THE KOREAN WEDDING CHEST

Ulrike Ottinger

 

1.
Two giant ancient Ginseng roots lived on a tall mountain hidden in the earth. They were husband and wife and still hailed from the time when Bear and Tiger created the first men.
One day they heard a terrible noise.
It was a raging fire dragon. With his hot breath he had singed the impenetrable forests and with his powerful iron claws plowed the earth so that they feared for their lives.
Then the Ginseng woman said to the Ginseng man:
"Let us depart from here and see what's happening in the world and what this disturbance means."
They climbed up out of the earth and upon reaching the bottom of the mountain were transformed, the Ginseng man into a handsome youth, the Ginseng woman into a beautiful girl. They walked day and night until they reached a great city. A shamaness took them in and gave them counsel.
After she danced and drummed the whole night long, she said to them: 
"Dwell among men, do what they do, and learn to understand them."

2.
Because they had no pictures of themselves, they couldn't prove that they belonged together , nor that they were in fact of the same kind as men. Thus they decided to submit to the long and difficult procedure of becoming human.

3.
They invited all their friends from Ginseng Mountain to attend the wedding. Bear and Tiger, the crane, the mountain gazelle, Sparrow, Rabbit, and Fox, Turtle and Butterfly, Cherry Blossom and Pomegranate, Bamboo, Peony, and Lotus. The cheerful Mandarin ducks brought their children along. Only the phoenix was not permitted to leave the imperial resting pillow and therefore sent instead his exquisitely embroidered portrait.

4.
As they now had pictures of themselves and men accepted them as equals, they resided in their midst in a tall house that reached to the clouds. So it came about that they almost forgot why they had once embarked on the journey.
Then one day the Ginseng woman said to the Ginseng man:
"Let's go again and roam the world, and see what's new in the old and old in the new."
On a cold winter day they set off on their way.

Translation by Laurence A. Rickels