sail, and he was overjoyed to see ShimChong volunteer.
The temple was very pleased to receive the 300 sacks of rice, yet Shim Hakkyu did not ge his sights back. The monks of the temple told Shim Hakkyu that it will come to him in time. Because of that, Shim Hakkyu has now yet to regain his eyesight, but also lost his only daughter. As ShimChong descended into the water, the sea became calm and all the sailors weeped for this beautiful and filial girl. ShimChong surprisingly found herself to be breathing under water. Two guards of the dragon king came to take her with them to the palace; there she lived happily, and her mother’s spirit rested there as well. However, she soon felt homesick, and unwilling to see this beautiful and filial girl sad, the Dragon King turned her into a beautiful white flower and brought her back to land.
ShimChong the flower was discovered by a fisherman, and then offered to the sad emperor that has just recently lost his spouse. When the emperor laid eyes on this flower, he was so wowed and happy that he took the flower in and kept it in the center of his palace. The king was completely obsessed with the flower and one night, he discovered the beautiful ShimChong that came outside of the flower at night. The emperor was so pleased with ShimChong that he decided to marry her. ShimChong was happy to marry the emperor and finally be back on land, but she was still sad that she could not find her father. She sent a request for the king to have a public wedding banquet and to invite all the blind beggars in this country. For three days, countless blind beggars feasted and joyed, but her father was nowhere to be seen. Just as ShimChong was about to give up, she hears the sound of a blind man who arrived late trying to argue his way in with the guards. She rushes towards the gate and discovers that that was her father! The two were overjoyed and to be reunited, and in that moment, Shim Hakkyu regains his sight so that he was able finally see his beautiful daughter.
My korean friend Justin presented this story to me. Justin could not remember a lot of the details so out of curiosity I looked them up. I really like this story in that it has many ups and downs. Justin knew this story just from reading in Elementary school. I feel like I see some common elements between asian folktales in that they seem to rarely end happily, and that family and being filial is absolutely one of the most important things. However, at the same time, I feel like this story really degrades women, making them objects that when in need are praised.