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Posted by on Jul 27, 2007

백정 or Baekjeong: Tanners, Butchers, Leather workers unite!

I know my posts are all over the place today, but I just finished reading an interesting article about Baekjeong, which was Korea’s equivalent to the untouchable caste found in India.

Baekjeong were literally non-citizens who were forced to wear particular clothing and work in particular professions. These professions were the same as those found in the Untouchable caste of India (actually named Dalits), namely butchering and tanning, anything involving the use of animal skins.

It took me a long while to figure out why these professions were so ostracized (I am quite slow in this regard), but it now is clear that it had something to do with the tenets of Buddhism, which considers butchering (or even consuming) of animals to be dirty. I don’t know why I was so slow in this regard.
Regardless, the picture of the mask is the symbolic representation of the Baekjeong. Korea loves their masks (as do many cultures) and there are many, many masks to represent the various professions and types in Korean society.
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