Long ago, Korea was divided into the three kingdoms of Koguryo, Silla, and Paekche. Each kingdom had its own culture, myths, and legends. Many of these myths were first written down in a collection called Samguk yusa, or “Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms,” which was compiled by a Buddhist monk named Iryeon in the late thirteenth century.
Changes in religious belief across the centuries came to have an important impact on Korean mythology. The earliest religion was a form of shamanism, and the belief in gods and spirits who inhabit animals and mountains come to the fore in several of these tales. Buddhism was introduced in the fourth century, and several Korean myths have Buddhist monks or priests as their protagonists.
Confucianism, which gained traction in Korea starting at the end of the fourteenth century, contributed to the concept of filial piety that informs the plots of several of the stories in this volume.
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